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Sonny Levi – ‘The father of modern powerboat design’ has passed away

John Moore on 13th November 2016

Renato “Sonny” Levi who died peacefully at the age of 90 at his home on the Isle of Wight, was one of the most innovative powerboat designers of his generation.

Levi was born in Karachi in 1926.

He was in educated in France, India and England.

His father, an entrepreneur, whose interests included interiors and furniture making was also an enthusiastic motor boater.

From an early age Sonny grew up around boats and took much of his inspiration from the local vessels that plied their trade in Bombay.

He moved to England towards the end of WW II and joined the RAF and ultimately reaching the rank of Flying Officer.

levi1After being demobbed, he studied aircraft design in England, after completing his studies he became the chief designer in his father’s busy ship yard – Afco in Bombay, India.

In 1960 he moved to Italy and founded Navaltecnica in Anzio where he had much success designing and building a range of high speed pleasure boats that were also sold in military guise to the Italian government.

These boats were the forefathers of modern planing boats incorporating the first deep “V” hull design.

His invention of the deep “V” Hull, is now found on the majority of fast mono-hull motor boats the world over.

levi2Levi counted amongst his clients the armed forces of Italy, India, Israel, South Africa and Sweden, fast ferry operators in Australia, luxury boat builders Riva, and engineering visionaries such as the Agnellis, Augustas, Lamborghinis and Olivettis as well as several royal families.

In 1986 he designed Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger, winner of the Blue Riband for achieving the fastest transatlantic sea crossing.

In 1987, Sonny had his achievements recognised with his election as a Royal Designer for Industry, a distinction regarded as the highest honour obtainable in the field of design and this September, Levi  was awarded with an honorary degree in boat design by the University of Genoa.

Sixty years since he started his career, his designs and innovation still inspire the boating industry.

His 2 published books, Dhows To Deltas and Milestones In My Design will continue to serve as inspiration.

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