Speed to Spare
Grand Banks 85 Sky Lounge raises the bar for long-range cruisers.
The new Grand Banks 85 continues the builder’s departure from the classic form long the hallmark of the brand for more than half a century. Following in the wake of the GB60 in 2017, which took the company in a new direction of style, construction, and performance, the Grand Banks 85 not only raised the bar, but broke new ground in producing a fuel-efficient, fast, long-range cruiser, arguably unlike anything else in this size.
It starts with CEO Mark Richards and his design group utilizing his experiences from decades of competitive ocean racing to develop what the builder calls its V-warp running surface. Essentially, the mission to achieve speed hinges on reducing wetted surface that, in turn, requires less energy to move the boat through the water while maintaining a constant running attitude for overall efficiencies and fuel economy.
So confident that I would recognize these attributes with my hands on the wheel, Richards left me at the helm while I ran the boat some 70 miles in the ocean from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades to the St. Lucie Inlet in Stuart.
Hull No. 1 is powered by a pair of 1,000-hp Volvo Penta IPS 1350s that deliver a top speed around 26 knots. Throttled back to a loafing 20.7 knots, the diesels burned 57 gph, which translated into a range approaching 1,000 nautical miles. Drop the speed conservatively to 10 knots, and the range practically triples.
Running angles are modest, averaging two to four degrees, and because the single fiberglass fuel cell is sandwiched between the master stateroom and the crew quarters, the COG is constant.
Although the ocean was relatively flat, I sought the wakes of several southbound yachts and massive sportfishing boats throwing plenty of wash that enabled the Grand Banks 85 to pour through easily without fuss or spray. The Humphree All Speed stabilization fins and the trim tab interceptors did the job. A Seakeeper SK16 also is available.
Take the Wheel of the Grand Banks 85
It is fun time at the wheel. So much so that I used the Garmin autopilot for less than 20 minutes and enjoyed the handling and response that resembled the attitude and behavior of a fine automobile. Visibility in the enclosed skybridge is as generous as a fully open bridge, another version offered by Grand Banks. But I am sold on the Enclosed Bridge because even after more than three hours at the wheel, I felt like I was in a luxury car. The front windshield consists of three large glass panels framed with thin mullions. Side and aft bulkhead windows drop down and the carbon fiber hardtop includes an opening sunroof to flood the interior with natural light and ventilation.
One thing I noticed missing was mechanical noise because all I could hear was the soft sound of the water as we motored along. The helm is to starboard with carbon fiber trim surrounding the electronic console neatly outfitted with a bank of navigation equipment, a nine-inch Volvo engine instrumentation display, an engine room camera, and vessel management gear. The compact and adjustable teak steering wheel is a shipwright’s work of art and easily reached standing or seated in the wide helm lounge. A second helm seat is to port. Long runs on this boat would be easy to do. Abaft the helm area is an L-shaped lounge and coffee table, while the port side features a Silestone countertop console with stowage, Isotherm refrigeration, a stainless steel sink, a Miele dishwasher, and a Jura coffee machine.
A sliding teak door opens to the aft deck, which features a grippy fiberglass sole finished with Moondust Awlgrip and a 29-inch stainless steel railing atop a two-and-a-half-inch toe kick. An L-shaped lounge at the bulkhead and a varnished teak table offers alfresco dining possibilities complemented with the port-side console containing a Kenyon electric grill, an Isotherm refrigerator, and a Vitrifrigo icemaker.
Wide teak steps lead from the skybridge down to a foyer on the main deck. A door immediately to port provides access to the side deck. Opposite is the galley that is bathed with natural light through the three-pane windshield with another door to access the starboard-side deck. This is a nice touch because it is convenient for loading provisions for the galley without having to carry them aboard from the stern.
Another clever feature is a recessed compartment at the door that reveals a set of engine controls and the SidePower DC bow thruster, which makes for easy handling and grabbing a spring line when approaching a dock. The galley is well-equipped with a full-height Liebherr refrigerator, an undercounter freezer, a Miele oven, an induction four-burner cooktop, a Panasonic microwave, an Asko dishwasher, a stainless steel sink, ample cabinetry with dedicated drawers for stowage, and a huge pull-out pantry from the varnished teak sole to the ceiling. A built-in screen, one of several located throughout the yacht, monitors the engine room.
The aft wall of the galley doubles as the forward wall in the formal dining area with a teak table that seats six. A credenza to port features a Silestone countertop, stowage drawers, and a wine chiller. A half wall separates the dining area from the massive salon with a U-shape lounge, a pair of coffee tables and chairs, and an entertainment system with a Smart TV. Natural lighting enters through the large salon windows and the teak joinery throughout richly gleams. The woodwork is flawless including aptly placed overhead grab rails, banisters, doors, and cabinets.
A door opens to the teak aft deck with another teak dining table, a wet bar, an electric barbecue, a refrigerator, and an icemaker. Two steps lead to the integral teak platform that is seven feet long with room for an inflatable tender and private access to the crew quarters, and dual machinery compartments.
Belowdecks, the Grand Banks 85 accommodations include three or four staterooms, all with ensuite heads. A full-beam master suite also is available, and crew quarters with two private sleeping areas are among the best I have seen in this size yacht. According to Richards, Grand Banks devoted some 140,000 man-hours to build the first hull with an endless array of custom treatments, including a full-size piano keyboard in the owner’s stateroom, as well as electric service to handle shore power needs as the boat travels from the U.S. to Australia and the Med.
Mechanical and plumbing systems including chilled water Dometic air conditioning are neatly installed in a well-lit area beneath the companionway sole. Two engine rooms each with a Fischer Panda genset are insulated to reduce noise and provide excellent accessibility for daily checks, maintenance, and service. A utility room supplies space for accessories such as a Miele washer and dryer, swim and dive gear, as well as kayaks and other bulky gear. A Victron inverter/charger 8,000-watt/100-amp 24 vdc is integrated into the AC system for use of selected AC equipment without the need to run the generator.
Construction is top notch. The vacuum-infused hull with E-glass and carbon fiber is cored with foam composites and stitched multi-axial fabrics and vinylester resins. Above the waterline, the deck and superstructure are fully infused with carbon fiber to reduce weight. Bulkheads and fixed cabin furniture throughout the interior are structurally bonded to the hull and deck for strength which also results in the obvious quietness while running in the ocean. Grand Banks has definitely produced a grand slam with the Grand Banks 85.
-by Peter Frederiksen