Palm Beach, an Aussie builder with a reputation for classic, highly finished, high-tech, carbon-fiber yachts, had just introduced two low, lean 50-footers that, from what I’d heard, pushed the company’s style well beyond classicism and straight into the realm of raciness. The enclosed version was called the GT50 Express and the open version was called—you guessed it—the GT50 Open.
I checked out the Open first. Belowdecks, the interior was a straightforward affair, finely finished in teak, maple and wenge. Up forward, a cabin offered a large rectangular berth, lots of stowage, a Lewmar hatch overhead and an adjoining head with a separate shower stall. At the rear, there was a mid-cabin with another large, rectangular berth behind a bulkhead with an open entry. And in between, at the foot of the companionway, was a bright, airy galley-down.
The main deck was also straightforward. Beyond a salon with opposed lounges, there was a raised helm area with a starboard steering station and two sumptuously upholstered chairs, duplicates of the two passenger seats to port. The carbon fiber dashboard at the helm was comprehensible at a glance and the essentials-only arrangement included little more than a Garmin MFD, a Zipwake monitor, a Hepworth Marine wiper rheostat and an Electronic Vessel Control module from Volvo Penta as well as both binnacle and joystick-type engine controls.
“How about I try ‘er out?” I enthused before climbing behind the wheel. When I got seated, I realized that the height of the footrest, besides engendering comfy sit-down ergonomics, also precluded driving while standing up. Palm Beach currently sees both the Open and the Express models as “sit-down-to-drive boats,” I was told, although that may change in the future.
After using a switch to raise the upper-cockpit deck, I dropped down into the engine room and immediately understood the necessity for the footrest at the helm. A Fischer-Panda genset appeared to underlie it. However, the genset—its water supply fitments, exhaust system and wiring—seemed crisply and thoughtfully installed. And, in fact, so did everything else, including two 600-hp Volvo Penta D8 diesels secured to IPS units at the transom via 10-foot jack-shafts.
Sea trialing the Open was pure playtime. The helm seat was cushy. Sightlines through the wraparound windshield were expansive. And the agility inherent in the boat’s modest displacement was flat-out fun. The top hop I recorded was 39.3 knots.
Having finished with the Open, I made my way to the Express, a vessel that essentially duplicates her sistership in all respects but one: the addition of a stylish hardtop. As you’d imagine, driving the Express was just as much of a blast as driving the Open had been. With the sunroof retracted, side windows zhooped down and back door open, the experience came close to having no hardtop at all, although sealing things up to withstand inclement weather—or enjoy air-conditioned comfort—was instantaneously possible. The top speed I recorded for the Express was 37.9 knots, slightly less than the max I’d recorded for the Open. Nevertheless, she was just as much the elegant sportster as her sistership. And just as much a true GT. —Capt. Bill Pike
Displ.: 28,660 lbs.
Fuel: 396 gal.
Water: 132 gal.
Test Power: 2/600-hp Volvo Penta IPS800
Cruise Speed: 32 knots
Top Speed: 39 knots