Princess Yachts interviewed Test Engineer Paul Roach in an issue of Watermark magazine – the manufacturer’s official leisure publication. Visit the Princess Passport to sign up to receive a free issue.
PAUL: “Watching us work, you might wonder how serious a job can be that requires us to turn lights on and off and tick boxes. But there are something like 3,000 checks to do on every new boat before it’s allowed to leave the shipyard. The test folder for a vessel like the S65 is two-and-a-half inches thick. Some checks might seem more important than others, but they’re all essential. Imagine if we didn’t notice something seemingly trivial, like a missing set of dinghy chocks – easy enough to rectify, but until that happens the boat’s owners can’t ship the tender, can’t set off on their summer cruise, can’t enjoy a family holiday. So, everything is important.
The engine room is the heart of the boat. It’s packed with technology – air-conditioning units, hydraulics, huge engines – all of which work independently, and all of which need testing and verifying. The bilges, too, are full of engineering and technical equipment – we spend a lot of time peering under hatches.
Once we’ve done everything we can with the boat ashore, it’s lowered into the water and held in the strops for the next phase, which itself can take a couple of hours. The biggest unknown tends to be the hydraulic systems, because they’re run from a power take-off on the engines and can’t be tested in the factory. If there are any leaks we usually find them in the first hour. You do hope that it won’t dump its hydraulic fluid all over the engine room like a scene from a horror movie – I have known it to happen. It takes about 30 seconds.
Sea trials can only begin once the boat has passed at every other stage. We run it at all speeds to ensure that it meets all its handling and performance parameters, and is safe, sound and ready for handover.
A modern motor yacht is a thing of extraordinary complexity. I did my apprenticeship in motor engineering, and even the biggest truck is simple compared with a Princess 88. I first joined the yard in 1989, aged 21, then left and came back again in ‘97. I worked in build engineering, then became a team leader, overseeing construction of more than 150 Princess 64s – that was a very popular model. I moved into test engineering four years ago. The team is based at Newport Street and we’re responsible for testing all the yachts built on this site, from the Princess 43 to the 88 Motor Yacht. Every single one is subjected to the same intensity of forensic examination.
When I climb up onto a brand new boat for the first time it’s a source of great pride to think of the number of people and the amount of hours that have gone into producing it. Ours is just the last job in a list of thousands, all of which play a crucial part in making your Princess as good as it can be.”