- Smooth, quiet and fuel-efficient
- Flat wake
- Huge cruising range
- Lots of space for entertaining
- Ample use of infused carbon-fibre
- Traditional looks
- Considerable on-water presence
- Luxurious interior
- lightweight for a vessel of this type
The marriage of two high-profile boat yards – Grand Banks and Palm Beach Motor Yachts – has delivered a new range of luxury launches soon to be headed our way.
Grand Banks has been building boats for more than 60 years, introducing both the recreational trawler and Downeast-style cruiser categories to the world. The company’s solidly-built, luxurious motor yachts are very popular in North America and Europe and have a strong following in many other regions, including Australia.
The company’s recent acquisition of luxury Australian boat builder Palm Beach Motor Yachts has resulted in an exciting range of new designs, and a new direction for the shipyard. Reviewed here is the Grand Banks 60 – the first hull of a new breed focussing on performance and efficiency, while retaining GB quality and style.
Renowned sailor and businessman, Aussie Mark Richards, started Palm Beach Motor Yachts 22 years ago. He is now CEO of Grand Banks Yachts, responsible for spearheading and developing the company’s new range. His good mate and long-time sailing buddy, professional sailor Matt Mason, is bringing Grand Banks and Palm Beach to New Zealand soon, but Boating had to travel to Sydney to sample one.
Historically, Grand Banks built strong, luxurious vessels with timeless styling. Richards, with his yacht racing background and success with fast cruiser designs at Palm Beach, has transformed the latest offering from Grand Banks. The GB 60, designed to coincide with the company’s 60th anniversary, is a considerably lighter cruiser thanks to its high-tech construction, with exceptional range and sea-keeping ability and a surprising turn of speed.
The Spit on Sydney’s North Shore is home to several marinas and the venerable Middle Harbour Yacht Club. Matt Mason and I met up with Richards at d’Albora Marinas The Spit to go aboard the stunning new Grand Banks 60, Anuha II.
Although only a few months old, this vessel has already travelled up the coast to Hamilton Island in Queensland for Race Week. Richards and Mason are key crew members aboard multiple Sydney-Hobart winner Wild Oats XI, with Richards as skipper, and Mason as mastman. This year they took the title.
This summer her owner is taking Anuha II, loaded with a bunch of fishing-mad mates, to Lord Howe Island, as a demonstration of the vessel’s great range, comfort and seakeeping ability. The GB 60 has a high-speed cruising range of around 1,000 nautical miles at 20 knots, which means many more similar expeditions are planned.
Our voyage for this review was much less ambitious: a short-ish run down the harbour and through the Sydney Heads to the open sea.
Sydney put on a stunning day, with blues skies and temperatures in the mid-twenties. The harbour is magnificent in such conditions and a mid-week trip meant it wasn’t too crowded either. Even better, a bit of a sea breeze and some ground swell, combined with tidal run in the narrows between the heads, provided enough of a sea to show off the Grand Banks’ beautifully smooth, soft, dry ride.
Although very much a modern vessel, the GB 60’s nicely understated styling, lashings of tight-grained Burmese teak and conservative decor pays homage to classic Grand Banks styling.
The hull is cored GRP but the superstructure and decks are fully-infused carbon fibre, resulting in a vessel with a very low centre of gravity and relatively light weight above the gunwales, which shows in its impressive stability. The Grand Banks 60 weighs-in at 29 tonnes, compared to 45-tonnes plus for earlier Grand Banks models of similar length.
The hull profile is also a departure for Grand Banks. It benefits from Richards’ input, based on his yachting experience. Easily-driven, it is a warped semi-displacement design with a very fine entry to cut through the waves, plenty of flare for a dry ride and a flat run aft – deadrise at the transom is just six degrees.
There’s an integrated swim platform and a noticeable amount of tumblehome, while the transom itself is a striking full-width polished teak surface with the boat’s name in polished stainless steel.
Inside Anuha II there’s lots of traditional teak panelling and subtle fabrics, but also a huge glasshouse with large electric side and aft windows, LED lighting, light-coloured ceilings, and upholstery. Countertops in the galley and bathrooms are all solid silestone. The fine joinery and ample woodwork imparts warmth, but the spaces don’t feel dark or enclosed because there’s so much natural light (and air) flooding in.
Upstairs, the open flybridge is the perfect place to be on a hot Sydney afternoon. Grand Banks also offers an enclosed ‘Sky Lounge’ version of the flybridge. In that version settees become a queen-sized berth with 360° panoramic views. The open flybridge is spacious and light, and the composite hardtop provides welcome shade. Clears are available.
The helm station on the bridge mirrors the helm in the saloon. The lounge is a wonderful social area with seating, a sunbed aft with storage locker underneath, a timber-topped wet bar with fridge and a massive aft deck, enclosed with rails, with a Steelhead Marine crane to deploy the alloy-hulled AB RIB housed there. Access to the open flybridge is by a staircase from the cockpit, or via an internal staircase in the Sky Lounge version.
The GB 60 has walk-around side decks, with handy side doors for easy access from the dock or a tender. A couple of steps lead up onto the vast foredeck, which is clean, practical and uncluttered, and the vessel’s painted composite toe-rails should be easier than teak to keep looking smart.
Because the owner likes fishing, the cockpit misses out on the usual lounger across the transom. The cockpit table is removable and the transom also boasts an oversize live bait tank, along with a twin-grill electric BBQ. The teak swim platform is deep as well as wide, while a u-shaped stainless-steel staple offers security when fishing.
The GB 60 has plenty of storage in the lazarette which, like the engine room is accessed via hatches in the cockpit sole. In the aft cabin version of this boat, the master cabin occupies the lazarette area under the cockpit, which is raised to give sufficient headroom.
Anuha II has a pair of Volvo Penta D13s each pumping out 900hp. This is a shaft drive vessel, but the GB 60 is also available with Volvo Penta IPS pod drives and a variety of engine options.
There’s space galore in the well-lit, spotless engine room, which also houses a Fisher Panda 25kVA genset, a Seakeeper gyro stabiliser system, refrigeration compressors, inverters, batteries, fuel management gear, a fire suppression system and all the other paraphernalia one would expect on a boat of this calibre. The engineering is tidy and well-executed, including the vessel’s gas-water separating exhaust boxes, which contribute greatly to the its quiet running.
This particular boat has the galley aft layout and I think it works well thanks to its proximity to the cockpit, which is roofed all the way to the transom, turning it into a year-round outdoor room. The electric rear window provides excellent communication between galley and cockpit.
The galley is lavishly appointed with 240V Miele electric appliances, silestone work surfaces and plenty of fridge space, while the light-filled saloon has several seating, eating and entertaining options, all with great sight lines through the large windows. The electrically raised and lowered TV emerges from behind a settee on the starboard side.
Down the companionway stairs, three well-appointed, air-conditioned cabins provide flexible sleeping arrangements for up to eight – and that’s without utilising the saloon or the flybridge.
The starboard guest cabin has two berths, one of them set lower in an alcove set into the bulkhead across the back of the cabin. In the bows a generous island double berth is supplemented by two custom bunk-style v-berths that the owner requested – great for a family group. Both these cabins have plenty of storage, opening ports and overhead hatches and are served by a well-appointed shared bathroom/day head with separate shower.
Anuha II’s master suite is amidships, the queen bed oriented across the cabin with its bed head under the large window on the port side. The luxurious cabin is a generous size with plenty of storage in a separate walk-in wardrobe. An ensuite bathroom boasts a large separate shower box, polished teak floor, silestone counter tops, ceramic sinks, and many luxury touches.
Fast, quiet progress
Mark helmed the GB 60 from the saloon, leaning back on the comfortable, double-width, plush-upholstered helm seat. A captain’s door opens to the side deck, which is handy at docking time or when setting the anchor – this vessel is easily handled by just two people.
Vision from the helm is excellent and a cockpit camera helps out at docking time, which is sometimes easier using the fold-away joystick at the cockpit helm station. A pair of 15-inch Garmin MFDs – there are two more on the flybridge – dominate the uncluttered and practical timber-faced helm console, which also has displays for the autopilot, engines, Seakeeper and more.
Anuha II is equipped with Twin Disc Express Joystick System (EJS) for low-speed operation. This actuates a combination of engines, transmissions, propellers and thrusters (bow and stern) in proportion to the pressure exerted on the joystick, so the vessel can be steered in any direction, crabbed diagonally or slipped sideways – even rotated in place 360°. It works well, allowing the finest control in the tightest of situations.
Using EJS, Mark eased the big Grand Banks away from her berth and out of the marina. Once clear, he changed over to the conventional QuickShift control and took hold of the vessel’s large wooden wheel. We motored slowly down the harbour’s restricted speed zones before Mark unleashed the big Volvos. Acceleration is pretty sharp for a 60-foot boat, but the seamless transition to planing speed and flat hull attitude was equally impressive. There’s no squatting and a very flat wake underway, which reflects the hydrodynamics of the 60’s hull. More impressive still is the lack of engine noise – this boat is supremely quiet, inside the saloon (69dB), on the flybridge and in the cockpit, allowing normal conversation.
As we approached the heads the swell began to make its presence felt, but Anuha II simply sliced through the waves, barely lifting her bows. We cruised serenely out into the Tasman Sea at 21 knots, a speed at which this vessel is happy to travel all day long.
Outside, the swell was somewhere between a metre, and a metre and a half. Mark stopped the boat and put her beam-on to the seas, turning the Seakeeper on and off to demonstrate how well it works. This is a stable boat anyway, but the Seakeeper still makes a difference.
On our way back in we pushed up to 24 knots at 1800rpm with a total fuel consumption 180 litres per hour. At 10 knots the range is an amazing 2500 nautical miles; with IPS 1200s, top speed is 36 knots.
The GB 60 is a large and luxurious cruiser with the ability to make long, comfortable ocean passages. Fast, fuel-efficient and nicely finished, it is a modern twist on a traditional style of vessel.
With hull number 14 now under construction, the GB 60 has clearly hit the mark: several boats are bound for Australia and we can expect to see new generation Grand Banks vessels in New Zealand in 2018.
The Kiwi connection
A 30-year friendship between two talented yachtsmen, including camaraderie and competition, has found
Mark Richards and Matt Mason are accomplished sailors, competing in the 1992 and 1995 America’s Cup, match-racing together and against one another, going head-to-head in the Admiral’s Cup, and sailing together onboard Wild Oats XI, the famous Australian SuperMaxi in the prestigious Sydney to Hobart race.
Of the eight times they’ve sailed the Sydney to Hobart together, Wild Oats XI has claimed line honours four times, including two race records and two handicap wins.
Based in Auckland, Mason, above left, was recently appointed by Richards, CEO of the group, to represent Grand Banks Yachts and Palm Beach Motor Yachts.
“With the excitement surrounding the upcoming America’s Cup and the strong interest in what we’re doing, what a perfect time to refresh our presence in the North Island,” says Richards.
“Matty understands yachting of all types, on a level that most can only dream of, so he’s the man for the job!”
Matt Mason: firstname.lastname@example.org or +64 2150 7444.