Sailboat Review: Italia Yachts 14.98

There's but one word to describe the Italia Yachts 14.98 model’s attention to detail, long list of options, approach, and execution: magnifico.
Woman sailing the Italia Yachts 14.98
Whether cruising or racing, the graceful Italia 14.98 will get ­sailors there with ­dispatch and panache. Courtesy Italia Yachts

In fashion, cuisine, culture, cinema and luxury brands—in other words, in just about every facet of upscale society—the Italians bring an advanced approach to the fine art of living well. La dolce vita, right? Lamborghini, Louis Vuitton, Gucci. Rome, Venice, Milan. Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Gina Lollobrigida. When you hear these names, no further explanation is required. They epitomize grace and style. 

This is a rather highfalutin way to launch a boat review, but I’m devoid of apology. Because in the nautical world, there’s another brand that deserves high praise.

Drone shot of the Italia Yachts 14.98
With its integrated bowsprit serving as a launch pad for a code zero headsail, and with its wide beam carried aft, the Italia 14.98 is a rocket cracked off on a tight reach. Courtesy Italia Yachts

I’ve been aware of the Italia line of ­performance cruisers for several years now, but as a judge in the 2024 Boat of the Year contest in Annapolis, Maryland, as I stepped aboard to inspect the 51-footer, I wasn’t really prepared for the experience. There was but one word to describe the 14.98 model’s attention to detail, long list of options, approach, and execution: magnifico. 

There’s a lot to unpack here, and I’ll get to the truly important features: clean aesthetics, robust construction and sparkling sailing characteristics, as well as myriad customization options. But first, allow me to unload a few lines that I jotted down because they really speak to the deep level of detail ingrained in every 14.98:

“Cellphone holder/charger on the steering pod.” “Very sweet, ample life-raft stowage in cockpit.” “Stainless-steel stanchions and pulpits painted black: sexy.” “Really nice adjustable sheet-lead arrangement and excellent belowdecks install keep lines tidy and clean.” “Huge sail locker forward, always a bonus, with room for inflatable dinghy and outboard.” “Drains around hatches a great idea.” “Giant lazarettes with access to steering quadrant, very cool.” “Interior LED lights with floor-level lighting really adds to ambience.” “Engine-room manifold system with everything led to single through-hull is brilliant.” “Love the Oceanaire blinds and screens on all hatches.” “That single rudder will make backing down easier.”

Deck of the Italia Yachts 14.98
Topsides, the Italia 14.98’s profile is low and lean. The cockpit has plenty of room for lounging or maneuvers Courtesy Italia Yachts

Why all the attention to these ­relatively minor items? Simple: If you sweat the small stuff, it usually means you’re laser-­focused on the major matters. Which is certainly the case with this yacht.

The design of the 14.98 is a collaborative effort between naval architect Maurizio Cossutti, who drew the exterior platform, and interior designer Mirko Arbore, who handled the belowdecks layout and furnishings. Cossutti has delivered a stunning hull form—a tapered, curved dish that rises at the bow and descends toward the stern with a subtle sheerline that accentuates the minimalist coachroof and keeps wetted surface to a minimum. There’s a sleek, extended sprit forward—it’s available in two lengths, standard and racing, and sort of serves as an exclamation point for this contemporary structure—and a drop-down swim platform aft, centered by a ­spacious cockpit for lounging or ­maneuvers, depending on the task at hand.

Italia Yachts 14.98 twin wheels
The twin wheels are well-spaced to provide access to the swim platform aft. Courtesy Italia Yachts

Down below, there are three layouts from which to choose. In the United States, the 14.98 is represented by David Walters Yachts, a brokerage house that, having previously repped Hylas Yachts, has deep experience with luxurious brands that cover both bases between a dedicated bluewater cruising boat and an honest racer-cruiser capable of Grand Prix inshore competition and offshore events such as the Newport Bermuda Race. Erik Haaland, sales director for the Italia line, presented the boat to us; when we asked about options, he smiled. “Just ask us,” he said. “We’ll do it.”

David Walters has imported 12 Italias into the States in the past five years, and, as of this past fall, had another quartet on order. We sailed Hull No. 7, whose owners are a couple of former college racing sailors who still wish to compete at a high level. They did last year’s Annapolis to Newport Race with a 10-person crew, notching 17 knots flying down Chesapeake Bay.

They also enjoy using the boat as a weekend condo and taking extended cruises with their family, including a Chesapeake trip this past summer and a season in New England coming up. It’s a true dual-purpose boat. And it’s been fitted out accordingly.

Overhead of the Italia Yachts 14.98 hatch
Down below, the layout is open and airy. Courtesy Italia Yachts

The nearly beam-width traveler in the cockpit forward of the twin wheels is a clear sign that this is a race boat; the standard setup calls for a single, centrally located mainsheet. All lines are led aft to a suite of clutches. There are several winch packages from which to choose, including the set of electric winches on our craft. The standard draft is 8 feet, 2 inches, though a nearly 10-foot performance keel is an option, as are a pair of L-shaped shoal-draft alternatives. Likewise, the rig on our test boat was carbon fiber, though the standard spar is aluminum. There’s also a choice of mainsails: traditional, square-topped and battened, or furling. 

Regarding power and systems, there was no generator on this boat, but rather a Victron lithium-ion battery bank with 800-amp capacity linked to a pair of 250-amp fast-charging alternators that will permit 12 hours of uninterrupted air conditioning without running the engine. (There is space for a generator, but on this boat, it was occupied by the air-conditioning compressor.) This boat was also equipped with a Spectra watermaker. A pair of 200-watt removable solar panels were installed on the dodger for additional juice.

Italia Yachts 14.98 stateroom and saloon
The seating is comfortable and spacious. Courtesy Italia Yachts

The resin-infused construction is robust but light, utilizing various densities of foam core depending on its placement within the laminate. For example, it’s reinforced in the bow, where slamming can occur, but lowered in less-stressed areas to keep weight at a minimum. Bulkheads are tabbed and glassed into the boat (plywood is standard, but foam-cored bulkheads are available). Carbon-fiber reinforcements are used throughout, including the transverse stringers and a grid system that’s bonded in place and then relaminated to the hull, bulkheads, and stringers. There is no traditional chainplate; instead, the rigging attaches to a stainless-steel padeye that is bolted through the top of the hull toe rail into the carbon-fiber grid system. 

“These boats are known as stiff, upwind missiles,” Haaland said. We confirmed it when we had a chance to sail the boat. 

And quite the sail it was. In ideal 10 to 14 knots of Chesapeake Bay pressure, the 14.98 tracked like a freight train, easily notching speeds in the mid-7-knot range hard on the breeze, and then topping out at more than 9 knots when cracked off to a reach. At the helm, raised and leveled with a fold-up chock like the round-the-world racers, the deep, single rudder provided plenty of bite. The wheel was light to the touch, and visibility was outstanding. It would be a real treat to get into the open ocean on the 14.98 and let it spread its wings.

Italia Yachts 14.98 navigation station
The LED sole lighting provides plenty of ambience. Courtesy Italia Yachts

There has to be a drawback to all this somewhere, correct? Yes. The boat ain’t cheap. In fact, with a million-plus-dollar price tag, give or take, the 14.98 is, for most of us, an aspirational brand, a vessel aimed at sailing’s 1 percent club. 

Still. It’s heartening to know that in a world of mass production, with goods and services often aimed at the cheapest common denominator, there are things being made with care and skill that elevates a category or genre. When it comes to production sailboats, such results should be recognized and applauded. We’re looking at you, Italia 14.98. Grazie.

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Base Price: $998,800
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A Satisfied Crew of Italia Owners

You can learn a lot about a brand by looking at actual owners and how they use their boats, and it’s clear from this list of US Italia sailors that they enjoy competing aboard their yachts. Chuck Stormes from Detroit, a past commodore of the Bayview Yacht Club, placed first overall in the 2022 Bayview to Mackinac Race aboard his 9.98, DeTour. New Yorkers Andrew and Linda Weiss have owned several yachts called Christopher Dragon, and on their 11.98 of the same name, they’ve won the Block Island Race, the Northern Ocean Racing Trophy and other prizes. Jeff and Sarah Kennedy sail the 14.98 Artemis, our test boat for this review. Frank and Nancy McGowan, aboard their new 12.98, Querencia, are looking forward to the next Newport Bermuda Race, as well as the ORC World Championship in Rhode Island later this year. Bostonian John Sapirstein, who previously sailed a 12.98 Classic, has moved up to Aquilone, a 16.98. He expects to take delivery in the Adriatic Sea this spring before a summer in the Mediterranean and a trans-Atlantic trip in the ARC rally in 2025.