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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Viking Sport Cruisers 75

As luck would have it, our venue for testing the latest addition to the Viking Sport Cruisers line was Atlantic City, New Jersey, with some of the biggest casinos on the East Coast dotting the horizon. As I approached this gaming Mecca, it occurred to me how willing we sometimes are to take chances, to play a hunch. Penny ante or high stakes, for business or pleasure, taking a risk often enhances the moment for many of us.

But there are also occasions when it's best not to take chances—forego the risk and pick a sure thing. The purchase of a $3 million motoryacht qualifies as such an occasion, so it came as no surprise to learn that the owner of this newest Viking Sport Cruiser was a five-time customer. Having owned four other Vikings (two Convertibles and two Sport Cruisers), he was leaving nothing to chance in moving up to the 75-foot motoryacht.

What is it, I asked myself, that gets a customer to come back five times in a row? Satisfactory experience is obviously part of the answer, but what else? Confidence? Peace of mind? Attention to detail? Or is it something inherent in the product? As I scoured through the yacht, I kept looking for clues.

One thing was certain: It was not the standard interior decor selections that brought this owner back. The striking tiger-stripe saloon carpeting and similar motifs carried throughout the interior had clearly been chosen to suit his distinctive style and preferences. Thus, I concluded, part of what brought this man back to Viking was the builder's willingness to customize the interior decor rather than constraining him with a fixed palette of colors and textures.

Like many yachts of this style, the 75's main deck offers an open interior layout that creates a sense of spaciousness, enhanced by large side windows in the saloon and an electrically powered sliding glass door onto the aft deck. But she offers a number of distinctive features as well. For example, you can lower a glass panel aft of the port-side settee, opening the saloon to the aft deck even when the sliding door is shut. With the addition of optional side curtains surrounding the aft deck, the entire space can become a single, climate-controlled, indoor/outdoor area.

Forward of the saloon, a single step up delineates the dining area and galley to port. Normally the galley is open, but for a more formal atmosphere, retractable panels can be raised to close off the galley from the rest of the interior. An especially nice feature is a door directly from the galley to the side deck, so crew can bring aboard stores and stow them without having to traipse through the saloon.

Another nice interior feature is the circular seating area to port, opposite the helm station. Roomier than it first appears, the settee accommodates at least four adults, and the table is big enough to accommodate drinks and a light lunch, all while maintaining a view of the helm and foredeck. This arrangement also appealed to the owner, whose captain has been with him for many years and who is considered a virtual member of the family.

The helm itself is a serious control station, fitted with a pair of Recaro seats that would look at home in a Formula One car. There's also a full complement of electronics and navigation gear that on my boat included a 64-NM Furuno radar, Northstar GPS/plotter, and Simrad autopilot, all interfaced by NavNet. But what really impressed me was visibility from here, not just across the bow and to both sides through the large windscreen and side windows, but even astern thanks to a glass panel aft of the helm station that permits a direct line of sight to the cockpit rail. For those occasions when the owner's party might want privacy from the helm, this panel changes from transparent to translucent with the flick of a switch. For night running, the helm is fitted with red lights in addition to the standard white illumination.

On the lower deck, I found more evidence of Viking Sport Cruisers' willingness to accommodate an owner's wishes. The standard layout is a four-stateroom configuration, with the master suite amidships, a VIP forward, and guest staterooms on either side of a central foyer. But this owner wanted an office onboard, so the starboard guest stateroom was fitted out accordingly, with a desk, drawers, chair, and space for computer and printer in lieu of the usual crisscross twin berths. Along one bulkhead was a pull-down berth to accommodate a guest in a pinch, and the space had it's own private head. If a future owner desires, it can be easily converted back to the original four-stateroom layout.

Being of ample stature (6'2"), I was pleased to see that the lower-deck accommodations were all generously proportioned. Especially noteworthy is the large, sunken tub in the master's en suite head; not a hot tub, but a full-size soaking tub with a stand-up shower and a bank of water jets to quench you in a refreshing spray from chest to knees. I was pleased to note the presence of good handholds, even in the tub enclosure. But I found the closure mechanism on the shower door to be a little tacky; a little flap latch on top of the doors with no mechanism to keep the doors from swinging past the closed position.

I found the crew staterooms, aft and with direct access to the machinery space, nicely proportioned. They were nearly as large as the guest staterooms and finished in the same cherry joinery. By this time I was hardly surprised to step into the engine room and see that it, too, was spacious. But on entering the room, I was a bit surprised to hear the 27.5-kW Onan genset murmuring softly in its hush box--surprised, because up until the moment I opened the door to the engine room, I hadn't even been aware that it was running.

Indeed, even with her main engines running, I found the 75 to be impressively quiet. During sea trials, sound levels at the lower helm were less than 65 dB (quieter than normal conversation) at speeds up to 20 mph. Running at her top speed of more than 36 mph, I measured just 74 dB, a quiet testament to her thorough soundproofing.

Handling underway was smooth and predictable, with good course tracking on the straightaways and positive response in the turns. The combination of bow and stern thrusters made our dockside approach child's play even in a stiff breeze. And had we needed to back into a slip, it was comforting to know there's a full docking station in the cockpit.

By the end of the day, it was clear to see why this owner has remained such a loyal customer. Once you've found a sure thing, why not stick with it?

Viking Sport Cruisers
(609) 296-6000

This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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