Different by Design
A strong breeze—and even stronger current—in the U.K.’s fabled Solent creates the ideal testing ground for the Pearl 62.
There are small boatyards, and then there are boutique boatbuilders. With its range of high-end motoryachts designed by British naval architect Bill Dixon and styled by the interior specialist Kelly Hoppen, Pearl Yachts would probably prefer the latter description.
Unit volume is low, quality is high, and in recent years the company, which was founded in 1998, has succeeded in carving out a niche for itself among the bigger U.K. yards. “We’ll do 10 boats this year,” said Founder and Managing Director Iain Smallridge on Pearl’s Düsseldorf show stand. “We typically do two to three 80s per year and two 95s. And we’ve sold four of these so far,” he added, pointing at the new 62.
She cut an impressive dash under the indoor lights, but Pearl’s latest model was even more imposing from her slip in Lymington, England, when I caught up with her some months later. Her long flybridge overhang and sheer height dwarfed her neighbors, even though they were flybridge yachts of the same class. The huge hardtop is an option, but Pearl doesn’t expect to sell many without it. And as it weighs close to 1,100 pounds and towers overhead like a schooner’s topsail, they probably won’t sell many without the optional Seakeeper either.
As with all other Pearl models, the molding, bulkheads and engineering of the new 62 are done at a shipyard in Xiamen, on the coast of China opposite Taiwan. After initial sea trials, the boats are shipped to the U.K. for final fitting out. “We’ve been working with this yard for about eight years now,” Smallridge says. Pearl, he estimates, accounts for around three quarters of the yard’s output. Nordhavns and Marlows, he told me, are constructed in neighboring facilities. All new Pearl yachts come with a comprehensive five-year warranty.
As a design, the 62 packs a lot in. Outside, the long flybridge has separate seating and sunbathing zones, while on the foredeck, a wide sofa and expansive sunpad can be sheltered beneath a full-size awning rigged on four carbon-fiber poles. Inside, the layout of the main deck is particularly successful, with its discrete salon seating area forward, and the aft galley, with its breakfast table, communicating seamlessly with the cockpit. The salon windows are fashionably enormous, while the elongated, raked, two-piece windshield combines with the large glass panels over the helm to spectacular affect.
But it’s down below where the 62 really scores over rival yachts of this length. With the engines and their IPS drives mounted well aft, and a beam of more than 17 feet, there is a lot of volume available for accommodations. The VIP stateroom forward and the matching pair of twin-berth cabins—the port one with en suite access to the third head—are comfortable, with generous berths and good headroom. But the real beneficiary is the full-beam midships master suite, complete with private companionway from the salon. This is not something you expect to find on yachts this size. It seems to belong more to a yacht in the 70-foot class. The head, too, is luxurious, with an excellent-sized shower stall.
Kelly Hoppen’s attractive interior design comes in two themes, both of which emphasize muted tones and natural-looking textured wood finishes using Alpi engineered veneers, with contrasting black accents above and below and the sheen of marble. The “Modern” theme, based on a pale oak look, has proved most popular thusfar. The “Luxury” theme has a darker satin walnut tint. Layout options on the 62 are limited to a choice between a garage suitable for a personal watercraft or a crew cabin.
The 62’s standard engines are a pair of 725-hp Volvo Penta IPS 950s. You can also opt for the 800-hp IPS 1050s or the 900-hp IPS 1200s that were fitted to the debut model at the Düsseldorf show. They are considerably larger than the standard units—12.8 liters compared with 10.8—and they also add a $136,000 price tag, but there were no obvious ill effects in the well-executed engine room. Access all around both the engines and the drives is not bad at all, and there is even 6 feet of standing headroom by the hatch.
Our test day at Lymington felt resolutely autumnal, with a chill, 15- to 20-knot breeze from the northeast chasing a swift-running tide that had the buoys in the Solent looking like they were in some sort of offshore powerboat race. Up on the flybridge, conditions were decidedly rugged as we charged into the teeth of what felt like a gale, only to become almost pleasant in the sunshine as we turned and headed downwind.
With 1,800 hp on tap, the 62 felt more than adequately equipped for the conditions. Throttle response was instant, acceleration keen and the IPS steering software was tuned to perfection, with fewer than two turns of the wheel between full port and starboard lock. It would have been an exhilarating ride even without the blustery weather.
I tend to leave the trim in automatic mode in any properly setup IPS boat, as it invariably does a better job than I can, and while the stiff cross-breeze acting on that big sail of a hardtop probably kept the software busy, we didn’t notice—it coped well. The 62 adopts a nice angle of heel in hard turns, but with the Seakeeper switched off I felt the pendulum effect of the hardtop after straightening course.
The Bill Dixon hull has an incisive forefoot, but plenty of lift from full aft sections to provide a wide range of cruising speeds with little effect on efficiency or range—a very practical consideration when cruising. But above all, the 62 felt lively, attentive and rewarding underway. Not many flybridge yachts of this size are this much fun to drive.
Pearl may be a small boatyard, but it enjoys taking the fight to its bigger rivals—and once they’ve seen the 62, some of them, I suspect, will be looking to their laurels.
Pearl 62 Layout Diagrams
Pearl 62 Test Report
Pearl 62 Specifications:
Displ.: 70,547 lbs.
Fuel: 726 gal.
Water: 211 gal.
Standard power: 2/725-hp Volvo Penta IPS 950s
Price: $1.8 million