Freedom Yachts left nothing to chance when it launched the program to produce the Legacy 52 motoryacht. The company hired Langan Design Associates for the naval architecture, engineering and styling; and interior designer Ron Alose to select cabinetry details, lighting fixtures and fabrics.
"We want to create a 52-footer in the Legacy tradition", Paul Petronello, president of Freedom Yachts, said about the design brief for the new flagship. "Salty New England" styling with great offshore powering characteristics. Assuming owners would run the 52 without professional crew, Langan and Freedom produced what the designer referred to as "a big small boat, not a small big boat".
I met the Legacy 52 during the dead of winter in Palm Beach, Florida, a perfect location to evaluate the impact of the New England style. In Newport, Rhode Island, and eastward into Maine, motoryachts of this style nearly disappear in a sea of their relatives, old and new. Down South in the land of mostly white motoryachts drawn in the European style or American swoopy, a New England-style boat stands out like a pitch-black megalith in the middle of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
Langan got this design almost exactly right. From a bow as proud as Joseph Kennedy, the sheerline on its journey aft describes one of the most graceful sweeps I've seen. It kicks up near the transom to form what New Englanders like to call a springy sheer, but this element is so subtle, so elegant, it defies description. Therein lies the key to the aesthetic success of the 52: Every line, every angle on the boat is honest, simple. The overall effect leaves you staring, but you don't necessarily know why.
Only the length of the cockpit keeps the boat from being a total aesthetic triumph. Adding 2 feet to the LOA at the transom would visually lower the 52's profile, making her a touch more elegant, but that option would have opened too large a gap between herself and her next smaller sibling, the 42. In addition, nobody wanted to rob interior volume for the sake of a bigger back porch.
Inside, I discovered why Freedom traded space in the cockpit for volume in the accommodations. In spite of the space stolen by side decks that allow a person to actually walk forward or aft, the 52's interior is large and inviting. A generous expanse of windows in the house bathed the saloon in sunlight the day of my test, and this always makes the interior of a boat seem larger than it is.
An uninterrupted line of sight forward to the master stateroom in the bows, though mostly linear space, prevents the interior from having the closed-in feeling that sends guests scurrying ashore at the first port of call. The Legacy's combination of openness, satin-finished cherry joinery and tasteful fabrics coaxed me to kick off my shoes and stay a while.
If you are fond of curves, you'll love the settee in the saloon, gracing the port side like a single quotation mark. A calf-width or two from the settee, a delicate coffee table/butler's tray appears to rest on a pair of chubby fabric-covered pillars. These are portable stools, which stow beneath the table as though they were part of the structure. I nearly overlooked the absence of a right angle in the settee. It didn't offer a full backrest that lets a person stretch out with his feet up on the settee-my favorite position for reading.
The words "open" and "private" contradict each other, but they perfectly describe the ambience in the "owner's" saloon down five steps from the pilothouse. The stairway curves ever so slightly to port, which for me immediately established the lower saloon as wholly separate from the pilothouse. Light from the steeply raked windscreen of the pilothouse drenches the galley and dinette, relieving this area of the dungeon syndrome.
Carpeting in a neutral shade covers the cabin sole below in the area of the dinette and along the passageway forward. Ceramic tile covers the galley sole and helps delineate that area as a separate entity. The galley is large for a boat of this size. In keeping with the high standards set by prospective owners, our test boat's galley contained a drawer-style Sub-Zero refrigerator and separate freezer, a four-burner Gaggenau electric cooktop and a General Electric stainless-steel convection microwave.
As you'd expect of any cruising yacht, the Legacy 52 provides owners with enough dry and refrigerated stowage for at least a week of independence from shoreside facilities. The stemware cupboard ought to keep the crystal from becoming shards, and the liquids you'd normally expect to fill the crystal stow in dedicated lockers in the bridge-deck saloon.
Although the owners could be content never to leave the anchorage, they'd miss the delight of piloting a great sea boat. My foray into the Atlantic off Palm Beach, Florida, made me want to point the bow toward Bimini and beyond. She treated the moderate seas as though she were half again her size, tracking a straight line and carving neat turns. Her enormously stiff structure refused to flex, which helps explain why she's so quiet.
Freedom spent a lot of time soundproofing the engineroom. The area, which also contains the generator and air conditioning, is sealed from the accommodations. A dense plastic sound attenuation sheet surrounds the area, and 4 inches of foam under the bridge-deck sole keeps the vibes at bay.
Her steering was accurate and easy, requiring only a gentle grip from my fingertips to change direction. I am also pleased to report the 52 has props instead of jets. I love the instantaneous acceleration well-tuned props give a fairly large and heavy boat. I also appreciate the quick response props give during docking, though the stern thruster and bow thruster more than make up for ham-fisted docking technique.
Boats of this ilk don't really have flaws, only compromises established by the market or the buyer. The 52 I drove could have used another hanging locker, though I don't know where I'd put it. On the other hand, Legacy accomplished its goal: producing a yacht of classical good looks that feels at home in a feisty seaway under the command of a husband and wife crew, or in a quiet anchorage as a summer cottage for a family of four. What's not to like about that?
Contact: Freedom Yachts, (800) 999-2909, (401) 848-2900; fax (401) 848-2904; www.freedomyachts.com.