From the first Pershing yacht launched more than a quarter-century ago to the latest 80-footer that I had a chance to experience in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the company has kept sight of the fact that its name derived from someone who personified speed and power. The builder’s modern facilities are located in Mondolfo, near the Adriatic coast of Italy, on Via J.J. Pershing, a street named after John Joseph “Blackjack” Pershing.
Pershing was a U.S. Army general famed for independent thinking and innovative tactics, which yielded considerable success in World War I. Pershing missiles, named in honor of the general, gained fame in Europe decades later during the Cold War and provided inspiration for yachts that were rockets in their own right.
I had seen a Pershing 80 in Europe, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to test the first one brought into America. It was calm offshore on test day, not great for pushing the seakeeping capabilities of the deep-V hull on which the Pershing rides, but perfect for checking the limits of speed and maneuverability. Frankly, in addition to the normal test maneuvers — S-turns, crash stops, back-downs and such — we spent some time, and a few extra gallons of fuel, just having a bit of absolutely great fun, and isn’t that what a boat like this is for? She did not disappoint, displaying the frisky capabilities of a smaller sport boat while offering the smooth, solid-as-rails ride of a big yacht. She blasted onto plane and accelerated with little trim as she passed 30, 40, then 45 knots. As I throttled back, she remained on plane down to 16 knots, just about half of her comfortable cruising speed of 30 knots, and did it all so quietly that we could converse without raising our voices. There was little hint in either noise or vibration that nearly 5,000 horses resided under her afterdeck.
This particular Pershing 80 is custom designed and outfitted for American tastes and desires, and especially well suited for operation in our southern seas. This is the owner’s third Pershing, so he was heavily involved in development of the new layout (see the complete photo gallery here and watch the video below).
Like all Pershings, this yacht is propelled by surface drives. I first learned to handle surface drives aboard a Pershing back in the days when that was no mean feat, but operation is a lot easier now, thanks to advances in drives, props and controls (see “Smooth Driving,” opposite). I’ve had the opportunity to test a number of Pershings over the years, usually with just two or three people aboard. This boat, though, had caught the interest of veterans at the Ferretti Group’s sales center (Pershing’s parent company), so by the time we cast off lines for our sea trial, our complement totaled seven. All that extra weight is not an ideal situation when a builder’s shooting for the best top speed, but it didn’t seem to affect the Pershing 80 much. With a 40 percent fuel load and full water tanks, and temperatures that had climbed into the 80s, we topped out just a touch above 46 knots. In cooler climes with a lighter load, the builder has seen her reach 50 knots, and that sounds about right to me.