Coastal cruising gets a stylish makeover and IPS maneuverability with a new model from France.
It is no small act of courage for a boat builder to take a yacht that has proven to be continuously popular and then make some improvements and rename it. You know what they say about messing with success…
Give Prestige Yachts a star for courage. The powers-that-be there had the fortitude to reexamine the Prestige 500, which, by the way, has sold 500 hulls in the six years since its introduction. Part of their tinkering was the result of carefully listening to buyers of the 500, part was to keep up with manufacturing technology and part was, well, just plain French élan. See, Prestige is the luxury motoryacht division of Jeanneau, which is a division of the Beneteau Group, arguably one of the builders at the top of the yacht-building world.
The biggest change is invisible. It’s Prestige’s shift from hand-laid fiberglass hulls to full resin-infusion, which adds strength and rigidity without adding weight. In fact, Prestige uses resin-infusion for much of the 520, including the deckhouse and flybridge.
From the side, the Prestige 520 Flybridge has the au courant swept-back shape of a big lawn dart: sharpish forward, tapering aft and up into a sleek flybridge that overhangs the cockpit to provide shade. It’s a pleasant profile unlike some other offerings that seem bulky and tallish by comparison. Part of profile’s pleasing appearance is the combined glazing in both the topsides (for large windows in the cabins) and in the superstructure, where the windows seem to reach the deck (they almost do!).
A view of the 520 from a raised pier reveals a big change in the foredeck, which has either been snubbed or widened (glass half full/ half empty). Either way, the result is a flaring of the foredeck that not only provides added deck space forward but also increases volume in the forward cabin.
The snub nose doesn’t have any effect on the well-proven hull, although some folks with design knowledge have suggested it would provide lift if one must punch into steep seas. Catalina Channel on a Saturday afternoon, anyone? It also serves to throw spray aside, although the deadrise — 17 degrees at the transom — sharpens as it goes forward to help with that task.
The interior of the Prestige 520 Flybridge benefits from some tinkering as well, starting with immense areas of windows. I had a nice chat with Camillo Garroni, whose Garroni Design penned both the exterior and interior, over a glass of champers, and he noted that the 520 has 50 percent more glazing than the 500. The side windows drop well behind the salon couches and extend up into soffits for the hidden blinds, so the view, with a few mullions to interrupt, is truly panoramic.
Garroni also revealed that the 520 has some 7 percent more interior volume than the 500, and one place I noticed it was in the salon. Its lofty 6 feet, 9 inches of headroom will accommodate all but the Shaquille O’Neals and Yao Mings among us.
Full disclosure: She Who Must Be Obeyed loves aft galleys and, therefore, so do I. She finds them convenient for passing food forward to a dinette — to port on the 520 — or aft into the cockpit, which has a settee with a table for alfresco meals. This is an un-European layout, where the chef is savored but never seen. And, to be honest, it doesn’t make the most elegant entry into the salon, especially if the owner is wont to leave the breakfast dishes percolating in the sink. On the other hand, an aft galley may improve onboard tidiness.
Either way, the galley benefits from the triple sliders that open it almost fully to the cockpit, and it has a mini island that facilitates setting out a buffet or simply adds some counter space for working on that five-course meal.
The couches in the salon — one to port with a table and an L-shaped one to starboard — are really comfortable. I, for one, am tired of designers who make couches with stiffly vertical backs that don’t invite sprawling, because I’m a devoted sprawler. And with a popup TV forward to port, I know I would take full advantage of these couches as a mini media room.
Another favorite feature of mine about the 520 is the sliding door/ window just behind the helm seat. It’s not just for ventilation; it’s 41 inches tall and 21 inches wide, so a short-handed skipper can pop onto the sidedeck to hang a fender or grab a springline at the gas dock. It also provides a nice cross-flow of breeze in pleasant weather.
There is something ineffably elegant about a separate entry to the master suite, and the Prestige 520 Flybridge provides a private stairwell that leads down from opposite the galley. This adds a touch of élan to a yacht already brimming with French brio. A privacy door at the bottom opens to a full-beam master stateroom with a centerline king-sized berth. That berth has built-in nightstands on each side, as well as walk-around space — no more inelegant hands-and-knees crawling to get under the covers.
There is a walk-in closet in the aft port corner and, as you’d expect on a boat with French fashion sense, it’s full height, so pants and long dresses don’t get crunched by a too-short hanging space. I’m certain that in my case my better half would appropriate all of this closet, but there’s a bureau in this stateroom that would hold everything of mine, from sweaters to cargo shorts and more.
The en suite master head benefits from a large hullside window with an opening vent, and the shower is designed for real-sized people to enjoy. A mirrored cabinet spans the compartment, with enough space to hold the wares of a Paris parfumerie.
Whether it was the French (Prestige) or the designer (Italian) responsible, the forward VIP stateroom is equally well planned for all uses. Need two berths? The touch of a button scissors the berth apart into two singles in a vee shape. Need a double berth for canoodling? Press the button again. As with the master, there is walk-around space on the outer side of the berth, so occupants can embark or debark the berth with their dignity intact.
This cabin has direct, meaning private, entry to the day head off the hallway. It’s equipped with a square sink, ample space for toiletries and a square shower rather than the usual circular mailing tube for people.
Also off the lower foyer, which hides a combo washer/dryer under the stairs, is a third cabin. Twin berths, plenty of light from the hull windows and another full hanging locker complete the area, which has access across the foyer to the day head.
Back in the salon, the skipper has a lordly doublewide throne behind an all-black — no reflection! — two-monitor dash. Not only does the helm throne raise and lower electrically, but its backrest also flips fore and aft. When a day of operating the boat is over, the skipper can press a button or two and his seating lowers and reverses to become a part of the wraparound lounge, kicking off entertainment mode. Just plain clever.
No small amount of the credit for getting two cabins, two heads and a private master suite into a 52-foot hull goes to the powerplants: a pair of Volvo Penta D6 IPS600 diesels, 435 hp each, hooked to pod drives. They not only free up considerable space in the engine room, leading to a bigger master suite, but they won’t melt your fuel credit card. This package tops out at around 28 knots and has a comfy 20- to 22-knot cruise that should eat up the miles. Even better, pod drives take all the white knuckles out of maneuvering in tight spaces.
The flybridge has more surprises, with a huge sunpad next to a port-situated helm and an outdoor galley with a grill, a sink and a refrigerator in the helm seat console. The French seem to have perfected the flip-back seat, because the big sunpad has flip-up backrests, and the forward-facing seat reverses with a flip back.
Sunbathers have more options, because there’s a triple-wide sunpad on the foredeck, again with flip-up backrests.
Back at the stern our test Prestige 520 Flybridge had another surprise: an optional crew cabin. Accessed via a hinged seat in the cockpit, it features not just a single berth but a head, sink and shower. In the absence of a crew, the room is equally good for a teenager. Buyers can leave this space empty to create stowage for everything from deck gear to cases of fine French wine, but another option is to use the space for a tender garage for a jet-powered RIB.