Founded in Plymouth in 1965, Princess Yachts is one of the true titans of the British boating industry.
The story began on Newport Street in Plymouth in 1965. It was here that ex-Naval officer David King and two friends started a company called Marine Projects.
Their first model, which was named Project 31, was built on the hull of a Senior 31 and fitted out in a rented shed. This historic yacht was restored in 2015 as part of the yard’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
From such humble beginnings, Marine Projects made huge advances over the following years. This led to the 1969 launch of the Princess 32 – the first model to bear the name.
The 1970s saw Princess branch out into the burgeoning flybridge market with the Princess 37 V Hull. Designed by John Bennett and launched at the London Boat Show, this model was fitted with high performance inboard diesel engines.
Six years later the company began work on the Princess 30DS with a promising young designer called Bernard Olesinski. His name has since become a byword for the deep-vee hull. 1981 saw a buyout of the company, with South African businessman Graham J Beck taking the helm – he would remain the majority shareholder for the next 27 years.
In 1984 the launch of the Princess 286 Riviera cemented this company’s status in the high-speed sports cruiser market. Its twin 270hp Volvo AQ271/DP engines gave a top speed of more than 30 knots. Just a year later, the company followed up this success with the launch of the Princess 45, which was the largest production yacht in the UK – and there was clearly an appetite for larger yachts, as more than 400 hulls produced over the next nine years.
Export and expansion
The V-Class range was rolled out in 1994 with the arrival of the Princess V39, which in its latest guise is still one of the company’s best sellers more than 20 years later. A 1995 tie-up with Viking Yachts of Gretna, New Jersey saw Princess break into the American market.
The 1990s also saw the yard move into a new purpose-built headquarters, still on Newport Street, as well as acquiring a new site in nearby Coypool.
But wasn’t until 2001 that the company was officially renamed as Princess Yachts International, with production split over three sites in Devonport, Plympton and Lee Mill. This year also saw the launch of Princess’s first M Class superyacht, the Princess 25M.
And in 2008 a buyout by L Capital allowed further expansion, taking the Princess range over the 100ft mark for the first time. This led to another new site – South Yard was leased from the Ministry of Defence for the development of the M Class range in 2009 and Princess was granted the lease for the premises two years later.
The yard is rightly proud of its environmental record, which was underlined in 2011 when Princess became the first British yard to achieve RINA Green Plus (Y) notation for its entire range. More recently, Princess teamed up with the Marine Conservation Society to launch a 2016 book called Enid & Her Magic Yacht, which aims to spread the environmental message to the next generation of seafarers.
Today the Princess Yachts collection ranges from the entry-level V39 sportscruiser to the 131ft tri-deck Princess 40M superyacht. Its yachts are built in a state-of-the-art facility, which spans more than 100,000 square metres. With more than 3,000 staff on its books, Princess Yachts is one of the biggest employers in Plymouth, but also operates in 118 other countries across the world.
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