It was one of those hot Mediterranean days when everything seems to stand still-everything, that is, with the notable exception of the Pershing 50. Her 40-knot speed was generating a cooling breeze, and my adrenaline was pumping. It was the kind of fast-boating fun best enjoyed while the rest of the world moves in slow motion.
Pershing took a bold step forward when it introduced its new-generation 76. Forty-five knots in a 76-footer is performance indeed, but Pershing also added Italian flair and style. When the company tried to get the same attributes in a 50-foot boat, it took on an even bigger challenge. Whittling the length, after all, makes everything more critical.
To say that Pershing has succeeded is an understatement. In fact, the company has succeeded brilliantly; this design will put Pershing in a class of its own, leaving competitors to play catch-up. The 50 is fast and has classic styling to match.
This 50-footer is based on a conventional deep-V hull with a deadrise deeper than most at 22 degrees. Chines and spray rails are fairly pronounced, and though this gives the ride a certain harshness, it's no rougher than what you would expect from a performance boat. The long, lean bow cuts smoothly through waves, pointing to a safe and secure ride even in tough conditions.
Above the chine, the hull widens through two molded knuckles in the topside. These follow a line down toward the swim platform, focusing attention on the after end of the yacht, where all the action is. Here, power from the twin 800 hp MAN diesels is transferred to the Arneson drives with explosive results as the 50 accelerates onto plane. This is true sport-boat performance, leaving no doubt that she is built for speed.
Pershing's speed figure for the 50 in light conditions is 45 knots. Due in part to the smaller-than-standard propellers installed on our test boat (the standard pair had been damaged), we made only 42 knots during trials. Still, 42 knots is creditable, and the 45-knot figure should come up on the clock when things are rectified. She cruises effortlessly at 38 knots.
It's not just her top speed that excites. The 50's acceleration is impressive-the tachs do a digital dance when you open the throttles. She doesn't seem to hesitate, but the power really comes in at around 1600 rpm, when the turbochargers cut in and the five-blade props bite. After that, just hold on and enjoy. Put the helm down and the boat responds immediately, heeling over hard into the turn. The only problem is that you can't see through the window when the boat heels into the turn.
This problem is common with deep-V hulls. The deeper the V, the higher the heel angle, and with a hardtop you lose visibility through the lower side window.
The windscreen is a long way forward of the helm, and this takes a bit of getting used to. The helm itself is the same as the one on the 76, but everything is a bit smaller. The electronic navigation screen is centered, and in front of it are control levers for the trim tabs, power trim and bowthruster. The wheel is low and vertical, designed for use when you're standing, while the throttles come readily to hand close alongside the wheel.
The white moldings in the pilothouse look a bit clinical, but this is very much in keeping the boat's high-tech look. Clever design has made the layout very practical for those at sea and in the harbor, with four forward-facing seats at the helm. The two port seats lower and swivel to become part of the L-shape settee, and a table raises from the deck. The large, electrically powered sunroof provides plenty of ventilation on hot days and protection for when the weather is cool.
The pilothouse is open-ended, with a passageway running aft on the starboard side that leaves the rest of the space for a comfortable-looking sunpad. A deck hatch provides access to the engineroom, and the sunpad's cushions lift for access to the narrow crew cabin aft. This space can instead be used for stowage, or you can opt for a small garage abaft and above the engines.
The passerelle is central on the transom, so you board the 50 over the sunpad. Below is the large swim platform; it seems big enough for a dance but is needed to protect the Arneson drives.
The real surprise is inside, in the beautifully crafted accommodations. This has the sort of standard you expect to find only aboard large yachts. Central steps lead down from the helm to an oasis world of calm and luxury. The contrast is dramatic. Classic lacquered cherry is used extensively, contrasting nicely with the curved leather settee and off-white panelling on the bulkheads, which have horizontal wood strips to break up the areas. Designer Fulvio di Simoni has done a superb job of creating a sense of luxury not often found on sport boats that offer similar performance.
The galley is panelled on the port side, and its simple facilities include a two-burner stovetop, sink and microwave oven. A large refrigerator/freezer is hidden behind the ubiquitous wooden joinery. Abaft the galley is the day head, which also serves the two guest cabins. Alongside the door are an entertainment center and the ship's electrical panel.
The after cabins are compact-this is only a 50-footer-but the area has good headroom and quality fittings. One cabin has a double berth, and the other has two singles. The berth in the forward master cabin looks almost round, a shape emphasized by curved panels on each side of the mirrored headboard. Locker space is adequate, and the en suite head has thick glass on the tops-a nice change from the usual marble. Everything is low-key, but you are constantly reminded of the high quality.
Out on deck, it is easy to move around, and the mooring arrangements seem to work well. Grab rails are in most of the right places. A footrest for the two port seats at the helm would make life more comfortable, but for the first boat out of the box, the 50 is pretty close to right.
I love the style of the Pershing 50, particularly the contrast of the silver finish on the lower part of the hull with the wide, dark-blue stripe along the porthole line. The superstructure is sleek and aerodynamic, and a matte black finish on the TV dome and passerelle is a nice finishing touch.
The 50 is the smallest Pershing to use Arneson drives, and owners may specify conventional propulsion instead. I cannot imagine many people would choose this option, though, because the difference in performance would be considerable. With this 50, Pershing has shown that it remains a leader in the performance power market, a leadership that will be very hard to challenge.