While a lot has been made of the likes of Princess and Sealine launching their first ever IPS-powered flybridge boats, Absolute was most likely wondering what all the fuss was about. The Piacenza-based yard has been installing Volvo’s pods on its flybridge models for years and has proven its knowledge and application of the system is excellent. So it is hardly a surprise they are going down that route with their latest, the Absolute 50 Fly.
Here’s the thing, though. Even with its extensive knowledge of IPS, is the decision to have the 435hp IPS600 units as the sole engine option short sighted? This is a big 50ft boat and when you consider that even the smaller and lighter Princess 49 uses 550hp IPS700s, you can see where the Absolute may fall short.
The Sealine F530 we tested had the 600s and felt underpowered but it does have the option of the larger motors, and Sunseeker, to avoid any doubt, only fits 725hp engines whether you choose shafts or pods.
The conditions for our test were hardly taxing, with bright sunshine, light winds and a Mercury-smooth sea greeting us outside the Marina di Varazze on Italy’s Liguria coast. In such wonderful weather, any potential lack of power wasn’t noticeable in the slightest.
The Absolute 50 Fly rose on to the plane without fuss and remained quiet and refined all the way up to a top speed of 28 knots with the engines pulling 50rpm short of their maximum. That, however, was 28 knots without waves to contend with, a clean hull and no cruising gear whatsoever.
The concern is how the performance might be affected by some weed growth on the hull and pods and your average family’s cruising kit. Absolute has plastered the smartly laid-out engineroom with soundproofing and that shows in the sound readings. Even though one would think the engines are working quite hard to shift such a hefty boat, the hushed ride is one thing that stands out on the Absolute 50 Fly.
It helps, of course, that IPS sets the engines such a long way back in the hull so on top of insulation, a deck hatch and cockpit doors, you have sheer distance on your side too.
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The lower helm is excellent and mimics the design of a couple of the larger Absolute flybridge boats I’ve tested. What I like most is that you can very comfortably stand to drive, something I always like to do if the conditions are rough.
The 50 is a tall boat and to my eyes not the prettiest, but once inside – and this is a theme with many of the yard’s boats – the space is remarkable. So yes it looks top heavy, but being able stand up at the helm and escape through a side door on to the decks is particularly useful. The helm looks great too, with a clean and simple switchgear layout, quality materials and space for two 12in screens.
The combination of average performance and sedate steering means the 50 isn’t the last word in sporty handling. If you want a more exciting driving experience then the 36-knot Princess 49 or beautifully balanced Sunseeker Manhattan 52 are going to be more to your taste, whereas the Absolute 50 Fly sits alongside the Sealine at the more sedate end of the spectrum.
In fact, at times, the huge turning circle and lazy steering became quite tiresome with even the increased exposure and height of the upper helm failing to up the enjoyment levels. Again, the lack of dynamism is compensated for by a helm station on the flybridge that is well designed, comfortable and endowed with plenty of adjustment.
The twin helm chairs are lovely, with comfortable bolsters and plenty of lumbar support. Both seats slide and, like downstairs, it’s easy to flip the cushion up and lean if you want a better view forward.
Boat for your buck
As well as a chair in front of the helm for a navigator, there is also an L-shaped seating area to port where two or three could sit and enjoy the journey and even more could congregate on the sunpads forward of the helm if conditions allow.
The hardtop fitted to our test boat is not standard but the yard is unlikely to send many out of the factory without one. It doesn’t help with the boat’s skyscraper styling but it adds some finesse, and a sliding hatch means you can open the top deck up to the sun.
No new 50-odd-footer worth its salt goes without some sort of foredeck seating area, and true to form, the Absolute has its own take. Furthest forward there is a triple sunpad with hinging backrests and aft of that is a low bench with a backrest and slim walkway to allow quick movement from side deck to side deck.
Absolute does fine detail well and the inclusion of large cupholders, speakers and a repeater for the Fusion stereo system are a good example of that. It really is a quality piece of kit all over.
Mouldings are smooth and substantial, the stainless steel is immaculate and cabinetry is top notch. Crockery and glassware is stowed in fiddled drawers on soft-close runners, the bathroomware is high end and stylish and doors click shut on to anti-rattle pads.
The Absolute 50 Fly is not a cheap boat; the starting price is around £75,000 more than an equal-spec Princess 49 (though the 49 is quite a bit smaller and has no crew cabin) and there’s an even bigger gap between the Italian boat and the Sealine F530 with the same engines.
It has to be said though, that the Absolute feels the more expensive product with a finish that is a level above the Sealine and on par with the Princess and Sunseeker. The Sunseeker is nearly £180,000 more than the Absolute, though it is substantially bigger (and feels it) and has 650hp more. Whether these differences are worth that much more money is up for debate, especially when there is such an undeniable overlap in styling.
With all the excitement around foredeck seating, it’s important not to forget the role the cockpit plays in the way a flybridge cruiser works. With its galley located aft in the saloon, the cockpit is easily served and with a decent overhang and the option to have full covers, it’s an outdoor area that can be used come rain or shine.
At first glance, it seems odd for the yard to have squeezed a small sunpad into this area, but what’s not immediately obvious is that you can slide the headrests towards the cockpit, slot in some cushions and end up with a full-size three-person sunpad. On the transom is the option of a concealed grill for waterside BBQs and unlike the Sunseeker, this bar also has a sink so you can clean up easily.
Inside the saloon, a step up from galley level takes you into the main internal seating area, where you feel the benefit of those gigantic saloon windows the most. The seating is spread across the full width of the saloon with the television stowing neatly behind the sofa on the starboard side.
There are more quality touches here, like the table which has a chunky walnut top, a pedestal that looks like it could take a direct hit from a missile and beautifully machined supports that slide out to sit beneath the unfolded table leaves.
Absolute 50 Fly’s accommodation
The accommodation is where you feel the most benefit from the boat’s height, especially in the midships master cabin which has bags of headroom and an almost totally flat floor, save for small ridges on either side of the bed. There’s no messing around with chaise longues or mini dinettes, just a compact sofa and a big dresser opposite with a decent amount of drawer storage. The ensuite is lovely and gets a really spacious shower cubicle with an offset sink tucked in the corner.
The VIP cabin is a beauty and as well as a fabulous ensuite (that is also the day heads and shared with the twin guest cabin), it has huge amounts of natural light thanks to the massive triple windows on either side and a large, round opening port to supply a bit of ventilation.
The crew cabin is an €11,800 option but it’s a good one to have. Its size and the fact that it has its own toilet means you could host guests here for the occasional night. And if not, just pack it full of gear and use it as a very well-furnished lazarette.
The review first appeared in the December 2016 edition of Motor Boat and Yachting.
Price as reviewed:
The 50 Fly is a boat with a lot going for it but there will be that question mark over mid-season performance with the solitary engine choice and no option to upgrade. That being said, on the evidence of this test and this test alone, the performance was perfectly good, unless you’re after a boat that can cruise at 30 knots. And if it’s an enticing driving experience you’re after then the laid-back 50 Fly may leave you feeling a little cold with its woolly steering and ponderous turning circle. If you’re satisfied with the performance then there’s an awful lot to like on board and a massive amount of space to enjoy. The deck spaces are cleverly designed and equally generous, and the interior is as spacious and comfortable as it is bursting with natural light. The fit and finish is very impressive and a genuine air of quality helps justify its bullish pricing. The two things which may hold it back, at least in Britain, is the lack of a UK dealer and a brand name that many British buyers still consider to be a fringe player. These things can all be changed, of course – in many Mediterranean countries, Absolute is already held in high esteem, but it will take time and money to lure British buyers away from the wealth of homegrown talent. Make no mistake though, the 50 Fly is a very good boat that deserves to be considered alongside the likes of Sealine, Princess and Sunseeker.
LOA: 49ft 10in (15.20m)
Beam: 14ft 6in (4.43m)
Fuel capacity: 352 imp gal (1,600 litres)
Water capacity: 99 imp gal (460 litres)
Draught: 4ft 3in (1.3m)
RCD category: B for 14 people
Displacement: 22.6 tonnes
Builder: Absolute Yachts