The Royal Pacific 476 Sport Cruiser flattens rough water.

The Royal Pacific 476 Sport Cruiser flattens rough water.

What exactly is that boat? You know there's something different about it, but you can't quite figure out what makes it special. Meet hull number US001, Royal Pacific Yacht's first U.S. spec 48-footer from Formula Cruisers of Auckland, New Zealand, one of the new M-series Superyachts ranging from 42 to 55 feet.

Conceptually, the M-series is an artfully crossbred ocean racer, motor yacht and high-end sport-fisher. Sporting a needle-like bow, sleek cabin and wide-open Portofino-style stern, the 476 Sport Cruisers may usher in a fresh trend in yacht style. Royal Pacific's look is purposeful and distinctly European, but with considerably more taste and restraint than we've come to expect in modern yachts. On close inspection, you won't find a single gratuitous, eye-wrenching lump, bump or curve, just refined good looks that speak of form and function.

But this is more than just a pretty boat. Its ocean-racer bow belies the real story — it has the heart and soul of a true sea boat.

For three decades, Formula Cruisers' (no relation to the U.S. company) has built hundreds of tough, semi-custom sea boats — yachts designed for the rough waters of New Zealand, Australia and Southeast Asia. Their enormous popularity probably has something to do with Formula Cruisers' idea of "tough."

Formula's factory manager, Brent Perry, recently told us, "Formula's boats are designed to survive being driven onto a reef with no hull damage, just bent props and rudders." Solid one-piece 2.5-inch-diameter stock stainless rudders are, reportedly, capable of supporting the boat. Although this isn't the sort of adventure that begs firsthand experience, it may not be an exaggeration.

Heart of the beast

Consider the 476's construction: Nineteen layers of solid, hand-laid fiberglass, vinylester resin, eleven layers of glass with Divinycell core construction in the hull sides, deck and house structures. Deep fiberglass box beams bonded to the hull and cabin sole structure massively reinforce the entire forward half of the hull and provide multiple watertight compartments.

The hull contains two more watertight compartments and a solid collision bulkhead. Naturally, the deck and house structures are bonded to the hull.

Elegantly curved 8-millimeter thick armored tempered glass windshields are bonded to the house and enclosed flybridge. Without sacrificing style, Formula custom fabricates stainless hardware and railings of heavier material than usually found in pleasure yachts. In true superyacht fashion, the entire exterior is finished with flawlessly smooth Awlgrip. You might wonder about the point of this construction in a non-military vessel, but one good sea trial is worth a thousand words.

Not your basic sea trial

Royal Pacific Yachts' president, Horst Hanf, the exclusive U.S. importer, and John Baier, owner of Oceanic Yachts in Sausalito, California, hosted our sea trial. Hanf knows the boat well, as he boarded the new 476 shortly after it was taken off the ship in Southern California and immediately drove the boat up the rough California coast to San Francisco Bay at 22 knots.

As we idled out of the harbor into a freshening breeze and cold, patchy fog, I noticed a complete absence of exhaust noise and smoke. Huge mufflers completely silenced the twin 480-horsepower Volvo TAMD 74EDC electronically controlled diesels' exhaust. Equally effective engine-room insulation makes the lower cabins a pleasant, tranquil place for normal conversations, regardless of speed. Whether handling in a tight, windy harbor or underway, the responsive Volvo electronic throttles and near-perfect maneuvering manners made the 476 a joy to drive.

As the throttles were eased open, the turbine-smooth five-blade Henley props and flexible shaft couplings never provided any indication of full throttle, just a sort of subsonic earthquake — more felt than heard — as the wonderfully smooth Volvos generated nearly 1,000 horsepower inches beneath my feet. Walking up to the glass-enclosed flybridge, I sat on a soft leather settee, and only heard water and wind.

The Golden Gate Bridge faded into the fog, and the white-capped churning waters of the channel were barely noticeable rumbles. We headed north toward the infamous "Potato Patch," bordering the area affectionately known as the "Graveyard of the Pacific," where the north San Francisco channel bar historically generates "sneaker waves" and large boat-eating holes in all but calm weather. Today, it was serving mixed up 10- to 14-footers and the local fishing fleet was running for cover. (Taking a page from TV commercials touting SUV's performing death-defying stunts, we'll add a disclaimer here: I don't recommend this type of sea-trial, and I certainly wouldn't to do it in my boat.)

Fasten your seatbelts

An entertainment center on the stern includes a gas grill and a hot- and cold-water sink.

An entertainment center on the stern includes a gas grill and a hot- and cold-water sink.

Leaving the San Francisco channel for a certain pounding seemed like a certifiably insane idea to me, but after 45 memorable minutes of bashing on the bar, everyone aboard knew why this Royal Pacific weighs nearly 40,000 pounds. At 22 knots in this slop, it's comfortable — no drama whatsoever. The very fine bow and 16.5-degree deadrise hull directs spray 90 degrees sideways while effortlessly cleaving each wave like a Ginsu knife through a Twinkie. With hull firmly glued to the water, the process repeats, over and over, seemingly from any direction or attitude, with little spray and no pounding. When the churning Pacific inevitably spawns a much larger, steeper wave, the boat takes off and lands with the feel and assurance of a Boeing 747.

Rough seas combined with high speed impart a certain out-of-control paint mixer ambience to the forward cabins of most boats. If you've got the nerve, it's also a good place to test a boat. The 476's ride is both a revelation in structural integrity and a study in rock-solid interior construction. Standing in the forward stateroom or companionway while the boat was punching through and over 12-foot plus waves, I was amazed at the complete absence of squeaks, leaks, groans and working. The sensation is, well, a bit eerie — akin to hurtling, smoothly and quietly through waves at 22 knots in a bank vault.

Given the Royal Pacific's effortless ability to eat up ocean, nearly any coastal destination is within easy reach, but you'll need to resist the temptation to use all the power if you want range. At an easy 20 knots, fuel consumption is relatively economical at around .7 nautical miles per gallon. With 700 gallons of fuel capacity, the 476 could cover half the U.S. coast in one hop. Pushing the throttles all the way up translates to 28 knots and 70 gallons per hour. Royal Pacific equips every boat so luxuriously and completely that you may want to slow down and extend the trip anyway.

No wish list

The standard electronics package includes VHF radio, intercom system, Coursemaster Autopilot, and Furuno's incredible FRS1000 (a fully integrated color, flat panel display navigation package that combines GPS, radar and video depthsounder). Dual electronic engine, transmission and bow-thruster controls are repeated at the cockpit station. A 12-kw Westerbeke genset and 3,000-watt Heart inverter with a dedicated battery bank handle the electrical needs, in addition to one interesting feature usually found only on European yachts, a 12-KVA isolation transformer.

Reverse-cycle air conditioning heats and cools the entire boat and enclosed flybridge. A huge Simpson Lawrence V2200 anchor windlass, 45-pound Delta anchor, 328 feet of chain and everything else imaginable, including fenders, completes the turnkey package. The Kiwis apparently know how to party, too, judging by the enormous, strategically placed speakers, built in 1,200-watt deluxe sound system and clever built-in, roll-out 15-bottle capacity wine/liquor storage.

Euro yachts, move over

In the simple-yet-elegant master stateroom, there's a queen-size bed and plenty of space.

In the simple-yet-elegant master stateroom, there's a queen-size bed and plenty of space.

Royal Pacific's overall quality and interior finish is, without exaggeration, the equal of many multi-million dollar custom European yachts. Unusual craftsmanship, luxurious materials and meticulously detailed joinery make this three-stateroom yacht a showstopper. Virtually every piece of hardware is custom designed, heavily built, perfectly detailed and finished. Cabinetry is dovetailed, and the beautifully radiused doors are thick, solid and fit as if they were part of a BMW. Though you have a choice of five exotic interior woods including Kauri, this particular boat's elm burl inlays and mirror finishes were breathtaking. Yards of New Zealand wool carpets and acres of ultra suede covered cabin walls and bulkheads contrasted nicely with the glove soft tan leather of custom sofas and settees.

A range and oven are standard in the fully equipped galley.

A range and oven are standard in the fully equipped galley.

Thanks to five huge, panoramic curved windshields, the saloon and galley were extremely bright. The open saloon's lush leather seating and perfect gloss finished inlaid galley table were almost too beautiful to threaten with entertaining. One step down from the saloon, the U-shaped galley grabs your attention. Its unusual applied stone-like countertops and sink wrap around to meet a custom, heavily constructed brushed stainless Force-10 4-burner electric stove/oven combination with a stainless backsplash and lighted range hood. Positive flush latches keep anything from rattling or moving. Exquisite attention to detail, even inside drawers and lockers, constantly reminds you of quality.

Moving around the cabins at sea is relaxed, with only one step down to the staterooms from the galley. Custom Italian lighting provided plenty of glare free light and low "mood" lighting where you would want it. Powerful magnetic stops secured doors in the open position. In addition to a narrow side window and elliptical portlights, five overhead hatches provided each cabin additional light and ventilation. Wool carpets with rubber underlayments felt plush and quiet underfoot. Teak and holly soles are reserved for the galley and under the saloon table — another positive styling trend. On this particular boat, the choice of light blue carpets and matching counters seemed a little lifeless compared to the elegant surroundings.

American amenities, Kiwi style

Each stateroom is decorated with a tasteful, classic touch and is complete down to the custom Duvets and pillows. With two single bunks, the starboard guest stateroom was just right for young, small guests. A Pullman-style arrangement conceals the second bunk and minimal under-bunk lockers. Directly opposite was the nicely finished guest head and shower. Forward, to port was a comfortable starboard guest cabin with a full-size double lower berth, generous hanging locker and general storage. The master stateroom in the bow sported the ubiquitous roundish bed (where do you get sheets for these things?), leather-padded bolsters, hanging locker, dresser and mirror. You'll sleep well; all the mattresses are custom stainless double innerspring creations. Both heads were extremely well finished but somewhat unusual on this boat; the compact VaccuFlush toilets and skinny shower door openings suggested that the Kiwis may have slightly misjudged the dimensions of the average double-Whopper fed American. Royal Pacific assures us that future boats will include full-sized amenities.

Engine-room entertainment

Juxtaposed with the skinny shower door is the enormous machinery space access hatch in the teak cockpit. Thankfully, it is gas strut- assisted, since it looks as big as a garage door. I'm like Alice in Wonderland — down the ladder in a flash, marveling at the equally enormous machinery space.

Surrounding me were aluminum tanks, a Westerbeke generator, rudder steering gear and hydraulics that would look right at home on a tugboat. All of the Racor primary fuel filters are here, too — easy to reach and right where they belong. An industrial-looking weatherproof light switch is thoughtfully located over the heavily dogged watertight stainless-steel hatch to the engine room. Below decks, this was a seriously heavy-duty boat.

Two gleaming white electronically controlled TAMD74 EDC Volvos, 480 HP each, flanked the engine room. There's plenty of space around the nicely arranged engines, but at the time this boat was built, they were not available as "inboard service" engines, meaning somebody is going to have to crawl around to service outboard mounted filters on one engine.

The brightly lit engine room space was spectacular, in a sort of heavy-duty yacht way. Gear heads and techies of all stripes will feast their eyes on polished stainless-steel shaft couplings, shiny blue flexible couplings and the biggest dripless shaft glands I've ever seen. Wiring, mounts, plumbing, stainless raw-water strainers — all huge, beautiful and thoughtfully arranged and exactly as you might expect from a company that really knows how to build sea boats. Gelcoated surfaces and heavy, open-patterned vinyl mats underfoot are safe and easy to clean.

With just a little more headroom, you'd be tempted to entertain in the engine room.

Room with a view

Eventually, I came out of even the nicest engine room and headed up the molded steps to the flybridge. Molded steps seem like a great idea, if the boat builder gets the handrails right. Formula Cruisers did very well in that regard, although caution is always necessary in rough weather. The flybridge is the only helm station, as current fashion dictates. But, that means it's also heated, air-conditioned, includes a refer, pull-out leather sofa bed and two gorgeous "soft ride" leather helm chairs. Electronics and controls are clean, functional and well laid out.

Visibility from this huge bridge was incredible; absolutely nothing obstructs your sight line, even with a dozen close friends sharing the view. The varnished burled wood and stainless-steel Momo steering wheel is a jewel. With twin sliding clear Targa roofs and a pull-out double sofa bed, almost every luxury is anticipated. All in all, it's not a bad place to run a boat.

Here's the deal

Woodwork is outstanding on the Portofino-style stern.

Woodwork is outstanding on the Portofino-style stern.

We saved the most interesting news for last. Fully equipped, the Royal Pacific 476 retails for $695,000, delivered on the West Coast. The 40-footer starts at $286,000. All things considered, New Zealand's Royal Pacific Yachts may be the newest and most attractive midsize Superyachts on the block. Yacht dealers tell me that many top-quality boats' entire production is sold out for the next 18 months, sometimes more.

With Royal Pacific's five-year warranties, delivery times as low as 6 to 9 months on custom yachts and current dollar exchange rates, there may be no higher quality yachts available for the money.

Boat specifications

Length overall47'6"14.5 meters
Beam16'3"4.94 meters
Draft3'7"1.1 meters
Displacement38,000 pounds17 metric tons (dry)
EnginesTwin Volvo TAMD 74EDC480 hp (each)


Fuel713 U.S. gallons2,700 liters

For more information

Royal Pacific Yachts
140 Brannan Island Road
Isleton, Ca. 95641