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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

2010 Viking 76 Convertible

One Big, Bad Boat

Thoroughbred Speed, Cat-like Agility, and Linebacker Brawn Define this Jersey-built Battlewagon.

The seas off windy Riviera Beach, Florida, were set in a three- to four-foot steep chop. The twin and optional ($550,000) 2,400-hp MTU diesels sitting on steel-frame engine beds (which are secured to fore and aft bulkheads below decks) roared at their 2000-rpm cruise setting. To show me his company's new 76 Convertible's turning radius at speed in the ugly seaway, Viking Yachts' Capt. Ryan Higgins displayed the independent rudder control of the Viking's fly-by-wire steering system (a.k.a. VIPER) by effortlessly spinning the Sturdy wheel hardover. The boat leaned moderately into the turn as her balsa-cored-and-vacuum-bagged hull, with its fine entry and convex forward sections, skewered the ocean.

In short order, we'd carved a remarkably tight one-and-a-half-boat-length turn with only a modest 50-rpm drop and were speeding along at 30-plus knots. Even more remarkable, unlike some other convertibles I've spent considerable time on, no spray made it up to the optional Costa Clear enclosure. The dry ride is courtesy of that convex hull form and a raised sheer, that is about six inches higher than that of her predecessor, the 74 Convertible. Impressed with the boat's handling, I asked Higgins for the wheel so I could feel her maneuverability for myself. Driving was as much as fun as it looked when Higgins was at the helm—she handled like a vessel half her size.

In addition to her impressive behavior in the chop, I recorded an average 2000-rpm cruise speed of 38.6 mph (33.5 knots) on the flat water inside Lake Worth inlet while her MTUs burned 152 gph. This speed provides a range of 724 miles with a full—and optional—fuel load of 3,174 gallons (2,547 gallons is standard). At WOT (2500 rpm), she hit an impressive 48.8 mph (42.4 knots) while burning 236 gph. Even at this burn rate, the 76 still has a generous range of 590 miles. (The boat's GPS displayed speeds that averaged 1.5 to 2 mph below my radar gun's throughout the rpm range. Viking says that while speeds can vary with conditions and load, the GPS' readings are more in line with the boat's expected performance.)

Something else I found striking was that the yacht's visibility was unobstructed in all directions at any speed and that there was only moderate bowrise during planing: maximum trim angle came in at 4.5 degrees at cruising speed and flattened out to 3.5 degrees at WOT. The maximum tab deflection during our speed runs was 40 percent, as displayed on the LCD helm readout.

But while the 76 has the range to hit Isla Mujeres in the spring, run the East Coast all summer, and slide on down to Costa Rica in the winter on her own bottom, like many large sportfishermen she may not viewed by some as agile enough to tango with an acrobatic marlin. To the contrary, I determined that while she's surely big (80'8" x 20'3"), she's quite fishable. Her aforementioned steering system (see Noteworthy, “Viking's VIPER,” this story), is a major factor. But she's also laid out to chase the big ones.

From the moment you step into the 206-square-foot cockpit, you can see that this space was geared for anglers to spend a lot of time eyeing teasers and dropping back baits to pelagics. Under the mezzanine, which can feature optional air conditioning ($21,350), there's gear stowage space as well as a bait freezer, chill box, and tackle center. The optional Release Marine fighting chair was flanked by two in-deck fishboxes, which can comfortably hold several bigeye. They can also be compartmentalized and it's easy to run the optional ($19,350) Eskimo ice maker to feed into them. An in-transom fishbox is also standard; for $1,850 you can plumb it as a livewell. Kite fishermen will enjoy all the livewell options as well as the ability to slow-troll this behemoth at under three knots thanks to standard electronic trolling valves. Add optional Rupp outriggers and spreader lights, a six-rod rocket launcher on the flying-bridge rail, and the Palm Beach Towers tuna tower ($191,500), and she's good to go.

While the 76's cockpit is laid out for efficient fishing, her engine room is configured to make handling and maintaining her big iron a snap. Its 6'6" vertical clearance offers the tallest crewmember room to stand. I was impressed that I could easily walk outboard of the port motor; outboard access to the starboard motor is also good. But the optional 1,400-gpd Sea Recovery watermaker, hydraulics for the crash pumps, steering, and bow thruster require some maneuvering between them and the engine to reach. The four Racors for the mains are on the forward bulkhead with a clear view of their sight bowls. While the layout is neat and the white Awlgripped space is impressive, the coolest features here are the two 220-volt, 2.5-hp swimming pool pumps, under a hatch in the walkway between the motors, which provide all of the vessel's raw water. A manifold accessed via another hatch just forward of the port motor lets you deliver it where you need it in the volume and pressure you require. This setup eliminates five to seven separate saltwater pumps and equates to fewer parts to maintain and a reduced potential for system failure. The second pump is a back-up, and since these are typical pool pumps, replacement parts should be easy to find. On the safety side, the aforementioned crash pumps are hydraulically driven and connect to a manifold system that can simultaneously draw water from the forward area, engine room, and lazarette.

The interior is just as efficient in its use of space as the mechanical areas are in terms of function. My vesssel's master, just forward of the engine room and insulated from it by a vacuum-bagged composite bulkhead, is full-beam, thanks to the raised sheer, and sports nearly 7'3" headroom. Her forepeak VIP can be laid out with the standard step-up queen, like on my test boat, or with crossover bunks. (Hardcore traveling anglers with a large crew will likely go for the the latter.) The remaining three staterooms include two with over-under berths for crew and a port-side guest stateroom with a queen for guests. All up, the boat sleeps up to 12. And all four heads feature Headhunters MSDs as standard; there's also a day head just inside and to port of the sliding cockpit door.

This galley is also built to travel, with six under-counter Sub-Zeros (four refrigerators, two freezers) that offer way more than just Hot Pocket space. Steaks, chicken, and fish would be happy to call these home, and there are plenty of ways to cook them, too. You can use the Sharp Convection oven or go with a skillet on the standard electric cooktop. Ample eating space is available at the three-stool centerline island with standard granite countertop and at the starboard-side dinette table for five in the saloon.

Every once in a while you come across a boat that truly defines the purpose for which she was built. The Viking 76 Convertible is such a vessel. She has the speed and agility needed to be a top tournament boat, the comfort and range to be an adventure-angling yacht, fishing amenities that enable you to successfully chase the pelagic of your choice, stout construction that can handle big seas, and a builder's pedigree that was more than 45 years in the making. While there have been many successful Viking sportfishermen launches prior to the 76, she's the embodiment of all the best this builder has to offer.

Viking Yachts (609) 296-6000. www.powerandmotoryacht.com/viking/.

NOTEWORTHY

Viking's VIPER

When Viking wanted more precise rudder control for more responsive steering, it developed the fly-by-wire Viking Independent Proportional Electro-Hydraulic Rudder (VIPER) steering system. Unlike a typical hydraulic steering system in which the two rudders are mechanically connected, VIPER's rudders are individually controlled. When the wheel is turned, an electric signal is sent to a controller whose software dictates the optimum position for each rudder. Viking can adjust the offset (referred to as toe), number of turns lock to lock by altering the software programming; the values can even be adjusted for a particular speed. — P.S. The VIPER's LCD readout provides you with info on rudder angle and trim tab placement.

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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