PALM BEACH 55 MOTORYACHT REVIEW

By: JEFF STRANG, Photography by: ANDREA FRANCOLINI & SUPPLIED

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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“It’s a beautiful woman’s fate to be the subject of conversation where ever she goes,” so said Oscar Wilde; and so do we of Australia’s own Palm Beach 55 motoryacht.

PALM BEACH 55 MOTORYACHT REVIEW
PALM BEACH 55 MOTORYACHT REVIEW

She walks into the room, every head turns. Some linger, instantly snared by her beauty; others hastily turn away in defiance of its brilliance. The crowd is split, the admirers in one camp, the envious in another - murmured venom on their lips. Gently that arresting smile weaves its spell speaking silently of a deeper quality and all are drawn to her aura.

The scene above defines my observer's experience of the Palm Beach Motor Yacht effect. In an industry of increasing competitiveness that has spawned more than a handful of bitter rivals, all acknowledge the impressive work Mark Richards and his Palm Beach Motor Yacht team produce from their Pittwater home.

For some reason our domestic scene spurns the idea of boat show awards, if it did these splendid craft are bound to excel. After all the subject of our attentions this day, the Palm Beach 55, recently boosted the company's already bursting trophy cabinet claiming victory as Best in Show at the prestigious 2011 Newport International Boat Show in Rhode Island for the second year in succession, the previous honour going to its smaller sibling the Palm Beach 50 in 2010.

Richards himself needs little introduction. Arguably Australia's most famous modern sailor with World Match Racing successes and America's Cup experience, the enigmatic talisman of Palm Beach Motor Yachts now skippers the legendary Wild Oats XI helming it to victory in the Sydney Hobart many times. He's famously focussed, yet surprisingly easy company and we always enjoy working with him on a shoot. Today the stars aligned perfectly and the results speak for themselves.

Actually that things went so well was somewhat of a surprise. The weather had looked dodgy all week, Ricko was flat-out at the factory, while preparing for the Sydney Hobart, and at the eleventh hour my righthand woman, Trade-a-Boat photographer Ellen Dewar, was forced to withdraw with a serious eye infection. El is a battler who lives for her work and had been beside herself with excitement at the prospect of a PB shoot. I could actually feel her pain down the phone.

With almost freakish good luck, we managed to secure the services of the masterly Andrea Francolini literally at the last minute, I could feel the momentum swinging in our favour.

And so it would be…

My first look at the Palm Beach 55 as she lay next to the dock under the mansions of Sydney's Point Piper was breathtaking. If ever there was a scene to inspire and motivate this was it. One of the world's most desirable craft moored in front of one of the city's most impressive properties. Mark was there, along with a few invited guests, chamois in hand preening his beauty, ready to extract all this perfect morning had to offer.

That this is a pretty boat is a given, the perfectly drawn lines are from an era when coolness and class were inseparable. If ever a boat warranted a well-tailored suit then this is it. Yet even here tied to the dock it is clear the Palm Beach 55 doesn't trade on good-looks alone. Where many boats strain and buck at their mooring lines at the slightest passing wash this lady seems so relaxed she doesn't need lines at all.



THE TECH AND THE TAILOR

Stepping aboard it is immediately apparent Palm Beach has set about defining a new age of craftsmanship. Ultra-modern materials and construction techniques, mostly drawn from Mark's racing yacht background - E-glass, vinylester, epoxy resins and stitched multi-axial fabric over Corecell linear foam - are utilised to build a lightweight yet extremely strong hull, providing the perfect canvas on which the craftsmen can weave their magic.

The entire boat, save for a few minor fittings, is built onsite. All that solid timber (and it is solid, no glued-on veneers here) is shaped and fitted by Mark's team, right down to the hand-lathed snackholders on the tables.

CNC-design techniques have allowed Palm Beach to customise to millimetre-perfect accuracy almost every aspect of each new vessel to exactly match the client's needs, without the requirement for expensive tooling. Mark says each boat is a process of evolution, learning a little from the previous project and merging that knowledge with the owner's thoughts. To be fair, many of Mark's clients have history with Palm Beach and know to leave things in the hands of this expert, even so I have heard him in consultation and his mind is open to any suggestion.



MAKING HARD LOOK EASY

As mentioned above the Palm Beach 55 is available in a range of configurations, in fact almost any which will fit into the hull. Today's boat Maluka is presented with a stateroom for'ard and its adjoining en suite to port, a VIP guest cabin to starboard with twin singles that can be rolled together, and another single cabin opposite to port. A separate bathroom/dayhead services these two cabins. If these cabins lack anything it would be natural light, the low-profile hull lines make portholes a tricky proposition. Oversized hatches are in place and this is a small price to pay for looking hot.

As the photos hereabouts show the level of furnishing is exceptional, but it is the detail and preciseness on display that warrants the most praise from me. There is neither a thread of fabric nor a hint of glue out of place, even in those hard-to-reach places, well out of sight. Little tricks like the foldaway shower doors open-up space most people would never have realised was there. These are the touches only thought of by those who have spent thousands of hours on boats.

Rising up a single set of stairs brings you to the main saloon area. This time the natural lighting floods the scene via panoramic tinted windows, some of which are electrically lowered. Maluka's galley is situated amidships on the port side, but it could easily have been located aft servicing the cockpit or forward and down a level.

A beautifully styled helm station and solid timber dash sets the scene to starboard blending yesteryear's style with the age of the touchscreen and the computer-powered joystick controller. Where some may have opted for custom bucket seats for Palm Beach a custo-cut bench seat provides a comfortable and cosy place for the skipper and his navigator to enjoy the drive.

The rest of the saloon is all sumptuously tailored off-white leather sofas and solid timber tables. While one of these sofas is U-shaped, which is traditional on boats, the other pair of settees face each other, more like what you may find in a drawing room. Mark comments that guests naturally gravitate to this option suggesting it has an easier, more social feel.

Again the workmanship throughout is to the highest standard imaginable. The people delivering this quality clearly have immense pride in the product and are encouraged to stretch themselves in the pursuit of perfection. I suspect Mark would make a great management consultant, if he could only sit still long enough.



THE CLEAN AND THE CLEVER

Much of what I love about the Palm Beach 55 can be seen in its cockpit. Again it is beautifully finished, with graceful curves and lashings of timber and teak. Yet it is delightfully simple and understated. Yes there is a barbecue, fridge, bar, table and a sofa, and room for anything else you could think of, but everything is in its rightful place leaving the whole look pleasingly uncluttered.

Very nice, I hear you say, but where is the tender? Well that is where the clever comes in. Stroll around onto the aft swimplatform and you will find the tender garage. Nothing unusual about there, except this one comes with a little extra Mark Richards genius. Built from high-tech durable plastics for longevity this tender launching system is designed around a simplistic but very effective in-house designed rope-and-pulley system. It's easy, it works, and it won't break down.

As a quick look under the floorboards will prove, great boats don't finish with the trimmings. The engineroom and other bilge spaces are as impressive as everything else. No uncomfortable checkerplate flooring down here, just more teak of course.

Good bilge spaces help the skipper find issues early and with that in mind the "wet" spaces are painted black to show the salt, while the engine beds are painted white to show any oil. This engineroom is slightly tighter than is ideal, thanks to the location of the generator, but not enough to cause in servicing issues.

Even though this vessel is IPS-powered the temptation to move the engines farther aft has been resisted, with jackshafts employed to deliver the power to the pod units. What this means in practice is that the proper balance of the boat has been maintained with the weight where it should be, close to both the longitudinal and lateral centrelines and as low as is practical. It also allows this hull to easily accept conventional shaftdrives, such as will be found in the next Palm Beach 55.



ON THE PLANE

Last time we tested a Palm Beach, we commented on how yacht-like it was in the water. The 55 proved very similar on its super-slippery warped hull. The acceleration is virtually transitionless suggesting superior efficiency. The correctly trimmed IPS configuration allows the vessel to make the most of its waterline and ultrafine entry delivering a top speed of almost 32kts on a miserly 231.5lt/h. Pull the levers back to a more refined 20kts and the boat will be drinking only 100lt/h. If this sounds like big numbers to you be assured they are not. Many similar vessels we test could easily add 50 per cent fuel consumption to those figures.

If the weather was perfect inside the harbour it was certainly more challenging outside, so we did the right thing and headed out for a blast. As if to prove a point, we sent the guests outside while we steamed head-on into the sea at 30kts. Was it perfectly dry? Not quite, but again no one got wet enough to complain. Even standing in the front cabin I was more than able to maintain my footing without holding on, thanks to the way that fine entry takes the sting out of the waves. My notes read "super soft and reasonably dry".

So in summary the Palm Beach 55 might look like a champagne daycruiser, but she's true pelagic at heart. Maluka's owner loves his fishing, although personally I shudder at the thought of a sinker coming into contact with that pristine Glasurit painted finish. The most recent Palm Beach 55 was driven on its own bottom all the way to Nelson at the top of New Zealand's South Island.



THE VERDICT

With the Palm Beach 55 you will find a vessel as close to faultless as could even be expected. The quality presented at every turn is in full view, hard to define yet very apparent. This really is a boat as good as it looks. Could it be improved on? Not easily, yet you know the team behind this superb vessel strive to do so.

We have no hesitation suggesting in Palm Beach you find one of Australia's and the world's finest motoryachts. Any considering such a vessel should give Mark a call. If you are serious enough, he might just arrange a ride. You'll not be shaken but you might be stirred.



[HIGHS]

› High-performance hull technology blended with classic charm

› Superior, virtually faultless craftsmanship

› Years of seamanship and experience behind the development

› Class-leading fuel efficiency

› Solid timber finishing and teak everywhere, even in the anchor locker

› Excellent backup

› Achingly beautiful

› Totally bespoke

› The quality presented at every turn is in full view, hard to define yet very apparent



[LOWS]

› Wasn't under my Christmas tree





[TRADE-A-BOAT SAYS… ]

…the Palm Beach 55 might look like a champagne daycruiser, but she's true pelagic at heart. Maluka's owner loves his fishing, although personally I shudder at the thought of a sinker coming into contact with that pristine Glasurit painted finish. The most recent Palm Beach 55 was driven on its own bottom all the way to Nelson at the top of New Zealand's South Island.





Specs: Palm Beach 55



PRICE AS TESTED

$2,600,000



PRICED FROM

$2,500,000



SEA TRIALS

Twin 600hp Volvo Penta IPS 800



RPM SPEED (KTS) FUEL BURN

600 6.84 7.7lt/h

800 10.79 27.15lt/h

1000 11.79 36.6lt/h

1300 14.13 57.5lt/h

1500 17.43 79.3lt/h

1700 20.53 107.1lt/h

1900 24 132.5lt/h

2000 25.65 149.1lt/h

2100 27.42 169.2lt/h

2200 29.11 193.1lt/h

2370 31.8 231.5lt/h

* Sea-trial data supplied by Volvo Penta. Fuel burn is for both engines combined.



GENERAL

MATERIAL E-glass over wrapped foam

TYPE Warped monhull

LENGTH 18.29m (overall); 16.7m (deck)

BEAM 5.24m

DRAFT 1.06m

WEIGHT 18,000kg (dry)



CAPACITIES

FUEL 2600lt

WATER 1300lt

HOLDING TANK 250lt



ENGINEERING

ENGINE 2 x Volvo Penta IPS 800

TYPE Turbo-diesel

RATED HP 600 (each) at 2300rpm

DISPLACEMEN: 10.8lt (each)

DRY WEIGHT 1800kg (each)



SUPPLIED BY

Palm Beach Motor Yachts,

50 Newbridge Road,

Berkeley Vale, NSW, 2261

Phone: (02) 4389 1244; 0404 333 378

Email: mr@pbmy.com.au

Web: www.pbmotoryachts.com



Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #435, January 2013

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