What’s it re­ally like to drive this 92ft cruise mis­sile?

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents -

B ack in the 90s su­per­cars used to be big, brash noisy things that were brutish to drive and more than a lit­tle in­tim­i­dat­ing. If you over­cooked it on a cor­ner or backed off the throt­tle at the wrong time there was a real dan­ger of stack­ing your Fer­rari F40 or Lam­borgh­ini Di­ablo into a hedge. The same was true of fast, sur­face-drive boats. Alan Harper tells a salu­tary tale of the time he bar­relled into a turn with too much trim and sent the whole shoot­ing match into a vi­o­lent spin that sent fel­low jour­nal­ists scat­ter­ing around the cock­pit.

It wasn’t un­til the ad­vent of the Honda NSX that peo­ple started to re­alise you could still en­joy all the speed, style and grip of a mid-en­gined sportscar with­out feel­ing like you’d just sur­vived three rounds with Mike Tyson. Of course some old di­nosaurs be­moaned the fact that su­per­cars had lost their edge now that any­one could jump be­hind the wheel and give it some stick, but the steady rise in sales of su­per­cars that were faster and pret­tier than ever but eas­ier to drive soon shut them up.

I men­tion this only be­cause when Pershing an­nounced last year that it was go­ing to start fit­ting IPS drives and Sea­keeper gy­ros to its lat­est of­fer­ing, you could al­most hear the ghosts of power­boat rac­ers past spin­ning in their graves. To dyed-in-the- wool purists it must have sounded like Du­cati was go­ing to start fit­ting stabilisers and shop­ping bas­kets to its lat­est range of su­per­bikes. I’m about to find out if their con­cerns are jus­ti­fied.


The Pershing 9X I’m sit­ting at the helm of still looks and feels like a red-blooded superboat. The Ful­vio De Si­moni styling is as sleek and ag­gres­sive as ever. The car­bon-fi­bre decks and su­per­struc­ture show no ex­pense has been spared in the quest for per­for­mance, and it’s pow­ered by a pair of mas­sive 2,638hp MTU V16s, with ra­zor-sharp sur­face-drive pro­pel­lers glis­ten­ing un­der the bathing plat­form. Only the small joy­stick jut­ting from the arm­rest of the main captain’s chair and a pair of Sea­keeper MG9 gyro stabilisers tucked into the en­gine­room sug­gest there’s more to this set-up than meets the eye. Pershing calls it the Easy Set sys­tem and as the name sug­gests its pur­pose is to de­mys­tify the dark art of berthing and driv­ing a pow­er­ful sur­face-drive boat. It had bet­ter work be­cause my experience of driv­ing such craft is slim­mer than a stick in­sect’s waist and I’m about to un­leash the full fury of those V16s on a very trusting crew.

Perched high up on the in­ner­most of the three captain’s chairs with the dis­tinc­tive sin­gle-spoke wheel an arm’s stretch away in front of my knees and flanked by ZF’S stain­less steel throt­tles on my right and the afore­men­tioned joy­stick on my left, it feels more like the command sta­tion of the star­ship En­ter­prise than

a reg­u­lar boat helm. Three tall touch­screens dom­i­nate the view for­ward while a pair of deep wind­screen mul­lions on ei­ther side block out a chunk of my pe­riph­eral vi­sion. I take the de­ci­sion that in a boat this fast it’s what’s in front of me that counts and ease the throt­tles de­ci­sively for­ward.

Some­where be­hind me I can hear the pitch of the engines rise but it’s strangely muted and re­mote like the rum­ble of dis­tant thun­der. It takes a few sec­onds for the pro­pel­lers to find their bite – the in­er­tia of a 68-tonne boat takes some shift­ing – but a glance be­hind me re­veals the wa­ter has turned from glassy blue to boiling white. Then it starts to hap­pen, slowly at first but with a sense of im­pend­ing in­evitabil­ity that comes from having 5,276hp at your dis­posal. The tran­si­tion onto the plane is al­most im­per­cep­ti­ble as the Easy Set sys­tem ad­justs the trim to com­pen­sate but once the tur­bos kick there’s no hid­ing the sheer im­men­sity of the forces at work. The boiling mass of white

erupts into a full-blown rooster tail, the wa­ter re­leases its grip on the hull and the 9X starts to skim across the sur­face like a smartly-thrown peb­ble.


The strange thing is that from where I’m sit­ting it all feels re­mark­ably chilled. We’re reel­ing in the hori­zon at 42 knots in a 92ft cruise mis­sile but with­out the speed over ground num­bers flash­ing up on the Sim­rad MFD, I re­ally wouldn’t know how fast we are trav­el­ling. The engines are so smooth that we can chat with­out rais­ing our voices, the seals on the doors and win­dows block out any wind noise, and the Easy Set sys­tem means there’s noth­ing for me to do ex­cept de­cide how much throt­tle to use and point the bow where I want it to go. I try to in­duce some drama with an arm­ful of lock. The fly-by-wire steer­ing has an odd, ar­ti­fi­cially weighted feel that self-cen­tres when you re­lease it and sure enough the com­puter in­ter­prets my in­ten­tions, ad­justs the trim and feeds in the rud­ders so that the boat traces a smooth steady arc that would barely ruf­fle the sur­face of a G&T.

It’s only when I pass over the helm and re­treat to the open cock­pit that I get a proper sense of the sound and fury. There’s no hid­ing the full power of the engines out here and the sheer speed and height of the rooster tail is a gen­uinely awe-in­spir­ing sight. Of course you have got the op­tion of driv­ing from the sun­deck up top if you want to feel the wind in your hair, al­though once again the wheel is a long way in front of you and down by your an­kles. Per­haps that’s why the joy­stick is there for you to make course ad­just­ments un­der way as well as help with berthing. Now you too can pull into port and look like a boat­ing god as you point and twist the joy­stick in the di­rec­tion you want to go while the com­puter jug­gles the drives, thrusters and rud­ders to fol­low your ev­ery command.

Of course there’s a lot more to the 9X than sim­ply get­ting to the best bay ahead of the chas­ing pack in or­der to grab the prime an­chor­ing spot. You want to en­joy the boat when you get there and that’s where Pershing has also taken ma­jor strides. The ten­der garage has a drop-down ramp that makes launch­ing the Wil­liams 385 and PWC a dod­dle. The fore­deck seat­ing

area and clev­erly con­cealed sun­deck up top pro­vide a num­ber of dif­fer­ent op­tions for guests to hang out in the sun, while the clever drop-down pa­tio doors cre­ate a seam­less flow be­tween the cock­pit and saloon. And of course those two pow­er­ful Sea­keeper stabilisers en­sure it re­mains rock steady even in a Mediter­ranean swell.


Per­son­ally, I found the in­te­rior decor of this boat a lit­tle too cool and clin­i­cal for my tastes but at this level cus­tomi­sa­tion is a given so you should be able to spec­ify a look that meets your needs. The master suite has 6ft 5in of head­room through­out, a to­tally flat floor and a large walk-in wardrobe in ad­di­tion to a lav­ish en­suite bath­room. The for­ward VIP is a lit­tle more un­usual with its off­set bed and asym­met­ri­cal hull win­dows mak­ing it seem a lit­tle less wel­com­ing than the smaller but brighter guest dou­ble. The fourth cabin fol­lows up the rear with a pair of nar­rower sin­gle beds. The crew area oc­cu­pies a sim­i­lar foot­print to the master cabin but houses the ship’s gal­ley as well as two en­suite crew cab­ins. As we re­turn to port I’m in awe of the 9X. It is a re­mark­able achieve­ment that such a fast, pow­er­ful ma­chine can also be such a relaxing, civilised ride. And the fact that it’s vastly eas­ier to ma­noeu­vre than any of its pre­de­ces­sors is a ma­jor win for own­ers and crew alike. If I’m hon­est, there is a small part of me that ques­tions whether driv­ing a 92ft Pershing with over 5,200hp should be a lit­tle more in­volv­ing but the re­al­ity is that the own­ers them­selves will rarely drive the boat (that’s what crew are for) and the mere fact that they can now do so safely with­out a master class in sur­face-drive han­dling is a thrill in it­self. As Fer­rari and Lam­borgh­ini found out some time ago, it pays to flat­ter the driver rather than frighten them and the Pershing 9X will charm them all the way to the bank. CON­TACT Ventura UK Tel +44 (0)20 7495 2330

Light and glass are key design themes of the open-plan saloon and din­ing ar­eas

Seat­ing on both sides of the fore­deck ta­ble make this a re­ally use­able en­ter­tain­ing space

L E F T Cov­ered side-deck but­tresses have be­come a Pershing design cue M IDDL E The sun­deck is set into the su­per­struc­ture to re­tain the boat’s sleek pro­file R IGHT The shel­tered aft cock­pit and drop-down doors

The fur­ni­ture has a lot of sharp cor­ners for such a fast boat

JOY­STICK This can be used to steer the boat un­der way not just dur­ing low speed ma­noeu­vres ELEC­TRONIC HELM The wheel self cen­tres af­ter you’ve com­pleted a turn THROT­TLES Th­ese are mounted next to the arm­rest so you don’t have to move from your seat

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