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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Viking Sport Cruisers V58

It was one of those days. Beyond the bow of our test boat—a three-stateroom, two-head version of Viking Sport Cruisers’ V58 Express Yacht—the entire seascape was awash with big, hooligan whitecaps. Four- to six-footers pounded the ends of the jetties flanking Florida’s Lake Worth Inlet. Further out, eight- to ten-footers walloped the Gulf Stream, and further still, it was anybody’s guess what Mother Nature was up to.

I dialed in the eerie, computer-generated voice of NOAA on our standard-issue Icom IC-M602 VHF—the wind was northerly at present, the voice said, doing a steady 20 mph, with gusts of 25 mph or more. I shot a glance through the half-open electric sliding roof in the hardtop—it and the Cruisair cockpit air-conditioning system that was presently switched off were the only options on the boat. The cirrus-streaked, cerulean sky was mute but glorious testimony to the fact that yet another front was departing the area.

“Nice day for a spin,” I grinned at the guy sitting next to me, Tom Carroll Jr., sales manager for Viking’s Sport Cruisers division. He grinned back, guessing immediately that I wasn’t being absolutely facetious. Indeed, based on fond remembrances of the fun I’d had test-driving a 65-foot sistership to the V58 some years prior, I was counting on a smooth, limo-like ride once we were in open water, no matter what the weather was doing. Carroll seemed just as upbeat.

I inched the Rexroth Mecman engine controls a little farther ahead, pouring on the coal with both expectation and enthusiasm, intent on carving a fast, feisty turn just short of the sea buoy. “Now this is boat testing,” I chortled, basking in the steady thrum of powerplants worthy of the name—a matched set of 1,050-hp MAN diesel inboards, whirling beefy Temet shafts, and big, five-bladed, S-class CJR props. For added grins, I popped a switch on the dash a couple of times, just to see how effective and fast the Bennett tabs were. “Groovy,” I noted in short order, just before leveling back out and spinning the wheel hard over to starboard.

The V58 banked like a sea-stomping offshore racer. Both hydraulics and engine-driven power-assist had to be at the bottom of the fingertip steering control I was currently experiencing, I suggested to Carroll. He nodded as I straightened the boat out and, with just a tad more throttle, began beelining south at 30-some miles per hour, with waves and weather over the stern.

We’re talkin’ a driver’s boat here, folks! Visibility from the comfy, bolster-type helm seat I was squeezed into was superb, to some extent due to the whopping size of the panels in the V58’s FRP windshield, but to an even larger extent to the optimum, four-degree running angle the vessel assumes upon achieving plane and steadily maintains all the way up to her WOT speed of 44.8 mph. Of course, numerous factors contribute to this polished, punch-packing behavior, not the least of them being a slippery, deep-V hull form drawn by famous powerboat designer Bernard Olesinski. There’s no beating an array of nicely blended design elements, like prop pockets for decreased shaft angle and draft; broad, slightly-reversed chine flats for increased lift and transverse stability; and a comparatively narrow, rocket-shape footprint for enhanced speed and turn-carving agility.

But balance is the key contributor to the V58’s sinewy poise, at least in my opinion. The explanation is simple. Certainly Marine Projects, the outfit that builds Sport Cruisers for Viking Yachts in England, might have added extra room to the V58’s interior by installing her main engines farther aft, an approach favored by express-boat manufacturers who don’t mind overly high running angles, as well as limited visibility from the helm, as long as they can cram in a few extra television sets and curvaceous lounges. Marine Projects took the high road on this score, however: They sacrificed some of the V58’s interior space and installed the mains far enough forward to guarantee optimum, nicely balanced running angles and superb drivability.

A good idea? Nope, a great idea! Whether I was tearing south towards Boynton Inlet or whomping across eight-footers northbound, our test boat offered a soft, enjoyable, bullet-like ride. Moreover, transitioning between up-sea and down-sea orientations was smoother than a hound dog’s nose—the boat kept her bow up in the troughs, and I never once felt like I was losing control. VDO gauges and other instruments on the dash were readable at a glance. And on top of everything else, as we approached our slip at Viking Yachts Service Center in Riviera Beach after our wringout, Carroll noted that the foredeck and windshield were darn near bone-dry. Cool!

I began examining our test boat dockside as soon as we were tied up. The American cherry interior featured a three-stateroom layout (a two-stateroom version is available), with a master and guest aft, VIP forward, and a teak-sole galley, dinette area, and saloon area in between. Both the master and VIP have en suite heads with separate stall showers, Avonite countertops, and opening-port ventilation. The level of fit and finish was generally high everywhere, with finely molded, strip-laminated, pin-routed door casings and caprails throughout—no mitered or scarfed joints here—and flawlessly applied polyurethane varnish on the modularly built furnishings.

Descending the ladder into the machinery spaces through a hatch in the cockpit sole engendered a flush of mild surprise. The engine room is not wide, but it is long and reasonably roomy, particularly in light of the narrowness of the hull form, the bulk of the V-8 MANs, the presence of voluminous, saddle-type fuel tanks outboard of them, and a garage large enough to hold an 11-foot RIB well aft on the starboard side. Headroom was decent at 5’10”, and the central aluminum diamond-plate walkway was as useable as a city sidewalk: I could traverse it with smooth, unhampered ease. Maintenance access continued the theme—I had absolutely no difficulty getting to the duplex Separ fuel-water filters on the aft firewall, the cross-connected Tides Marine dripless shaftlogs below them, or any of the various service points on the engines.

What I could see of construction in the engine room was as impressive as the mechanicals. The V58 is a highly integrated boat, with an egg-crate-type lattice of foam-cored strengtheners primarily bonded into a solid-glass hull; a host of modular interior components and furnishings that fit into a giant, underlying, FRP “tray mold” secondarily bonded to the hull sides, stringer tops, and the underside of the deck; and a hull-to-deck joint that’s both bolted and fiberglassed, all the way around. Having a chance to see aspects of Marine Projects’ approach to boatbuilding, both in the engine room and the lazarette abaft it, handed me a clearer understanding of the security I’d felt while driving the V58 offshore.

Which, by way of conclusion, brings me back to something I’ve already covered rather extensively—the true essence of the boat. While there’s no doubt the Viking Sport Cruisers V58 Express Yacht is a solidly built, finely finished performer, there’s also no question that her forte is zooming around the high seas with the verve of a thoroughbred.

Fun to drive? Oh yeah. And the bigger the seas, the better!

Viking Sport Cruisers
(609) 296-6000

This article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.