Katia Damborsky steps on board Prestige Yachts’ newest 19.8-metre catamaran – and finds a laid-back thoroughbred...
The multihull market is booming – or so we keep being told – but it’s not often you see a conventional sport boat builder re-evaluate its decades-old business model and put a second hull on a new model. Actually, that may be underselling Prestige Yachts a bit, because the M8 is so thoughtfully designed you’d swear it was a pedigree catamaran builder.
The design team went into the preliminary sketches with a motto in mind. “The king of the boat is always the owner,” says Camillo Garroni of Garroni Design, which has long collaborated with Prestige’s parent group Beneteau Group. He looks at the boat he designed as a luxury toy that should be able to comfortably compete with an owner’s bells-and-whistles shoreside residence. Translating that ethos into a slender 19.8-metre envelope is no easy feat, says Lionel Huetz of Marc Lombard Yacht Design Group, the French studio that completed the naval architecture of the boat. The studio is a multihull maestro, but still, it was a new feat for the shipyard and it came with plenty of challenges and “technical problems” that have been ironed out since the idea was first proposed in 2018.
Technical challenges aren’t surprising, considering how ambitious the yard has been with the M8. The overhead heights are between 198 and 200 centimetres throughout, including in the 35-square-metre owner’s cabin, which is laid out transversely in the very forward portion of the boat. The M8 sits high above the water – at just over two metres between the main deck and the waterline – and her beam is 8.8 metres, but she somehow doesn’t look boxy. “The proportions are balanced, we played a lot with the design of the side windows and the hull windows,” says Garroni, pointing to the flare of glass carving out the lower deck and the low line of glazing that runs along the deck above.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s clear that the M8 is a non-boater’s boat. For one thing, there’s no obvious helm station on the main deck. The space is entirely devoted to living, with a sprawling lounge greeting you as you walk in past a central wet bar by a sliding window. Light cascades in from all-encompassing glass, and a mix of temporary fixtures, like loose furniture from Pininfarina, and permanent ones, like a centralised storage unit, create a flow throughout the space. There is a dining area and a galley, while a staircase leading to the flybridge is mirrored by a similar-sized structure on the other side that could be mistaken for storage; but in fact, it’s a head, cleverly configured so it’s only accessible from the exterior deck.
Next to the galley, there is a flat surface that hides a control panel and you could easily install a helm seat here if you wanted to drive from inside. But it’s obvious the M8 is meant for the type of fair-weather cruising that necessitates a flybridge. From up there, the yacht’s twin Volvo D8-600 CV engines can be controlled to propel the M8 to speeds of up to 21 knots, pared back to a cruising speed of 17 knots.
The flybridge is impressive in its own right, with enough space to incorporate dining for eight, a small sofa, L-shaped seating and a sunpad. But for my money, the stand-out al fresco spot is the foredeck, where there is a sofa arrangement. “We were concerned it would be quite windy,” says Rosalie Le Gall, product manager at Prestige Yachts, but happily, it turns out their worries were unfounded. On a calm day in Trieste, the M8 glides over the water and sitting at the cool, concealed enclave at the very front of the boat feels serene.
At the back of the boat is an Opacmare transformer swim platform. Typically, it sits at the same level as the main deck, with stainless steel rods and rope acting as a bulwark. At the touch of a button, it can be lowered to water level to create a swim platform or disappear even lower to collect tenders and toys. Flattened tender cradles can pop out of the teak to support a boat of up to 500 kilograms.
The 19.8-metre M8 has been named to reflect its volumes, which Prestige Yachts claims are typical of a 24-metre, and to “carry a simple name on a best-in-class product”, says Le Gall. It is the first model in a new series of multihulls built by Prestige Yachts at its Monfalcone facility in eastern Italy, with a soon-to-be-revealed smaller iteration in the works as well. All of Prestige Yachts' models are built in Monfalcone, Italy and in South West France, which is the original home of the Beneteau Group.
The Franco-Italian crossover is a source of pride for Prestige Yachts. Garroni says he’s “Italian but with quite a French mind”. Erwin Bamps, vice president of Prestige Yachts, describes the blend as “integrating the savoir-fare of industrial yacht building in France and the heritage of building large yachts in Italy”. Case in point: It takes between 82 and 84 days to build one of the M8 units at the Italian site, with 50 people working on the line at any one time and an efficient production that sees each unit spend 21 days at each station.
The finished result is impressively versatile, with options to customise the accommodation layout and the position of the galley to include a galley-down option. The standard configuration is four cabins in the hulls including a VIP, with the aforementioned master on the main deck forward and two single crew berths even further forward in the hulls. But on the first hull, the fourth guest cabin has been scrapped, with the owner opting for a swish cinema suite instead. Evidently, the M8 has space in spades, and still some left over to spare.