Sonny Levi (9 September 1926 – 12 November 2016)
Renato "Sonny" Levi (9 September 1926 – 12 November 2016) was an English, (of Italian extraction), boat designer known for creating powerboats for the Aga Khan, the Shah of Iran, and Richard Branson.
Levi learned about boat design in his uncle's boat-design business Afco in Bombay. He moved to England in 1944 and became a pilot in Spitfires with the Royal Air Force. After demobilisation he founded his own boatyard in Anzio in 1960. he invented a surface propulsion system which increased speed and reduced drag and was installed on Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Challenger II. In 1986 he was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry.
The Classic Boat Museum was asked to join in a tribute to the late designer, ‘Sonny’ Levi, held by members of the Classic Offshore Powerboat Club, who rafted up about 16 boats above Yarmouth Bridge on the Yar Boatyard pontoons.
On an appropriately sunny Saturday in August it quickly took on the relaxed atmosphere of coffee morning come picnic, even though all the boats took a quick dash out of the harbour when the bridge opened at 11 a.m. Conditions outside in the western Solent were a bit fresh, so a return to the warm shelter of the upper Yar proved attractive.
As well as trailing over Sonny’s Lean II from our store, the Classic Boat gallery also showed three of Norman Titcombe’s models of Levi deigns, and other powerboat related archive material, - photos from powerboat meets in Monaco in 1906 – from reliability trials off Seaview in 1908 – from Jo Carstairs’ boats from 1928, with relevant plaques and posters, all of which provided extra interest to the event.