Princess Yachts have introduced S78, their new 24 metre S Class motor yacht. Chris Raswell steps on board to appreciate her interior and exterior design.
Nothing shows off the new Princess Yachts S78 better than the pair of helm seats in the forward corner of the saloon. These are not demure items that a designer fretted might block someone’s view, but mighty black monoliths more likely to be spotted in a supercar. They are perfectly in tune with the leadership of Princess under its new executive chairman Antony Sheriff, who joined the company after heading McLaren.
They envelop you as though Savile Row-tailored to your body. High backed with headrests and Formula One side bolstering, they exude the aroma of fine leather and your fingers will delight in finding the tiny ridges of hand stitching. Do they block the view forward through the massive windshield from the saloon? Absolutely. Does it matter? Absolutely not, because these cushy seats are the province of the owner/ operator and life continues in the saloon separately. These are the best seats in the house.
Anyone who builds a 400km/h, £2 million automobile for the streets is clearly detail oriented, and so it is with Sheriff, who was tasked with re-energising Princess by its owners, which include Groupe Arnault. Name doesn’t ring a bell? Think Louis Vuitton, Moët & Chandon, Hennessy, Dior: companies that know a bit about luxury.
This Princess is the difference between having a first cup of decaf in the morning and having a triple espresso: the S78 fairly thrills with energy, and Sheri and his crew have imbued it with a mainline injection of pure caffeine.
The starting point for the S78 is Bernard Olesinski’s seaworthy hull and, lest you think this is a retool of a tired motor yacht hull, keep in mind that Olesinski, a Princess designer for nearly four decades, has more than a few off shore racing powerboats in his portfolio, including competitors in the legendary Cowes-Torquay powerboat race. For years, he drove a Jaguar XK-E; Olesinski understands performance.
“The S78 is based on the Olesinski low deadrise hull form, optimised for greater lift and less drag, leading to lower planing speeds, greater efficiency, yet still maintaining an eye-watering 39 knots,” Jonathan Cantrell, Olesinski’s head designer, explains. Some might take issue with using “eye-watering” and “39 knots” in the same sentence, but remember that you’re moving 50 tonnes of leather, teak and pure luxury through the water.
The words “luxury” and “fun” are also rarely used together, but this is a fun yacht: fun while you’re carving white slashes at nearly 40 knots (about the same speed as Second World War PT boats) with twin MAN 1,900hp V12s purring gently; fun while you’re sprawled on the sofa watching the latest thriller on the big-screen television; and certainly fun when you wake up in the master cabin to gaze out of the large hull windows at... where? Saint-Tropez? Nantucket? St Barths? All are logical habitats for the S78.
The best starting point for exploring the Princess S78 is to stand back and admire the lines: this is clearly a sport yacht with a capital S. It has a flybridge that can seat a dozen people in windshield-protected comfort, but the profile is so lean that you barely notice it.
Justin Olesinski, the design studio’s managing director (and Bernard’s son) agrees. “Our aim with the S78 was to expand a clearly defined S Class range to create a fitting flagship by carefully instilling each area with S Class DNA,” he says. “The very essence of S Class combines the powerful and exhilarating characteristics of a V Class [sports cruiser] with the accommodation of a flybridge.”
The S78 follows previous launches from Princess’s S Class (S60, S65 and S72) over the past three years, as part of the company’s resurgence. Like the others, it has a sporty profile with a flybridge and yet still maintains the large saloon sunroof for light and fresh air.
You may be surprised by initial impressions when you first board. Instead of the usual twin stairways from the transom platform to the aft deck, there is one on centreline. And the aft deck, depending on who has used the boat last, may have a seemingly random scattering of sofas and tables. More on that in a moment.
That single stairway frees up the stern to allow a Williams Jet Tender (five people/77km/h) in a garage to port, and a truly civilised crew cabin to starboard with twin berths and en suite head with shower. If you don’t want crew, this will do nicely for teenagers.
The aft deck, meanwhile, has more configurations than a Transformers movie. Past the two sunpads, the large dinette to port and the L-shaped sofas to starboard slide gently on pads so as not to blemish the flawless teak deck and can be pinned into different arrangements to suit your entertainment/dining needs just as you move chairs and sofas at home for a party.
This ability to shape-shift continues into the saloon with the table by the L-shaped sofa, which moves in or out to fit cocktail hour or dinner. Alas, the large U-shaped sofa opposite does nothing but look good and be comfortable. Oversized windows – 5.5m wide, 1.2m high – offer broad vistas.
Says Justin Olesinski: “The convex side glass, sophisticated surfaces and bold graphical details are designed to work with the adaptable indoor-outdoor spaces in appealing to someone who wants high- performance sports activities, a glamorous social life and relaxing moments with family and friends.”
European chefs and their galleys are usually banished from the guests' sight, but Princess has put the S78 galley on full display in the saloon, tucked behind a bar as you enter through the sliding doors that disappear nearly out of sight. Even the aft window in the galley hinges up, creating a wraparound aft deck bar for a buffet or drinks. And if you don’t want to see the chef hard at work preparing your food, dark-tinted windows can be deployed to shield the galley from view.
“We appeal to anybody who appreciates the fun in boats,” Sheri says. “Princess as a brand offers a level of understatement, which is nice – we don’t go after flashy customers. We’re trying to bring back a little bit of the romance of what a beautiful boat is supposed to be.”
No small part of that romance is to be found on the accommodation level, where no-one draws the short straw. Everyone on an S78 gets a pleasantly large cabin with its own en suite head and showers sized for real people. The only exception to the equality is that the master cabin has its own private entry via stairs opposite the helm and the shower is big enough for two.
That cabin is conventional, with a centreline king berth, love seat to one side, bureau opposite, plus a nicely sized walk-in wardrobe with a dressing area. All of this spans the full beam, allowing for those views through the large hull side windows of exotic harbours.
Many boatbuilding companies like to boast about their quality, but Princess walks the walk. Based in Plymouth, Princess creates most of the parts on the S78 rather than relying on subcontractors. From fuel and water tanks to wiring looms and deck cleats, it’s all produced in-house. That applies to the interior as well, which is finished in rovere oak, a warm and very hard material, and the joinery is superyacht quality. If you move the Transformers seating on the aft deck, you notice two things: it’s very light and it’s incredibly strong. And, as your fingers travel along the joints of the cabinetry, all they’ll feel is the silky smoothness of the finish.
A flybridge is a divisive feature, since boaters in the Mediterranean don’t usually care too much about them, while North Americans practically live on them. Either way, the S78 satisfies with a near-invisible but extremely comfortable bridge. Three L-shaped sofas of varying sizes surround the twin helm seats, which are somewhat watered-down from the lower helm, but no less comfortable – perhaps swiped from a mere Aston Martin.
And if you really want to get away from the madding crowd to finish that trashy novel, the foredeck is for you. As you stroll forward, note how the bulwark has been cut away so those vast cabin windows have an unobstructed view. Once forward, you have the choice of a sunpad with backrests or a curved sofa for your reading. Wherever you go, you have great audio. “We’re very proud of the Naim audio system that was acoustically engineered into the S78 at the very start of the design process,” says Kiran Haslam, chief marketing officer of Princess. “All new Princesses feature Naim as standard – it’s another way we’re raising the bar, because the Naim package has nine independent audio zones, all in sync at the touch of a button, for powerful, clear and detailed audio.”
Power for the Princess S78 is a whacking pair of MAN V12 1,900hp diesels that move her along at 39 knots, getting to where you want to go without fuss. Surprisingly, these seem frugal: you can back off to 1,800rpm, roll along at 25 knots, and use less than 375 litres per hour.
For the techies, these are the most powerful MAN engines produced, and they were specifically designed for yachts over 30 metres, but Princess managed to get them in without compromising the engine room space. With 1,900hp and a fierce power curve across a broad speed range, you may find yourself racing (and embarrassing) far smaller yachts.
But the best way to experience the Princess S78 isn’t to poke around inside, but to settle into those glove-soft helm seats, face the space- shuttle dash, wrap your hand around the throttles and put the hammers down. This is a yacht built for fun.
Princess teams up with America’s Cup talent
Aside from revamping its lines of yachts, Princess has launched one of the most innovative production dayboats in years, the R35 (pictured below), pulling resources from the America’s Cup world. The consortium brought together Martin Whitmarsh, who after heading McLaren’s F1 team joined America’s Cup outfit Ben Ainslie Racing as CEO, and Italian luxury design firm Pininfarina. The result is a 10.9-metre performance yacht that not only uses America’s Cup-style underwater foils to achieve speed and stability but an all carbon-fibre hull to shed 30 per cent of the weight of similar boats.
The Active Foil System (AFS) has port and starboard foils that enhance comfort and speed, responding to an onboard computer that calculates angles at 100 times per second. The AFS dramatically improves stability and seakeeping, reduces drag and provides a top speed of more than 50 knots from two 430hp Volvo engines, making the R (for revolution) 35 the fastest Princess ever built.
All images courtesy of Quin Bisset