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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Viking 57 Convertible

When I first got into the boat-testing biz some 21 years ago, European styling was thought by most American experts of the day to be the greatest import to cross the pond since sliced gelato. Even now, the phenomenon continues to haunt the world of marine design, although its influences seem to be fading, especially in light of the styling we’re seeing in today’s sportfishing battlewagons, and more particularly, in a battlewagon I recently sea trialed out of Viking Yacht’s service facility in Riviera Beach, Florida. I’m referring to Viking’s new 57 Convertible.

For sure, the look of the 57 is wholly curvaceous, deceptively simple, and wonderfully sleek. In fact, I defy any true boat-lover to watch her go by and not feel drawn to the sensuous S-curve sheer, the staunchly raked bow, and the low, creamy flying bridge. Yet, the 57’s overall appearance, regardless of the hundreds of subtleties that comprise it, is still so classically American that to my mind, she virtually sweeps the whole European thing away in one pass, thus initiating a design sensibility you might call the new American modernism. Style’s an esoteric subject, though. And a guy like me can get lost in types, origins, and manifestations pretty easily, no matter how attractive first impressions are. So as soon as I got behind the wheel of the 57 in the open Atlantic, amid a passel of three-to-four-foot southeasterly seas, I immediately shifted focus to a more substantive subject: performance. “Hang on,” I chortled while advancing the 57’s Palm Beach-style sticks with the verve I reserve for great expectations.

The boat did not disappoint. With the pitch of her optional twin 1,550-mhp MAN V12 1550CRMs climbing slowly but surely, I aimed the bow straight at the beach just north of Lake Worth Inlet, an orientation that put the weather on our port quarter and a yaw-inducing situation for most boats with relatively flat transoms. The 57 held rock-steady nevertheless, wandering only mildly and infrequently as I fed slight course corrections with my fingertips. At length, with all three trim tabs totally retracted, she topped out at a 2350-rpm speed approximating 46.2 mph, the average top hop I’d recorded earlier during our data runs on the smoother waters of Lake Worth. Then (again, with fingertips alone), I spun a rousing hardover turn.

Talk about poise! Not only did the 57 keep her rpm up throughout, but she kept her nose up as well. And as we fell into a near-reciprocal course, heading straight for the Little Bahamas Bank just over the horizon, I noticed a subtle but telling virtue I seldom encounter during sea trials: Instead of swinging slightly past the intended course, the 57 steadies-up precisely where you want her, with absolutely no need to correct in the opposite direction. A tribute to rudder size and balance? To LCG placement? To power-assisted Teleflex Sea-Star hydraulics? To a prop-pocketed running surface with just enough keel? Yes, on all counts.

Simulating fish-chasing backdowns in open water was just as instructive—you can hammer a sea with the 57’s transom and not get your spectators wet, thanks to whopping inset scuppers that shed water well before it gets to the mezzanine. And dockside maneuvering the 57 was a blast, too, thanks to 360-degree visibility from her helm and the capabilities of a interesting new joystick engine-control package (see “Noteworthy: Joystick Inboards,” this story), as well as the nuanced handling characteristics of her more conventional single-lever electronic control package with a ZF Easidock system. The latter, incidentally, produces a short, powerful burst of torque when gears are shifted, then follows up with a precise, slow-bell effect.

Viking’s famous for its engineering, of course, so what impressed me almost as much as the performance of the 57 was the excellence of her engine room, a white, Awlgripped space I toured as soon we’d returned to our slip. The place was spacious and maintenance-friendly. Low, wide, level platforms of encapsulated-Airex structural foam along the hull sides made outboard engine access easy, despite the intrusion of battery boxes, IsoBoost units, and mufflers. Considering her LOA, headroom was a reasonable 5'8", and the width of the walkway between the expansion tanks on the mains was a generous 2'9".

About mid-tour, something new caught my eye: Viking’s Centralized Seawater System. I found it under a couple of hatches in a molded extension of the hull-side platforms that adjoin the forward firewall. It uses a big Cruisair seawater pump, high-capacity sea strainer, and valved manifold to provide raw water for several applications (air conditioning, refrigeration, livewells, etc.) that otherwise would require a mishmash of pumps of varying size and description. Not only does the arrangement nix the need for disparate spares, it also allows for valved control of livewell circulation to accommodate different types of live bait. Great idea.

Our test boat’s layout below decks was reminiscent of another popular Viking, the 56 Convertible: three staterooms served by an offset companionway. The midship master offers a couple of large hanging lockers, an en suite head with a huge shower stall, and an athwartships berth with innerspring mattress. The forepeak VIP offers a standard queen (our boat had the optional cross-over bunks) and hallway access to a head that is shared with a port-side guest stateroom equipped with bunks and a hanging locker.

Noteworthy: Joystick Inboards

Our 57 had an optional ZF Marine Joystick Maneuvering System (JMS) that controls mains, marine gears, and thrusters to provide great dockside maneuverability. I gave JMS a try near Viking’s service facility and was a tad underwhelmed, perhaps because I’ve operated so many pod-type systems (which aren’t available on this boat). But, while using the joystick to back down, sidle sideways (our Side-Power bow thruster seemed to slightly lag the engines), and rotate, I was impressed with how closely the system comes to the pod experience. Who knows how much closer it’ll get once its disparate elements are further tweaked and integrated?

ZF Marine Electronics (425) 583-1900.


Viking Yachts (609) 296-6000.

This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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