A lot of fun in under 50 (well, 45) feet
I test lots of boats, and I usually get asked about the biggest ones. How do you like them? What are they like? Are they really that posh? Sure, I like the big boats. What’s not to like? But it’s the smaller ones I find more intriguing, precisely because there is less room to work with, which means the designers have to get more creative to build the kind of boat that takes up less room at the marina but feels like a giant in the anchorage.
The Prestige 420 Flybridge is such a boat. I’ve tested three of its bigger siblings and, don’t get me wrong, they are spectacular. But if you want that level of experience in a smaller package, the 420 is a good compromise. The model is the entry point for the Prestige line, with the next larger model only three feet longer. However, it’s necessary to note that once you drop down to the low 40s, packing in the same level of comfort and performance is what distinguishes this boat from its competition.
The optional hydraulic swim platform is huge, so it’s easy to board from the dock or a dinghy. It will be indispensible to anyone carrying an inflated dinghy or wanting to play on a teak beach at an anchorage. I would definitely opt to include it, but I would skip the passerelle on port, since boaters in the U.S. spend so little time Med mooring. Steps on starboard lead to the aft cockpit where a bench settee is integrated into the transom and had storage below. A table is not standard equipment, but that’s good, because it keeps the cockpit from feeling cramped. The sole opens to reveal and provide access to the machinery space below, including the engines and genset. The pods are tucked far back, and reaching them will entail some bodily origami.
Moving forward from the cockpit to the bow, I noticed small bulwarks that add a bit of sure footing. The railings are high, and handholds along the cabin top will be welcomed by anyone moving about in a seaway. An optional sunpad on the bow is perfect for sun worshippers or folks who want to lounge in the breeze during cocktail hour.
Steps on the port side of the cockpit lead up to the large flybridge. The helm, with full controls and navigation electronics, is to port and fronted by a single chair. Companion seating to starboard also lays out into a large sunpad, and an optional galley module separates the pad from the L-shaped dinette farther aft. With a Bimini or a full enclosure, the sizable flybridge will be the go-to place when entertaining in an anchorage.
Prestige defines its interiors by copious amounts of light and ventilation, lofty headroom and the placement, privacy and posh details of the owner’s suite. Each of the larger models in the line has the master stateroom aft, which is so completely separated from the other cabins that it warrants its own entry. Obviously, that gets harder to do in a boat less than 45 feet, so in order to squeeze in a sizeable master and a divided floor plan, the Prestige 420’s berth is turned athwartships. Steps lead down from the galley and take a right turn at a landing where the system panel is hidden in a cabinet. Another step down and through the door, and you land by the bed, which tucks in neatly, leaving room for a walkway to the head, which has an electric toilet, a vessel sink and a separate stall shower. The master is amidships where motion is lessened and water noise (from slapping waves) or perhaps the tapping of a mooring wand at the bow is less likely to be heard. The stairs also provide a bit of separation from the noise of the machinery space. The privacy and comfort of the master are reminiscent of accommodations on a superyacht but in a vessel about half that size.
The second cabin, which is forward, is notable as well. It has its own access stairs and a head that will double as the day head for any additional guests aboard. (The placement of the two heads provides additional sound-deadening privacy between the two staterooms.) The cabin benefits from an overhead hatch that brings in light and air, and it is so nicely appointed that it could double as another master. Depending on circumstances, the owners may want to switch between them.
Prestige designers also carried over other special traits of the line, such as the expanse of salon windows that bring in lots of light. Even when seated at the port-side U-shaped dinette, one can see out nearly 360 degrees. The helm is to starboard and has a single bench seat and a well-angled dash, so all the switches, screens and Raymarine instruments may be taken in at a glance. Engine controls and the Volvo Penta joystick (as well as another joystick for the bow thruster) are next to the window outboard with the VHF mounted at knee level. Right-handers will rejoice.
The galley is aft and to starboard. It’s compact but workable with an electric cooktop, a microwave, a sink and a refrigerator. Like on the 420’s sister models, the galley’s placement ensures the chef will be able to prepare meals or mix drinks for happy hour and serve people in both the salon and the aft cockpit while being a part of the conversation.
Of course the finish is on par with the larger models in the line. Ample use of sound-attenuating fabrics and leather wraps keeps the boat quiet, and the muted color palette and lots of indirect lighting lend an easy elegance.
It was a sunny, slightly breezy afternoon as we headed out of Newport Harbor with J.R. Means of Bayport Yachts. The long ride out of the harbor gave me a chance to listen to the boat, and as I switched from one stateroom to the other and then back to the salon, I was impressed by how the sound was muted. As we came up on plane outside the jetty, I noticed a complete absence of any rattles or creaking. The boat was noticeable for its lack of noise, and that made it feel solid.
We took off on a relatively calm day on the Pacific. In the small chop, we didn’t pound, and we stayed steady even when crossing our own wake. The hard-chined hull was designed from scratch to accommodate Volvo Penta IPS pod drives — a choice of 300 or 370 hp diesels. The pods allow for smaller engines that have better fuel economy, and the placement of the engines farther aft in the hull helps create all that interior living space.
We zipped around in circles and topped out at 3050 rpm at 30.6 knots going north, and 31.2 knots jetting south with the breeze and swell. An economical cruising speed for the upgraded IPS500 diesels would be between 20 and 24 knots where the fuel burn is 30 to 32 gph. Depending on conditions, the cruising range should be 200 to 225 miles.
The ride on the entire Prestige line is remarkably smooth with the boats making long slow turns, and the 420 was no exception. There was no jumpiness in the steering and no fuss in the general handling. The boat was spry when coming up on plane but then settled into a graceful ride, and I fantasized about doing a quick run to Catalina. Damn this work schedule.
A Fun Little Package
The Prestige line is 25 years old, and more than 2,500 yachts from 35 to 75 feet have been built. Prestige is the powerboat side of Jeanneau sailboats and technically a part of Groupe Beneteau, although the two brands compete fiercely, which helps with innovation. The 420 was preceded by the Prestige 41, which came out in 1989 and was a collaboration of Jernej Jakopin for the hull and Garroni Design for the decks and interior. The new model is a product of that same collaboration but shows us how boating has changed over 25 years in terms of increased performance and comfort.
The Prestige 420 Fly is a well thought-out owner/operator coastal cruiser that feels like a much larger vessel. It’s one of the most affordable 42-foot flybridge models on the market, which means fewer dollars spent for insurance, slip fees and fuel. With a good turn of speed, its private master suite and that great flybridge, the compact cruiser has everything you need, and it may just be the most fun you’ll have in under 50 (well, actually 45) feet.