Heaven help me if my wife ever finds out, but I’m in love with a French girl. She has classic good looks, superb manners and a great sense of fun. She’s bright and sexy and thoughtful and, well, it’s clear I’m just head over heels about her. Oh, did I forget to mention?
She’s a yacht.
Not just any yacht, but the new flagship for the Prestige line of French-built express cruisers and motoryachts. She recently made her debut at North American boat shows, and judging by my infatuation, she’s likely to capture a lot of hearts on these shores. Prestige was originally marketed under Jeanneau, one of the companies under the huge Groupe Beneteau umbrella, but it has been spun off on its own as a luxury brand that will eventually stretch from 38 to 85 feet.
As the current flagship, however, the Prestige 60 is just delightful. This is a yacht that is perfectly suited to the ways that many Americans use their boats. She’s not intended to be a long-range expedition yacht, nor is she a slow-end trawler yacht. And she’s no marina queen.
She’s fast enough at just under 30 knots to get you to the best moorings at the start of the weekend, and allow you to dally until the last daylight at the end. Her accommodations are perfect for two couples plus kids, but, if you don’t want to spend the night, you can entertain a dozen friends for cocktails and dinner. Add to that the fact that she’s designed to be operated easily short-handed, and you’ve got a yacht for all reasons.
The starting point is a distinctly un-French hull shape from Michael Peters, the American designer whose portfolio ranges from sport-fishing war wagons to high-performance offshore racers, and who clearly knows a thing or two about fast but seakindly hulls. The Euro styling, with a mildly reversed sheer and a superstructure that should remain pleasantly timeless, comes from the Italian team of Vittorio and Camillo Garroni, who have created a consistent look on many of the Beneteau and Jeanneau offerings.
Sometimes the blending of American, Italian and Gallic sensibilities doesn’t work: In this case it works perfectly. The Prestige 60 is a yacht that does so many things well that she might serve as a benchmark for other builders trying to figure out how to please the public.
Take the salon as an example. It has the feel of a far larger yacht, thanks to the oversize windows that start just above the settees, stretch nearly to the overhead and give the skipper at the lower helm an almost unobstructed 360-degree line of sight. The salon is so bright and airy that it feels like the living room of a penthouse, and there’s even an overhead skylight for both light and fresh air.
Once you get past the amazing openness of the salon, you need to look at how Prestige achieved this look. First, the bridge is entirely supported by the window mullions in combination with a pair of “wings” at the after end of the salon, one of which has the stand-up refrigerator/freezer. Second, there are no interior supports to break up the expanse of space, and the result is, well, quite wonderful.
As you step into the salon, you pass the galley on the port side, which is another great idea. Rather than a bulkhead at the after end of the salon, the cockpit is separated by three large sliding glass doors that offer some choices for entry. You can open them entirely, which allows the salon to stretch seamlessly into the cockpit with its settee and table for alfresco dining.
I wasn’t sure I’d like the galley aft, but it took me, oh, about three seconds to embrace it. It’s close to the salon dining area with its clever high-low table that can easily seat eight, and it’s also convenient for serving the cockpit table or even the bridge.
The galley is separated by a low counter that doubles as a bar for entertaining, and again, the whole concept works nicely. No chef is going to feel slighted by this workspace, with plenty of counter space, a three-burner cooktop, Cuisinart microwave and a house-size stand-up fridge. There are some thoughtful amenities too, like the self-closing drawers, the stainless-steel backsplashes and the second sink with built-in dish drainer. And, of course, I liked the stainless-steel sea rails on the counters, which are clearly a considerate carry-over from the Beneteau sailboats. The free-standing counter/bar has a builtin wine rack, and the counter opposite has an ice maker, so full bar service is available.
Our test 60 was finished with a cherry interior and, though Prestige offers other choices in décor, I thought the light wood balanced the large windows nicely. What I particularly loved is the extensive leather used on bulkheads and trim throughout the yacht. It was hand-stitched and a chocolate color that was absolutely edible. Just the feel as I ran my hands across the leather and the stitches said quality detailing.
The salon has two large settees plus a couple of built-in chairs, providing several areas where guests can relax. I looked in vain for the television until discovering the flatscreen recessed in the ceiling with a positive-locking electric lift so it doesn’t take up counter or drawer space like a pop-up TV does. Slick.
Glass panels on a wide buffet counter opposite the galley hide the electrical master panel that includes the generator controls. Anyone who has muttered damnations under his breath while bent over trying to figure out the switches on a knee-level electrical panel is going to love this arrangement. I know I did.
Forward, the skipper resides in lordly solitude on an electrically adjusted leather seat that does everything except make popcorn. Set into a yummy chocolate-leather panel to the right are the throttle/shifters, the joystick for the Volvo IPS drives and the bow-thruster stick — all perfectly placed.
Two Raymarine E140 displays are on each side of the Euro-style tilt wheel, and just below the skipper’s line of sight is a row of analog engine gauges set in more hand-stitched leather. Sitting at the lower helm, you can see both after corners of the boat, and the view forward is expansive.
Belowdecks, the full-beam master stateroom, like the rest of the Prestige 60, has a direct connection to the outside world with an immense window on each side with opening ports for fresh air. Too many master staterooms are just for sleeping, but this one is a getaway without the away. Tired of the kids or the guests or just want to read a good book? The long chaise below one window has recliner pads for comfort. Need to do some work? The combination vanity/desk under the opposite window tempts you with a fabulous view.
The queen berth is on centerline with built-in nightstands and a nubby headboard; there is stowage everywhere including two full-height hanging lockers. The master head has a pair of vessel sinks, plus a comfortably sized shower with seat.
Guests are treated nearly as well in the forward guest cabin, with a raised queen berth, spacious en suite head with shower, two hanging lockers and built-in bureaus. Like the master, this stateroom also has oversize windows to connect with the outside. The midcabin has a pair of single berths and private access to the day-head and shower with its foldaway Lucite enclosure that eliminates the dreaded curtain.
Back in the teak-soled cockpit, a concealed helm station is tucked in the starboard wing with joystick and thruster, making it perfect for backing into slips or alongside piers. A warping winch is on the port side, there are line stowage bins under the after cleats, and I particularly liked the rollers in the hawses to eliminate chafe on dock lines. Our test 60 had the optional Besenzoni passerelle, which doubles as a davit to lift a tender onto the wide swim platform. An alternative choice is a lifting platform if you don’t need a gangplank.
Up the open teak stairs with stainless steel rails is the bridge, and the only word that fits is immense. It is so open that it seems even larger than it is, but it’s all usable space. The helm is a centerline pod with a double-wide bench seat on the forward side of a mini-galley console with barbecue. Aft, a large settee wraps around an oversize table for dining under the stars, and an oh-so- French touch is the cold-plate-chilled wine rack close at hand.
One particularly sensible amenity is the abundance of protection for those of us wary of too much sun. A Bimini top unfolds both fore and aft from its hiding place in the electronics arch to cover the entire flying bridge. Another cleverly engineered awning extends from the overhang above the cockpit to shade the table, and even the bow settee gets a folding “buggy top” for ultraviolet protection.
The Prestige 60 has only one choice for power, and that’s the pair of 700-horsepower Volvo IPS 900 diesels with pod-drives for which the yacht was specifically designed. The engine room is very large, with headroom for basketball pros and room on each side of the engines for access. Stainless-steel fuel tanks and the 17.5 kW Onan generator are forward, the electrical panel is behind a Lucite door aft, and the batteries are tucked away neatly in acid-proof boxes.
Under way, it’s easy to forget that you’re herding along 26 tons of luxury yacht because, when you spin the wheel, it feels like a sport boat on steroids. I’m told that Prestige and Volvo “detuned” the steering ratio so she wouldn’t turn as quickly as the system might have allowed. And the response to the throttles is also that of a much smaller boat. To say she handles like a sports car seems trite, but, in this case, it’s true.
Our test boat had been fitted with the Volvo Dynamic Positioning System. It’s now standard equipment, although even with an upcharge it’s worth every penny. In essence, DPS holds the Prestige 60 precisely in place, using a pair of GPS receivers for accuracy. You can use it to hold position effortlessly while waiting for a bridge to open or for the fuel dock to clear, but there’s one situation in which DPS makes itself invaluable.
When we returned from tearing up the Gulf Stream off Fort Lauderdale, Florida, we had to moor in beam current and wind. Our skipper paralleled our 60 just a couple of feet off the dock and hit the DPS button, and the yacht might as well have been bolted to the bottom. The skipper strolled around without rushing, got the lines ashore, set the spring lines and adjusted the fenders. It was magic!
As I said, I’m in love with a French beauty. She’s well-built, stylish, comfortable and surprisingly affordable.
How do I tell my wife?
Displ.: 52,029 lb.
Fuel: 741 gal.
Water: 212 gal.
Deadrise: 17 degrees
Engine Options: None
Engines Tested: 2 x 700-hp Volvo Penta IPS 900
Base Price: $1,400,000 (approx.)
Prestige Yachts, 410-280-2775; www.prestige-yachts.com**