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Warp factor 85

Grand Banks has a new flagship in its 85 and, as demonstrated off the coast of Cannes on a trial of the first hull, it is most certainly worthy of the title.

Written by Charlotte Thomas
Photography by Onne van der Wal

16 May 2024

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Mark (Ricko) Richards – highly successful race boat skipper and CEO of Grand Banks – can sometimes come across as a man of few words. But what can at first appear as reticence or shyness is actually something else. It’s embodied in his facial expression, which implies simply: Well mate, it’s obvious, isn’t it? After all, when a boat speaks for itself, what is there left to say?

It was that exact expression and concomitant lack of words that filled the flybridge of the first Grand Banks 85 as we charged into the Bay of Cannes for a post-show sea trial in September, with the wind up and the sea capping white. With the throttles pushed home and the Humphree stabiliser fins helping keep her level and true, the 85 charged into the seaway like it was a glassy day on a lake.

Quiet, comfortable and cruising at 20 knots (although it felt like 10), it took a few minutes before we realised we were one of only two boats from the whole boat show out braving the conditions. The other was the Grand Banks 54.

It was fitting that her smaller sister was out for a blast with us as it was the GB54 at Cannes last year that had so impressed me with its V-Warp hull and sprightly non-trawler performance.

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Richards had enthusiastically promoted the then-in-build 85 as the next step in the design, and our carefully carving turns and smooth running seemed to back this up. This first hull has twin Volvo Penta IPS 1350s delivering 1,000 hp each, but it’s the design of the hull – which starts with a fine entry at the bow and warps as it runs aft to a near-flat stern with 5.5 degrees of deadrise – that really kicks the new Grand Banks flagship up a level.

Our trials – even into a solid 25 knots of breeze and a short, sharp and steep seaway – pulled up a cruise of 20 to 21 knots effortlessly, for which the projected range from the 10,000-litre tanks is 1,000 nautical miles. Throttle back to a still-respectable long-range cruise speed of 10 knots, and that bumps up to between 2,000 and 2,500 nautical miles.

The V-Warp is one aspect that delivers this super-efficient performance; the build method is another. “The whole boat is fully infused carbon and Corecell,” says Richards.

“This is one step off America’s Cup construction. Every speck of glass mat is cut by robots and the lamination kits are all within 2 millimetres tolerance. Every hull is coming out within 2 kilos of each other, which is incredible.”

But that’s not the only thing that’s incredible – in fact, everything about the 85 just feels so well-proportioned and beautifully put together.

The aft deck offers space and a wide oval table for alfresco dining – the 85 doesn’t offer tricks and gizmos like some manufacturers, though, with everything opening and folding and retracting. There’s a single door into the saloon, but with so many large windows, the interior doesn’t feel claustrophobic.

It’s a modern take on the traditional trawler yacht, with every facet designed to allow owners to go anywhere without compromising on safety – hence that single door into the saloon; ideal when ocean conditions take a turn for the worse.

Two portside armchairs and an occasional table sit opposite a large C-shaped, wrap-around lounge to starboard that offers genuine comfort thanks in part to over-tall backrest cushions. Up a step lies the dining area with a generous table.

There’s an inside open-tread stair that runs up to the flybridge to port, and the galley on this hull is in front of a bulkhead, giving it separation from the saloon and dining area.

The forward galley counter features a hidden flip-up helm to starboard for convenient manoeuvring or coming alongside singlehanded, perhaps. The second hull features an open-plan main deck with the galley part of the entertaining space.

A short stair to port leads down to the lower deck accommodation, which feels both generous and delightfully cosseting. There’s a large VIP in the bow and a twin/ double with ensuite to starboard. Typically, the master suite occupies the full-beam prime midship spot, with a transverse ensuite or ensuite and walk-in robe aft.

In this first hull, the grandkids get a twin bunk cabin tucked in to port in front of a sumptuous outboard ensuite for the master, while the main cabin takes the depth from what would have been the aft bathroom to deliver the luxury of space. And space there is aplenty, with storage everywhere, including under the king bed, plus robes and a vanity.

Although the relocated ensuite replaces a private office space or chaise longue, there’s still room in the master for a hidden piano – the owner’s wife is a keen player.

The main helm with three-seater bench is up in the flybridge, which on hull #1 is the enclosed option. There’s a guest bench for two across from the console and another gorgeously comfortable C-shaped lounge aft of the helm. Along with a giant sunroof for some fresh air and rays, there are also electric windows all round, meaning even the enclosed skylounge fly can feel pretty open if conditions allow.

Headroom is huge both here and one deck down, an indicator the US is a key market for Grand Banks. “When you go to America, some of those guys are just giants,” Richards offers as we struggle to reach the handrails affixed to the flybridge deckhead.

What strikes particularly is that while many elements of the interior layout and materials are fairly old-school, this still feels like a luxurious and contemporary yacht. Everything is solid and, as it turns out, nearly everything is customisable.

The owner of this first hull is a highly experienced racing sailor and long-time cruiser, and it shows.

“She’s a typical Grand Banks the way she handles,” he enthuses. “You want something strong and seaworthy – not something that’s got pretty bathrooms and lots of mirrors, all glitz and glamour shiny.”

The couple has been cruising the Med for the European summer, and had been living on board almost continuously for two months when we joined for our test.

“The Grand Banks is a liveaboard, long-range cruising boat,” says the owner. “But the beauty of this 85 is it is very efficient as well, so we can travel further on less, and in comfort and at good speed, sure that if we run into bad weather, she’ll handle it. She’s a great package.”

The owners were involved in selecting the wood finishing and the fabrics, as well as the general arrangement. “There are so many ways you can divide up the space in a boat from a blank sheet of paper; we had plenty of back and forth,” he offers. “We’re very happy with the result, even down to having the teak stained. Decisions like that change the look quite a lot; this is not your traditional Grand Banks where you walk into a forest of teak.”

Their input even extended to details such as a handy drawer in what would have been dead space behind the crew stair moulding aft in the saloon – perfect for keys and phones when you come in from deck. And the tops of the occasional tables in the saloon are finished with inlays of Silestone reconstituted quartz rather than wood so you can put hot drinks down. “There were a heap of little things we had design input into,” the owner beams.

The seaworthy qualities brought by Richards and reinforced by the owner shine through on deck and in the technical spaces as well. Except for the cockpit and swim platform, which features a high-low transformer central section, the decks are finished with patches of non-skid paint – teak is heavy, it’s a pain to maintain, and it can get very slippery when wet.

The aft fly is designed to be the boat deck – ideal for tender storage on long voyages but with acres of room for entertaining and loose furniture. The forward technical space – containing the house batteries, watermaker, air-con and bow thrusters – is entered through a large hatch in the sole of the guest lower passageway; the space is easily accessible and beautifully finished.

Perhaps most impressive is the arrangement in the aft end – the design opts for a split engine room with port and starboard engines and IPS units separated by a centreline walkway accessed from a door in the transom that leads forward to the crew quarters. It delivers fantastic extra space for gear, as well as offering a clear route for the crew that doesn’t disturb guests.

“I keep my bike down there, paddleboards and canoes,” says the owner. “And anyone into diving could easily put tanks and gear down there. It’s just great to have – space is always a problem on a boat. In fact, there’s storage everywhere on the 85.”

The crew quarters are also impressive and finished to the same style and standard as the guest areas. There’s a captain’s cabin and a twin bunk cabin, plus a small mess and crew galley, so if you want assisted cruising or crewed charter, the 85 has you covered. There’s more to come, though, and hull #2 is looking like a mouth-watering follow-up.

“It’s exciting – it’s for an Australian client and, as there’s no 24-metre rule here, the hull is 5 feet longer under the swim platform,” explains Richards. “It’s also going to have twin 1,300 hp MAN V8s driving shafts, which means it will be 4 to 5 knots quicker.

“It’s also very different inside – all white, very light colours, very modern, and with a second VIP cabin aft instead of the crew cabin.”

With six hulls already sold, it’s clear the 85 has already grabbed the attention of buyers, and Richards says the next hull sold will probably be into the Australian market.

Having experienced – albeit briefly – a taste of what this new Grand Banks flagship offers and what it’s capable of, I can confidently confirm this is a yacht that really can take you places. What’s more, it can take you there in comfort, and with efficient running. Beyond that, I’ll just borrow Richards’ facial expression, because there’s nothing really left to say. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The 85 speaks for itself.

 

grandbanks.com

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