BOAT REVIEW Elite 18m Mid Pilothouse Zaphira

December 2023 Launch Reviews
Words by Sarah Ell. Photography by Bryce Taylor
Build Quality
MODEL Elite 18m Mid Pilothouse
DESIGNER Bill Upfold/Elite Marine Design
BUILDER Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders
CONSTRUCTION Epoxy glass over balsa and epoxy glass over ply and foam for the superstructure
LENGTH (Waterline) 15.8M
ENGINE 2 x MAN i6 @ 800hp, Twin Disc MGX509a
Maximum Speed 29.5 knots
Cruise Speed Up to 25 knots knots
  • High-quality finish and tasteful decor that breathes luxury
  • Huge range with delivery tanks, so capable of oceanic voyages
  • Many bespoke and custom features
  • Quiet and smooth underway

Imagine the boat you might have if you could order up whatever you wanted: custom-built, finished to the highest standards, every luxury and comfort you can specify. . .

Now step aboard Zaphira. The Bill Upfold-designed, Elite 18-metre Mid Pilothouse was built by the team at Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders, and the loving care and attention that has gone into every detail is clearly evident.
Zaphira’s hull started out life as a spec boat in those distant days before covid, but her current owners came on board quite early in the build process, and were able to put their stamp on the interior and the overall finished product. The efficient hull with its Upfold-signature silent chines is based on other earlier 18-metre Elites, but the detailing and styling is custom-designed and built to the owners’ specifications.


She’s built of epoxy glass over balsa, with an epoxy fibreglass and foam over ply superstructure, making her significantly lighter than solid glass production boats of a similar size, and is powered by a grunty pair of 800hp MAN diesels. The mid-pilothouse style provides a lower profile than a traditional flybridge, bringing down the boat’s centre of gravity and increasing its stability.
The large upper pilothouse level not only accommodates the helm station but also creates an additional living and entertaining area, accessed from both the saloon and the cockpit via a short staircase.

The result of these practical factors is a sleek-looking, stylish boat which provides ample interior volume and cockpit space without looking large or blocky. And with her hull painted a pearlescent champagne shade called Aurora Gold, she’s certainly the kind of boat that turns heads.
But it’s once you come aboard that the detail really unfolds. Stepping onto the boarding platform and up through the open transom (which can be closed off by a pair of sliding pocket doors), you enter the large cockpit with its synthetic Flexiteek floor, providing a nautical look but a much more practical and long-lasting surface than traditional teak. There’s plenty of room to move around, relax and entertain, with a built-in barbecue and small sink to port, and an angled-edged table surrounded by L-shaped seating to starboard. There are two large lazarettes under the cockpit, and a central staircase leads up to the pilothouse level.

A nice touch in the cockpit is the addition of a glazed section aft of the cabin on both sides, providing shelter nook without reducing any views. The large cockpit roof created by the pilothouse floor being extended aft both provides shelter from the elements and storage space for the tender.
Moving forward is easy and safe, with wide side decks enclosed by a generous rail, onto the massive bow area. To keep this area clean-looking and bare-feet friendly, the windlass lives below deck in the chain locker and the mooring cleats are recessed and pop up from below deck level when required.
Moving inside, the starboard side of the interior at cockpit level is dedicated to a dining area and, further forward, the galley, while on the port side is the guest cabin and day head. An electrically operated window above the aft section of the u-shaped dinette disappears down into the aft bulkhead at the touch of a button, creating great flow between inside and out. In a nifty piece of customisation, a round-topped stool swivels out from under the dining table to provide an extra seat when required.

The galley itself is bigger and more well-appointed than some apartment kitchens, with a u-shaped layout and an elegant real-stone benchtop. It’s kitted out with an induction cooktop,
a wall-mounted oven in the forward bulkhead, and a domestic-size fridge and full-height double-door pantry on the central wall, as well as a more nautical-style chiller set into the bench. Another nice touch here is the custom woodwork of the breadbin-style roller doors on the storage cupboards above bench level.

Stepping up from the galley into the main saloon space, the flooring changes from practical timber into plush pale grey carpet. Custom pale oak cabinetry, including glass-fronted storage cabinets and a freestanding coffee table, adds a traditional touch to the modern, curved lines of the upholstery, while light pours in through the generous forward and side windows.
The pièce de résistance, however, is the pair of cleverly mechanised footrests which at the touch of a button rise up from the settee base. This innovation took many hours to create, with the boatbuilding team not only figuring out how to make them work but also how to fit the mechanism around the washing machine tucked in underneath the settee to port and the engine room access to starboard.

Heading forward and down a short flight of steps is the main cabin in the bow, with its walkaround double berth, and a twin-bunk cabin to starboard, with a double lower bunk and a single above. The engine room – which, like the rest of the boat, is immaculately finished and completely spotless – is accessed off the bunkroom.
The semi-ensuite master head to port is the size of a hotel bathroom and has a similarly high level of finish, with a seat in the glass-fronted shower cubicle, timber benchtops, and a rectangular basin with a gunmetal finish and an angular, brushed stainless steel tap. These finishes are also used in the day head aft, off the generous double guest cabin.

The main helm station is up in the pilothouse, accessed up a curved staircase from the main saloon or via the cockpit steps. Unlike a traditional flybridge, the pilothouse provides maximum visibility without the need for the skipper to be isolated from the action. There’s comfortable sofa-style seating down both sides, and the raised central helm-seat flips up to create a table when you’re in entertaining mode. You don’t even have to nip downstairs for a drink – there’s an Isotherm fridge drawer built into the base of the helm seat (and massive amounts of storage hidden away under the settees, too). This area is also lushly carpeted and enjoys expansive views through the large windscreen and curved side windows.

This ‘room’ can be entirely enclosed with a three-panel stacking sliding door; otherwise it flows into a further seating area aft under the hard top which can be surrounded with clears to create an entertainment space which can be used in all weathers. Up here, it’s like literally being on another level – underway it’s super quiet and the ride is incredibly smooth.
Navigation is aided by a bank of three large Furuno displays, set above the twin throttles, joystick for close manoeuvres, other instruments such as the Zipwake automatic trim-tab systems and the C-Zone electronic switch panel. There’s also a second joystick in the port-side corner of the outside seating area for more accurate docking.
We are lucky to get an absolutely flawless day to take Zaphira for a spin. After the careful negotiation of the channel out of Half Moon Bay we head out onto the Hauraki Gulf and are greeted by a pod of dolphins at Musick Point, before we power up and head off down the Motuihe Channel to Waiheke. Our photo boat, shadowing us as we cruise along, is another Upfold Elite: Stevenson’s own boat, the 16m Boudica, another mid-pilothouse model.

Zaphira has a top speed of a smidge under 30 knots, and cruises comfortably at around 22–23 knots. She glides up onto the plane seamlessly and the ride is smooth and level. From up in the pilothouse, when we’re noodling along at 10 knots it feels like we are barely moving; at 30 it feels like we are flying.
Sitting at anchor off the western end of Onetangi, enjoying lunch in the spring sunshine, it’s easy to imagine spending an extended amount of time cruising on this boat. It’s like a floating apartment, with all the comforts and luxuries of home plus an ever-changing view. With 4400 litres of fuel tanks and the option to add another 1600 litres of delivery tanks, plus 900 litres of water, the owners can be largely self-sufficient for weeks on end and on longer passages.

The name Zaphira means successful and triumphant in Arabic, [and is used as a girl’s name to represent a beautiful, strong woman]. This Zaphira is all of those things: a testament to Kiwi design, innovation and boatbuilding,
a masterpiece of immaculate presentation and attention to detail. To her designer and builder she is indeed a triumph, and to her owners she is the beautiful lady on which they will spend many happy hours. She is a success indeed.


Ryck 280

At first glance the boat appears to be a large centre console, although hidden beneath the console and forward area is a sizeable overnight cabin.