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Johnson 103 RPH Diamond Girl: Sleight of Hand

In a famous World War II-vintage photograph by Yousuf Karsh, Winston Churchill’s image is captured in a characteristically hulking pose, looking for all the world larger than his true height of 5’7”. By virtue of its megayacht-like posture and proportions, Johnson Yachts’ newest offering, a 103’ raised pilot house design by fellow Brit Bill Dixon, creates a comparable illusion.

In a famous World War II-vintage photograph by Yousuf Karsh, Winston Churchill’s image is captured in a characteristically hulking pose, looking for all the world larger than his true height of 5’7”. By virtue of its megayacht-like posture and proportions, Johnson Yachts’ newest offering, a 103’ raised pilot house design by fellow Brit Bill Dixon, creates a comparable illusion.

Interior Matthieu Carlin
Exterior Scott Pearson

NO STRANGER TO VISUAL SLEIGHT OF HAND, Dixon achieved a similar effect with earlier Johnson offerings, including the 87’ RPH and 75’ series. In the process he has created a family look across the range, characterized by vertical forward windows at main- and pilothouse-deck levels merging into long expanses of side windows, and by house overhangs that give depth and dimension to each level, while at the same time emphasizing a uniformly generous beam. “My aim,” says Dixon, “has been to create something distinctive in the market, that also offers a little ambiguity of size so that each boat looks larger than it is.”


But the new 103’s styling and scale also yield more pragmatic attributes, Dixon adds. “The concept can’t focus on appearance alone,” he notes. “This yacht had to attract, and not merely impress, a knowledgeable clientele, so interior volume and comfort were equally important elements of the design brief.”

Sure enough, a first look inside Diamond Girl, the yard’s inaugural 103, confirms an unmistakable sense of breadth and depth. The palette alone evokes the feel of a tropical beach, emphasized yet more by the owner’s selection of figured sycamore joinery, ecru Berber carpeting, creamy stone flooring and countertops, and other ultra light-hued materials throughout. The experienced yachting couple worked closely with the New York firm Trevor James Design and Studio V to take full advantage of the opportunity afforded by the yacht’s status as the first in the 103’ series, allowing significant creative latitude. In a noteworthy departure from the salon-dining-galley sequence commonly found in this size category, for example, the owners chose to locate the formal dining table in the after starboard quadrant of the salon. This arrangement leaves space forward for a centerline ox-bone embellished bar whose four tall chairs face backlit bottle storage and large illuminated panels of etched Lalique crystal, a dramatic and inviting focal point.

The galley extends forward from the bar area (or dining room, depending on selected arrangement) along the port side, opposite a starboard entry foyer that leads to the main-deck master suite. Here, encircled by an expanse of custom-loomed silk carpet in light gold, a king-size bed faces forward to offer a 180° panoramic view. “Those signature tiers of vertical glass aren’t there merely for aesthetics, Johnson Yachts’ Butch Richards says. “They also reduce glass surface area, which, compared to larger, angled windows, minimizes the accumulation of solar heat inside without restricting outside views,” he notes. “That reduces air conditioning loads and helps keep the interior cool and comfortable.” The yacht’s tinted glass and deckhead overhangs should attenuate any lingering greenhouse effect yet more. On centerline beneath the expanse of vertical windows, a free-standing cabinet is flanked by stairways that descend to a master bath with cream limestone floor, a broad marble-topped vanity and, outboard, separate enclosures for shower and toilet. In addition to variations on this arrangement, Johnson also offers a country-kitchen configuration, which, instead of the master suite, includes a galley with a peninsula counter, a raised bar with facing stools and a casual dining banquette set beneath the forward house windows.


“There are so many variations available with this interior,” adds Richards, “that we learned from our experience with the 87 series to leave the ondeck master suite area virtually empty on spec boats, in order to give our clients maximum opportunity to decide for themselves which arrangement works best for them.”

Diamond Girl offers a five-stateroom layout, which in addition to the main-deck master includes two lower-deck queen-berth guest suites, a VIP suite, and to port a double-twin cabin with a pull-down Pullman berth. A utility cabinet off the lower-deck foyer houses a washer and dryer duo, plus linen storage. An alternate four-stateroom arrangement places the master suite aft on the accommodation deck, where it spans the full beam between good-sized vertical windows, three in each hull side. There’s room here for a starboard-side vanity, a settee to port, and his-and-hers bath.

Midway between main and flybridge decks, the raised pilothouse on the open-flybridge design encloses a lower helm station surrounded by a second tier of windows that provide an agreeably wide field of view for the captain and for guests seated on the compact observation settee. Here, Dixon notes, those vertical windows serve yet another purpose, reducing glare to improve both forward visibility and the readability of screens included in the custom integrated-instrument and display panel. Owners opting for an enclosed flybridge version of the 103 get, in place of the lower helm, an inviting observation lounge and office midway between main and bridge decks.

The open flybridge arrangement does nothing to counter the illusion of greater-than-actual size. In order to yield maximum square footage on the flybridge deck, Dixon elected to locate the tender on the swim platform, along with a crane that when not in use lies unobtrusively concealed behind a cover panel adjacent to the transom crew access door. Predictably, then, the top deck feels roomy, even equipped as it is with two dining/cocktail tables, a jetted tub with sun pad to starboard, and a bar fitted with a double JennAir grill, wine cooler, under-counter fridge and ice maker. An oval skylight in the composite hardtop mirrors the shape of the spa tub directly below, brightening the otherwise shaded area up top. In the enclosed-flybridge configuration, the spa tub and bar are located aft of a sliding bulkhead door that opens to a lounging settee, indoor bar and entertainment center arranged aft of the portside helm station.


Two double crew cabins, a crew mess and a laundry/utility room flank a centerline passageway leading from transom door to engine room, where a pair of 2000-hp MTU series 2000 M91 mains share space with two 40 kW generators and requisite mechanical installations, all neatly fitted with well-supported routings. The 103’s beam pays dividends here too, allowing good access all around each main and to all systems.

During a round of sea trials this debut 103 reached a respectable 24 knots at half load, throttling back to cruise at around 19. Cored hull sides and superstructure help trim weight in the interest of speed and range, but also reduce noise and vibration to produce a muted 70 dB in the salon at cruise speed.

Things aren’t always what they seem. In the case of the new Johnson 103 series, even an informed observer could be forgiven for mistaking this handsome yacht for a 120.

LOA: 103ft.
LWL: 83ft. 6in.
Beam: 23ft. 7in.
Construction hull: Solid fiberglass to Waterline
Construction superstructure: Cored Composite
Average interior headroom: 7ft.
Draft: 6ft. 7in.
Displacement: 112 tons
Guest cabins: 4 + on-deck master (11 guests)
Crew cabins: 2 double
Main engines (Standard): 2 X Caterpillar C-32 Acert @ 1850 h.p.
Main engines (Optional): 2 X MTU 2000 M91 @ 2000 h.p.
Maximum speed: 24 kt
Cruise speed: 19 kt
Transmissions: 2 X ZF 2555a, 2.536:1
Fuel capacity: 3981 U.S. gallons
Water capacity: 400 U.S. gallons
Watermaker: Watermakers Inc. 2500 GPD
Exterior paint: Gelcoat, Interlux Ultra bottom paint w/Biolux
Bow thruster: American Bow Thruster Trac 50 hp
Stern Thruster: American Bow Thruster Trac 50 hp
Generators: 2 X Kohler 40 E0ZD @ 40 kW

Radar: 2 X JRC 5310
Auto pilot: Simrad A.P. 25
GPS: Compass GR
Chart plotter: 2 X Nauticomp
Compass: Maretron SSC200 Solid State Rate Gyro
Radio: 3 X ICOM M-602; ICOM M802 SSB
Satellite telephone: KVH Tracphone F-77
Autopilot: Simrad AP-27

Tender: Aquascan custom
Crane: Quick-Lift
Boarding steps: Marquipt
Naval architecture: Dixon Yacht Design
Structural engineering: High Modulus Engine room sound
Dampening: Van Capellen
Exterior styling: Dixon Yacht Design
Interior design: Trevor James Design & Studio V
Interior fit-out: David Dresie Interiors
Project management: Johnson Yachts, Inc