A Sur­prise at Ev­ery Turn


Power & Motor Yacht - - CONTENTS -

The curvy Z55, from Dutch builder Zee­lander, is a sprightly per­former im­bued with zest and style.

WWith her volup­tuous curves, a long, el­e­gant sheer, and a pur­pose­fully flared bow, the Zee­lander Z55 ap­pears at first to be lit­tle more than a thor­ough­go­ing ex­er­cise in Amer­i­can retro styling. You could eas­ily imag­ine her as a Pro­hi­bi­tion-era rum­run­ner. But looks can de­ceive.

She is, of course, Dutch-built, and with her fiber­glass con­struc­tion, IPS drives, high-qual­ity de­tail­ing, and mid­ships ten­der garage, she is not so much a styling ex­er­cise as a thor­ough ex­plo­ration of mod­ern mo­to­ry­acht de­sign—and a sur­pris­ingly suc­cess­ful one at that.

Tak­ing the Mul­der-de­signed hull of the ship­yard’s ear­lier Z44 model, superyacht naval ar­chi­tects Van Oos­sa­nen scaled it up and tank-tested the re­sult, which was op­ti­mized from the out­set for Volvo Penta’s IPS propul­sion. Twin 725-horse­power IPS 950 en­gines are stan­dard. Our test ex­am­ple at the re­cent Cannes boat show, the first Z55 to be ex­hib­ited in Europe, was fit­ted with the larger 800s— known as IPS 1050s in Volvo’s will­fully con­fus­ing nomen­cla­ture— while 900- and 1,000-horse­power op­tions are avail­able if you pre­fer.

In the cramped cor­ner of the Vieux Port where the Zee­lander glinted in the late-sum­mer sun­shine, few boat­builders were tak­ing their charges out on sea tri­als, no mat­ter how nicely they were asked— it was sim­ply too crowded to get them safely in and out. With its joy­stick con­trols and swivel­ing IPS drives, how­ever, the Zee­lander slipped out serenely from its quay­side berth, dodg­ing over­hang­ing an­chors and ne­go­ti­at­ing moor­ing lines with a calm com­pe­tence that didn’t go un­no­ticed by those aboard neigh­bor­ing boats. In typ­i­cally balmy con­di­tions we recorded a top speed of over 34 knots, with more than half a load of fuel and wa­ter and the Wil­liams ten­der on board. Per­for­mance topped out about 150 rpm shy of the en­gines’ rated max­i­mum, so it’s pos­si­ble that she could make an ex­tra knot or two with dif­fer­ent pro­pel­lers. With a mod­er­ate-V hull with just 14.5 de­grees dead­rise aft, the Z55 ac­cel­er­ated well and proved both ac­cu­rate on the helm and re­spon­sive on the throt­tles. The hull de­sign car­ries this mod­est dead­rise well for­ward, so when charg­ing through our own wake—the only de­cent waves avail­able on that day—it was easy to cre­ate firm im­pacts with the broad pan­els of the fore­foot, es­pe­cially when tak­ing the seas at an an­gle. When slic­ing straight through them at 90 de­grees, though, the ride proved ad­e­quately soft and com­fort­able. A mildly dis­tract­ing rat­tle from the sun­roof was eas­ily cured dur­ing our sound mea­sure­ments by com­pany CEO Ewoud Vroe­gop, who reached up and held it. A more per­ma­nent fix was ar­ranged.

The all-around sight­lines from the helm are re­mark­able for a hard­top boat, and that gets to the heart of the in­tel­li­gent think­ing be­hind the Z55’s de­sign: It’s not just the helms­man who gets a good 360-de­gree view, but ev­ery­one. The raised sofa sur­round­ing the cen­tral din­ing ta­ble puts the pas­sen­gers’ line of sight at the same level as the helms­man’s. In fact the helm seats turn to join the din­ing ta­ble. The gal­ley, laid out along the back of the sofa and open on both for­ward and aft ends, feels at the cen­ter of things on the main deck. A glass

door to star­board is com­ple­mented by a curved glass par­ti­tion that rises be­tween the gal­ley and the bar, so that even when sealed off from the el­e­ments, both salon and gal­ley ben­e­fit from clear vi­sion all round.

The lower-deck ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­hibits a sim­i­lar level of in­tel­li­gent de­sign, courtesy of the dis­tinc­tively named Dutch stu­dio of Cor D. Rover. It is slightly dis­con­cert­ing at first to be faced by a curv­ing ar­ray of four doors at the bot­tom of the com­pan­ion­way—five if you count the hinged panel pro­tect­ing the elec­tri­cal panel—but the lay­out be­hind each one is log­i­cal enough in its way. A com­pact twin-bunk cabin to star­board might be put to better use as stowage space, but once you’re in there the beds are full size and there are some use­ful lock­ers. The VIP suite in the bow has been clev­erly ar­ranged on a di­ag­o­nal to in­crease the us­abil­ity of the floor area, and although it is cer­tainly true that its big dou­ble berth is mounted way too high for any­one much past mid­dle age, it is still a com­fort­able sleep­ing cabin, with its own door to the guest head. This head also has a door to the pas­sage­way for day­head use.

Tucked un­der the salon ta­ble and sofa, the amid­ships cabin is a sur­prise. Head­room is good over the floor—6 feet 7 inches—rea­son­able over the foot of the bed at 40 inches, and even ac­cept­able over the head of the bed at 28 inches. The bed it­self is a gi­ant 6 feet 10 inches long, and with stowage avail­able in var­i­ous cab­i­nets and along the en­tire aft bulk­head, plus a dress­ing ta­ble and a gen­er­ous shower com­part­ment—where you’ll have to be very care­ful not to soak the car­pet—it’s a gen­uinely lux­u­ri­ous mas­ter suite.

The Z55’s ten­der-han­dling ar­range­ments are also sur­pris­ing. There is sim­ply no room in a hull this size, with a big fold-down tran­som and IPS drives, for a con­ven­tional ten­der garage in the stern. But have a look at the lay­out plan: There’s the Wil­liams 285 Jet Ten­der, neatly stowed just for­ward of the en­gine room in a spe­cial athwartships com­part­ment, served by a top­sides hatch that opens out on the port side. A smaller hatch on the star­board side of the cock­pit sole pro­vides ac­cess to an elec­tric winch. From here you can give the ten­der a shove to launch it, while the shape of the floor tray en­cour­ages the RIB to align it­self prop­erly as you winch it in again.

In­ge­nious it may be, but as a sys­tem op­er­ated by a fam­ily crew it will need care­ful use. There is no room in the com-

part­ment for any­thing but the ten­der, so don’t send any­one down there who is not ex­pend­able: Any mo­men­tary inat­ten­tion or mal­func­tion of the winch could have con­se­quences. It might be a good idea to make sure to deal with the ten­der be­fore crack­ing open the Sancerre.

But per­haps the most sur­pris­ing fea­ture of this sur­pris­ing boat is an ex­ter­nal de­tail that vir­tu­ally ev­ery guest you bring aboard will need to have pointed out. The fine-grained hard­wood fin­ish that adorns the deck­house sides and caps the gun­wale is nei­ther fine-grained nor hard­wood. It’s not even a ve­neer, care­fully glued in place and brought up to its present rich lus­ter with nu­mer­ous coats of var­nish. It’s not wood at all, but fiber­glass, hand-painted to or­der. By a ma­gi­cian.

I don’t care how close you get to it, you’ll still be scratch­ing at it with a fin­ger­nail to feel the grain. The de­tail is so com­plete that the joints be­tween the planks even have the tell­tale stain of wa­ter ingress that sug­gests you might need to strip it back and re-var­nish—not right now, but maybe in a cou­ple of sea­sons.

Re­lax—there are no planks, and no grain. Looks can in­deed de­ceive. Zee­lander Yachts, +31 184 785 047; zee­lander.com

LOA: 55'7" BEAM: 16'4" DRAFT: 4'7" DRY WEIGHT: 84,854 lb. FUEL: 700 gal. WA­TER: 200 gal. TEST POWER: 2/800-hp Volvo Penta IPS 1050 OP­TIONAL POWER: 2/725-hp Volvo Penta IPS 950; 2/900-hp Volvo Penta IPS 1200; 2/1,000-hp Volvo Penta IPS 1350 PRO­PEL­LERS: Volvo Penta Duo­prop Q6 BASE PRICE: $2,647,304 PRICE AS TESTED: $3,084,781

The Z55 throws a few superyacht-wor­thy curves, in­clud­ing the com­pan­ion­way bulk­head lead­ing be­lowdecks (right); the gal­ley counter (op­po­site top left); and the fold­ing glass win­dow aft (far right). Mean­while, the amid­ships mas­ter (op­po­site mid­dle) and helm (op­po­site bot­tom) fit the retro vibe.

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