Ascending the Throne
New From the keel up, the Princess 30M is built to rule the seas in comfort.
The massive, mile-long breakwater that shelters Plymouth Sound from the gales of the English Channel was begun during the Napoleonic Wars and not completed until 30 years later. With a handsome lighthouse at one end, a beacon at the other, and a fortress in the middle, it absorbed four million tons of stone and still serves today to create a huge, sheltered harbor for all manner of shipping: cross-channel ferries, commercial vessels, pleasure craft, and, of course, Her Majesty’s warships.
The breakwater proved its worth on the day of our test of Princess’s latest superyacht, the 100-foot 30M. The company’s Plymouth shipyard had been working on a tight schedule to complete the yacht’s predelivery trials, and almost anywhere else on the south coast of England, the test crew’s timetable would have been scattered by the full-blooded southerly gale that had been blowing for the previous few days. The wind had abated, but outside the seas were still high, crashing clean over the breakwater’s rugged masonry in great sheets of spray. Even inside the harbor, the swell was around 3 feet, overlaid with a white-flecked chop. From the snug and eerily silent confines of the 30M’s wheelhouse, it was like watching storm footage with the sound turned down. It didn’t look like the sort of day in which normal people would want to go boating.
But the decision was made, and permission was sought over the VHF from Longroom Port Control, the office of the Queen’s Harbor Master, to run our speed trials inside the breakwater. Given such extreme conditions outside, there was no one else about. Even with the swell and the chop, the broad expanse of comparatively sheltered water made a perfect test track.
It has already been five years since Princess Yachts joined the 100-foot club, after half a century of building some of Europe’s most popular and influential sports cruisers and flybridge yachts. The machine that carried the British company across the threshold was the 32M, classically styled at 105 feet, which was unveiled at the 2011 London Boat Show.
It started something. As if galvanized by success in this heady new arena of superyachting, Princess followed up in short order with the 132-foot 40M and then the 115-foot 35M, both of which have won numerous awards. The latest model to join the shipyard’s impressive M Class roster was launched earlier this year, as a successor to the original Princess superyacht.
The 32M was a successful model, but as a redevelopment of an existing hull, the Princess 98, its naval architecture was not optimized for its new role. The new 30M, however, has been designed and engineered as an entirely new project from the keel up, and although just 5 feet shorter than its predecessor, it’s some 30 tons lighter, and consequently faster, with the same engines, all the way through the rev range. Where the 32M felt ponderous in acceleration, the 30M is lively, and this willingness undoubtedly helped it to regard our choppy conditions with a certain unabashed confidence. Plenty of windborne spray lashed the windows, but nothing heavier. We could discern no handling issues on any point of sail, and this first 30M’s excellent TRAC fin stabilizers took the challenges of the day in stride.
As superyachts go, the 30M is at the compact end of the spectrum, but Princess’s designers have packed a lot in, while managing to maintain a comfortable sense of interior space. The main-deck master stateroom is at the end of a long corridor on the starboard side, with a view out its large windows that benefits from those distinctive cutaway bulwarks, where tall guardrails help to keep the side decks admirably secure. Offsetting the bed to port creates extra floor area where it’s most useful, while the excellent forward shower and head compartment span the full width of the superstructure, with a window at each end.
Two layouts are available on the lower deck, which centers on a bold lower lobby at the bottom of a substantial staircase that appears to have been borrowed from a larger yacht. The standard version features a huge, full-beam VIP suite amidships and two roomy double en suites forward. Our 30M, however, the first off the line, had the optional lower deck layout—designed, perhaps, to appeal more to family and charter owners—of two midships doubles and two twins. In terms of the size of the different types of suite, there’s little to choose between them. The doubles do have bigger hull windows, but the head compartments all seem equally spacious, and headroom throughout the lower deck is 6 feet, 5 inches. Even the single beds are a generous 34 inches wide.
There is also a variety of interior finishes available, as specified by the Princess in-house design studio. The gloss walnut veneers on the first 30M were complemented by walnut flooring, while other schemes include variations on Alba and Rovere oak, with the additional choice of light oak for the floors.
The real show-stopper option, of course, is the fold-out balcony on the starboard side. It’s expensive, but it would take a brave owner not to choose it, as it adds so much to the ambience and area of the saloon—even allowing for the 6-foot, 8-inch headroom and huge side windows—that a 30M without a balcony might run the risk of seeming incomplete.
An oval dining table seats eight or ten, reflecting the cabin options, and is sited amidships to communicate directly with the surprisingly bright and spacious galley on the port side. A steep companionway from here leads down forward to the three-cabin crew accommodation. Overhead, on its own half-deck, the superb wheelhouse provides a staging post between the main deck and the huge sun deck. There’s space up here for a personal watercraft and the hoist to lift it, while hidden in the stern is a garage for the main tender.
Fitted with the largest engines available from a varied choice of power plants—two V-16 MTUs with a combined output of more than 5,200 horsepower—our 30M powered through the weather to a two-way top speed of 26 knots, with a substantial load of fuel and water on board. Although sporting mild deadrise aft, which is always necessary to lift such a substantial yacht onto plane, the hull’s forefoot felt acute enough to slice confidently through waves bigger than the 4-footers we faced on test day.
Thanks to that enormous stone breakwater, of course, conditions for our test were not especially severe. But they did feel challenging. From the warmth of the wheelhouse, the scene outside was undeniably gray and bleak: It was not the sort of day in which sane people choose to put to sea. However, such was the solidity and confidence in the 30M’s bearing, I was never in any doubt—there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
NOTEWORTHY OPTIONS: Hardtop with sliding fabric sunroof; folding balcony with sliding doors; TRAC zero-speed fin stabilizers; KVH T8 Tracvision satellite TV; KVH V7 satellite broadband and telephone; five-cabin layout. Prices available upon request.
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 54°F; humidity: 86%; seas: 3-4'
Load During Boat Test
2,160 gal. fuel, 186 gal. water, 9 persons, 250 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/2,637-hp MTU 16V 2000 M94
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 3070V, 2.75:1 gear ratio
- Props: 5-blade VEEMStar LC interceptor, NiBrAl
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.