Formula 47 Yacht

A performance-oriented company proves it can focus on luxury, too.

The newly crowned flagship of the Formula line, the 47 Yacht, is remarkable for a number of features, not the least of which is a cleverly designed and luxuriously appointed interior. Formula, of course, has always been a "performance company", and since the record-setting Formula offshore winners back in the 1960s, the company has used racing to improve the fleet. While the Formula fleet remains skewed toward high performance, the 47 Yacht is to a lesser extent. And that's not necessarily bad news.

While the 47 Yacht may look racy with her long foredeck, the rakishly swept-back windscreen and even the reversed transom, she is not about speed. This is a yacht that is about luxury, about elegance and about sheer, unadulterated comfort. Think sexy rather than 60. After all, the 47 is full of cherry and suede and air conditioning and flat-screen TVs.

The starting point for the 47 Yacht, as with all Formulas since the '70s, is a slippery and seaworthy hull designed by John Adams. With an 18-degree V-bottom for a soft ride in all sea conditions, the 47 also has prop pockets to keep the draft to just 3 feet, 8 inches.

Make no mistake about it: This is a big boat. When you're standing on a floating dock, the deck level is above head height, and everything seems scaled to Gulliver proportions. Even the transom platform is extra wide to accommodate a tender or PWC, and as an option, the platform can lower and rise at the touch of a button to launch and retrieve your water toys. I'd be surprised if any 47 Yacht is ordered without this useful tool.

The lower cockpit has lounge seating that wraps around on all sides, with a removable two-piece table for alfresco dining. The bridge level has seating for four adults to port while a beautifully upholstered helm bench has individual flip-up bolsters and enough room for two large men to sit without getting too cozy.

The helm obviously draws on Formula offshore racing. The VDO gauges are easy to scan, and the Volvo Penta electronic displays are in the skipper's line of sight. A full Raymarine electronics package is standard, including GPS, chart plotter and VHF radio, all flush-mounted and user friendly. The wood-rimmed Dino wheel tilts for standing or seating, and the Volvo Penta electronic shifters took only the slightest nudge to change speeds.

Just abaft the helm seat is a dedicated wet bar with a sink hidden under the Corian counter, a refrigerator to one side, and more than enough room for a full buffet. At first, I thought that this was a waste of space but later changed my mind while under way, when it proved to be a very comfortable place to stand. Besides, no one can ever accuse the 47 Yacht of having a cramped cockpit, and this would be difficult to use in other ways.

One impressive feature is the molded stairway leading to the opening windscreen, which makes foredeck access safe and secure. You don't think of a 50-foot yacht as having the features of a bowrider but the sturdy 316 stainless-steel rail puts the foredeck within reach for sunning or anchoring.

Our test boat also had the optional fiberglass hardtop that incorporates twin hatches for ventilation, as well as built-in speakers and lighting. A side benefit of the hardtop is that it permits a complete enclosure of the bridge and even the cockpit. With the optional cockpit air conditioning/heating, it creates an all-weather living area.

Of course, the belowdecks accommodations are so enticing that you may not need an enclosed cockpit. Not obvious in the photos but startling in person is the ample headroom that stretches to 7 feet, 6 inches at the highest point. This gives immense volume to the saloon and opens the galley, as well, creating a convivial living area with high-gloss cherry combined with softly padded bulkheads.

At first glance, the galley appears to be nothing but Corian counters, but there's a three-burner Kenyon cooktop tucked under a folding section, a deep stainless-steel double sink is outboard, and all the usual appliances are equally well hidd en. Included is a two-door, under-counter Nova Kool refrigerator/freezer, and the number of drawers, cupboards and lockers is impressive. There's even a "basement pantry under the hardwood maple galley sole with a nicely finished area that allows additional food stowage in three portable tubs.

The curved Ultrasuede settee in the saloon doubles as a lounge and, with two Corian leaves in place on the Hi-Lo table, a formal dining area. Two upholstered stools hide neatly under the table, but I can't imagine offering them to anyone for dinner seating, unless it's a mother-in-law or unwanted guest. Plan on adding folding chairs, or better yet, dine in comfort in the cockpit.

The saloon does become a comfortable media room in conjunction with the built-in Panasonic 22-inch LCD flat-screen television which, when powered up, automatically tilts to the best viewing angle from the settee. At night, the 47 Yacht is elegantly fitted with hidden lighting, including the acrylic glassware and wine cabinet.

The master stateroom is forward, with a rounded centerline berth that tilts up on gas lifts to reveal a deep stowage area. Even more innovative, the forward portion of the berth tilts up at the touch of a button for reading or watching television. A pair of cedar-lined mini-lockers provides some hanging stowage, and four drawers are under the berth.

Most of the after bulkhead is devoted to a stylish vanity with a swing-out upholstered seat and theater-style bulb lighting. Women may love it, but to a man, it seems a waste of space in an area already challenged for usable stowage. For once- or twice-a-day use, I'd prefer to see a built-in bureau to handle the clothes for a long weekend.

Besides, the private master head on the 47 Yacht is so incredibly spacious and well-appointed that it would serve the vanity needs admirably, with beveled mirrors, a large shower with curving acrylic door, ample stowage cabinets, a VacuFlush head, and Corian counters and sole.

Just abaft the saloon is a guest stateroom or den that takes full advantage of the full beam and the raised bridge deck to create a spacious cabin with headroom of 6 feet, 8 inches. The daytime arrangement creates an L-shape lounge facing another LCD TV and this area, like the master, is independently air-conditioned. For night use, a Pullman berth drops from the after bulkhead to create a pair of twin beds or, with filler cushions, a queen berth. Here again, the Formula design team has thoughtfully remembered that guests need a place to dress when the beds are in place, and there is more than ample room to move around. The private head includes a shower and doubles as a day head convenient to the cockpit.

With the optional 480 hp Volvo Penta diesels on our test boat, I was impressed that less than 1,000 horses were able to move some 17 tons of luxury trappings at half-mile-a-minute speeds. If you can't live without blowing the doors off all the other 50-footers in your marina, take heart: Formula is finalizing the details of putting more horsepower under the engine hatch.

Because Formula didn't shoehorn huge power plants into the engineroom, this area remains a model of efficiency and easy access. While there is a day hatch from the cockpit, the better entry is aft, where the entire transom raises hydraulically to expose the entire compartment. With nearly 5 feet of headroom and a centerline sole between stringers, it's easy to reach seacocks, handle daily maintenance chores and check on the 12.6kW Onan genset or the oil changing systems.

Under way, the 47 Yacht had impeccable manners. There was no waddling or struggling; the 47 came onto plane easily and simply hit a speed wall shy of 30 knots. Running flat out or at a fast cruise of 25 knots, the race-bred Adams hull becomes apparent: tracking straight, gobbling up small swells with aplomb and needing only a touch of tabs to get the bow down. Even more impressive was winding in full steering lock at speed, and the 47 simply banks into the tight corner with no cavitation, a tribute to the prop pockets that keep feeding solid water to the Teignbridge four-blade props. And, if you decide to go with the optional bowthruster, you'll find the 47 pivots neatly, even into tight slips.

From flawless fiberglass, to an extensive equipment list, to dovetailed drawer joints, Formula has created a luxury express cruiser to world-class standards, yet one that has a lingering flavor of performance in styling and handling.

Contact: Thunderbird Products, (800) 736-7685; www.formulaboats.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877