Dr Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi

By Jon Moreno

Published on Friday, November 25, 2016 - 12:00


Dr Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi

Dr Renato Levi on one of his G-50 speedboats in the late 1960s.

WORLD-FAMOUS high-performance racing and leisure boats designer, Dr Renato 'Sonny’ Levi, died peacefully at his Porchfield home on November 12, aged 90.

A holder of the Royal Designer for Industry award — the highest honour obtainable in the field of design — he earned huge success in Italy after moving there in 1960, designing and building a range of high-speed pleasure boats, the forerunners of modern planing boats, which incorporated his deep V-hull design.

His V-hull invention is now a feature on most fast mono-hull motor boats the world over — among them, Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Challenger, which won the Blue Riband for achieving the fastest Transatlantic sea crossing in 1986.

Mr Levi, who moved to the Island in 1972, told the County Press at the time: "I’m very pleased — but with a little luck, our finishing time would’ve been so much better."

On his impressive client list were the armed forces of countries, as well as several royal families and leading engineering visionary, Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli.

Mr Levi’s father, Mario, an entrepreneur, was also an enthusiastic motor boater.

From an early age, Mr Levi grew up around boats and took much of his inspiration from trade vessels in Bombay, India.

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 3, 1926, he was educated in the South of France, India and England.

Towards the end of the Second World War, he joined the RAF, piloting Spitfires and rose to the rank of flying officer.

After being demobbed, he studied aircraft design in London and applied this knowledge to boat design and became chief designer in his father’s shipyard in Bombay.

As recently as last month, the University of Genoa awarded Mr Levi an honorary degree in marine design and engineering. The day after receiving his accolade, he opened an exhibition of his work at the Genoa Boat Show.

He has also written the best-selling naval architectural design books, Dhows to Deltas and Milestones in My Designs.

His funeral will be held at the Holy Trinity Church, Cowes, for family and close family friends, at noon tomorrow (Saturday).

Mr Levi is survived by wife of 62 years, Ann, his sons, Martin and Christopher, daughter, Gina Lino, five grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

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