One of the first companies to build a recreational trawler, Grand Banks, founded in 1956, has taken things a step further in recent years. With the launch of the Grand Banks 60 in 2017, CEO Mark Richards put the industry on notice, with a new line of long-distance motoryachts that were going to go even faster than a classic trawler, and would offer great fuel economy and range to boot. Detractors promptly claimed that the 60 wasn’t anything like the old, more traditional Grand Banks trawlers, and they were right. Innovation was everywhere. A carbon-fiber superstructure (similar to the ones seen in racing sloops) kept the weight down, and Volvo Penta diesel engines could push the boat to a top end of 30 knots. But the biggest surprise of all was baked into the hull itself: Even with an almost 67-foot LOA, the 60 had a feathery displacement of 63,900 pounds. Compare that to the Tom Fexas designed Grand Banks 64 Aleutian Class (built in 2002), coming in 3 feet shorter and with a heavy-weight displacement of 95,000 pounds, and you’ll notice that pound for pound, these boats are barely in the same class anymore.
“It’s the way my brain works, mate; it’s all about performance,” Richards tells me from his home in Sydney, Australia. “The whole concept of this range was to create a product that you can cruise at high speeds efficiently with a hull shape that I’ve been developing for 25 years,” continues Richards, who started Palm Beach Motor Yachts in 1995 and now oversees both brands. “There’s a lot of beautiful boats out there, but to get anywhere you’ve got to cruise at 10 or 12 knots, you know? And really, most of them, anything over 12 knots they start to burn a heap of fuel, and that’s just not what we’re about.
Inspired by that mission, and looking to create a more manageable size for owner/operators, Grand Banks added a 54 to its line, with an 85 set to debut in 2021. As it stands, hull number one has two staterooms, a master and a VIP, that feel close to parity. A galley down is the recipient of plenty of natural light, impeccable woodwork and finish.
On an overcast morning in June, I met the 54 at a fuel dock in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The 54 had traveled over 1,300 miles from Palm Beach to Saybrook Point Marina, with multiple stops in between to allow prospective clients to get aboard one of the most anticipated boats of 2020. The trip had taken all of 12 days thanks to an aggressive timetable and an average cruising speed of 22 knots. At that speed, with a three-quarter load, the 54 burns about 44 gallons per hour—which, thanks to a 900-gallon fuel tank, provides a range of about 450 miles, or 20 hours of continuous running.
Our 54 was powered by twin 725-hp Volvo Penta D11 diesels. (Engine configurations include both IPS and straight-shaft options.) It didn’t take long to see how well the 54 performs, especially the way it handles, thanks to a set of Humphree interceptors and stabilizing fins. For a yacht in this size range, you wouldn’t normally consider performance to be such a big sell. But throughout the entire RPM range, even close to its top end of 31 knots, the 54 felt like it was damn near riding on rails. This is a fun yacht to drive. —Simon Murray
Displ. (dry) 47,400 lbs.
Fuel 898 gal.
Water 290 gal.
Standard Power 2/725-hp Volvo Penta D11
Cruise Speed 20 knots
Top Speed 31 knots
Cruising Range 450 miles