The Princess Y85 has been heralded as the springboard for a new look for future Princess yachts. Antony Sheriff, executive chairman of the UK yard, joined Princess from McLaren, builders of million-dollar supercars, so it’s not entirely surprising that he added Pininfarina to his design team for this new yacht.
Pininfarina, in case you aren’t an automotive aficionado, is behind the styling of nearly every Ferrari since the groundbreaking 212 of 1951. Pinin also created a breathtaking series of cars for the likes of Maserati, Alfa and Lancia. In short, it is no stranger to inspirational design.
“We have a design ethos that is about elegance and understatement,” says Sheriff. “There are other boats on the market that choose to be more dramatic – I think they can look a bit angry. We prefer to be beautiful.”
Viewed in profile, the Princess Y85 is unquestionably elegant, and Simona Penna, marketing manager at Pininfarina, suggests one reason: “The most important stylistic feature of this boat is demonstrated with the design and interpretation of the hardtop. This part is, in fact, usually a critical element for nautical designs in that it often appears detached from the rest of the boat.” Unlike many other boats where hardtops seem to be afterthoughts or tacked-on options, the Y85’s hardtop is part and parcel of the lines.
“It is characterised by fluid lines, without any kind of discontinuity with the rest of the boat,” Penna says. “The inspiration certainly comes from car design, where fluid shapes are very important for aerodynamic reasons.”
Princess’s director of design, Andy Lawrence, sums up the new look. “This is the project that established a unique design partnership between the Princess Design Studio, naval architect Bernard Olesinski and Pininfarina. The Y85 leads a new interior/exterior design language for the Y Class range. The exterior living spaces are richer than any previous Princess, with high levels of paintwork to seating and wet bars accentuating their form. Teak details give a soft tactile warmth both underfoot and to key touch points, such as the capping to the aft flybridge glass screens,” he says.
For Pininfarina, one of the successes of this design is “the strong connection between the exterior and the interior” it offers. “The Y85 was designed as a single piece, without distinguishing the interior from the exterior in terms of style – a seamless experience for the owner,” says Penna.
Princess has put a lot of effort into the details, and the team is particularly proud of that continuous teak “nosing” on the transom that looks, in Lawrence’s words, “as if it were draped across the boat’s structure”. This tricky design was executed using a five-axis milling machine to span the full width of the boat.
From the cockpit, the saloon flows unbroken from the transom seating area. The tracks for the sliding doors are recessed and the doors themselves disappear from view once opened to create an al fresco ambience in a space already flooded with natural light. Inside, the new decor of the Princess Y85 serves as a precursor for future Princess styling.
On our review yacht, a hull designed to capture the imagination of an American client, the interior finish is gorgeous high-gloss walnut joinery that matches the V-grooved walnut flooring, while teak covers decking and rails. The swooping curves of the recessed ceiling with its glossy walnut trim edge are replicated in the headboard of the master suite, the curves of the galley divider, the top of the vanity in the master suite and the leather of the helm seats. The workmanship is impeccable.
The design around a surprisingly large three-metre window by the round dining table rivals the flawless joinery. The subtlety here is that what appears on the exterior as just a swoop in the sheer line is actually a clever way to lower the bulwarks so nothing can block the view through this picture window. “It’s so subtle most visitors don’t notice,” says James Nobel, vice-president of Princess Yachts America, “and the couch backs in the saloon are also kept low, so guests have a great view while seated. There is no ‘best seat’ in this house; they’re all good.”
The saloon becomes a comfy media centre when the 55-inch television rises from behind the starboard couch. A footstall for stretching out is tucked under the coffee table, and all you need to add for movie night is popcorn.
The galley can be included or excluded from the saloon by a sliding partition that turns one of its worktops into a bar or buffet when needed, again part of the Princess goal of creating a more casual and yet elegant lifestyle. The galley itself is a chorus of names such as Wolf and Sub-Zero to please chefs who will also appreciate the wide worktops and views through the oversized window.
Like the chef, the skipper can opt for a little more privacy by closing a sliding door. Facing the console, two luxurious helm chairs are clearly inherited from the automotive world, no doubt due to Sheriff ’s background. Infinitely adjustable with intricate stitching, they have individual armrests.
When working on the layout, Princess Design Studio focused on what they call “spatial design”. A case in point is the master suite, where the designers made full use of the wide 6.4-metre beam. This space allows, for instance, an owner to opt for a full sofa to starboard in place of a more usual two chairs, and a vanity/desk to port, with room to spare for a separate dressing area with two large wardrobes.
The “spatial design” pops up again in the VIP cabin forward, which has a full walk-in wardrobe, something of a rarity on yachts of this size. The two amidships guest cabins, which convert between doubles and twins, also have en suite heads.
The flybridge is reached via gentle steps that even Aunt Edna can manage, while handrails and a full surrounding rail make the bridge a secure space. Up top, the expanse of teak decking is so impressive you may need a drink and, luckily, there is a full wet bar just to starboard with L-shaped counter, twin stools and full amenities from fridge to icemaker.
Again, an owner’s individual desires come into play, and Princess is pleased to tailor the Y85 bridge to those wishes. For some, that may mean a big day bed (or a night bed under the stars), while others may use the space for a large spa pool. Just forward, there is room for a wraparound dinette, and the twin helm chairs get companionship from sofas on either side. The dash, with monitors matching those in the wheelhouse, unfolds from the console like a Transformers toy to keep the electronics protected when not in use.
Above much of the bridge is the immense fibreglass hardtop finished in oyster grey, seemingly supported by twin cantilevers on each side. Those who crave more sun and air can open louvred panels. Finally, the boat deck is spacious enough for a 545-kilogram Opacmare crane that can hoist a 4.5-metre tender easily, leaving the bathing platform uncluttered.
The new Y85 blurs the distinctions between the two traditional Princess lines: the “S” series for Sport and the “Y” series for Yacht. I was startled to discover the 32-knot top speed (credit Olesinski’s slippery hull) and, with twin 1,900hp MAN V12 diesels, the Y85 is clearly encroaching into “S” territory, while the huge sunpads on the bow and flybridge are also markers of Sport yachts. Still, the walk-in wardrobes on the Y85 unmistakably say “Y”, as do the four en suite cabins and the raised pilothouse.
When asked about the styling changes, Sheriff was clear. “We want to keep to the core values of Princess – which are elegance and understatement – and really push this aspect into the future whilst making sure we don’t lose the purity and understatement in our design.” Princess has clearly raised the bar.
This feature is taken from the April 2020 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW
Photography by Mike Evans