September 1 2021
A few decades ago, a 20 m motorboat was operated by a crew consisting of a captain, a deckhand and, most often, a hostess. The rapid breakthrough of IPS engines and advances in electronics now allow almost anyone to take control of such a large vessel.
This is how Prestige Yachts' clients now maneuver their luxury yachts on their own, and how the grim skipper's cabin is often used as a storage area...
The first thing that catches my attention when I get on board this Prestige 690, the latest model launched by the French shipyard, is the wide angle camera fixed on the roof cap that receives the flybridge.
Then, once on board, in the cockpit, I detect on the starboard side, at the back of the cockpit, under a cover, an IPS control joystick.
This system is based on pivoting bases, each equipped with two counter-rotating propellers electronically coupled to the bow thruster. An electronic computer converts the movements given by the pilot to a joystick to the bases and thrusters, allowing all combinations.
In the same vein, the huge rear mooring cleats each have an electric winch. So go and hoist a 40 ton baby by hand!
The weather is not nice today, so I'm not going to take the controls from the flybridge, whose considerable surface surprises me all the same: 22 m2!
Back inside, I pass over the luxurious layout worthy of a New York penthouse. A first control screen at the entrance allows to remotely control the circuit breakers and all the on-board systems. These screens can be installed anywhere. I found one in the master suite (placed at the front, far from the noise of the generator which works almost permanently) and another one at the command post.
2m high waves
Once out of the harbor, there is a one meter chop in the bay and we can see the waves churning a little further offshore.
It's time to head for the open sea!
At a cruising speed of 20 knots, the chop does not exist on a boat of this size. Once we left the shelter of the bay, the swell raised by the gale that justifies the current MSO is much more consistent: 2 m.
We stop in the waves and I understand then the absence of handrails inside... No need to hold on, the boat remains stable thanks to its gyrostabilizer which manages to maintain the oscillations of the boat at +5°:-5° whereas, the moment before, and before activating it, we noted +15°:-15°. Impressive. But the system has a drawback. The electrical power required is such that the generator has to run.
Moreover, on this type of units, the generator turns almost all the time. This is a pity because it generates a permanent vibration, and a particularly noticeable noise in the aft cabin, the one that was historically the Master on these boats. Could this be the reason for the move?
I take the controls, gyrostabilizer engaged, I gradually increase the speed and place the boat facing the waves.
The windscreen wipers are running at full speed, the bow plunges into the waves but the hull and the mass of the boat are such that it plays with these 2m hollows as if they were waves.
Launched at full speed, the Prestige 690S never falls flat, it does not slam, it cuts its way.
With the sea spray obscuring the windshield, all that's missing is the Ride of the Valkyries to create a visually Dantean atmosphere.
However, if you look back at the passengers, who are comfortably seated in deep sofas and talking without even having to hold on, you will understand the possibilities of this boat in terms of range...
Volvo Assisted Docking, the system that lives up to its name!
Back at the harbor, I show up near our spot and get to experience the Volvo Assisted Docking system.
In this situation, with a conventional boat, and even though I've handled dozens of different boats of all sizes, I would not know its behavior or direction before engaging in the maneuver. Thus, mastering port maneuvers required an experienced skipper or knowledge of the boat.
This is no longer the case with Volvo Assisted Docking.
With my fingertips, comfortably installed in the cockpit, I maneuvered this boat to dock, without knowing it and without any stress.
No need to "dose" gas, helm or propeller, the electronics do it. All you have to do is "slow down" the boat's movements by giving a few joystick movements to break its headway in a particular direction while monitoring the distance to the dock on the rear camera.
Thus, in a few minutes, in the most total relaxation and while I discovered the flagship of Prestige, I was able to put away at the quay, very easily, this 3 M€ machine...
Fascinating, absolutely fascinating without any experience of the boat.
There is no doubt that the race for gigantism is supported by this type of device capable of completely freeing the lucky buyers of these beautiful boats from the stress of port maneuvering...
Price of the tested version: 2.960.783 € including VAT