BOAT TEST: PRINCESS V39
The Princess V39 was launched to rapturous acclaim as the “best sportscruiser ever” at this year’s London Boat Show, and Jeff Strang concurs.
Leading British luxury boatbuilder Princess Yachts' return to the compact sportscruiser market with the V39 would appear from a distance to the company doffing its hat in acknowledgement to a market looking to extra value in its boating spend.
Other stables turn out similar vessels based on comparable specifications for the same reasons. Many could be accused of cutting corners to meet a target price, damaging the overall reputation of the brand in the process. Would the V39 stand up to a closer scrutiny? It was time to find out.
Launched at the 2012 London Boat Show the little Princess received rapturous acclaim by the European boating press. A quick search of the internet (specifically a review by British publication Motor Boat Monthly) reveals many in old Blighty consider the V39 to be the best sportscruiser ever - a very bold claim that would need to be backed-up by more than just good looks.
The history of the V39 is an interesting one because the last time Princess released a boat in this class and less than 40 feet, was 18 years ago in 1994. That boat was also called the V39 and by all accounts it was viewed as somewhat of a classic. Gradually, the boat grew in size to a V40 in 1996 and to a V42 in 1999 without any change of character until the release of the V42 Mark II in 2006. That was when a raft of aesthetic changes were implemented, the most significant of which was the first of the then new Volvo Penta D6s in response to customer demands for genuine pace.
As you would expect with royalty the V39 is a very attractive looking vessel. The sleek low-profile sportscruiser lines are presented in an elegant and feminine manner. British builders are adept at the art of ensuring that no matter how sports car-like the boat looks and feels you are most certainly aware it is still a boat. The bow's lines are relatively high and sweep quickly and cleanly through to a graceful downward curve to the ocean aft. Tall, spit-polished stainless steel bowrails follow the sheer line precisely to accent those styled cambers.
I like that the hull's sides and bow are kept to a generous height, as there a few better options a designer can employ to keep the vessel dry at sea. I also like that those same designers have been able to avoid any suggestion of slab-sidedness by the use of some cleverly placed trim lines.
The low-profile cabin top, with its gapingly wide sunroof, sets the rest of the boat off perfectly allowing for excellent driver and passenger visibility, without intruding in any way on the total package's crisp, clean look.
Boarding the Princess V39 could not be easier via the wide electric-hydraulic transom. This feature fully submerges for the pleasure of those who prefer a more genteel entry to the water than the ungainly splash some are forced to resort to on less well-appointed vessels. It should be noted that this remotely lowerable feature on a sterndrive-powered vessel is unusual or even unique to the little Princess, and it can be set-up to carry and launch a small tender.
A small garage-like storage compartment perfect for wet gear, like fenders, lines and general water toys, is built into the transom. To port, a wide staircase leads to the bow, while access to the main saloon is starboardside via a gated access way.
One small step up from the transom and you find yourself in the V39's lifestyle hub. A deliciously inviting eight-seat lounger surrounds a small table situated only a couple more steps to the wetbar and barbecue area. Another step up and you're at the helm.
As mentioned earlier it is my view that the Brits probably do the best job of blending the automotive with the marine, and the V39's helm is an excellent example of that. Serviced by twin bolstered bucket seats one side of the dash is all sports car with its sharp leather steering wheel and gauge layout, while the other is all boat featuring topnotch Simrad NSS12 electronics and the usual array of marine quality control switches.
Visibility is good with the sunroof closed and great with it open. To be honest I loved the sunroof. It's huge and extends well forward in a way that lets the breeze through appropriately.
Remembering that the Princess V39 is the marque's smallest offering, it is hard not to be impressed with the volume below. The styling throughout is contemporary chic, with a high standard of joinery (although not to the same standard as the 60, which was simply exquisite). The light oak gloss and general natural-lighting features do much to accentuate the space.
A master cabin, serviced by an oversized en suite, is located in the bow, while back aft and below decks a full-beam cabin featuring twin singles (which can be rolled together) provides a quality space for the kids or any VIP guests. Little touches in the bathroom, like the fixed toothbrush and liquid soap holders, should also be noted as conveniences often overlooked by other brands.
Tying these spaces together is a tidy galley facilitated by the full range of appliances and a very comfortable below-decks dining table.
IN THE FAST LANE
Observing the V39 at sea from her bigger sister ship, the Princess 60 Flybridge, allowed a good appreciation of just how stable the vessel's longitudinal aspect remains throughout the power range. This ability to sit flat and true at pace is probably the key to the hull's wide range of efficient cruising speeds and impressive flat-out performance.
Actually taking the helm myself and blasting off from a standing start, elicited one of those ear-to-ear grins that are hard to contain, even when doing your darnedest to maintain professional distance.
The slick hull design coupled with a reasonably high horsepower-to-weight ratio allowed rapid acceleration out of the hole and smooth transition onto the plane. From that point she continues to accelerate effortlessly to just under 40kts, which, in the confines of a fairly narrow stretch of water, feels like breakneck speed. Having proven the racing calibre of the hull, we slowed to a more sensible canter.
The V39 can also be described as exciting, when driven aggressively through a series of turns. The delightfully light handling and preciseness of the IPS pods combines to produce an exhilarating and agile ride. If the design brief was to produce a sportsboat, it is safe to say they succeeded.
Whatever else you might think of this boat, do not think poorly of its on-water performance, after all, "Britannia rules the waves". And in case you are wondering about the fuel figures I was specifically ask not publish any. A shame because I can assure you they are very impressive and regardless, the numbers can be easily found online.
Naturally, with a pair of joystick-controlled IPS pods, plenty of power and a bowthruster to call on if necessary, this boat is child's play to park. Even in windy conditions I suspect the low-profile lines of the V39 will present only limited windage, so docking is unlikely to present any real difficulties even in the most challenging of conditions.
Invariably the true quality of any floating product can be determined with a thorough examination of the engineroom. Accessed by a wide hatch in the aft section of the main saloon, a sturdy ladder leads to a very tidy engine bay housing the twin Volvo Penta D6-330 powerplants. All the workmanship on display is to a high standard, with top-quality fittings laid out in a logical manner.
What really caught my eye was the attention to detail given to ensure the longevity of the components -something so often missing in production boats. A prime example would be the liberal use of Denzo tape on all equipment potentially exposed to saltwater, such as the anchor winch. I am told this is all part of the final commissioning process completed here in Australia.
Many comment that at around $750,000 the Princess V39 is expensive in comparison to its peers. Well it certainly isn't a cheap boat; quality production houses like Princess don't build cheap boats. But is it expensive? I am not so sure.
I suspect this view is in part due to its name. It's called a 39, which would suggest the vessel has an overall length somewhere between 11.9 and 12.3m. In fact it's actually 12.98m overall and could easily be considered a 42.
Indeed many of its direct rivals in the European scene carry monikers suggesting they are larger than the Princess V39, when in fact they are the same size or even smaller. If the Princess carries a price premium on its rivals, it could perhaps be attributed to the reputation of the brand.
There is a lot to like about the little Princess. As a return to one of the stable's classic boats, the V39 can hold its head high. As expected the V39 is a beautifully presented package that has been logically laid out to optimise the sportscruiser lifestyle for which it's tailored. As good as many of the accessory features are - the electric-hydraulic swimplatform, the oversized sunroof, the wetbar and barbecue - for me it has to be its heart-stopping performance on the water that will ensure this test remains front of mind for some time.
Specifications: Princess V39
PRICE AS TESTED
Electric cockpit sunroof, remote-control electric anchor winch, electro-hydraulic trim tabs, VHF with DSC R/T, remote-control searchlight, combo microwave-convention oven-grill, fridge with deep-freeze compartment, cockpit wetbar (inc. sink and top-loading cool box), electric barbecue, electric quietflush toilet, saloon stereo CD/radio/MP3 and cockpit speakers, teak-laid cockpit and transom platform, and hot and cold transom shower.
TYPE: Planing monohull
LENGTH OVERALL: 2.98m
WEIGHT: 9100kg (w/ full fuel and water, sans crew, options and crew)
SPEED: Approx 38kts (max)
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Volvo Penta D6-330 DP
RATED HP: 330 (each)
Princess Yachts Australia,
Suite 3, The Boardwalk,
Hope Island Resort Marina,
Hope Island, QLD, 4212
Phone: (07) 5514 1900
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 429, July-August, 2012. Photos by Kevin Smith; Supplied.
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