Sweet Spot


Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE -

The au­thor didn’t want to like the Pearl 80. That was be­fore he got be­hind the wheel.

Play­ers in the sport yacht mar­ket take heed: The game has changed. Pearl Yachts, a rel­a­tively new kid on the block, has qui­etly rein­vented the way we should think about luxury cruis­ing boats. The North Amer­i­can de­but of the Bri­tish builder’s Pearl 80 brings a new of­fer­ing to the seg­ment, es­sen­tially ditch­ing the “sex sells” cliché in fa­vor of a more well-rounded, space-cen­tric take on the cruis­ing life­style. That’s not to say the Pearl 80 is with­out sex ap­peal. She’s got it in spades. It just wasn’t the first thing I no­ticed when I ap­proached her—nor was it the sec­ond, which typ­i­cally means a death sen­tence for this breed of boat. She’s any­thing but typ­i­cal, though, and that’s by de­sign.

The in­te­rior scheme by Kelly Hop­pen MBE (Pearl Yachts’ ex­clu­sive de­sign part­ner) is strik­ing and of­fered with three themes: “Stu­dio,” “Taupe” or “Luxury.” Stu­dio is bright and fresh, char­ac­ter­ized by stripes and rich browns. Taupe has pale join­ery con­trasted by calming earth tones, from ivories to warmer grays. Luxury has the aura of a chic modern pent­house with pol­ished sur­faces, nickel and black ac­cents. Re­gard­less of the theme, the in­te­rior is tra­di­tional yet con­tem­po­rary, with clean lines and neu­tral un­der­tones. Con­trast­ing fab­rics and woods fur­ther aug­ment the in­te­rior’s vis­ual depth, and glossy white-lac­quered ceil­ings en­hance the feel­ing of spa­cious­ness. Hop­pen-cu­rated ac­ces­sories fin­ish the look, from ta­ble lights and vases to cush­ions and can­dles.

With the 80, Pearl Yachts reimag­ined the con­ven­tional full-beam sa­lon, with the space now en­tirely ded­i­cated to an open-plan lounge

The Pearl 80 sleeps eight in four state­rooms, in­clud­ing a full-beam mas­ter with van­ity and en suite, and a guest cabin with twin berths. The high-gloss lac­quer ceil­ings in white hit a con­tem­po­rary note.

area of low, mod­u­lar so­fas. “In many boats of this size the sa­lon is dom­i­nated by a large din­ing area, but we found our clients rarely ate there, in­stead pre­fer­ring to eat on deck or on shore,” said Pearl Yachts’ Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Iain Small­ridge. “By opt­ing not to force the din­ing ta­ble, we get an even larger en­ter­tain­ing area.”

At the for­ward end of the sa­lon is a bar that pro­vides one cozy in­te­rior din­ing al­ter­na­tive, in case of in­clement weather. Two steps up from there is the gal­ley, with a bulk­head panel that opens to the sa­lon, adding flu­id­ity to the liv­ing space and a so­cial com­po­nent to meal prepa­ra­tion. The helm sta­tion is lo­cated just for­ward of the gal­ley. Ex­ten­sive spe­cial­ized glaz­ing and sky­lights bathe all of these ar­eas with light.

Overnight ac­com­mo­da­tions are on the lower deck and ad­joined by a small en­try­way. Sit­u­ated amid­ships, the full-beam owner’s suite fea­tures a walk-in closet and a well-pro­por­tioned mas­ter bath­room. In ad­di­tion to the plush king-size bed, a sofa, a van­ity and plenty of ad­di­tional floor space in­di­cate a yacht with vol­umes that be­have much larger than her 78-foot, 5-inch LOA.

For­ward are two guest state­rooms, both en suite. Large win­dows pre­serve the flow of light while elec­tronic blinds can be drawn for pri­vacy. The VIP state­room is at the bow, al­low­ing full walk-around ac­cess to the berth, as well as room for a sofa, large en suite and walkin closet. All of this us­able vol­ume—which is also un­char­ac­ter­is­tic for an 80—comes cour­tesy of the deep-V hull. It en­abled the builder to po­si­tion the berth at a 45-de­gree an­gle.

The Pearl 80 has some char­ter mus­cle to flex. The laun­dry fa­cil­i­ties, crew ac­com­mo­da­tion and en­gine room have dis­creet ac­cess along the boat’s star­board side. Also, crew can ac­cess the gal­ley from an ex­ter­nal side door, mean­ing they won’t dis­turb guests who are re­lax­ing in the sa­lon. De­signed for a crew of two (or a cou­ple of kids), the crew’s quar­ters are well-ap­pointed and well-lit.

“In Europe, a boat this size is typ­i­cally a crewed fam­ily boat—a boat for the South of France,” said Small­ridge. “But as we were keen on en­ter­ing the Amer­i­can mar­ket, we un­der­stood that [the 80] could be con­sid­ered an owner-oper­a­tor boat in the U.S., so she was de­signed to meet needs across both cat­e­gories. An ex­pe­ri­enced helms­man can drive this boat, and we can add a joy­stick to make life even eas­ier.”

For all its in­te­rior prow­ess, the Pearl 80 is a cruis­ing yacht at heart, which means own­ers with a pen­chant for out­door ameni­ties will not want for much. Deck spa­ces are con­ceived nicely for en­ter­tain­ing and re­lax­ing, and the yacht of­fers three ar­eas for vary­ing lev­els of al­fresco din­ing—the fly­bridge, the fore­deck and the cov­ered main deck aft. The 80 is a sun-wor­ship­per’s delight, with sun­pads on the fly­bridge and the bow, plus a bar, a grill and a spa tub.

The tran­som garage was a pri­or­ity for the boat’s de­sign­ers be­cause they wanted to keep the fly­bridge—an ex­pan­sive en­ter­tain­ing space— free of ten­ders and toys. Those toys can be launched ef­fort­lessly from the garage, which can ac­com­mo­date a 10-foot 9-inch Williams Tur­bo­jet 325 RIB. Once the ten­der and toys are in the wa­ter, the hy­draulic swim plat­form at the stern can be put to good use.

The con­cept for the 80 was de­rived from the Pearl 75, at one time the flag­ship of the builder’s fleet. “We took the best fea­tures from the 75, such as the floor plan, which we loved,” said Small­ridge. “But in­stead of mod­i­fy­ing the 75, we made com­pletely new tool­ing, so it re­ally is a new 80 rather than a ‘Mark 2’ of the 75. That’s ap­par­ent in the deck de­sign, win­dow de­sign and the hard top. Ev­ery­thing is all its own.”

Our test aboard the 80 in Mi­ami’s Bis­cayne Bay was ac­tu­ally the first pub­lic trial run of Hull No. 1. (The boat’s hull and ex­te­rior lines were penned by naval ar­chi­tect Bill Dixon of Dixon Yacht De­sign.) Seas were calm, which wasn’t ideal for hull sen­si­tiv­ity in­tel, but con­di­tions gave me a nice op­por­tu­nity to pin her ears back and see what she was ca­pa­ble of. Tak­ing the helm from the fly­bridge, I found the 80 to be a trust­wor­thy high-speed plan­ing mo­to­ry­acht that tracked well and felt nim­ble. She came up on plane at around 14 knots and carved up S-curves with ease on a com­fort­able bank. I clocked her at 35.6 knots with the throt­tles pinned, ex­ceed­ing her quoted top speed by half a knot—im­pres­sive per­for­mance, con­sid­er­ing her tanks had full wa­ter and 60 per­cent fuel, and there were eight guests on board. Test power was a pair of 1,800-hp MAN V12 en­gines with V-drives, which pro­duce cruis­ing speeds from 18 to 28 knots, with 20 knots a sweet spot for speed ver­sus fuel burn.

In the spirit of trans­parency, hav­ing pre­vi­ously fought in a num­ber of Euro­pean sport-yacht in­va­sions here in the States, I didn’t want to like this boat. When I first stood dock­side star­ing down the busi­ness end of yet an­other white boat in a crowded mar­ket, I wasn’t op­ti­mistic. But once aboard, the Pearl 80 sur­prised me, and con­tin­ued to do so over and over again. Whether it was her in­ven­tive in­te­rior, her well-ap­pointed yet un­clut­tered deck, her easy han­dling or a com­bi­na­tion of the three, the Pearl 80 struck me as some­thing very fresh and stim­u­lat­ing—just the thing we need more of here in the Amer­i­cas.

LOA: 78'5" Beam: 19'6" Draft: 5'3" Displ.: 121,254 lb. Fuel: 1,386 gal. Wa­ter: 330 gal. Test Power: 2/1,800-hp MAN V12 with V-drive Op­tional Power: 2/1,150-hp Cater­pil­lar C18 Price: Upon Re­quest

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