The new Princess 68 Flybridge yacht, words by Nick Burnham.
Half a century ago Sean Connery was 007, ‘Thunderball’ was on the big screen and Princess International (or Marine Projects, as it was then known), came into being. Fast forward nine years to 1974 and the improbably named Roger Moore had taken the 007 mantle, tracking down Scaramanga in ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, as Princess launched their first planing flybridge boat, the flagship 37. Add another forty one years and your Delorean time machine will land you at present day. Daniel Craig is Britain’s least secret agent and Princess have just distilled those forty years of planing flybridge know-how into this, the Princess 68. Which neatly explains why it is something rather special.
From the outside this is classic Princess. Throw a 11 thesaurus at it and words like ‘refined’, ‘subtle’ and ‘evolutionary’ will stick to it rather than ‘avante-garde’, ‘radical’ or ‘extreme’. It’s the Princess way and it means that owners of last year’s model will see their craft age gently rather than fly out of date – good news for residuals. Although in the case of the Princess 68 there is no last year’s model, it neatly fits a hole in the range between the 64 and 72 last occupied by the 67 which launched a decade ago and ceased production in 2009.
All the latest Princess ‘must-haves’ are present, from the massive glazing of the deck saloon to the huge one piece hull windows (over a metre and a half squared in the case of the master cabin), as well as a few of the ‘always-hads’ – the classic goal post radar arch and the twin horns on the front face of the flybridge that have graced every flybridge model since that first 37. But the 68 brings with it a couple of brand new features, and the most obvious of these is just ahead of the windscreens, where a walk-through scythes from side deck to side deck splitting a comfortable forward facing three section settee from the cabin top sunpad forward. Very much a ‘yacht’ feature, we’ve seen this before on larger Princess yachts, however this is the first time it has appeared below seventy feet.
Inside, the fundamental benefit over the 67 are three guest cabins plus a massive full beam master rather than two. But look closer, because there are other big changes. The first is obvious the moment you step through the solid stainless steel trimmed triple section tinted glass saloon doors and find yourself between the galley to port and the dinette to starboard. Princess first put a galley-aft layout into its 52 three years ago and it was an instant hit. Utilising the 68’s bigger size to incorporate the dinette is the next logical step and makes this the ultimate kitchen-diner with fabulous views out through the saloon doors. An electric retracting window turns the aft counter top into a serving bar. The advantages are obvious, putting it adjacent to, and on the same level as, both the saloon and the cockpit – the two areas (other than the dinette) that you’re most likely to be catering for. Plus, we all know that the best parties inevitably end up in the kitchen, where better to have it then than in the centre of the entertaining areas?
You need to walk up the single shallow step forward into the saloon and past the two deep expansive comfortable settees to spot the other Big New Thing. To port is the separate private access to the owner’s suite. This marks a real step-change for Princess; until now even owners of a Princess 98 had to follow the proletariat forward at bedtime and share the same accommodation lobby. Imagine! Joking aside, don’t under-estimate features like this, they add an indefinable yet irrefutable specialness to the ownership experience.
But the over-riding sensation is one of light and space. It is said every time Princess launch a new boat but it simply feels like it’s from the next class up. Princess claims it has the highest internal volume to length ratio of any boat it has ever built. It’s not a hard claim to believe…
Up top, the flybridge echoes latest Princess thinking by putting a forward facing L shaped seat next to the double helm, a solution so much more useful under way than the previous tactic of running the seat along the coaming and round to the helm console so crew ended up facing aft. An infill section converts it to a sunpad, putting sun worshippers next to the helm where the skipper can keep a watchful eye and converse. Further aft a large dining area creates the perfect alfresco solution and, just like the 67, a crane can be fitted to allow a jetski or RIB to complement whatever lives on the high/low bathing platform or simply to keep it clear, allowing people to enjoy the aft facing seat built in to the transom.
But just when you think it’s all about style and space, the 68 plays its trump card – performance. With the largest engine option – V12 MAN diesels at 1,400hp apiece – the performance is borderline shocking. We saw 35 knots flat out on test, 30 knots an easy canter. But it’s not what it does, deeply impressive though that is, it’s how it does it. At cruise my sound meter barely registers 70db, one of the lowest readings I’ve recorded of any large planing boat. Only the occasional ‘whump’ of the hull slicing incisively through the challenging swell breaks the almost library hush, leaving the crew neither shaken nor stirred. Throw it into a hard turn and yet again this elegant motor yacht confounds expectations, responding with lithe handling of a sportsboat.
It’s this phenomenal on-water performance that really cements the essence of Princess in the new 68. Because for all the easy living glamour and acres of space on offer, this is first and foremost a serious offshore passage maker with an unbeatable royal flush of attributes.