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FIRST DRIVE


READY FOR TAKEOFF Our skipper hits the ignition buttons and the V8s bark into life, barely muffled by the unsoundproofed engine hatch. The mule hasn’t been through Princess’s rigorous NVH process so it feels raw and ever so slightly unhinged. We burble away from the pontoon with the foils in the up


position so I can feel how the hull rides without them doing their thing. Adam Green, senior naval architect at Princess, acknowledges that the foil technology can in no way compromise the workings of the 35 in comparison to a regular hull design. “We’ve tested it to destruction in a massive variety of conditions and even run it up the mud flats. We’ve tested it to the extremes that most customers wouldn’t dream of but we have to be certain it works.” The foils themselves are designed to sheer off cleanly if they do come into contact with an underwater object so as not to leave a gaping in hole in the spot they once occupied. We up the speed and it becomes abundantly clear that, foils


aside, Princess has designed a serious hull here. It’s grippy, agile and pleasantly dry given how exposed we are in the sparse cockpit. We can’t test to full speed but it canters up to 35 knots in no time before the skipper chucks it into a few turns to give some before and after foils contrast. Ultimately, the foils will deploy automatically at around 15 knots and get on with their job without input from the helm


but in its current state, Simon needs to drop them via his tablet. On board, there’s no perception that they have entered the water but with them set to ‘comfort’ mode, we up the speed and it immediately feels as if there’s an invisible hand on the foredeck, pushing the bow into the water. The bow doesn’t rise as the speed increases and there’s a tangible feeling that the hull is extremely well adhered to the surface. We reach the test top speed of 35 knots and I am given an


instruction to hold on as the skipper whizzes the wheel from lock to lock and the boat attempts to detach my internal organs from each other. The poise, the grip and the tenacity is just extraordinary, and because we barely drop a knot in full-lock turns, the G-force is ferocious. It physically hurts to hold on because of the boat’s stubborn will to grip even in the most absurd manoeuvres. At one point, we cross a triplet of waves at 45º and chuck a hard turn to starboard over one of the peaks. I brace with every sinew in anticipation of an almighty lurch to port when we land but it doesn’t materialise. Accessible performance? I’d say so; you’d have to be a certified lunatic to outwit this thing.


IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT Simon comes alongside in the support RIB and puts the foils into ‘sport’ mode, which digs the bow down even further. Because of this, even during slower turns, the hull can throw up quite a bit of water and we take a drenching in the process. It’s a shame there wasn’t a spare windscreen in the parts bin. “We’re still fine-tuning it,” he says with a wry smile. Finally, the time comes for me to slip into the helm seat. “Take it easy, build the speed slowly and don’t prang it,” says


Adam. With the boat’s occupants’ eyes burning into the back of my head, I ease the throttles forward and we surge to 25 knots. Back in ‘comfort’ mode and cracking along in a straight line at 35 knots, the boat carves through the short chop in Plymouth Sound with remarkable stability. The bow barely undulates as we take the waves head on and it’s clear after a brief spell at 25 knots for photographs that the R35 craves the higher cruising speed with the foils thriving off increased lift and forcing the forefoot through the water. We run with the four people on board spread unevenly about


the cockpit and the foils struggle to tilt us back on to the straight and narrow. The team are debating as to whether some form of traditional trim system would be beneficial but the last thing they want is the foils, tabs and sterndrive legs all fighting against each other. As it is, the legs remain clamped tight to the transom.


MONEY TALKS Though it’s clear there is still some fine tuning to be done, Princess has already done more than enough to capture the imagination with this boat. The first year of production is already sold out before the price has been confirmed (Princess says it will be around £500,000). The fact that these customers have signed on the dotted line having only seen a scale model of what the finished article will look like and with no idea of how it will drive speaks volumes about the confidence they have in the project. Until we test a production R35 later this summer, we can’t be quite so certain that it will live up to the bold performance and efficiency claims being made for it. But having experienced the extraordinary ride and handling of the prototype’s active foiling system, we are confident that Princess isn’t just about to launch it’s most exciting boat yet, it’s also on the cusp of something truly revolutionary. Contact www.princessyachts.com


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