For a yard more used to evolution than revolution the new Princess X95 is a radical departure from the norm but how does it stack up as a boat?
Things have been a little different at Princess lately. A brisk wind of change has been blowing through the hallowed halls of Britain’s most quietly conservative boatbuilder since the arrival of executive chairman Anthony Sheriff, late of McLaren Cars, and chief marketing officer Kiran Haslam, who used to work for Bentley.
These gentlemen didn’t join the firm to take it easy, but to shake things up. The world is changing, the market is changing, and as old values and habits are held up to scrutiny, new approaches and ideas are ushered in. The Princess Yachts brand, they felt, was in danger of being left behind. The very image of yachting was moribund, incapable of attracting new blood, while boatbuilders squabbled over a dwindling customer base.
Enough was enough. Persuading someone to buy a Princess instead of an Azimut or a Sunseeker was no longer going to cut it. Now the goal was to persuade someone to buy a Princess instead of a third home, instead of a Barbara Hepworth, instead of a jet – someone who had never thought of buying a boat before.
It meant new thinking, new products, new technologies – a reinvention not just of the Princess brand, but of the whole idea of what a boat can be and do. No doubt some of the old guard at the shipyard found it all rather exhausting, but when the Princess R35 was unveiled in 2018, it suddenly became clear that these new chaps were serious.
Not only was the R35 unlike anything attempted before, but it worked. Here was a boat that used massive computing power, untried technology and a totally new hull concept based around active foils that allowed even a boating novice to drive like Don Aronow.
And now we have the Princess X95. It is perhaps a sign of the management’s growing confidence that there seems to have been almost no attempt to make it look like a boat. But looks have been no impediment whatsoever to sales – three have been delivered so far, and 12 sold, according to sales director Will Green. We caught up with Princess X95 number two at Princess’s Turnchapel base in Plymouth Harbour on a bright, blustery day. It towered over the pontoon.
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The Sunseeker 95 Yacht only boasts an extra half deck over its 28m sister ship, but the affect is astonishing.
It is of course a ‘widebody’ design, a concept very much in vogue at the moment, with a raised wheelhouse and a full-length main deck interior, capped by a flybridge that is pretty much full-length too. What sets it apart from its rivals is its phenomenally bold styling, which was designed by the Princess studio and refined by Pininfarina, where Antony Sheriff happens to hold a board directorship.
The X Factor
If you set aside your convictions about what a yacht should traditionally look like, the design actually works pretty harmoniously from every angle. The curves all communicate with each other.
The phenomenal quantities of tinted glass form assertive stripes to reduce – a little – the visual height. That raked windscreen looks serious and businesslike. The full-width upper deck provides a sheltering overhang for the side decks aft, and continues right forward to the stem, accentuating the triple-layered look and cheekily exaggerating the apparent size of the interior.
There is really no need to exaggerate when it comes to the Princess X95, inside or out. The hull is no beamier than it needs to be, and the lower deck layout has to make do with the same volume as any conventional 95-footer, but on both the main deck and flybridge, the impression of size is extraordinary.
On a sunny day, the undoubted star of the show is the flybridge, which has marvellously elevated relaxation areas forward and aft, with a variety of furnishing possibilities, including the option of a hot tub overlooking the bow. The cosy private skydeck saloon behind the helm station is such a pleasant place to sit that the main saloon below could start to feel like an extravagance.
Princess also offers plenty of choices on the main deck, whose forward section can be fitted out either as an open-plan galley and dining room, or as a private saloon and cinema.
On our five-cabin Princess X95, it was home to a comfortable L-shaped owner’s suite, brightened by substantial side windows and by another big one facing forward, albeit offering rather restricted views onto the foredeck. Headroom throughout the yacht is impressive – 6ft 10in (2.08m) in the master, and 6ft 8in (2.03) as a minimum pretty much everywhere else. The beds, too, are all full-size.
There is so much glass installed that I found myself wondering what it all weighs. Nowhere is its effect seen better than in the main saloon, with its full-height windows each side and glazed sliding doors into the cockpit. Access to the lower deck from here is down a straight companionway to a lobby at the centre of a conventional accommodation layout.
The substantial midships suite is the largest and most comfortable cabin on board, as of course it ought to be – in four-cabin versions of the Princess X95, this will serve as the master. There are also crew cabins in the stern, in various possible configurations, and the option of a beach club looking out over the aft platform, with its impressive ‘transformer’ – a huge, teak-laid section that cantilevers up, out, and down, extending some 20ft (6m) from the transom.
Driving the Princess X95
The X95’s hull has a short, vestigial wave-piercer at the bow which might contribute a little to low-speed efficiency, and might also help with smoothing the ride upwind, but otherwise, below the waterline, the X95’s lines are conventional and full-bodied, flattening out aft to provide plenty of lift.
Unlike almost every other area of the yacht, Princess offers no choice about what to put in the engineroom. This yacht is designed around a pair of 1,900hp MAN V12s, which sit in a bright and beautifully appointed machinery space, with excellent all-round access and full standing headroom.
Halyards in the marina jangled incessantly in the unseasonal south-easterly breeze, setting up that intimidating chorus which so often persuades us to wait for better weather before venturing out. As we made our way across the Sound and into the full force of the wind, we could see the effect it was having beyond the stone breakwater.
Our Princess X95 was fitted with some excellent Sleipner fin stabilisers, and this was not a day to switch them off and see what happened. The waves didn’t look especially big from high up in the X95’s wheelhouse, but they were pretty steep, full of energy and closely spaced.
In these conditions it was hard to judge whether the small wavepiercer was achieving very much – heading upwind at 20 knots or so, any pitch-damping effect it might have been exerting was soon subsumed as the waves rolled over it and bore the bow up, while sheets of spray lashed the windscreen like a fire hose. The stabilisers certainly earned their keep.
The Princess X95 has plenty of power, and felt agile enough on the helm for such a big boat, but things don’t happen fast. With the seas on the beam, I was acutely aware of her top hamper – and couldn’t stop myself wondering again about the weight of all that glass – but the fins did their bit and the roll was well controlled. Downwind, and with the seas on the quarter, she handled and tracked with great confidence, and seemed happy to cruise on the plane at any speed from 16 knots up to her maximum.
It was an impressive display. With the wheelhouse so far forward, it felt a bit like driving a house – but beneath all the domestic comforts, there is clearly a hull that can be relied upon.
In flatter water we ran through our speed trials, recording a two-way maximum of 23.7 knots, which seemed pretty respectable and could certainly be bettered on a calmer day. Laden as she was with almost full tanks, she settled at three or four degrees bow-up, and ran comfortably with no need for any trim-tab adjustment.
Looking out of the windows was like watching a video – inside, all was calm and remarkably quiet. As we accelerated around Penlee Point, spray drenched the windscreen and the sunlit hillsides glowed with green and gold.
Price as reviewed:
£6,950,000.00 ex. VAT
The X95 experience reminded me of that other radically new Princess. When I arrived for my long-awaited sea trial of the R35 a couple of years ago, I had already done my homework. I had talked to the designers and engineers, read about the hardware and software, and understood the principles of its extraordinary trim system. This boat was cool, clever, carbon – but as I stood on the pontoon looking it over, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was also going to be fun. A similar hesitation surfaced as I stood listening to the wind howling through the halyards, craning my neck at the towering form of the Princess X95: what was this thing going to be like at sea? It turns out the answer to both questions was the same: I needn’t have worried.
LOA: 95ft 6in (29.10m)
Beam: 22ft 3in (6.77m)
Draught: 6ft 0in (2.01m)
Displacement: 118 tonnes full load
Engines: Twin 1,900hp MAN V12 diesel
Fuel capacity: 13,400 litres
Water capacity: 1,800 litres
Top speed: 23.7 knots
Cruising speed: 18.6 knots
Fuel consumption at 18.6 knots: 446lph
Cruising range at 18.6 knots: 448nm
Fuel consumption at 10.6 knots: 52lph
Cruising range at 10.6 knots : 2,193nm
Noise at 20 knots: 57dB(A)
RCD category: B for 20 people