Fairline Targa 58 GTBy Capt. Richard Thiel
Ever wish you could forget about practicality? This boat will make you believe you not only can but should.
I studiously avoid comparing boats and cars, feeling that in the size range that PMY covers, there’s really little commonality; a better comparison might be boats and apartments, or better yet, boats and vacation homes. But I admit that minor similarities do exist between boats and cars, one in particular that pops up during the initial shopping process. It’s that tug of war between practicality and profligacy.
Guys know all about this. You start thinking about that new car, and the first candidate that comes to mind is something like a Porsche Boxster. Then that little voice (which sounds an awful lot like your wife) reminds you that you have kids. How are you going to fit them into a sports car? A spousal confab ensues, and before you know it, you’re looking at a minivan. Practicality has again triumphed though for as long as you drive that van, you’ll find yourself wondering just how much fun life with an impractical little two-seater could have been.
This scenario describes how I felt a few minutes into my test of the Fairline Targa 58 Gran Turismo. I’m a single-engine lobsterboat kinda guy, but after a half-hour at the wheel of this boat, I’d convinced myself that had I the requisite $2.2 million (admittedly a most unlikely prospect), this would be the perfect boat for me. Some of this conviction was due to the perfect conditions on test day, which contributed to an afternoon of pure boat-driving pleasure. But mostly it was the 58. Fairline has a knack for somehow making a big boat—in this case a nearly-24-tonner—feel like a ski boat. The Bernard Olesinki-designed hull gets a lot of the credit, as it combines the generous 17-degree aft deadrise needed to provide a smooth ride in chop with enough lift that the boat planes easily and without excessive bow rise. (The running-angle numbers you see in this article’s spec chart were generated without any trim tab deflection.)
Of course every hull is a compromise, and the inevitable trade-off here is some decidedly ski boat-ish heel in high-speed turns. While that amps up the thrill factor, it also creates some substantial blind spots on either side when the wheel’s hardover, a characteristic common to this kind of boat and nothing unsafe as long as you or your designatee check before you spin the wheel.
Credit for the generous measure of scintillation also goes to the 58’s propulsion—no pods, just straight-shaft inboards with the engines just aft of amidships. This was my first experience with Volvo Penta’s D13-900s (optional), and they performed flawlessly, especially in terms of throttle response. Volvo does an excellent job of packaging this engine to minimize its envelope, which here meant a surprisingly commodious (for the type) engine room—5'7" headroom and two feet between the motors. That would normally suggest sweat-free maintenance were it not for the fact that all of the port engine’s filters were outboard, which portend some hands-and-knees work for all but the smallest technician. Still, practicality is not the principal yardstick by which this boat should be measured. The 58 is about making you look and feel good, and boy, did she do that for me.
And it wasn’t just wheel time that did it. I was equally impressed by how well the layout would suit my imaginary upscale lifestyle as it’s both unusual and innovative. My test boat had the optional satin-finish wenge and quartz (that’s a color, not a mineral) interior accented by teak soles, and even by this builder’s high standards for joinery, it impressed—upscale but inviting in a beach-house kind of way. In fact, I can’t picture the boat with the standard oak-and-ivory scheme.
But honestly, a beautifully crafted interior is expected at this level. So Fairline has added a number of features that really do set the 58 apart from other big sportboats, and considering who they are and what they’re building these days, that’s saying something. One theme that’s common to the ilk is maximum glass area and plenty of openings to the outside on the main deck. The 58 has the de rigueur big sunroof, but with an important twist: This one doesn’t rattle—even when it’s partly open—because a pneumatic collar inflates automatically to lock it in place.
As for openings on the main deck, there is one on each side—actually they are the sides. At 9'10" long, these are, says Fairline, the largest lowering windows on any production boat. (They’re optional.) A new three-piece sliding cockpit door (not on our test boat) plus another, small electrically lowering glass panel to starboard (also optional) open up the aft bulkhead and mean that essentially the whole saloon except for the windshield opens to the outside. And yes, there are also skylights in the overhead—four of them—although they admit little light when the solid sunroof is all the way open.
An even bigger surprise awaits below, where Fairline has turned the typical accommodation plan on its ear. The master is not amidships, in the widest part of the boat, but forward—but not all the way forward. A large head with enclosed shower occupies the forepeak, and aft of that, sits the master with the bed on the port side and aligned athwartships. No, it’s not in the widest part of the boat, but the area is plenty big. And amidships? That is where the two big guest staterooms reside side by side, each with big hull-side windows and its own en suite head (with enclosed shower) forward. And to make sure they can perfectly accommodate the proclivities of their occupants, the twin berths in the starboard stateroom can slide together to form a single big bed. So unlike that two-seat sports car, the 58 won’t require your friends and family members to suffer indignities—or just stay home—should they wish to accompany you.
But that hardly makes the Targa 58 GT some utilitarian cruiser. For instance, you won’t be making any gourmet meals in her galley. It’s on the main deck, aft of the helm and to starboard, hidden in a stylish but small console with a bi-fold top. As to equipment, let’s just say it’s basic. Any cooking will need to be done on the two-burner Ceran cooktop or in the standard-size microwave oven. Frankly, considering how these kinds of boats are typically used—i.e. dining ashore—I don’t see this as a problem. However I do wonder about fitting a 4.5-cubic-foot refrigerator on a boat that’s 58 feet long and can easily accommodate six adults. Forget about comestibles, you’re not going to be able to squeeze much in the way of beverages into a half-size refrigerator. Fortunately, you can order more cold storage units in the lower lobby and lazarette, and the two stowage drawers at the aft end of the galley look like they might be able to accommodate a couple of refrigerator/freezer drawers, though the option’s absent from Fairline’s spec sheet.
But really, let’s maintain perspective: Would you let a minor annoyance like a small fridge stand between you and total fantasy fulfillment? Especially when the Targa 58 does everything else with such panache? Neither would I.
This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.