Princess flies into space age with X95
Inspired by a visit to Singapore, the large volume and aggressive profile of the Princess X95 have divided opinions, with a unit set to arrive in Hong Kong in 2021.
Don’t call it black. It’s Princess’s own Midnight Blue. And don’t assume the next X95 hulls coming out of the Plymouth builder’s historic South Yard will be the same colour. The X95 scheduled for delivery to Hong Kong in early 2021 has a white hull, as do the units set to launch before and after it, with any spraying done post-production.
As images and footage of the first X Class ‘Super Flybridge’ yacht off England’s south coast circulate, opinions are divided, colourful and passionate, especially online, where the model’s global launch was held on Facebook Live this summer.
The yacht’s dark paint scheme looks to have intensified first impressions of a polarising model whose high-volume design, aggressive profile and top-heavy appearance marks a dramatic change for Princess, although the customary elegant lines remain, albeit in different places.
In the desire to radically increase space and volume in a 95ft yacht, Princess has created a super-long flybridge or ‘superfly’ that has led to “fairly dramatic styling, which isn’t for everybody”, admits Will Green, Princess’s Director of Sales, who has been with the company since 2003.
But as the X95 divides, it also conquers. Nine sales to the US, Europe and Asia had been secured by late July’s online launch, which was held while the owners of hull one – long-time Princess clients – were away enjoying their new yacht, a model that’s classified as a pleasure vessel due to its sub-24m load line.
It’s a remarkable pre-launch sales figure considering the size of the yacht, Covid-19 challenges and the fact hardly anyone had been able to view an X95 outside of the hull one owners’ family and those involved with making the yacht.
“Selling nine at this stage is quite a statement,” Green admits.
BRAVE NEW ERA
As such, the X95 is arguably the Princess ‘revolution’ that the brand had initially promoted with the R35, which was launched at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2018 and ushered in the builder’s new class for performance sports yachts, joining the V (sports), S (sportbridge), F (flybridge), Y (yacht) and M (superyachts) ranges.
Following on from the R35 plus the stunning Y85 unveiled last year, the X95 is the third Princess model designed with historic Italian styling house Pininfarina, now part of a design ‘golden triangle’ including the Princess Yachts Design Studio and Olesinski, the builder’s naval architectural partner since 1980.
Princess began collaborating with Pininfarina in a bid to advance its models’ design language and make the exteriors of its yachts match the renowned quality of the interiors, although the X95 is a radical reworking in architecture rather than styling.
Antony Sheriff, Executive Chairman and CEO of Princess Yachts, has described the X95 as the “nautical equivalent of an SUV”, but jokes that he decided against using the acronym for Sports Utility Boat – SUB – due to its worrying underwater connotations.
Like an SUV, the high-volume X95 is designed to offer a comfortable, relaxed journey and be well used for extended periods, not to be tiptoed around as if in a museum or art gallery.
“The X95 is an astonishing yacht and demonstrates a lot of the things Princess has been trying to achieve over the last few years. She has a different architecture, design and layout, not simply to be different but for a real reason – to be better,” says Sheriff.
“It’s truly a case of form following function, which is to create a yacht with an enormous amount of flexible, useable space to provide an even better yachting experience for our customers. Anyone who has been on her has been astonished at the amount of space on board.”
Sheriff has driven remarkable growth at Princess since he joined in January 2016, implementing ideas and learnings from his time in the car industry, which included working with Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo then over a decade with McLaren Automotive. Today, he says Princess’s production slots are full for about the next 18 months, with orders for some models stretching into late 2022.
In fact, it was Sheriff who ultimately inspired the out-of-the-box thinking behind the X95 during a visit to the Singapore Yacht Show, when the American looked out from the helm of a Y75 and wondered how to use the space at the front of the boat “to more effect”.
After returning to the UK, Sheriff posed the challenge to the company’s design team, even drafting a sketch of his initial ideas and encouraging them to push boundaries by citing the ‘Most Advanced Yet Acceptable (MAYA)’ principle popularised by iconic industrial designer Raymond Loewy.
Andy Lawrence, Princess’s Director of Design, recalls: “Antony challenged us, challenged the norm, questioned why we do things the way we do. I think we’re aware boats in this category can be quite formulaic, so we wanted to see what we could extract out of 95ft.”
After an enormous variety of preliminary design and layout options, a final design emerged led by at least three major differences to any previous Princess model.
Ultimately, the design revolution is the extension of the flybridge to 72ft – more than double the length of a typical flybridge on a yacht this size – so creating both a much longer main-deck interior and almost a third full-length deck up top.
The second great space creator is having just one helm station, on the flybridge, so freeing up more useable space on the main deck. The third Princess ‘first’ is the completely new hull shape by Olesinski featuring a wave-piercing bow.
“It was a chance to do a completely new layout we’d never looked at before and we produced more preliminary ideas for this boat than any other we’ve done,” Lawrence says.
“The main design challenge was proportion. At 95ft, to get a huge flybridge with an air-conditioned sky lounge encased on top is quite a challenge.”
SPACE AND CHOICE
The results of all this exploration in ideas and concepts is a yacht with 30 per cent more internal volume than any previous 95ft boat by Princess.
Using comparisons to the established M Class models also built at South Yard, the X95 has similar square footage to the 35M (115ft). It’s also now the only Princess to feature an air-conditioned sky lounge, which the builder only previously featured on its former 40M (132ft).
And although the X95’s displacement of 104 tonnes is just less than the 110-tonne 30M (100ft), its new deep-V hull means its twin 1,900hp MAN V12 engines achieve similar top speeds of 24-25 knots to the 100ft superyacht, which uses two 2,636hp MTU16V engines – almost 39 per cent more horse power.
Add in 13,400 litres of fuel and the X95 has a range of almost 2,000nm at 10 knots, meaning it’s suitable for some serious passage making.
The lower deck – which will be replicated on the future Y95 – features four guest cabins comprising a full-beam stateroom midships, an aft-facing double in the bow, and two forward-facing twins in between.
Aft of the engine room is the crew quarters and tender stowage, although the latter can be replaced by the exciting option of a ‘beach club’ room overlooking the sea.
The main deck includes a large cockpit and a 59ft-long interior that has a huge range of options incorporating a saloon, dining and galley, and a whole host of choices from a forward master suite – as on hull one – to a cinema, boardroom, tea room or entertainment room.
The default option starts with a saloon with curved sofas, a separate coffee corner by the starboard window, and a forward area including a full width open-plan chef’s kitchen with a large centre island and breakfast bar, plus a dining table in the bow.
As Lawrence explains: “The ‘Superfly’ design offers so much space that we can accommodate requests from all over the world. Owners can have a main-deck master, an open kitchen, cinema, karaoke room. Furthermore, they’re getting a semi-custom build but with the reassurance that all design options have been planned for at the outset.”
On the flybridge, the air-conditioned sky lounge features a saloon and a helm station that can be closed off with sliding doors, while there are many options for loose furniture in the aft outdoor area.
There’s another treat up front. A starboard walkway leads to the flybridge foredeck, which features a forward-facing C-shaped sofa and the option of a flexible sunbathing area or a hot tub, an option chosen on hull two.
There’s plenty of room for real customisation such as on hull one where a gym has been included on the lower deck, with a running machine sunk into the floor due to the headroom required. Sheriff says it’s quite a sensation to work out on the machine and look out the window while the yacht is cruising.
“We go to great lengths to make our owners walk on water,” quips Sheriff, whose development team now spends 25-30 per cent of their time on non-standard options – up from 10 per cent – due in large to the X95.
In terms of outfitting the yacht, Princess’s design team works with the world’s leading fabric houses, lighting and furniture companies, and attends shows across Europe to stay abreast of all fashion and style developments.
The London-based office also goes the extra mile for clients, spending time with them to learn what they like, their lifestyle and how they use the boat, and even shopping with them in the likes of Mayfair to personalise and complete their yacht.
X MARKS THE SWEET SPOT
Already, hull seven is well underway at the company’s historic South Yard, which is now dominated by production of the X95, whose build time is about 11-12 months.
Princess has a high retention rate, with over half of its builds for existing clients, and like the M Class superyachts, the X95 enables upgrading clients to stay with Princess instead of choosing another yard for a larger yacht.
Green believes the owners of hull one would have looked elsewhere if not for the X95, but also says it’s a model that will continue to attract new clients to the brand.
“In Asia-Pacific, there’s a growing appetite to spend more time on board and with a wider choice of air-conditioned areas, away from the sun, so we think this yacht holds a lot of appeal there as well as everywhere else across the globe,” Green says.
“X Class is exciting, the next step for flybridge owners, with considerably more volume, design options and range, and yet it’s still a CE boat (sub-24m load-line length). This means you have M Class superyacht size but with dramatically reduced running costs, overheads and complications. You can drive it yourself, tie it up, switch it off and walk away.”
Green also thinks there will be more sales to follow as more people get the chance to see hull one and other models in person over the coming months and years.
“We’ve had a great deal of success considering how few people have seen this boat. Our biggest challenge is how to get more people to see it, because that’s when people really fall in love with her. The X95 is very different, but it’s fantastic. I love it.”
Sheriff also believes the 95-footer’s space must be seen to be believed and has witnessed people change their opinion of the yacht from viewing renders and images to when they finally get on board.
“We’ve had people see the boat in plans and say it’s interesting, but wanted something more traditional,” says the CEO.
“However, after they walk on the boat and see the amount of space on the main deck or flybridge, we’ve had people literally say, ‘I’ve got to have this boat; this is just unbelievable’.”