Working on three 40m projects, Plymouth-based Princess Yachts' portfolio above the 30m mark continues to grow, as the British shipyard gradually modifies its South Yard facility. We visited the yard earlier this week to discover more about its design development process.

While the majority of UK-based superyacht players are located in London or on the south coast, Plymouth is another city budding with yachting activity and is home to Princess Yachts. With five sites spread across the city, the yard produces an average of 300 boats a year and has a workforce of 2,200, 20 per cent of which are based at its South Yard facility.

Two 40m projects under construction in slots 5 and 6 (images by Andrew Johansson)

“We are going to build a new facility here soon, as what you see currently are temporary sheds,” said technical sales executive at Princess Yachts George Edwards, as we walked around the South Yard facility. “This whole facility will be knocked down and new sheds built all the way down to the waters edge. The 40m shed we have is also temporary, although a very solid structure.”

Since the 40m series was launched in 2012, three have been delivered with the fourth (X5) having completed sea trials and expected for delivery at the end of the year. A further three are in build, along with three 35m and a 30m mould, which will be moved from the yard’s facility at Newport Street to South Yard in the coming weeks. “We are also working on the last of the 32m series, which has come to the end of its production and is quite an old boat now,” said Edwards. “The 30m, 35m and 40m series have taken its place.”

X5 on hard stand

On the grounds of the 15-acre South Yard facility — formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence — are the remains of Plymouth’s only ropery, which stopped production in the mid 19th century. Today, Princess uses the listed buildings to construct 1:1 scale mock ups of new designs, modelling each deck including furniture using plywood and foam. Walking through the mock up of a 35m, Edwards explained that each deck takes its Development Mock Up Team a month to construct.

To scale model of a flybridge on a 35m

"It helps us to visualise what the project will look like ahead of the build process," said Edwards. “You can look at renders all you like but you don’t get a full idea of being inside the boat. It is very hard to sell a boat at the bigger end of the scale but with this you can show the owner or their rep what the yacht will look like before she is built — it is a great sales tool. We have also made plugs for moulds using the furniture that is made here so there is additional benefit.”

Princess Yachts’ marketing executive Danielle Emery added that this process ensures all components fit correctly first time and identifies areas where designs can be refined to make production and fit out more efficient. While this approach is not applied to every project, it is used for every new design.

“Where we have a tried and tested design we will not produce a new mock up,” said Emery. “For example, hull two of the 40m followed the standard layout so a mock up was not necessary. Hull three, however, featured a non-standard upper deck VIP master stateroom and gym on the lower deck, so these areas would have been mocked up as part of the development process.”

Emery went on to reveal that 60-70 per cent of the plywood and timber used to create the mock ups are recycled but was unable to comment as to how much this process added to the final build cost.

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