Pearl 80

Pearl 80

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An image of the Pearl 80 in Miami

With its huge flybridge and celebrity-designed interior, the Pearl 80 is right at home in South Beach.

Stepping aboard the Pearl 80, the first thing I notice stepping on the Pearl s the light gray caulking between the teak planks that gives the deck a chic mellowness. It’s a small detail, but it’s one of many that add up to a yacht that’s making a great impression in a crowded market.

I had been invited for a ride on the first  Pearl 80, the new flagship of the brand that also builds a 65-foot model. We cast off in Miami and head down Government Cut toward the open Atlantic with Iain Smallridge, managing director and founder of the British company, on board.

He’s been building boats for 20 years, yet Pearl isn’t a particularly well-known name in the U.S. The boutique builder had been focused on boats up to 60 feet until the recession, which necessitated a business model revamp. It then turned its attention to larger vessels, subcontracting the construction of the hulls and superstructures to a manufacturer in Xiamen, China, and fitting out the interiors of the Med-destined yachts in the UK and the American ones in Fort Lauderdale.

Midsize Competition

At this midsize range, the competition is formidable, with behemoths from Italy and the UK showing their muscle, so I’m curious how Pearl fits in. “What sets us apart is a mix of things,” says Smallridge. “There’s not one specific reason why we are different. We have to do more than bigger brands. We offer good quality at a good price with intelligent design that maximizes space and includes features like the foredeck seating.”

The latter has something I’ve never seen before. Smallridge lifts up the center of the U-shaped seating and, voila, a table appears, unfolding from under the settee very quickly and easily. It’s a feature that shows Smallridge’s approach to boat building, which he undertakes from the perspective of his clients.

“We really study how people use their boats,” he says. It’s why he chose not to eat up the salon space with a formal dining table and instead, offers plenty of other options such as the top deck, the aft deck, the galley bar, and the dining nook next to the helm, which, he points out, can be specified as a fixed table with six chairs. “But most people prefer to eat outside,” he says.

The result is an extra-roomy salon made all the more vast with the open plan design that looks through the port-side galley all the way to the helm windows forward. The salon is also quite striking, which isn’t surprising considering the source. The décor is by celebrity designer Kelly Hoppen MBE, Britain’s equivalent of an HGTV star and a Member of the Order of the British Empire, an honor bestowed by the queen. Her signature design philosophy, which relies on neutral tones, clean lines, and opulent textures, translates well to the light, bright interior of the Pearl 80.