BOAT REVIEW Elite mid-pilothouse 50 Luana

December 2016 Launch Reviews
Words by Rebecca Hayter Photos by Bryce Taylor
MODEL Elite mid-pilothouse 50
DESIGNER Elite Marine Design
BUILDER Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders
CONSTRUCTION Strip-plank cedar sheathed in e-glass
LOA 15.2M
ENGINE Cummins QSC 500
Maximum Speed 17 knots
Cruise Speed 11 knots
  • Luxury interior
  • Efficient at displacement speed
  • Bow and stern thrusters
  • Yacht Control equipped
  • Custom built for this couple
  • Biggest Elite so far with a single engine
  • Elite number 65
  • Diagonal berth
  • Propeller in a tunnel
  • Round bilges morph to hard chines

When an Auckland couple commissioned a new 15.2m Elite motoryacht, they held firm to what they wanted. The result is Luana, a boat that, even in a range of more than 60 custom boats, stands out from the rest.

I’m inviting you into the owners’ stateroom on Luana, the new Elite mid-pilothouse 50. I know: it’s brazen of me. I’m not even one of Luana’s owners. Worse, from a literary point of view, it seems lazy to begin a boat review with a bedroom. But the stateroom really is the big news on Luana: a king-size island berth on a 15.2m boat is hard to beat.
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Now that you can imagine yourself reclining in comfort, it gets better: there are full-height cedar-lined wardrobes, full-length mirrors, a vanity table, a bookshelf and plenty of cupboards and drawers. There is a view from the pillows through a large window to the anchorage.
There’s more… double retracting doors open from the bedroom into a passageway and, directly opposite, a spacious bathroom. This has a separate full-size shower, an electric Dometic toilet, a generous array of mirrors and cupboards and an icy-green marble surface that is superyacht-class.
Such grand design reflects the owners’ first request to Elite designer Bill Upfold; to dedicate the full, 4.9m beam of the boat to the main stateroom and en suite bathroom. On other Elite models, the aft stateroom usually shares this space with the galley and dining but on Luana, the galley is part of the saloon and the dining arrangements have made a deal with the saloon coffee table which can rise to the occasion if required.
Although the passageway between the owners’ stateroom and bathroom is the main route from cockpit to saloon, it can be closed off for privacy, in which case the cockpit-to-saloon route is via the pilothouse.
The owners are a sometimes-retired, sometimes crazy-busy Auckland couple who are Olympic champions at knowing what they want. So although Luana is number 65 in the Elite range of custom boats, she brings new features to the brand. The full-beam aft stateroom is one; the guest accommodation is another.
“So many people design a boat with plenty of space for grandchildren and squash themselves up against the wall,” says the woman co-owner. “It doesn’t make sense to me. If the grandchildren come onboard there are plenty of places for them to sleep.”
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Luana’s for’ard sections are dedicated to one, luxurious guest cabin with a queen-size island berth. The island-style king and queen berths, for owners and guests respectively, mean that on Luana no one will ever have to scramble over the bed to tuck in the far side of the sheet.
Even more stylishly, the queen-size berth lays diagonally – so Italian, darling – instead of the usual fore-and-aft configuration. This reflects the owners’ requests throughout the build for “something different”. I especially liked the steps which curve from the saloon down into the guest cabin, a nice change from steps going straight down the centre. The guest cabin has a separate shower, toilet and vanity for’ard, with another slice of that delicious green marble.
Cruising, Hawaii-style
 Luana is a Hawaiian word for relaxing with family and friends and, along with sleeping in luxury, the owners see their new mid-pilothouse 50 as a rest from their fast-paced life. They like to cruise at a relaxed eight to nine knots and to achieve that as economically as possible. That guided their choice of a single-engine installation: a Cummins 500hp turning a four-bladed, 26-inch Briski propeller.
Upfold designed the hull with a tunnel for the propeller and rudder to achieve an efficient and shallow shaft angle and a shallow draft of 1.1m. At 15.2m and 20 tonnes loaded, Luana is the biggest Elite by far, he says, to run a single engine.
“The owners’ previous boats have been single-engine, and they had no issues with reliability,” Upfold says. Long range cruising speed is seven to eight knots which, with a fuel capacity of 2,900 litres, gives Luana a range of about 2,500 miles.
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The modest cruising speed means Luana is the first semi-displacement hull in the Elite range.  “The hull shape is totally different from other Elites which have all been full-on planing boats,” Upfold says, “but it differs from a lot of other semi-displacement boats in that it has a round bilge for’ard, hard chine aft.”
This was the most efficient shape for the transition from displacement to planing in the desired performance range; it develops into a hard chine into the last third of the hull to increase the planing surface. Bennett trim tabs keep the hull trimmed down when planing to lift the stern and reduce drag. A bonus of the rounded sections for’ard is that Luana is incredibly soft-riding in a head sea.
“The boat’s proved to be very efficient in the displacement-to-hull speed region but, as expected, it’s less efficient than a specifically designed planing boat,” Upfold says. At seven knots the Cummins uses seven litres per hour; this climbs to 17 litres per hour at 11 knots and 1,400rpm. Luana is fully planing at 14 knots. At her top speed of 17 knots, the Cummins uses 90 litres an hour.
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The fuel tanks lie on the boat’s centre of buoyancy and are integral with the construction of the boat. The round bilge construction suited a hull bottom built in strip plank cedar sheathed in epoxy and E-glass.
Three layers of plywood covered in tri-axial glass and epoxy form the topsides – a strong construction that will remain osmosis-free and withstand impact if necessary. The full-length skeg is built in jarrah to take the boat’s weight on the grid. Decks are plywood, foam and fibreglass.
The installation of a single-engine means that the engine and other equipment enjoy the same sort of luxurious space as the humans on the main deck. There are two Onan gensets, one of which is dedicated to air conditioning; a watermaker and a fuel-polishing system.
To help with close-quarters manoeuvrability, Luana has a 24V stern and bow thrusters and is the first Elite with Yacht Control: a hand-held remote system which enables the owner-skipper to control the main engine, thrusters and anchor from anywhere on the boat or even from the dock as his confidence builds.
The owner-skipper berthed the boat solely on Yacht Control when we returned to the marina and says the secret is to ensure the rudder is centred before switching to Yacht Control. The owners will mostly cruise two-handed and chose Yacht Control over a secondary cockpit helmstation because it allows both of them to move around the boat to secure lines while docking.
When Luana was underway, we tended to gather in the pilothouse to enjoy the view. The helm features Furuno multi-function screens for chartplotters, VesselView camera for the anchor, AIS, radar and CZone systems monitoring.
The owners can pre-set various CZone modes such as cruising, day and night anchoring, entertainment and whether the boat is attended and unattended at the dock. Other controls include the autopilot, searchlight, VHF, Bennett trim tabs, anchor controls and Fusion entertainment system for which zones throughout the boat can be controlled independently.
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One of many cute touches is the ability to flip the helmseat forward to reveal a flat space, adorned with a full-size hydrographic chart of the Hauraki Gulf, for serving refreshments.
The Juliet balcony has a comfy settee and hand basin, providing another space for chatting, reading or snoozing. The snoozer won’t be bothered by that annoying tap…tap… of a tab at the end of the string control for the Luxaflex blinds because every tab has a magnet fitted, allowing it to be tucked up with another magnet under the pelmet.
Thanks to the mid-pilothouse concept, the saloon and galley are surrounded by windows to provide natural light and outside views. Luana’s owners enlisted interior designer Vicki McCauley who based the boat’s colour story on the marble in the bathrooms and the purplish-grey marble in the galley.
The galley sole is solid oak, grey-washed to match the marble and reflects similar tones in the joinery. Yachting Developments made all the interior and exterior upholstery in Sumbrella, a fabric resistant to fading.
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There were plenty of robust discussions among the owners, Lloyd Stevenson and Bill Upfold as Luana developed, but it seems everyone agreed on the boat’s exterior styling: a classic ship-like look which suits its relaxed-style cruising. The curving bow profile, muscular rubbing strakes and bulwarks exude security.
Finding the right colour for the exterior involved hundreds of colour swatches until Stevenson spied a boat at Westhaven Marina and suggested the owners take a look. Its colour was perfect. The boat manufacturer kindly supplied the name of the paint which was matched by Awlcraft and delivered as Luana Cream.
Meanwhile, Luana’s owners had visited St Tropez and noticed the super-sized motoryachts had their superstructures, including the aerials and radar towers, in a darker tone than their topsides. The effect softens the boat’s profile and helps the aerials and towers to disappear, visually.
Luana followed suit with a two-tone exterior. It’s set to perfection with the timber bow rails painted in a pearl-finish automotive paint and the bold nameplates of Luana created by signwriter Vern Newlove and painted in palladium leaf.
What women want
Luana’s owners were determined to build her for themselves, rather than compromise their onboard comfort for extra guest accommodation. As the woman co-owner puts it: “People say, ‘What about resale?’ Resale is not a factor as Luana was personalised to suit us.”
What a great attitude. My guess is that the Luana’s dedication to luxury in personal space has only enhanced her appeal – because everyone loves a good night’s sleep.


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