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Viking Sport Cruisers V65 Express

If the Viking Sport Cruisers' V65 were human, I would say that she welcomed me with open arms. From the moment that I stepped aboard, that she seemed the consummate hostess, a perfect venue for socializing with family, friends, or business associates. With her versatile open layout and stylish, understated, but elegant decor, she's suited to any occasion, be it a casual day of fun in the sun or a formal affair at an upscale yacht club.

Even the simple act of stepping aboard was a tip-off to the yacht's welcoming ways. She was docked at Viking's service center in Fort Pierce, Florida, and her full-beam teak swim platform made for easy boarding from the floating docks, even with the usual mountain of PMY test gear in hand. Wide teak steps and beefy handrails offer easy access up to the main deck. Had she been docked alongside a high bulkhead, I could have boarded just as easily, directly onto the main deck, thanks to openings in the stainless steel rails that run the length of her full walkaround side decks, and across her aft deck. And if the boarding situation had been really challenging, we could have deployed the optional retractable passarelle.

However you come aboard the yacht, you will enter through the cockpit area, a smartly styled space that's partially covered by the extended hardtop and which has a few features beckoning for attention. To starboard, the U-shape settee and handsome varnished cocktail/dining table is perfect for dinner and cocktails under the stars or to flop down and relax after taking a dip off the swim platform. Yet another temptation opposite takes the form of a sunpad big enough for two (there's another large sunpad on the foredeck). And always a thoughtful hostess, the V65 has a wet bar with refrigerator, ice maker, sink, and grill—all standard—just forward of this so guests don't have to exert themselves clomping through the saloon when they're in the mood for food and refreshments.

One of the keys to creating a welcoming environment is the ability to adapt to any situation, and the solidly built sliding glass door leading into the saloon struck me as exceptionally versatile. It can be opened in three stages. Fully open, it unites the saloon and cockpit into a single outdoor space, and when partially open, it still affords easy passage between the cockpit and saloon but allows each space to retain its own character (while keeping more of the air conditioning in the saloon). With the glass panels fully closed, the saloon assumes an air of sophisticated elegance. A stunning glass-top dining table and an angular, U-shape settee reinforce that ambiance for a formal dining affair. Though elegant, the space is not the least bit stodgy; if the occasion is more casual, just pop up the 32-inch LCD TV, hidden in a recess behind a loveseat (opposite the settee).

Offering a cozier spot for guests to relax is a smaller dinette table and settee forward on the port side; ideal for breakfast or a midday snack, it's also a great place to keep an eye on what's happening at the helm, opposite. Styling is simple and uncluttered, with visual interest achieved by a combination of different colors and textures. Our test boat had black leather helm seats and a black dashboard, in contrast to the creamy Ultraleather upholstery in saloon and dinette seating areas and complemented by the dark-toned, varnished cherry joinery. For accents the stainless steel handrail leading to the lower deck is wrapped in knobby leather, while the window mullions are textured to give them a bit of an industrial-strength look.

Even the galley has an inviting air: U-shape, it's at the base of a centerline stairway down to the lower deck, so its double-door refrigerator-freezer keeps the refreshments close at hand. A pair of elliptical ports will keep the space bright, and to make cleanup easy there's a Miele dishwasher alongside the Franke stainless steel sink. Every V65 comes with a full set of china, silverware, and glasses, so cabinets and drawers are built with custom-fit holders to keep things in place while underway.

The most private space in the yacht, of course, is the master stateroom, a secluded retreat that extends full beam amidships, with four oversize vertical ports on each side; more like a bay window than a row of portholes, they made the room feel even more spacious than its already generous proportions. As in the saloon, a variety of textures provided visual interest: Panels of leather and suede adorned portions of the walls, highlighting the cherry joinery and solid cherry moldings, while a pair of tall mirrors flanked the king-size centerline berth.

All three staterooms have en suite facilities with generously sized shower enclosures, Avonite countertops, and teak soles. The head for the third stateroom has a second doorway, so it can serve as a day head without compromising the privacy of the adjoining stateroom. The only fault I found in the interior fit and finish was a rattle in the shower doors. When I mentioned it to Viking's marketing director, Peter Frederiksen, he assured me that the problem had already been noted and that the doors were being replaced.

Even the engine room, which is accessed through a hatch hidden under the cockpit sunpad, felt welcoming. A vertical ladder leads down here (and also to the optional crew stateroom and head, which could otherwise serve as stowage space), and while having fuel tanks outboard of the big 1,360-hp MANs should've made the space feel cramped, with 6'4" headroom it actually seemed roomy. Engine-mounted filters are relocated so access to the outboard side is not a concern, and all other equipment is easily accessible.

With clear skies, warm sun, and delightfully low humidity, I could almost feel the V65 beckoning us to begin her sea trial. We eased her away from the dock and out the Fort Pierce inlet. From a standing start, I found her to be a bit sluggish getting up on plane, but once above 1800 rpm, she revved up quickly to a top speed of more than 44 mph. Bow rise was negligible, and she ran flat, trimming no more than four degrees throughout the full rpm range. She banked comfortably into high-speed turns with only minimal loss of speed and no discernable vibration or cavitation. Sightlines were good in all directions; only during a tight turn to starboard did I discover that visibility out the side windows was limited, as the hull banked tightly into the turn.

Her individually adjustable helm seats were comfortable, with good lateral support. And the retractable section in her hardtop let us take full advantage of the exceptionally pleasant Florida weather. If my visual inspection found the V65 inviting, the sea trial proved her to be positively captivating.

Viking Sport Cruisers
(609) 296-6000

This article originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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