World’s coolest boats: Why the Princess V52 is the original ice queen

Each month we pick out an iconic boat that can lay claim to the title of world’s coolest boat. This month, we take a closer look at the original Princess V52...

In the 1970s, Princess Yachts and Sunseeker were two British leisure boat brands clearly defined by their product ranges.

Princess was the sensible one, building a worthy range of flybridge boats, whereas Sunseeker curated a slightly more maverick image, making low, sleek high-performance open sportscruisers that might lack the volume but made up for it with dazzling style and the promise of high performance.

It took until the mid-1980s before both manufacturers started eying up the competition and the lines started to get blurred.

Princess launched the 286 Riviera, an open sportscruiser that trod lightly on the toes of Sunseeker’s Portofino 31 but offered a little more internal comfort; Sunseeker launched its first flybridge boat, the Jamaican 35, that brushed gently against the Princess 35 but offered slightly more performance via its slimmer and more easily driven hull.

Princess’s Riviera range of open-cockpit boats grew to include models like the excellent shaftdrive 36 Riviera and the flagship 46 Riviera, but sensible, practical and unshowy vessels were always at the forefront.

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Then, in 1994, Princess launched the V Class with two new boats that broke the mould: the Princess V39 and the Princess V52. Gone were the plain-Jane white hulls with double knuckles, in were smooth shapely topsides in dark blue or maroon (although white was still available).

The old-fashioned stainless steel windscreen frames were history, replaced by chunky white GRP, and radar arches jutted aggressively forward. The V52 was, by some margin, the largest and coolest open boat Princess had ever made. It didn’t just throw down the gauntlet in Sunseeker’s back garden, it lobbed an entire hand grenade into it.

On board, a large tender garage with built-in crane was hidden beneath a massive aft sunpad while down below, high-gloss burr maple or mahogany was referred to as a ‘superyacht finish’. And under the cockpit floor, two meaty MAN D2866 LE401 600hp engines gave it the bite to match the bark.

Top speed was mid-30 knots or more, and the rev band of the low-revving diesels was so narrow that it would do 6 knots at tick-over. On one engine! Snick the other into gear and you’d be closing on 8 knots.

That issue was solved by fitting larger MAN D2848 LE403 800hp engines as these would run on a single cylinder bank at low revs. Despite such overt styling, Princess ensured the V52 was a wide, comfortable and practical boat with three cabins and two heads as well as a huge saloon on the lower deck.

The V series was marketed with the rather pointed slogan ‘Performance without compromise’ and the Princess V52 became the coolest kid at the 1994 Southampton Boat Show. Job done.

Princess V52 specifications

Year: 1994
LOA: 16m
Beam: 4.2m
Power: Twin MAN D2866 LE401 600hp diesel engines
Speed: 35 knots
Price when launched: £317,000 (ex. VAT)