By Toby Haws
A seamless and modern flybridge yacht, the Princess P50 continues to impress as a luxury yacht that is also practical.
Looking at the seamless structures that make up the modern flybridge yacht, its amazing to think how far the flybridge concept has progressed in just over three decades.
Moving from being merely an elevated driving position, to the modern use of the flybridge as an entertaining, dining and even tender storage area, the development has in no small part been driven by Princess Yachts, the 40-year old composite motoryacht builder based in the southwest of the UK.
Having a luxury yacht is one thing, but one that is also practical is not to be overlooked.
While its new flybridge ranges from the 13.48 P42 to the showpiece 29.3-metre 95MY launched this year, you only have to look back at the annals of Princess' history to see its flybridge heritage with the first open-topped fly sprouting in 1973 on the 11.23-metre Princess 37 Y-Hull.
Powered by standard twin 80hp diesels, she would certainly be a different ride to her modern antecedent, the twin 500hp, 33-knot P50 brought to Dubai by Leisure Marine Middle East.
Sporting an older external profile than her larger M-Series sisters and the stylish V-Class open sports range, the P50 is one of the Plymouth-based company's most popular selling models, combining excellent sea keeping performance with a three-cabin arrangement that allows a large family or two nuclear families to cruise over an extended period.
But that is not to say the P50 is simply a family caravan, for combined with its coachroof sunpad, useable aft cockpit and spacious flybridge, there is more than ample entertaining space out in the sun.
In fact, the P50 was the yacht of choice bought by David Beckham for his wife Victoria in December 2003 following the intense media interest the couple were under. Reportedly named Brooklyn-Romeo, after their two sons, the yacht was intended to act as a private family environment where they could get away to relax.
The popularity of the P50 is in part down to the strength of the Princess build, designed to be tested. This sea keeping ability was verified by Leisure Marine's Service Manager Pierre Waked, who was involved in the P50's maiden voyage from Jebel Ali Port to Dubai Creek.
"It was lumpy four-metre swell with quite a wind blowing, but we needed to get the boat around to the Creek, and she just rode the waves - even coming around the top of the Palm that is usually quite nasty in any weather. Having a luxury yacht is one thing, but one that is also practical is not to be overlooked."
Stacking a lot into its 15-metre length, the Bernard Olesinski-designed 1.12-metre deep-V provides a steady counterbalance for the superstructure, which is stacked high to provide good headroom throughout the interior and a spacious flybridge for socialising and pilotage.
Following the straight sheerline, the solid grabrail is joined by extra handholds mounted to the superstructure to ensure anyone venturing forward to the double sunpad, or to set the prow-mounted anchor can do so even in non-ideal weather conditions.
Further family cruising considerations continue throughout the design by virtually always placing a barrier between the guest and the sea. Even when stepping onto the high bathing platform, both quarters extend to offer more security to those using the teak platform - especially useful in a busy anchorage when some tender drivers do not consider their wash.
A single transom entrance to the aft cockpit is to port, while an optional passerelle can also launch and retain a small tender on the aft deck while underway.
The aft cockpit has the advantage of being completely sheltered by the extended flybridge above, allowing the whole area to be covered by fabric panelling to keep the weather out if extending the cool air conditioning of the saloon without.
High bulwarks emphasise the strength of build and give a feeling of security to guests in the cockpit, from where they can either proceed forward by teak steps to both side decks, by further teak stairs to the flybridge above, or to simply rest on the padded transom bench, which can be joined by freestanding deck furniture to create a dining environment.
To maintain the hull balance, the twin power units are placed well forward under the saloon, allowing one of the twin hatch access ways below the aft cockpit sole to lead down into a large lazarette for battery, genset and deck equipment storage.
This aft sub-deck space is also used for a single en-suite crew cabin placed within the transom and accessed through a hatch under the aft banquette. The second sole hatch drops down into a very tight engine space, dominated by the twin direct drive Volvo power units. Though servicing would require some nimble manoeuvring, all reservoirs and filters are easily accessed in the entrance to the space.
Double sliding doors lead through to the cherrywood interior of the main saloon, revealing good headroom up to the Majilite ceiling, which succeeds in making the most of the natural light that floods into the area through the elliptical windows to keep the area light and bright.
Facing a built-in double sofa that has the appearance of freestanding, a deep C-shaped banquette curves around a highly polished adjustable table, providing seating for up to eight.
In the aft corner of the saloon beside the twin seater, a slide out flatscreen television can be angled to entertain all occupants of the space, including those in the galley area.
This culinary area is placed forward beside the helm station and then recessed so as not to obscure light coming in from the windscreen, and to allow those preparing provisions to continue with any discussion in the saloon environment.
Designed for one, the C-shaped Corian counter curves around to allow the user a good amount of space in preparing extensive meals. While not overwhelmed in storage, small lockers provide enough space for necessary storage, with dedicated cutlery and crockery draws ensuring essentials are always well arranged. A large fridge is under the counter, while a chest freezer is set into the sole for colder provisions.
The starboard-placed helm station is raised to command a better view through the forward windscreen. Two deep leather bucket chairs are stylishly crafted with cherrywood detailing to ensure the helm is not left out of the interior styling, while the dash is a simple arrangement of crucial dials and electronic navigation repeaters, with space for a chartplotter in front of the co-pilot seat.
Finished in burr walnut, the helm console is set low to allow a good view to the bow forward, with a manual side window opening if a clearer view is needed. Despite the stylish woodwork, small details such as the Perspex cubbyhole lids let the design down a bit.
Sporting accommodation for six on the lower deck, carpeted stairs beside the helm console drop down to a small corridor off which three different cabins open up.
To port, a small double Pullman is well suited as a children's cabin as it is very cramped, but a perfect ‘den'-like environment for the younger family members, and still offers a good storage space. Facing the twin, underneath the helm console above, a walkaround double to starboard offers limited headroom and en suite access through to the large day head. Set in the forepeak, the owner's cabin definitely gets the best deal when it comes to space, with a traditionally finished half-island bed and accompanying en suite.
Tight woven carpet matches with suede and wicker finishes on the surrounding surfaces to offer a calm environment, which puts a vanity area on either side of the bed, matching a sizeable hanging wardrobe and shelf locker storage.
Two deep drawers under the bed provide further storage for the less weight conscious, but do not impinge on the general feeling of space in the cabin. The functional en suite again offers a circular shower with teak floor, and contemporary feel.
Leaving the cool saloon, the flybridge is definitely the position of choice for manoeuvring the P50, both at close quarters and on the move. Set to port, the double helm station is surrounded by plenty of seating and a wet bar with fridge, to ensure all the needs of guests are well taken care of.
As expected, the hull responded well to slow increases of power when turning in the marina, and despite a side wind trying its wicked way with the high superstructure, the bowthruster and skilful use of 1500hp kept us on the straight and narrow before hitting the power and aiming for the horizon.
Powering along, the flybridge was surprisingly sheltered for those on the curved banquette to starboard or the large sunpad to aft, but it was not quite so comfortable for the pilot, as the ergonomics at the helm were not optimised for seated or standing driving.
Eschewing the comfy backrest and sliding forward on the bench was the only way of getting a good purchase on both helm and double throttles, but once this balance was found, the P50 leapt to a delicate touch. Very little trim was needed to achieve a comfy ride, and her deep-V bent her into the corners without a feeling of trepidation. However, for those fearful of radiation, raising the radar higher off the radar arch may be considered.