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.
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.
An Eye for Design: Inside and Out
She brings a residential perspective to the project, creating a calming, sophisticated ambiance. Randy Kires of Atlantic Yacht & Ship, Pearl’s representative in South Florida, calls it “Nantucket beach house below and Manhattan condo above.” “The design is traditional but contemporary,” says Hoppen. “In using my trademark colors, cool gray and taupe beige, we created a beautiful interior. At the same time, it evokes relaxation.” Balance and harmony are key, with geometric-patterned linen standing out against the neutral background and white marble contrasting the darker walnut tones of the wood.
Another big name in the project is naval architect Bill Dixon. Dixon got involved with Pearl when the builder outgrew the 40- to 50-foot range. The 80 required an all-new hull design and tooling to accommodate V drives instead of ZF pods. The first Pearl 80 is sporting 1,800-hp MAN V12s, the most powerful of the engine options, which also include 1,400-hp MANs and 1,150-hp Cat C18s.
Fast and Furious
I’m enjoying Dixon’s expertise as the captain accelerates in open seas to 1,800 rpm, bringing the yacht to its cruising speed of 25 knots. Yet even in the brisk 15-plus knot winds, the ride feels comfortable and effortless. Wide open, the Pearl 80 exceeds her advertised top speed of 35 knots, reaching a half-knot more, even with a full tank of water and 60 percent fuel.
The flybridge is breezy but still enjoyable as we turn in at the south end of Cape Florida and give Stiltsville a fly-by. Keeping this deck toy-free was Smallridge’s aim. His solution was to incorporate a small stern garage, a rare feature on an 80-footer. It can hold an 11-and-a-half-foot tender, or, a Jet Ski. A larger tender of up to 16 feet can be stowed on the bathing platform.
This leaves the top deck focused on the fun stuff—dining, drinking, sunning, and soaking (in the hot tub). An enormous hardtop overhead features a soft canopy insert that opens for stargazing or extra sun. Aft, where the shade ends, are windows in the deck that bring extra light to the aft deck below.
What lies beneath
Two decks down is another superlative space, arguably the biggest master stateroom in its class. V-drives allow the engines to be located farther aft. Extra space has been allotted to the lower-deck accommodations. This includes the full beam master amidships and the crew quarters for two that buffer it from the engine room.
The VIP cabin all the way forward is a good example of Smallridge’s strategy to maximize space. With the bed on an angle, there’s plenty of walk-around room as well as a walk-in closet, settee, and vanity. Two mirror twin cabins (with beds that can join if specified) complete the guest accommodations. The room features another unusual detail: windows covered in privacy blinds that face the corridor and bring extra light into the cabins.
Coming full circle, we finish our cruise at Monty’s at the Miami Beach Marina. The captain deftly backs into a narrow slip. We’re stopping for a delectable Miami treat: stone crab claws. Here, Smallridge shows his British roots, refusing to believe how the claws are harvested, returning the live crab to the sea to regrow the lost limb. Even after our waiter backs us up, he still thinks we’re putting him on.
Regardless of her British roots, the sexy Pearl 80 fits right in at the South Beach marina. “European styling is becoming more popular here,” Smallridge points out.
This British company is certainly one for Americans to watch. In build is the next in Pearl’s growing lineup, a 95-footer with an expansive beach club, set to make her mark in Miami next year.
By Kate Lardy, Southern Boating May 2018
LOA: 78′ 5″
Displacement (full load): 60 tons
Fuel/Water:1,387/343 U.S. gals.
Power: Twin MAN V12 1,800 hp
Cruise/Top Speed:25/35 knots
Range:350 nm at 25 knots
MSRP:$3,999,995 as tested
Atlantic Yacht & Ship