Fairline Squadron 65By Capt. Richard Thiel
A Little Flash for the Family
Looking for performance and posh but need room for kids and grandkids? Fairline’s got it.
A few months ago I tested the Fairline Targa 58 (see April PMY, “Pure Indulgence”), a boat I found to be as exciting and glamorous as she was impractical—at least for most of us. I loved her, and I figured the reason I did was my uniquely American DNA, which is programmed to respond positively, if not always logically, to things that are big, fast, and nimble. Discovering later that the 58 had been named Boat of the Year by a U.K. marine magazine, I had to conclude that perhaps there are a few macho Brits too.
It’s a fine thing to be able to build a boat like the Targa, but it’s damn hard today for a builder to subsist entirely off a model that, while glamorous and exciting, has no bridge and a rather rudimentary galley, especially given current boater demographics. Today most buyers demand enough room and amenities to accommodate not just guests but multiple children/grandchildren, and many of these middle-agers also want the superior visibility a flying bridge offers.
Fortunately, besides the Targa express line, Fairline has always offered two series of tamer but roomier and more family-friendly flying-bridge boats, the Phantoms and the Squadrons. Over the years, I’ve asked various company representatives to explain the difference between these two lines, and while they always patiently complied, I never quite absorbed the distinction. In the end, I settled for considering the Squadrons simply higher-end Phantoms, although I know that my oversimplification drove some Fairline marketing folks batty.
But last September, the whole issue became moot when Fairline announced that it was phasing out the Phantom line. This is, in my opinion, entirely positive because consumers (and dim-witted marine journalists) traditionally have difficulty parsing nuanced differences among model lines. And it leaves Fairline with a simpler but still impressive fleet of eight express and seven flying-bridge boats ranging from 42 to 78 feet.
The differences between those lines are obvious and well illustrated by the two boats I tested on the same day. In fact, after leaving the 58 to board the 65, I found myself wondering whether the same chaps who created that sporty express for Austin Powers wannabes could also pull off a 65-foot flying-bridge cruiser aimed at the Brady Bunch crowd.
Fortunately for Fairline, certain features are admired in both worlds. One is well-executed joinery. Fairline enjoys a well-deserved reputation for beautiful lacquer and finely fitted interior wood, and while it’s probably best known for its high-gloss cherry interiors, the satin-finish walnut on our boat is, in my opinion, an even more elegant and classy option. (White oak is also available.) Whatever wood you choose, Fairline will craft it into rectilinear shapes for this boat. Unlike previous Fairlines that had more curves than a cherub, the 65 is all sharp right angles. I’d describe the result as severely stylish.
Space planning is another of this builder’s strong points, and the 65 excels on two counts. First, the entire main deck (less the elevated helm seats) is on one level, reducing the likelihood of someone tripping when trying to navigate her way among the galley (U-shape and well outfitted right down to cutlery, china, and glass), dinette (six-person), and saloon, especially in any kind of a seaway. Besides, a single-level space feels larger and less cluttered than one with steps—even if they’re small ones—and here, abetted by panoramic views through expansive windows and ultramodern rectilinear furniture, the resulting ambiance is one of a spare and spacious apartment.
The lower accommodations level is also smartly arranged. All three staterooms are generously sized and have en suite heads. Plus there’s a day head midway down the companionway, next to the standard Splendide washer/dryer. Being full-beam and amidships, the master is naturally the largest, but not so much more than the forepeak VIP. It’s also bright thanks to multiple side windows, but so is the VIP due to its nearly full-length skylight-hatch (with shade). A fourth two-bunk stateroom/crew’s quarters and head resides abaft the engine room, its compactness much ameliorated by a full-width skylight on its aft (transom) side, a feature you’ll be seeing on future Fairlines.
But perhaps the best use of space aboard is on the bridge, which Fairline designers clearly envisioned as the prime gathering area. The bridge deck is long—it basically covers the cockpit—and since the standard swim platform is deep enough to carry a tender (and raises and lowers hydraulically to launch and retrieve it), everything above can be dedicated to pleasuring guests by way of two sunlounges with tilt-up headrests. There are additional sunlounges forward (and on the foredeck) and in between, there’s a six-person dining table with its own set of china and cutlery.
As to performance, the 65’s, while feeling somewhat weak-kneed compared to the 58’s, matches up well against others of her ilk. My boat’s standard 1,015-hp Caterpillar C18 ACERTs produced a top speed of 36 mph, actually 1.3 mph faster than the 58, which was powered by twin 900-hp Volvo D13s. Nonetheless the 58 felt faster—probably a function of my imagination rather than being an empirical fact—and more responsive—definitely a fact. Because the 65 is bigger (she weighs nearly six tons more) she accelerates more slowly, turns wider, and gets about 25 percent less fuel efficiency across the board. But again, by flying-bridge standards, she’s a pleasure to drive. And comfort? No comparison. The 65 has a combination of performance and comfort like nothing this side of a BMW 7 Series.
My hour at the wheel of the 65 left me impressed by the versatility of Fairline’s design team and appreciative of this boats unqualified comfort, the latter impression I chalked up to another uniquely American thirst—this one for luxury. That was until I discovered that another U.K. magazine had just named this Fairline its Boat of the Year. Maybe those Brits aren’t so different from us Yanks after all.
This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.