BOAT TEST: PRINCESS YACHTS 60 FLYBRIDGE
Jeff Strang tests the Princess 60 Flybridge and learns there is no substitute for style.
Launched at the Southampton Boat Show last September, the 2012 Princess 60 Flybridge replaces the company's very successful Princess 58. It comes as no surprise to read how well received this exclusive vessel was by the Euro press. After all it does come from one of Europe's, and indeed the world's most successful glamour brands.
I have to admit to a lack of familiarity with Princess Yachts. For this reason I've researched the brand thoroughly on the web to come to terms with what these wonderfully presented motoryachts are all about.
The Plymouth-based shipyard was founded in 1963 as a joint venture between former merchant navy engineer and marine engine-tuner Cliff Viney, and two Royal Navy serving officers David King and Brian Phillips. The first project undertaken was on a purchased Senior 31 hull and deck, which the company, then trading as Marine Projects, proceeded to fit-out to a standard the team surmised would appeal to the market.
This first completed vessel, named Project 31, was intended for the showroom but failed to successfully secure deposits for further builds. The decision was made to sell the boat, which was surprisingly easy, fetching £3400. Realising a market demand for offshore cruisers the company persisted with the Senior 31 hull and produced more than 150 boats between 1966 and 1969. Soon the company began experimenting with glass-reinforced plastics and produced the first of the Princess boats, a 32-footer which debuted at the 1970 London show.
These days the business is owned by what could be the world's most prestigious parent company, the LVMH Group (Louis Vuitton, Moët, Hennessy). And if you think this might be an organisation that knows how to throw a party, check out one of Princess Yachts boat show displays some time. Its Sydney pavilion was impressive and apparently the Cannes display is legendary.
Considerate citizens of our planet will also be pleased to learn the LVMH Group is concerned about its environmental image. The Princess 60 Flybridge is one of the few vessels I'm aware of in Australia that meets the RINA Green Plus (Y) notation. This is an independently verified environmental accreditation issued by the classification society RINA, or Royal Institute of Naval Architects. Apparently this certification applies to all of Princess's vessels up to 85 feet.
A QUICK TOUR
The 60 Flybridge features a three-cabin, three-en suite layout forward, with the option to convert the large lazerette-styled storage compartment aft into an additional crew/guest cabin with its own private bathroom. Of the boats three levels, the central deck is dedicated to daily living and includes an opulent saloon and entertainment area, a cockpit with lounger aft, and an amidships galley to starboard, directly behind the lower helm station. The uppermost level is the flybridge, which in Europe appears to be presented either open or with a soft top. In Australia it is sold with a locally-made carbon-fibre hardtop and clears.
Joining Princess Australia's principal dealer, Alan Paterson, on the bridge offered a chance for him to air his views on where he sees the 60's place in the Australian market. In is own words he sees the Princess 60 Flybridge as one of a few vessels around that can genuinely offer the versatility of "dual living on the water".
With the addition of the hardtop and customised fold-up clears - demonstrated by an innovative approach around the stairwell pictured hereabouts - the flybridge offers classic board shorts living upstairs, in all conditions. Head downstairs and within moments you are immersed in a decadent environment for more refined enjoyment. This approach demonstrates an understanding of what local customers desire most from their boating experience, particularly in boats from 60 to almost 100 feet, where anything below first-class is just not acceptable.
A FOCUS ON DETAIL
If ever there was a flybridge built with entertaining in mind then this is it. In a slightly different take to many vessels in this class the bridge is accessed from the aft deck rather than internally. The advantage is that it frees-up space in the saloon. With an abundance of seating options, a huge sun lounger aft (includes vast storage underneath) and other entertainment amenities like the barbecue, wetbar, drinks fridge and optional icemaker all in place, there is no need for anyone to head downstairs and miss any of the action. Just plug the iPod into the dock and let the Bose system "get the party started".
With its elevation and open-plan layout the flybridge also makes a superb viewing platform and is a hugely inclusive way to ensure the skipper, who could be dad or granddad, has the opportunity to enjoy all the social interaction on offer, while training a budding young skipper in the copilot seat next to him.
Many of those benefits, like the views and the inclusiveness of the layout, are continued downstairs. Only this time, as Alan says, take your board shorts off and put your suit pants on because now you're immersed in an atmosphere of such quality it could easily call for black-tie dining.
It would be easy to imagine Louis Vuitton's influence on these internal spaces - glossy rich timber paneling and trim accents, bone-white leather furnishings and midnight black Avonite bench tops. The look is Euro chic without pushing the boundaries of fashion. By virtue of an electrically operated screen the galley and helm station areas are separated from the main dining and entertainment areas, perfect for those who may wish to occasionally hire professional crew.
The rear section of this primary living space, leading through to the aft cockpit via triple opening stainless steel sliding doors, is perfectly laid out for relaxed social interaction. A U-shaped sofa and coffee table, with another twin settee opposite, provides seating for six and easy views of the vista outside. An entertainment centre opposite the coffee table incorporates the very best in LED TV technology as well as a cocktail cabinet with refrigerator and icemaker.
Moving forward and up a level via a couple of steps and you enter a dedicated dining and catering section. To port, a solid timber dining table is surrounded by a U-shaped couch of the same quality of that below which, with the addition of two stools, will seat six for dinner.
Directly opposite is a galley fit to complement the skills of a talented gourmet. The generous bench space surrounding a four-burner cooktop and serviced by an abundance of storage can only be improved with the addition a genuine domestic oven, rather than the combination microwave/convection oven installed. Certainly a vessel of this class would warrant such an option.
A couple of steps forward again and you arrive at the boat's primary helm station. Although somewhat compact, an impressive array of twinkling lights and first-rate Raymarine electronics is laid out in a high-tech console for the benefit and easy use of the man in charge. Bentley-like twin bucket seats invite you for a test drive. Perhaps they could be too comfortable - I can see myself struggling to maintain a vigilant watch once snuggled into one of these. Fortunately, an electrically operated window next to the wheel can be opened at the push of a button providing a refreshing breeze when needed. All is only a short arm-reach away and with variable control side-thrusters on call, a skilled operator is unlikely to require much crew assistance save securing lines to the dock.
Note: Princess Yachts Australia does offer an aftermarket low-speed joystick controller from Xenta as an option. Having used this system on other vessels it is well worth the investment, particularly if you are a new or infrequent helmsman on a vessel of the 60's volume.
As mentioned earlier the forward accommodation is comprised of three separate and luxurious bedrooms, all serviced by private en suites. That the acoustics improve dramatically as you descend to the accommodation deck is testament to the quality of the soft furnishings in place.
A spacious crew/children's cabin is situated to starboard and features an electrically operated slider to convert the twin single bunks to a double. Versatility is essential on boats in this class and although other options could be considered to maximise the use of space, such as a Pullman, this cabin's current configuration is the one I would opt for as it risks becoming too cramped.
Like the overwhelming majority of vessels we see, the VIP guest cabin is located all the way forward, just aft of the collision bulkhead. The Princess 60's version makes great use of the space available removing any sense of claustrophobia with a healthy dose of opulence.
Saving the best for last, a short descent into the belly of this beauty ends in an owner's stateroom fit for this Princess's queen mother. Four vertical windows flood this full-beam sanctum with water-reflected light, subtly augmented by its own internal LEDs. We expect to be impressed by these cabins yet it is fair to say Princess has lifted the bar on the 60. The fit and finish can only be described as five-star from the deliciously appointed king-sized bed to the chaise lounge perfectly located for a peaceful read and a catnap under the portside windows.
The above-described cabins have en suites featuring all the fruit, including quiet-flush heads, Euro-styled washbasins, generous shower cubicles and extractor fans. I particularly liked the addition of custom soap dispensers and other amenity holders, the purpose of which is to prevent all this stuff ending up on the bathroom floor in more testing sea conditions. These are the simple touches that lift this boat into a class above. Of the three, the port bathroom is most likely to receive the day traffic.
Of the factors that make the Gold Coast's Broadwater such an attractive place to test big vessels, the easy access to open water is its most appealing. Even on the tight timeframe we were working to this day, we got a chance to take the 60 Flybridge for a spin on the open sea.
As another reviewer of this vessel pointed out, Princess as a company has resisted the temptation to engage in the race to be the fastest afloat, quite correctly understanding that flat-out pace invariably comes with a dramatic loss of ride quality. That said this relatively deep-vee hull delivers close to 33kts, possibly more for those who consider the red line to be a challenge rather than a warning. And even at this impressive speed the ride is an invigorating delight.
While I was too short on time to thoroughly inspect the boat's engineering I know enough to surmise that any vessel this smooth - literally no detectable vibration at any point in the rev range - is undoubtedly engineered to the highest level. Next time, I look forward to a closer look through the Princess 60's engineroom.
Clearly the Princess 60 Flybridge is a first-rate volume cruiser designed and finished to appeal to the most discerning of cliental. The boat comes from one of Europe's most consistent and highly-rated stables, competing in a market where only the very best make the grade. Certainly the internal layout and level of fitout is close to faultless.
I also think the local distributor's customisations, like the carbon fibre hardtop, take the vessel to another level, ensuring the Australian boating lifestyle is correctly catered to. The dual living aspect spoken of earlier is bound to get the attention of experienced cruisers, who understand just how hard it is to avoid compromises on any vessel.
This is not a boat to be purchased and left tied to the dock, and it will benefit from the attentions of a vessel-management service. Fortunately as a Princess owner you will be dealing with one of the classiest and professional teams in the business.
Specs: PRINCESS 60 Flybridge
PRICE AS TESTED
WEIGHT: Approx. 30,500kg
PEOPLE (NIGHT): 6 (+ 2 with crew cabin option)
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Caterpillar C18 ACERT
RATED HP: 930 (each)
Princess Yachts Australia,
Suite 3, The Boardwalk,
Hope Island Resort Marina,
Santa Barbara Road,
Hope Island, QLD, 4212
Phone: (07) 5514 1900
From Trade-a-Boat magazine Issue 431, Sept-Oct 2012. Photos: Kevin Smith; Supplied.
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