Tempus takes the wheel of Princess Yachts' groundbreaking performance sports yacht, the R35

By Rachel Ingram | 18 Sep 2019 | Speed

With its fully carbon fibre R35 performance sports yacht Princess brings the speed and sexiness of a supercar to the ocean

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Seldom do the words superyacht and speedboat come together, unless you’re talking of taking a tender from boat to shore. Boatbuilders tend to stick to what they’re known for – in Princess Yachts’ case, sparkling white alloy superyachts. But now, in a fresh move pioneered by chief marketing officer Kiran Jay Haslam, the British luxury motor yacht manufacturer has ventured into the world of speedboats for the first time. The reason? To sex up the perception of the brand and attract a new generation of enthusiasts to boating.

“When I was a kid, I had posters of a Lamborghini Countach, a 308, Renault 5 Turbo 1, and Porsche 959 on my bedroom wall, and thought: ‘The day that I can afford to buy all of those cars, I will buy all of those cars,’” Haslam says. “It’s a very emotional, stirring attachment. Yet, boats don’t live in that world. People don’t take white, gleaming-hulled Princesses and pin them up on their bedroom walls.”

So Haslam set out to create a simple speedboat with the glamour of a supercar. “The idea was shut down immediately,” he says. “However, when our executive chairman Antony Sheriff came into the business, we had a really interesting conversation one day, and he said, ‘I actually think it’s a great idea, but I can see the flaw in it. It’s because you just tried to do a vanity project. What if we do something which is truly radical and truly different, and changes the landscape of who we are and who everybody else wants to be?’”

A new agenda was set – to find a way to combine the sex appeal of a supercar with the quality craftsmanship Princess is known for, and the most innovative new technologies. Partnering with Ben Ainslie Technologies and styling house Pininfarina, it set out to create the most unique, and fastest, performance sports yacht in the market. The result? The R35.

With a look that’s more modern and, dare we say it, sexier than a Riva of similar size, the R35 wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond movie. With its sweeping curves and graceful lines, the elegant vessel is instantly recognisable as a Princess while also shining of uniqueness– when we were invited to join Haslam on a sea trial in Cannes, bystanders in the harbour were taking pictures of it as if it were a matte Ferrari on Bond Street.

The R35’s USP is its speed. This boat can exceed speeds of 50 knots, in part thanks to its lightness – it is full carbon fibre, making it about 30 per cent lighter than if it was glass fibre. “This is a big, game-changing step,” says Haslam. “Everything you see from a constructional perspective is 99.9% carbon fibre, which is a first for anybody in our sector. I know there are carbon boats that are little tenders, made by a little guy who’s doing four boats a year, but this is the first time a serious, luxury yacht manufacturer has done a fully carbon-fibre boat.” The only part of the 35ft yacht that isn’t carbon fibre is the top skin on the helm console. >>

Related: Exclusive: Prince Albert II of Monaco on how Monaco is pioneering sustainable change from the ground up

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The R35 uses the pioneering Princess Active Foil System to ensure its handling is incredibly smooth and safe – it won’t flip over even when attempting doughnuts at speed (trust us, we tried). The system keeps you planted on the water’s surface, even at speed, thanks to the use of T-shaped foils that act almost like a duck’s feet, swimming in opposing directions at five-degrees following the shape of the hull. “This is the equivalent of traction control in a car, for a boat,” says Haslam. “It’s quite a nuanced system. The ability to go very, very fast and feel safe, is second to none I find that if you’re in a speedboat, you’re hammering along, you feel like you’re losing the sensation of being on the water’s surface, which can make you nervous. You don’t have to feel that way in this boat, because the foils are actively moving and manipulating in order to control the planted feeling of the boat on the surface of the water.”

“The idea here was how do we develop technology to get boats to behave in fashion with Ferrarris and Lamborghinis and Porsches and McLarens of today? They have to be safe and they have to be predictable. If you can get predictable behaviour out of a sports yacht, you get a lot more people feeling confident and comfortable to do it,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean driving the R35 is not exhilarating – far from it. Depending how far you want to push it, there are two modes, comfort and sport, just like a road vehicle. “It’s like a good Ferrari,” says Haslam. “You can go from full comfort mode, which is easy enough for your grandmother to drive, to a sport setting. The comfort setting keeps you very sure-planted on the water and doesn’t allow the angle of the tack and the lean in the hull that you would ordinarily get in a regular sports car. Over a certain speed, the system will automatically trigger a sport setting, because it knows that you are trying to have an exhilarating experience.”

With the launch of the R35, Princess is hoping to tempt more people into yachting. “Do we want to sell millions of R35s? No,” says Haslam. “From a business case perspective, we make a lot more money selling a 70ft flybridge product than we do an R35, however we’re bringing new people into boating and that’s very important because if we continue to do what we’re doing right now, we are fighting with our competitors over the same small group of people, which makes no sense. The purpose of this boat is to bring new people into boating.”

Whether you’re a boating novice or a superyacht owner looking for something a little more exciting to add to your collection, the R35 – reasonably priced from £560,000 – is guaranteed to excite both inside and out.

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