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Record-breaking boat designer Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi dies at 90 (copy from Motor Boat and Yachting Nov. 2016))
Record-breaking boat designer Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi dies at 90
November 14, 2016
Record-breaking boat designer Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi has died peacefully at the age of 90 at his home on the Isle of Wight
The Levi Corsair, the ‘Jaguar E-Type of the motor boating world’
Boat designer Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi pictured recently
Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi, who died peacefully at the age of 90 at his home on the Isle of Wight on November 12, 2016 . He was synonymous with speed on water. His designs dominated powerboat sport both offshore and inshore circuit racing in the latter half of the 20th century.
Born in Karachi in 1926, he studied in France and India before joining his father’s boatyard in Bombay, but it was his victory in the Daily Express Cowes-Torquay offshore powerboat race in 1963 that brought his name to prominence as a successful designer.
While American Ray Hunt was developing the battened, deep vee hull, Sonny was solving an entirely different problem. An approach had been made by the Indian Government Fisheries Dept for a hull which could be launched and retrieved in surf on an open beach. Sonny found his new vee hull would provide the answer. Little did he know this configuration would last a lifetime in his career as a naval architect.
Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi died at home on the Isle of Wight
Vee hulls may have dominated his later designs but the Levi brand without doubt launched what was to become known as the ‘Delta’ configuration. His long, relatively narrow hulls were often given the wedge shape of a delta dart and this was to become his trademark particularly in the area of high performance racing craft.
This distinct shape is easily recognised in the 1966 36ft (10.97m) offshore contender Surfury. While the Levi brand can be seen in a huge number of designs perhaps Sonny will be best remembered for this particular racer, preserved ashore as an example of a perfect high-speed monohull capable of performing well in calm and rough seas.
From the mid-60s to early 70s, his designs dominated other areas of powerboat racing. His narrow monohulls, built by Melly and Merryfield for circuit racing, were virtually unbeatable. Success was confirmed in 1965 when he designed the first monohull offshore racer for the smaller Class III sub-division – a growing group on the British offshore scene at that time.
Powerboat sport was not his only area of success. His range of Triana, Corsairs and Tantarellas sports cruisers became the Jaguar ‘E-Type’ of the motor boating world and still command popular support many years after they first appeared.
Another less publicised area of development was his famous ‘Step Drive’ surface propeller transmission system. The first Italian-built Drago using the Step Drive proved a huge success. At 42ft (13m) with only 500hp of diesel power, it achieved over 50 knots, becoming the world’s fastest production pleasure cruiser.
Italian firm Riva approached Sonny for a hull design using his Step Drive surface propeller transmission. The result was the Riva 2000, an extremely successful luxury production cruiser; more than 50 were built.
Virgin Atlantic Challenger II, one of Sonny’s greatest achievements
Sonny Levi was a man who developed a huge range of ideas which in his early including light aircraft, inflatable boats, cars and sailing yachts. More recently he turned his hand to pure art, creating over 100 canvases. Among his personal achievements, and one which came about through his long history of milestones in design, has to be Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger II which successfully broke the record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1986.
Its success not only reflects Sonny’s enormous ability as a designer of revolutionary high-speed craft; it also proved his forward thinking with transmission systems. This was proved with the Levi Drive Unit, the next generation of the Step Drive, which powered the 37 tonne monster across the Atlantic at a record average of 41.5 knots.
His great contribution to design and innovation was later recognised by his election as a Royal Designer for Industry, the highest Italian accolade in engineering, followed last September by an honorary degree from the University of Genoa.
Powerboat lovers have been given a chance to own a piece of transatlantic history, as Virgin Atlantic Challenger II has…
This gallery contains 7 photos.
Here a link to an interesting articles on Hickman’s “Sea Sled” written by Dave Gerr and published in Boat Building Magazine Jan/Feb 2003. Gives a bit of history on surface propellers. “Sea Sled slides again” by Dave Gerr Boatbuilding Magazine … Continue reading
The so called ” Eco Surface Drives” is an Levi Drive inspired Surface drive produced by Mr. Azman in Malaysia. Mr. Azman has no technical education and was working for Levi Drives as a seller for the government sector under the name “Levi Drives Malaysia” on commission base. Since his performance was not satisfactory, Levi Drives terminated the relationship with Mr. Azman 2012.
- Mr. Azman has no legal mandate to speak for Levi Drives.
2) Mr. Azman has no mandate to sell his drives as Levi Drives.
At the moment Mr. Azman uses the name Levi Drives, Levi Drives Malyasia in video’s and picture to fool future Eco Surface Drive to believe, that he has developed a workable surface drives.
The videos published by Mr. Azman shows actually Levi Drives (LD170-150) proclaimed as Eco Surface Drives.
If you also been cheated by Mr. Azman or the company called Eco Surface Drives, please contact us. We are preparing a law suit against this Person/ Company. We have already an impressive list:)
Director Levi Drives
The boat is a standard Malaysian fishing boat.
Length: 25 feet
Width : 7 feet
Form: shallow V
Produced by Mr. Ameng from Penang
Drive: Levi Drive 170-150 galvanized version
Propeller: Levi Diamond Back Propeller Dia 17 inch
The Gelcoat of this boat is blue. The boat was painted white and named “Kristina” in 2011. In 2012 “Kristina” was renamed to “Anri”.
Please contact email@example.com if you have any information of the whereabouts of this boat.
Here some more explanation about the material Vesconite. Levi Drives uses Vesonite for bushes on all their Drives.
Here the link to Vesconite
Here a short video about Levi Surface Drives installed on a 25 foot commercial fishing boat. Speed achieved 27,7 knots.
Click to watch the video
In 2011 Levi Drives demonstrated that the LD 170-150 (Fisherman) Surface Drive can be used on a commercial inshore fishing boat. These tests were a remake of the tests done 5 years earlier in Penang (Malaysia). It was an attempt to convince Malaysian officials of the new technology and to give them an alternative to their petrol hungry outboard engines they distributing freely into their fishing community. Malaysia has about 35 000 registered inshore fisherman (and of course about 1,5 as much un-registerd fisherman) using outboard engines. These boats could be used for example “set net” and “pot fishing” “fishfarms” etc.
The boat had the dimensions:
L = 25 foot;
B = 7 foot
Mass = 1500 kg plus 2 crew
Engine: Second hand Isuzu 4JB1 engine from a truck, marinized 55hp @3600 rpm
(Malaysia imports second hand engines from Japan)
Gearbox: Koysan 2:1
Drive: Levi Surface Drive LD 170-150 (Fisherman) galvanized
Propeller: Levi Diamond Back Propeller 17 inch
Speed: 27,5 knots ( the same like with an Yamaha Outboard engine 60 hp)
Here the video. Click on to the link