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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Viking Sport Cruisers V53

It starts with hull design.

A 15-mph northerly is blowing up a short but steep two- to three-foot chop off the coast of Riviera Beach, Florida. I position the knife-like bow of the Viking Sport Cruisers' V53 Yacht into the oncoming chop, shove the single-lever Volvo Penta electronic controls to the pins, hold the wheel, and prepare for impact. But there isn't any.

The Bernard Olesinski-designed deep-V hull, in which that sharp entry transitions to 21 degrees at the stern, is slicing the sea steadily as the optional twin 775-hp D12-800 diesel inboards hit a top rpm of 2300. Although the 53 is easily reaching an average speed of 37.3 mph, I'm dialing the engines back to a quite-comfortable 2000 rpm, where the V53 is cutting the water just as smoothly at 32 mph. According to Volvo Penta, the D12's optimum cruise rpm is 2150, and at that setting she's reaching 34.4 mph.

The V53 is also smooth from a standing start, lifting easily out of the hole. I attribute this in part to the fact that her running surface extends under the teak-covered integral swim platform, which adds buoyancy aft and helps the boat run level. Eight-inch prop pockets reduce shaft angle, which translates into improved efficiency and a reduced draft (4'1") that will keep all of those skinny-water Bahamian ports of call within easy reach.

I decide to put her power-assisted steering system to the test with hard-over turns, and she gracefully comes about in around two boat lengths with just a 150-rpm drop on the Volvo Penta diesels. She's leaning slightly inboard, and it occurs to me that on boats of this genre, visibility is often obscured to inboard because of excessive heel. This is not the case on the V53, thanks also to two-foot-high (at the helm) side windows that run the entire length of the optional carbon fiber hardtop.

The V53 is running well up and down sea, so I put her beam-to the chop to see if she has that uncomfortable snap roll often found in deep-V designs. While the roll is quick, it's not snapping and appears damped by the hull's reverse chines.

Later I learn that a tough build supports this well-designed running bottom. The V53's hull is solid fiberglass below the waterline with PVC coring in her hull sides for added rigidity without excessive weight (dry weight is approximately 40,800 pounds). The hull-to-deck joint is both bonded with 5200 adhesive and through-bolted about every three inches, and the area where the rubrail mounts has also been strengthened with a heavier lamination schedule. Perhaps that's why the boat never rattles or shakes while running through the chop. Even the hardtop locks into place without a rattle or squeek.

But as well-designed and -built as she is, the V53 has, by virtue of her three-stateroom layout, a small engine compartment. The ladder down to it is tight, even for my 5'7" frame. I must crouch to look around the engines and optional 13.5-kW Onan genset located here. Her saddle-type fuel tanks limit accessibility to the outboard sides of the D12s, but thankfully all regular maintenance items, such as the dual Separ fuel-water separators, are within arm's reach of that ladder.

One place where space is plentiful is the cockpit-bridge deck area. This one-level open space with maximum headroom of 6'7" possesses not one, but two high-gloss-teak tables and seating under the hardtop. If you're into alfresco dining and on-the-water entertaining, you'll like this layout. Outfitted with bridge-deck air conditioning, the V53 will be a hit on the southeast dayboating and Bahamas cruise circuits. And when it's time to catch some rays, you can choose from the aft or foredeck sunpads or just retract that roof.

I'm finishing my day onboard the 53 by taking note of the attractive and seamless gray burl dash at the helm. The cleanliness of this area, the neat, well-executed teak deck below my feet, and the smooth gelcoated surfaces all around me indicate a builder that pays attention to the smallest details. Combine this with the fact that each Viking Sport Cruisers boat undergoes a 250-point inspection, does three to four sea trials before an owner takes possession, and is backed by a million dollars' worth of spare-parts inventory here in the United States, and you've got a recipe for owner satisfaction.

For more information on Viking Sport Cruisers, including contact information, click here.

This article originally appeared in the January 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.