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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Viking Sport Cruisers V70 Express

About ten years ago, I received a call from Tom Carroll, then executive vice president of Viking Yachts, telling me the builder partnered with U.K. builder Princess Yachts to import a line of motoryachts to the United States. He wanted to know if I was interested in shaking down the first two models, a flying-bridge 48 and a 52-foot open, on a run from Miami to Marathon. I said yes, but I was dubious. Viking was sportfishing boats. Over the years it had offered some motoryacht models based on its convertible hulls and had purchased the motoryacht builder Gulfstar, neither with enduring success. Why try again?

Besides, Viking has always built just about everything that goes into its boats, shy of engines and electronics. Now it was going to sell a boat that someone else had built? The concept seemed totally out of character, and while I liked those first two Viking Sport Cruisers—especially their joinery and their seakeeping in Hawk Channel—I wondered how American buyers would cotton to what some might view as basically European yachts.

A decade later, my concerns seem a little silly. Viking Sport Cruisers (VSC) reports it has delivered more than 500 yachts and now sells through 29 retail locations. It has two dedicated service facilities, one in New Gretna, New Jersey, the other in Riviera Beach, Florida. By any measure, it's a success. And to say its boats are just modified Princesses is a major understatement. Viking is involved at each model's conception, making sure it will appeal to American buyers. TDI Design, the same American firm that does the interiors of Viking convertibles, also does those for VSC, which purchases the materials stateside and ships them to the U.K. every two weeks in containers that also contain key mechanical components. Even the MAN engines are purchased here.

The result is a true Euro-American boat, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the V70 Express. When I stepped aboard her, I immediately thought of that 52-foot open—the boats have similar exterior lines. But the V70 is bigger and faster and has something inconceivable in the 52's day: an enclosed, air-conditioned bridge with a large sunroof forward. And she has four pedestal seats directly beneath it to make sure everyone enjoys the breeze. That includes the helmsman, who enjoys excellent sightlines when seated thanks to a single mullion, a bit of an engineering feat. His standing headroom is limited to about 5'7" with the sunroof closed; when open it is, of course, unlimited, although he has to be six foot or better to see over the windshield frame. Fore- and aft-deck access is good, too, thanks to a starboard door.

Viking's description of the V70 as a "blue water sports car," is supported by a helm that screams, "Drive me." Our boat had the optional Maptech i3 chartplotter/64-mile radar with two VEI touch-screens and electronic displays for the optional 1,675-hp Caterpillar C30s, resulting in an unusually clean, uncluttered panel. It also sported Lenco trim tabs whose controls have LED lights showing tab position—useful but not terribly visible in direct sunlight. Also useful—and enjoyable—are six air-conditioning outlets and a windshield defogger.

That sports car metaphor is also supported by the V70's performance. Nineteen degrees of aft deadrise, cupped chines, power-assisted steering, the swim platform's additional waterline, and the twin Cats' 630-hp edge over the standard 1,360-hp MANs produced a thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly dry ride. Acceleration was quick, with only moderate (four degrees max) bow rise, and an average top speed of 45.3 mph was equally satisfying, although according to the Cat displays, the engines weren't fully loaded. (Subsequent tests by Viking with different props produced a top speed of just over 46 mph.) And that was with 900 gallons of fuel and seven people aboard.

Seven people may seem like a crowd for a test, but it surely didn't feel like it. Credit that to the expansive main-deck area abaft those four seats. The inside half includes a ten-person U-shape settee and table to starboard across from a smaller settee, standard wine cooler, and LCD TV with optional Bose home-theater system. It's here and below on the accommodations level that you see the work of TDI, which has produced a most un-European interior of tan and beige suede and leather, natural cherry, and copper-tone Avonite, accented by sand carpets and hardwood floors.

A triple-panel sliding-glass door opens to two-thirds width to join this area with an exterior that's nearly equal in size and about half of which is shaded. Like all exterior decks, it is teak-clad. Another U-shape settee with folding table lies to starboard, while to port is a mini-galley (the main one is below) complete with two-burner stovetop, sink, ice maker, trash bin, and pull-out drink drawer, plus an L-shape settee.

Getting the idea that the V70 was designed for outside fun? Wait until you see what's aft of each of those settees: a two-person sunpad (there's a third on the foredeck). To get maximum length, hinged headrests can also function as backrests for the settees. Pretty crafty—but not as crafty as what's farther aft. Beneath the sunpad and abaft the engine room is crew quarters with a head/shower and single berth to starboard (future models will have another berth to port). Accessed from beneath the starboard sunpad, it's surprisingly roomy—especially when you consider there's a garage on both sides. The wider port-side one is for the tender and the starboard garage is for the PWC. Both have windlasses.

With all that potential for exterior fun, you could almost forget about the lower deck. But you'd be ignoring a full-beam amidships master, a port-side double-berth stateroom, and a forepeak VIP—all with en suite facilities that include an enclosed shower. You'd also miss the fully equipped starboard galley, which complements the topside minigalley.

And you'd miss the American feel of a yacht that looks European from the outside. That's a combination a lot of builders on both sides of the Atlantic would love to have. Maybe they need to create their own European Union.

Viking Sport Cruisers
(609) 296-6000

This article originally appeared in the July 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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