Yacht Class n°13 (june-july-august 2018)
After being impressed by the 65-foot a few years ago, we were awaiting the launch of a larger model. In a way our patience has been rewarded because the 80-foot, designed by Bill Dixon and Kelly Hoppen, is successful in many ways. Focus on 24 metres (or so) with flattering performances.
Written by Kate Lardy – Photos : All rights reserved
Pearl isn’t the biggest name in the yacht business. It’s what you would call a boutique builder, focusing on only a few models and building a handful of each a year. In its 20 years of existence, the British company has evolved from building 12- to 13-metre boats in the UK, to the 18- to 23-metre market, with hulls and superstructures constructed in Xiamen, China, and the yachts finished in the UK. Today, it is taking great strides to build ever bigger, ever more exciting yachts. To this end, Pearl unveiled the first in its new 24-metre series – the Pearl 80 – at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in November 2017. A month later, press had the opportunity to take her for a spin in Miami. As the design of the 80 nvolved an entirely new hull and tooling, not a modification of its predecessor 75, this represented a unique opportunity to experience the company’s growing ambitions first hand. Docked at the fashionable Epic hotel in downtown Miami, the Pearl 80 looked right at home. She’s sexy with a pleasingly curvy superstructure, and her lines hold the promise of speed – streamlined and aerodynamic with highly raked forward windows. As I step on board, the first thing I notice is the cool subtleness of the teak decks due to the light grey caulking between the planks in lieu of boring black. It’s a nice touch, which I soon learn is one of many details that add to a yacht that’s making a great impression in a crowded market. With the twin MAN V12s fired up, we cast off while I explore the yacht.
A well-thought-out flybridge
On the foredeck, I discover a great spot for enjoying the sedate cruise down the shipping channel leading to the ocean. In addition to the vast sunpad forward, there is U-shaped seating under the helm windows. Lift up the centre part of the settee and a table easily unfolds manually from beneath the settee, turning the spot into another alfresco dining or cocktail option. The whole area also can be shaded by a bimini that stows behind the settee. But the real superlative outdoor lounge lies one level up. The flybridge is a standout feature on this 80, exceptionally large and, aside from the helm station, completely dedicated to relaxation. Keeping the deck toy-free was a goal of the design. To achieve this, the yacht has a rare feature for a 24-metre : a garage. It can hold a 3.5-metre tender, or, what most people would likely opt for, a Jet Ski, loaded and unloaded via a rail system. A larger tender of up to five metres can stow on the bathing platform. This leaves the flybridge focused on fun, with a hot tub, a wet bar, lounging space and a dining table, all under the shelter of a substantial hard top. For stargazing or sunning, a soft canopy in the centre of the structure opens. Aft, where the shade ends and the sun loungers would sit, there are skylights incorporated into the deck to bring extra light to the main aft deck below.
Over 30 knots, without failing
As we reach the Atlantic, a brisk 15-knot wind from the northeast greets us with one-metre seas and the captain turns south. Running downwind, we hardly need the assistance of the two Seakeeper M8000 gyrostabilizers, an option that’s included on this hull number one. At 15 knots we smoothly reach a plane. The 1,800-hp MANs pushing the 55-ton yacht are the most powerful of the 80’s several engine options, which also include 1 400-hp MAN V12s and 1 150-hp Cat C18s. She reaches her cruising speed of 24,5 knots as we throttle forward to 1,800 rpm. Although the boat has considerable volume, the semi-displacement deep V hull designed by naval architect Bill Dixon glides easily through the water, and the ride feels effortless. At 2,350 rpm we exceed her advertised top speed by a half a knot, reaching 35.5 knots. Press that attended sea trials the day prior reported 38 knots downwind. Owners who opt for the 1 400-hp MANs can expect a maximum speed of 27 knots, and 20 knots for the CAT C18s… As both the lower helm station on the main deck and the upper helm on the flybridge have similar functionality, the wind and sun can be the deciding factors when choosing your place. Both areas feature two Garmin 15-inch touchscreen multifunction displays and two comfortable captain’s chairs. Today, the captain is driving from below, which has excellent visibility considering the angle of the forward windows.
A spacious saloon
I can see him as soon as I enter the saloon through the aft sliding doors thanks to the open plan design. Views are truly 360 degrees within the bright main deck interior, all the way through the sleek port-side galley to the forward windows, although if desired a dividing panel can raise over the bar to close off the galley. The décor itself is striking. Like Pearl’s 65-foot model, it was conceived by Kelly Hoppen, a world-renowned celebrity designer from the UK who has appeared on many television shows. She brings a residential perspective and a signature style that translates well to yachts. Of the three different looks she created for the 80 this first hull is sporting “Studio”, a traditional, but contemporary design, relying on clean lines, neutral tones in Hoppen’s trademark cool grey and taupe beige, and contrasting accents of geometric-patterned linens. Dark walnut-toned wood balances white marble, and highlights of stainless steel bring a luxurious yet harmonious look. As well as selecting their Hoppen interior, clients have a choice of seating arrangements in the saloon. Something is missing though : there is no grand dining table. Pearl’s managing director, Iain Smallridge, points out that most people prefer to dine outside, hence why lose valuable interior space to something that will rarely be used. It is a valid point, but as there is no rule, the shipyard should consider revising this lack. Especially since the Pearl offers a complete kitchen that prompts real meals. Note that, on inclement days, there is a dining nook to starboard of the lower helm that does the job.
Four cabins below decks
It’s a combination of these features – the spacious guest accommodations, the huge flybridge, the stern garage, the celebrity-designed interior, all the way down to the details like the colour of the teak caulking – that sets Pearl apart and makes the 80 an excellent addition to the 24-metre market. Pearl grows even more for its next model debuting this year, the 29-metre Pearl 95, which features an expansive beach club. It may be a boutique builder but it’s definitely one to watch.