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Fairline Targa 48 Open

New Beginnings

The Fairline Targa 48 Open represents lots of firsts for the company in terms of construction, design, and engineering, and she’s pointing the way to a bright future indeed.

The recession was tough on boatbuilders everywhere, but perhaps those that relied most on the European market were hardest hit. Fairline, one of the prime British boating brands, had a rough time of it. But now the dust appears to have settled. New owners and new senior staff have been joined by a new CEO. New models have been developed. The company recently invested $4.5 million in manufacturing and engineering. And at September’s simultaneous boat shows in Cannes and Southampton, it succeeded in putting on a strong showing in two places at once. Fairline clearly intends to come out of the economic storm leaner, more efficient, and higher-tech than when it went in.

So not only is the new Targa 48 Open the first Fairline specifically designed around Volvo Penta’s IPS drives, it is also the first to be constructed using resin-infusion lamination techniques. The deck and superstructure moldings have been engineered with their own internal monocoque structure, reducing the need for additional strengthening. And the engineers didn’t stop there. They have reduced weight wherever possible—even in those impressive hull windows, which are not glass, but acrylic—and the boat is built on load cells so that weight can be monitored during construction. According to Fairline, these changes mean that the 48 Open is a barely believable 25 percent lighter than she would otherwise be. 

Impressive—but as if her builders are unwilling to load her up with extras, the Targa’s options list is remarkably long. The prices upon it might also give you pause. This particular boat was pretty well equipped with all the usual accoutrements required for classy cruising, and nothing onboard seemed particularly unnecessary. And yet options account for more than 35 percent of the bottom line. You could buy a lot of shoes with that. Or an Aston Martin Vanquish.

The Targa 48 Open is a two-cabin boat in standard form, with an impressive midships master suite, and an en suite VIP forward with scissor berths. Between these cabins is an excellent lower saloon, which can be swapped for a small third cabin if you prefer, and on the port side a large and well-equipped galley, with a full-height fridge/freezer and some excellent stowage solutions. Headroom throughout these lower areas never falls below 6 feet 4 inches, even in the shower compartments, and the berths are also full size. 

Up in the cockpit there is a substantial sunpad aft, and secure and comfortable seating under the hardtop—although the paired Recaro helm seats on our test boat were, perhaps inevitably, an extra. There is a fabric sunroof and, of course, the Open’s hardtop is open at the back, with an extending electric bimini to help shade the cockpit. 

It was good to see plenty of the cool design and engineering touches for which Fairline is well known, such as the hinged step at the helm and the cantilevered folding cockpit table, which stows away completely under the sofa cushion. Also hidden away but perhaps cleverest of all are the elegant, one-piece hydraulic hinges that lift the garage door. And safe-boating basics have not been neglected—the side decks have a prominent, molded toerail and guardrails a sensible 28 inches high, while there are solid stainless steel handrails where you need them, both inside and out. 

Fairline also has a reputation for building boats that are great to drive, thanks to its long-standing partnership with the English naval architectural firm Bernard Olesinski Ltd. in Cowes, England. For the new Targa 48, however, the company went to J&J, part of the famous Seaway group in Slovenia, which not only drew the new hull but also engineered its high-tech construction. The first thing you notice is how beamy this hull is—over a foot wider than Fairline’s own Targa 47, for example, which adds significant extra internal volume. The engine placement is interesting too—the IPS drives are obviously aft, but the engines are a good three feet farther forward than you might expect, connected to the gearboxes on jackshafts. 

Getting weight in the right places is a major aspect of boat design. A naval architect chum who changed careers and found himself designing battle tanks instead of yachts once told me that the two jobs weren’t much different: “You’ve just got to keep the weight out of the ends.” I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but his point was well illustrated when we took the 48 to sea off Cannes during the recent boat show. 

We managed a maximum of just over 30 knots in a two-way run, perfectly respectable but a good two knots less than the speed achieved in Fairline’s own trials in the UK on the first Targa 48. I wondered if our boat had different props, as the engines weren’t quite pulling their rated revs, but according to the Fairline chaps who came out with us the cause was a combination of having a heavy tender right aft, and an empty water tank amidships, interfering with the designed trim of the boat. The trim tabs were pretty effective, and helped add as much as a knot at high planing speeds, but not quite enough to make up the loss. So try and keep that water tank topped off.

Otherwise, the 48 acquitted itself extremely well. The handling was sure-footed, the helm response lively without being skittish, and the hull’s V seemed plenty deep enough to iron out the mildly choppy conditions of our test day. Bashing upwind was comfortable and remarkably quiet, with no rattles and only a pleasantly muffled thump coming up from occasional wave impacts, thanks to the insulation of the foam-cored bottom.  

The Targa 48 Open felt solid, capable, and confidence-inspiring—just what you want in a machine designed for going places, from a company that intends to do the same.

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This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.