Performance Artist: Grand Banks 60

The Grand Banks 60 is as fast and fashionable as she is efficient at displacement speeds.
By Capt. Bill Pike ,

In Australia for a sea trial of the Grand Banks 60—the first model to launch since the company’s reorganization under Australian maxi-yacht racer and Palm Beach Motor Yachts founder Mark Richards—I gathered some truly impressive performance data. To begin with, at 9.5 knots, while turning just 750 revs and factoring in a fuel reserve of 10 percent, the 60 had a range of 2,973 nautical miles. That number is worthy of a full-displacement trawler doing hull speed, but for a vessel capable of achieving a top end of 30.5 knots, it’s full-bore radical compared with similar yachts.

“You’ll not find another boat in the world today that performs the way this one does,” Richards said.

Given what I was seeing on Australia’s Broadwater Estuary at the time, I found no reason to quibble.

Back in January, during a visit to the Grand Banks boatbuilding facility in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, Richards and I hunkered down and looked at the running surface of the 60, which at that time was partially completed. I’d never seen a powerboat with such a running surface.

The Grand Banks 60 is as fast and fashionable as she is efficient at displacement speeds.

“It’s a little bit like a racing sailboat’s,” Richards told me. “And it’s a little bit like a naval destroyer’s.”

Both analogies seemed apt. Except for a modest chine flat that proceeded from the bustle under the swim platform all the way forward to the stem, the 60 had virtually no bottom augmentations. No running strakes, no tunnels, no steps—nothing to engender drag or turbulence outside of a short skeg and what you’d expect to see from straight-shaft running gear. Surfaces were smooth and subtly curvaceous on either side of centerline, and flowed gracefully into a fine entry forward. Then, via a steady reduction in deadrise working back from the bow, they transitioned into an assemblage of virtually flat, lift-producing after sections with a deadrise of just 8 degrees at the transom.

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The philosophy behind all this runs counter to deep-V design, which seeks to chop its element into submission from above in knife-like fashion, especially at higher speeds.

“By comparison, a warped hull moves through the water very efficiently,” Richards said. “And it works best for boats with a top speed of 30 knots or so, which is what we’re aiming for with the 60.”

Although hullform had much to do with the performance data I gathered in Australia, there were other contributing factors, not least of them being the materials and techniques used in the 60’s construction. While her hull is conventionally handlaid using e-glass and vinylester resin, and her engine room liner is infused using much of the same stuff, the yacht’s deck, superstructure and hardtop are composed of vinylester-resin-infused, Gurit Corecell-cored carbon fiber.

Thus, the 60’s broad-beamed hull retains conventional heaviness, but everything above the rubrail, thanks to the carbon fiber, is comparatively light. What results is a low vertical center of gravity, a high level of transverse stability and speeds that are fast and efficient, thanks to a displacement of just 63,900 pounds.

Two other data sets were almost as impressive as the speed and range numbers: sound levels and running attitudes.

Rather than overcoming her bow wave by lifting her nose significantly, as most planing boats do, the 60 rises bodily in the water as her speed increases.

Thanks to a variety of Pyrotek products in the engine room (including Decidamp tiles in way of the props and elsewhere), as well as the sound-blocking effects of a single fiberglass fuel tank that separates the machinery spaces from the living spaces forward, the sound levels I measured were whispery, not only at the lower helm, but also in the master stateroom and in the VIP at the bow. It took speeds well north of 18 knots to push sound levels in the latter two spaces beyond 65 decibels, the level of normal conversation.

The 60 runs flat, achieving a bow rise of just 2.5 degrees at approximately 11 knots and then maintaining that attitude throughout the rest of the rpm register. Rather than overcoming her bow wave by lifting her nose significantly, as most planing boats do, the 60 rises bodily in the water as her speed increases. She never actually seems to detach herself from her element, and the bowrise is almost unnoticeable.

When I took the helm in open water, the driving experience engendered a level of excitement and enthusiasm. Turns were rock solid with only a modest inboard heel. Tracking was railroad steady. The ride was super smooth, although I must admit that seas were not significant.

Before we finished, I took the lower helm to check out the 60’s Express Joystick System (EJS) with QuickShift transmissions, hydraulic bow and stern thrusters (with manual override), dynamic positioning capability and EC300 Power Commander electronic single-lever engine controls.

I’ve been a big fan of EJS since it debuted almost 7 years ago and was pleased with the 60’s updated version. With virtually no learning curve, I had the boat moving sideways and diagonally with only the faintest of joystick manipulations.

The 60’s standard layout is relatively conventional, with a salon, galley and helm station on the main deck, three staterooms and two heads below, and a flybridge up top. Within this envelope, Grand Banks added some nifty features, a few in the salon and more in the machinery spaces.

The master stateroom has a walk-in hanging locker.
Windows, some retractable, surround the salon.

The salon has wraparound windshield panels and side windows (two of them electrically retractable), as well as a flip-up rear window and door that we left open to the breezes. The air conditioning plenums are inside a clever “false ceiling.”

The engine room itself, at 5 feet, 3 inches tall, does not have standup headroom (like loftier Grand Banks designs of the past often did), but the spaciousness around the twin Volvo Penta D13s is beyond anything I’ve seen this side of an oceangoing tug.

Vent boxes (with demisters) cool the 60’s machinery spaces to port and starboard, part of a system that supplants hot air with cool via natural convective air currents. The electrical system is equally forward-leaning, with four Lifeline AGM batteries divided into two starter banks, eight more Lifelines divided into two house banks, and a couple of standard, 300-watt Enerdrive solar panels on the hardtop to keep onboard refrigeration operable without shore- or genset power. Each main is equipped with a safety seacock in lieu of a conventional crash pump.

“You know what I like about this place?” I asked Richards as we left the engine room. “Although it’s simple—easy to figure out and maintain—it’s still absolutely cutting edge,” I said. “Nothing else like it.”

“Yeah,” Richards said. “The 60 represents a whole new world in boats, mate. A whole new world.”

Complete with a sturdy hardtop, the 60’s flybridge has tons of space for socializing, piloting and stowing gear, plus a dinghy.

For more information: grandbanks.com

A version of this review appeared in the August issue of Active Interest Media’s Power & Motoryacht.

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