Best In Show
First in a new class of big sportsters from Princess Yachts, the S72 takes the luxury, easy-manageability, and family-centric fun of an express boat to even loftier heights.
If you read or reread even part of the test report on the Princess V72 I did a couple of years ago (“Wise Up(Grade),” August 2012), you’re gonna come away with the notion that I really liked the boat. Hey, she was fun to drive and offered exceptionally authoritative, conventional-inboard-type close-quarters maneuverability, thanks in part to a couple of variable-speed thrusters (bow and stern) from Side-Power. Moreover, she was solidly constructed, and elegantly finished in fine woods, leathers, and fabrics. What’s not to like?
But here’s a twist for you. Yeah, I liked the old V72, big-time. But I also gotta say—I liked the new Princess S72, a snazzier, more-aggressive-looking sportster I recently sea-trialed at the Viking Yachts Service Center in Riviera Beach, Florida, a heck of a lot more.
The reason’s simple enough. While the S72 offers several comparatively appealing stylistic tweaks (like larger hullside windows and a saloon that’s circumscribed with deeply-tinted, bigger-than-ever glass panels and sliding doors from Trend Marine) as well as a couple of savvy layout changes belowdecks (like a residential-sized Waco refrigerator that’s properly integrated into the galley), she’s got something else that’s altogether fabulous, something the V72 never had—an open flying bridge.
And let’s face it—if done right, topping off an older, express-type design with a highly aerodynamic open bridge produces at least one, undeniable stylistic virtue—pure, hammer-down raciness. Shoot, when viewed in profile, the S72 presents an appearance that is so vivacious and swept back that, as I came walking up with test gear in hand, the darn thing seemed to be doing about 50 knots, despite the fact that her massive, Princess-forged-and-polished cleats were secured to the dock with a veritable web of mooring lines.
“Got a feeling this test’s gonna be fun,” I told James Nobel, the marketing honcho for Princess Yachts America, as I came aboard, “and fast!”
An open flying bridge has other virtues as well, of course. For example, it gives a navigator a lofty set of sightlines wholly unrestricted by bulkheads, windshield mullions, and trim-related obfuscations, an advantage that is particularly useful in dicey inlets, narrow channels, and often under conditions of restricted visibility. And also, a bridge tends to sync a navigator, lookout, or anybody else who happens to be aloft into the nuts-and-bolts details of the immediate environment, thereby handing him information that’s beyond the second-hand capabilities of mere electronics and mechanicals, tools that sometimes produce a false sense of security within a sound-insulated, weather-resistant, smartly-decorated wheelhouse.
“Cool,” I opined from the multi-adjustable driver’s seat on the S72’s flying bridge, subsuming all of the aforementioned virtues and advantages in one, breezy comment. At the time, we were entering the jetties of Fort Worth Inlet—inbound—with the palm-shady shores of Peanut Island on the nose. Sightlines were superb and virtually unlimited. The big, beefy CAT sticks to the right of the steering wheel were set at 1750 rpm, producing a smooth cruise of 23 knots or thereabouts. The hydraulically actuated instrument console (with analog repeater gauges between two big Furuno NavNet TZtouch monitors) was tilted up to brightly project electronic cartography and engine-related essentials. And the deep-V running surface underfoot was tracking like gangbusters.
Cool, indeed. We’d just finished collecting our test data offshore, amid a roistering mob of 4-footers in the Gulf Stream, putting the lower helm station’s quiet, American-walnut-paneled ambiance (and its two Besenzoni helmchairs) to good use. In calm, air-conditioned comfort I’d recorded an average top hop of 37.1 knots; running attitudes that were perfect (beyond 1250 rpm, they held steady at 4 degrees, an optimum angle of attack for a planing powerboat, according to hydrodynamics guru Daniel Savitsky and others); and remarkably low sound levels that no doubt reflected Princess’s healthy sound-and-vibration attenuation program. Tactical turning diameters had been broad, whether I spun the power-assisted steering wheel hard to port or hard to starboard, and I’d estimated both to be about four boat-lengths.
“She’s quick to respond,” I commented, while dealing with some traffic along the southern edge of Peanut. “You can start a turn quick and stop it just as quick, with virtually no opposite rudder.”
Because our S72’s Veem propellers were starting to swirl sand as we neared our slip back at the Viking Service Center, I took a pass on docking the S72 myself, a task that seemed best handled by somebody with specialized knowledge of the area’s bottom topography. Our skipper had no trouble maneuvering alongside, however, thanks to lots of low-end, big-diesel torque, a couple of large wheels, and the vessel’s powerful, variable-speed Side-Power thrusters.
My subsequent walk-through with Nobel had two sides to it. On the one hand, the interior was pretty much a dead ringer for the interior of the Princess V72 I’d sea trialed back in 2012. In the accommodation area belowdecks, there were three ample staterooms (a full-beam master, a VIP forward, and a convertible twin to starboard, opposite the galley), each with an equally ample en suite head with VacuFlush MSD and separate stall shower. Topside, the main-deck layout offered a starboard-side helm station forward (with excellent sightlines all the way around, by the way) and a large saloon with residential-style furnishings opening into a teak-paved cockpit via Trend Marine sliders with beefy, beefy, beefy stainless-steel frames and hardware.
While the finish throughout was impeccable, I was especially impressed with the woodworking expertise evident in the cabinets, doors, and lockers onboard (see “Better Boat: The Wiles Of An English Carpenter,”) and the premium outfitting regime which included soft custom carpeting underfoot (except in way of the Wenge flooring), innerspring mattresses from Vi-Spring, and high-end appliances from manufacturers like Perrin & Rowe (sinks and fixtures), Bosch (washer and dryer), and Frigoboat (wine cellar).
But there were differences between the S72 and her predecessor, too. Princess had seriously enlarged the windows in the saloon, for instance, and, to boost sociability, the long port-side credenza had been replaced with a shorter one, as well as an end table and an interstitial sofa. And what’s more, an optional Seakeeper M26000 gyro stabilizer had been installed, a move destined to obviate or reduce roll, both at anchor and when underway.
Nobel and I finished up in the engine room. Upon entering via a hatch in the cockpit sole and a rather difficult-to-negotiate near-vertical ladder, I found the place to be lofty (with 7 feet of headroom), broad (with well over 2 feet between the mains), and nicely lit. I liked the duplex Separ SWK-2000/18/UKD fuel-water separators on the forward firewall with the big convenient switch-over levers; the whopping array of marine batteries in hose-ventilated fiberglass boxes; and the two, top-shelf Mastervolt Chargemaster 24/60-3 battery chargers on the after bulkhead. I didn’t like the Cummins Onan genset’s location, inaccessibly crammed into the aft starboard corner, or the suspension of Cruisair components over the port engine (a space-saving strategy I’d seen in the V72’s ER), although there was an undergirding heat shield that Princess engineers say offers adequate protection.
“Nice boat—that old V72,” I said as we parted company on our test boat’s immense, hydraulically actuated swim platform, with easy access to both the tender garage and the crew’s quarters. “But you know, James…”
“What?” inquired Nobel with a grin.
“I like this baby,” I replied, casting a glance toward the flying bridge above us, “a whole lot more.”