Palm Beach GT50 Open review: A true driver’s boat that’s perfectly poised

After making its European debut at Cannes 2019, the Palm Beach GT50 looks set to see its Australian creators start conquering Europe

It’s not a household name in Europe yet, but Palm Beach Yachts intends to change all that. And with its intoxicating mix of quality construction, advanced hull design and sleek styling, it might just succeed.

An Australian boatbuilder of some repute that was bought by Grand Banks in 2014, it has introduced a new GT series to follow up its line of hardtop and flybridge models.

The first, the Palm Beach GT50, is based on an existing hull with the addition of significantly more horsepower, fuel capacity and performance. At the Cannes Yachting Festival in September the Palm Beach GT50 Open made its European debut.

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The Palm Beach GT50 Open hit a top speed of 37.5 knots on test

It made an excellent impression. The E-glass and Vinylester hull was finished to a mirror sheen, and every aspect of the interior fit-out felt solid and long-lasting.

Being essentially a Grand Banks product, built at the company’s long-established yard in Malaysia, that might not seem too surprising, but the cool design, curvaceous mouldings and minimalist styling (no guardrails!) are hardly going to get nods of recognition from old-school trawler-yacht fans. And the deck and superstructure are constructed entirely of lightweight carbon-fibre.

The hull design is interesting. Palm Beach’s people describe it as a displacement form, which is only half the story: certainly it runs comfortably at low speeds, but when you push the throttles home it ups and goes with no discernible ‘hump’ getting onto the plane.

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Our trim gauge moved smoothly from zero to three degrees in a linear progression that bore out our impression of smooth, unruffled acceleration.

Designed by Andy Dovell, an American naval architect based near Sydney, the hull has a fine, seamanlike entry reminiscent of a destroyer’s, easing aft to a very modest deadrise of just 8˚ at the transom.

With its low profile and slender platform the Palm Beach GT50 is quite likely to serve some owners as little more than a luxurious dayboat. It’s not exactly voluminous, but it does possess credible seagoing credentials.

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The entire helm area sits on a raised platform above the engineroom

There is its easily driven hull, happy to cruise at pretty much any speed between 15 knots and 35. It has a decent fuel capacity and a useful range. And its interior could be comfortable on a weekend, or longer.

The forecabin has a full-size bed, 6ft 6in long by 5ft wide (1.98m x 1.52m) and 6ft-plus (1.90m) headroom. The midships cabin is a cave, essentially, which could be an excellent selling point for small people, although at 6ft 2in by 4ft 10in (1.88m x 1.47m) the berth itself is of eminently useable dimensions.

Sitting headroom in there is a fair 39in (99cm) at the pillow end, although of course the 21in (53cm) clearance over the rest of it isn’t really headroom at all.

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The Palm Beach GT50 Open was designed by Andy Dovell and Palm Beach Yachts

Stowage space, that bugbear of the cruising life, shouldn’t be too much of an issue either: I counted seven drawers and eight lockers in the forecabin, all of them big enough to be useful, while the head and galley are also well provided for. And there is an enormous locker under the cockpit sole.

Although propelled by IPS, the Palm Beach GT50’s engines are mounted amidships, linked to the drives on long, one-piece, carbon-fibre jackshafts. This is how boats used to be designed, with the weight concentrated as much as possible amidships, and it helps to explain a number of things about this one.

There is the pleasingly traditional feel of its deck layout, for a start, with its distinct step up from the cockpit to the helm deck, which is sited over the engine compartment.

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The helm seats and forward dinette are well protected by the tall windscreen

This creates two discrete seating areas, each with their own integrity: the raised bench seats, sheltered and secure, when at sea, and the aft sofas in the cockpit, served by their own little bar, for relaxing in once you have arrived.

And then there is the Palm Beach GT50’s remarkable poise when under way. It really is something special. The fuel tanks lie along the forward engineroom bulkhead, so with its lightweight carbon deck and upperworks, and no hardtop, the centre of gravity is pretty much in the centre of the boat, not very far above the waterline.

So along with a level longitudinal trim under acceleration, which keeps the bow down to address the seas with that razor-sharp entry, there is its willing helm response, beautifully balanced and unflappable no matter how ham-fisted the helmsman.

In a full-lock, full-speed three-sixty the hull barely bled off 5 knots, then accelerated on straightening up to slice through our wake with the greatest of ease.

There is no shortage of horsepower, which helps, of course: our 37.5 knots might be some way off what Palm Beach claims for this boat, but it still felt surprising when coupled to such thoroughbred handling.

Price as reviewed:

£1,770,000 inc. VAT

Verdict

The GT50 is a driver’s boat. It has the power to make virtually anyone feel like the most accomplished, confident hand on the helm. It is also comfortable, beautifully built and very pretty to look at. We’ll certainly be hearing more from Palm Beach.

Details

LOA: 54ft 0in (16.40m)
Beam: 14ft 8in (4.48m)
Draught: 3ft 1in (0.93m)
Displacement (light): 13 tonnes (28,660 lbs)
Engines: Twin 600hp Volvo Penta IPS800
Top speed: 37.5 knots
Cruising speed: 25 knots
Range at 25 knots: 244 miles
Fuel capacity: 1,500 litres
Water capacity: 500 litres
RCD category: B for 16 people
Design: Andy Dovell/Palm Beach Yachts

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