Zero to Fun in 60 Seconds

The quick and luxurious Pershing 80 is made for the sweet life.

Pershing 80

Pershing Interior

Pershing Galley

Pershing Master

Pershing Leather

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.

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. 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.

Although speed is paramount on the Pershing docket, it’s far from the only priority. This is not some stripped-out poker-run boat, but rather a solidly built and well-outfitted yacht of the first order. Outside, she’s beautiful from every angle, and inside she had enough clever features to keep me aboard much longer than I expected.

Among the most fascinating was the array of windows and openings in both the hull and superstructure. They can be buttoned up tighter than white on rice when the weather is too hot, too cold or too wet. They can then be slid, folded, dropped or rotated out of the way to create something akin to an open day boat when the climate is just right. They look good from outside and function superbly for view and ventilation from the inside — what more could anyone ask?

Let’s take, for example, the after end of the salon, which is nearly all glass with a settee on the centerline inside, a lounge on the centerline outside and doors to port and starboard. Slide the doors to the centerline, press a button, and the entire assembly drops down to create a completely clear opening. Press another button, and the panel in the hardtop slides aft to create a substantial opening above the helm and dining area. A third button slides the cantilevered after end of the hardtop forward to allow full sun to the centerline lounge.

The outfitting of the salon is just as flexible. Normally, there’s a centerline settee and an L-shape lounge to starboard, great for conversation. At other times, the settee can be slid outboard, creating a U-shape lounge, leaving a wider passageway for parties and a better arrangement for viewing the pop-up video screen to port. There’s also a square ottoman at the center of the lounge arrangement. It has a reversible top, hard on one side for use as a table and upholstered on the opposite side in case you want to prop your feet up or have a spot for extra seating. It, rather than the settee, can also be moved to the corner to expand the lounge. None of this — pardon the phrase — is rocket science, but it is very clever and yields a highly functional interior that is quite attractive as well.

Part of the attractiveness lies with the involvement of the owner in customizing this particular Pershing. Abaft the triple helm seat is an island bar with a backlit translucent onyx face. Overhead, wenge wood panels (in place of the standard leather) are penetrated by hundreds of optical fibers to allow the stars to come out at night, even when the hardtop is closed. These are only two of the many custom features that added considerably to the base price of our test boat, exclusive of the upgraded engine package, but in my opinion, it was money well spent to achieve something quite special.

The Pershing 80 is available in either a three- or four-stateroom arrangement. Both layouts have an island queen forward and a full-beam king master suite, with large hull-side windows, amidships, as well as a twin cabin to port between the two larger staterooms. All three staterooms have their own heads, the king with a tub and shower as well as a bidet, the other two with a toilet and shower only. The choice in layout lies to starboard, where you can order a second twin-berth stateroom that shares the other twin cabin's head, or a large sitting area open to the passageway. Our test boat had the fourth stateroom, but one berth was removed and stored ashore for easy reinstallation to make room for a Technogym exercise bike outboard. A Pullman bunk made up for the lost berth in that cabin.

Stern-to mooring is often called Med-mooring because it is so prevalent in that region’s crowded harbors. We’re seeing more of it in new resorts on our shores, though, so the foredeck of the Pershing 80 will be as welcome here as it is there. The U-shape settee will be popular under way, but it really comes into its own when moored. Its folding canopy, which stores away convertible-style, provides shade and privacy. Opposite the settee, just abaft the windlass, is a spacious sun pad that also benefits from the privacy provided by the canopy. More sun lounges and seating are situated aft, and a big stern platform, covering the surface drives, provides space for easy boarding of the RIB and PWC carried in the stern garage.

I was also impressed by the engine room and the crew quarters. The engine room was nicely organized and easily accessible, and had a number of often overlooked areas done right. There were safety cages around the stub shafts between engines and drives; there was an interchangeable dual-pump setup for the fire/bilge system; the exhausts were supported from the engine beds, not the overhead, and the engine room door was watertight, not just gas-tight.

The crew quarters and galley were much more spacious than on many yachts designed and built in Europe, even though the two crew cabins share a head. Outfitting includes Sub-Zero refrigeration, Miele range, oven and dishwasher, and other premium amenities. There was even a real laundry with space to work, not just a small washer/dryer stacked in a locker.

The Pershing 80 is a superb yacht that packs a whole lot of dolce vita, and even more fun, into a package that can be handled by a couple but still can accommodate a captain and mate (or chef) when desired. I was truly sorry to see the day end and couldn't help stealing a glance back over my shoulder as I headed down the dock. That, my fellow enthusiasts, is what it's all about.

LOA: 80'5"
BEAM: 18'1"
DRAFT: 4'7"
DISPL.: 139,000 lb.
FUEL: 1,572 gal.
WATER: 343 gal.
DEADRISE: 22 degrees
ENGINE STANDARD: 2 x 2,030 hp MTU 16V 2000 M91 diesels
ENGINES AS TESTED: 2 x 2,345 hp MTU 16V 2000 M93 diesels
PRICE: Upon request

Pershing Yachts, 954-462-5527; www.pershing-yacht.com