43 Sportfisher — By Richard Thiel
— July 1999
Different by Design
|Everything about the Mikelson 43 is unusual. Even the name.|
Let's get two things straight. First, the company's name is pronounced MY-kel-son. Second, there is no Mr. Mikelson. The name was created by vice president Pat Sullivan after someone complained that the name he chose for his first boat, the Fexas 42, was unfair to other builders who were using Tom Fexas designs.
These are just two footnotes to the story of a boat that is unusual in just about every aspect, from where and how she's built to her hull form and overall design. For instance, there is no Mikelson yard. Instead, the company contracts with established yards in Malaysia, Taiwan, and the United States, an arrangement it claims reduces costs, creates greater production flexibility, and allows it to sell yachts at attractive prices. That last claim is supported by
the rather remarkable base price of $487,000 for a well-equipped 43 Sportfisher.
Mikelson is also unusual in that its entire line--which includes 50, 64, and 78 Sportfishers and the 61 Pilothouse--was designed by one man, Fexas, who characterizes the 43 hull as "the answer." The question? How to marry the high-speed characteristics of a planing hull with the lower-speed efficiency of a semiplaning form. Fexas says his first attempts combined a hard chine aft with round forward sections, but the result was neither as dry (even with spray rails) nor as efficient as he wanted. After years of tinkering, he says he discovered two problems with hard-chine hulls at low speed. One, the chine creates hydrodynamic drag, which reduces efficiency. Two, where the hard chine breaks the water, it creates what he calls a "hard knuckle," which water must flow around at low speed, causing more resistance. The difference with the 43 form, Fexas claims, is that it eliminates this knuckle, although for obvious reasons he won't say precisely how.
Judging from our test numbers, his efficiency claim is well founded. Our 43 not only generated better than one statute mile per gallon up to 10.5 mph, but once she was on plane (1500 rpm), her efficiency actually increased up to 2000 rpm, where we recorded a very respectable 0.8 mpg.
Besides hull form, part of that efficiency is also due to the fact that the engines--twin 430-hp Cummins in our test boat--are well aft, thanks to ZF V-drives. Such a configuration is also unusual, at least in sportfishing boats, partially because it can require a higher cockpit deck to accommodate the engines beneath it. But the design enhances on-plane performance, reduces interior sound levels, and provides better engine access. And if properly executed, as on the 43, running angles are within the normal range.
Despite the 43's advanced cored construction--everything above the waterline is Corecell, even the hatches and interior soles and bulkheads--displacement does not appear to be a factor in her performance. At a listed weight of 34,600 pounds, she's about average for her size and type--Viking lists its 43 Sportfish/Express at 34,500 pounds. But I suspect that the combination of composites above the waterline and solid FRP below places a higher percentage of her weight lower in the boat, for our 43 was impressively stable in the four-foot rollers off San Diego. She was also dry on all points despite the 15-knot gusts on test day. And she had that soft ride Fexas designs are famous for, all the more remarkable when you consider that at 15'8", this is a relatively beamy boat (the Viking 43 is 15'3" wide).
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.