With a sporty style all her own, the Austin Parker 64 Fly S makes a point of being an Italian yacht, and looks good doing it. But you’ll want to go deeper.
Austin Parker may not sound it by the name, but this is an Italian boatbuilder through and through since its inception back in 1998, and also in its latest iteration under this ownership group begun in 2008. The lines of the boats brought to the U.S. a few years ago by the company (commonly using the color scheme of dark-blue hull and white superstructure) were considered evocative of Down East-inspired cruisers. But as my research for this story has progressed, I’ve begun to think the whole lobster-boat-goes-Italian-theme was more a result of a marketing angle drawn from past launches than anything else. It’s worth noting, the company got its name by trying to capitalize on the American connection, and the power of suggestion is real and the story will stick around if it is good enough.
Make no mistake, Austin Parker is focused on bringing forth the best of Italian yacht design. And if the results can catch the eye of someone who may be looking at Down East-style boats, that would be just fine with this builder.
While the paint jobs have not (all) changed, there’s very little else about these boats to suggest anything but European engineering and a Mediterranean sensibility. The exterior is sleek and the sheerline high—better for catching eyes than shellfish. And the interior is clean, with muted color schemes. I caught up with this latest launch, the 64 Fly S, at the Salone Nautico in Genoa, Italy, last October, (where the boat had just won the Motor Yacht of the Year award given by Italian boating magazine Vela e Motor in collaboration with UCINA, Italy’s marine trade association). She is built on the same hull as the previous version, the 64 Fly introduced in 2012. Sizing up gets you a 72-foot motoryacht, while just below is the 54 Fly S (but more on that in a moment), and then a 42-foot hull in various configurations. There’s also a 36-footer, and last October the company announced plans to produce a hybrid version on that hull.
This Fulvio De Simoni design captures the essence of Italian engineering—not a detail has been missed. Run your hand across any surface onboard, from the covering boards that rim the cockpit to the saloon overhead to the helm console to the engine-room bulkhead and you get a better sense of this build’s very nature: complete in every sense of the word. The boats are built using resin infusion, which gives them lightweight strength in the hull, decks, and superstructure. The hullsides are cored with balsa wood. The result is a solid feel everywhere onboard.
The many pieces fit together elegantly throughout, such as where the 1,200-horsepower MAN diesels accommodate the tender garage and swim-platform hydraulics. Thanks in part to a generous exhaust system designed to quiet the diesels underway, there’s a lot going on in the engine room—that can happen when tender garages intrude on the space (and it’s an acceptable trade in this case)—but it’s all manageable and organized. Indeed it was in the engine room that it dawned on me that this boat is a human-size puzzle. There’s a lot within this footprint but it still manages to stay human-size.
The helm station sits back beneath a sharply raked windshield and has a nicely composed dashboard with shallowly angled flats on either side of the wheel for built-in switches. A more vertical panel placed a pair of Raymarine e125 multifunction displays, each with a widescreen shape that optimizes helm space. Leather helm and companion seats with arms let you get comfortable sitting at the wheel, and the forward half of each seat bottom folds up to be a bolster for standing. To port of the helm, you’ll find a steep six-step stairway equipped with a rugged handrail to ease the passage to the lower deck.
But don’t tour the accommodations yet, there’s the boat’s performance to attend to while we’re at the wheel. The twin MAN V-8 diesels matched to ZF V-drive transmissions pushed the Austin Parker 64 Fly S to better than 30 knots on our test. Conditions on our test day were delightful, if unchallenging, with calm seas and 80-degree temperatures on the docks (which is probably why a few members of the Austin Parker staff joined us on the sea trial). The 64 Fly S maneuvered around the mosquito fleet of sea trials taking place during the boat show—everything from jet-powered RIB tenders to large, high-performance express cruisers—with surefooted ease and nary a quake or rattle.
The MANs are the only power option available, but asking about power options in this case is like wondering if your body should be fitted with a different set of kidneys: These engines fit in the spot, balance the hull nicely, and do the job they were meant to do. Same goes for that running surface, which has a deep forefoot that gradually flattens out aft to a 14-degree deadrise at the transom. That hull really stepped up as I took advantage of the calm seas to see what the 64 can do.
This is a large 64-footer and she really lowered her shoulder into hard-over turns, slaloming nimbly along with the hammer down, and we eventually dropped back to a comfortable cruise speed of 26 knots. The boat just felt solid and...the word that comes to mind is “singular,” as in all one piece. You just need to get aboard to get a full sense of this whole package.
And that’s the best part: You can look for yourself. Austin Parker is currently in the process of reengaging with the U.S. market, and has incorporated here to ensure greater control of the representation they have on our shores. When I tested the 64 Fly S, the company was strategizing for its next steps in the U.S. market. Indeed they have since delivered a 54 Fly S to the United States and showed her off at the Yacht and Brokerage Show in Miami Beach last February (“A 54 with More,” below).
We need to get a couple of things straight about both the 64 Fly S and the 54 Fly S. For one thing, both of these boats are badged (figuratively) with Austin Parker’s S nomenclature, which means a darker treatment of the wood used in the interior, from the oak floor to the elm used in the furniture. Another aspect of the S model is the addition of a hydraulic swim platform. And most importantly, what differentiates the S from its non-S forebears is the accommodations layout.
“The layout of the boat has been modified on the lower deck,” says Pedro Ramos Polo, director of international sales for Austin Parker. “The aim was to increase the open volume in the owner’s cabin. The result is a cabin that looks and feels as part of an 80-footer.”
And he’s not just saying that. There’s a fair amount of design going on here to back it up. The master stateroom is located amidships and the berth is offset ever so slightly to starboard. Outboard on that side is a built-in sofa—long enough so you could stretch out on it if you were, you know, averse to getting in bed for a nap during the daytime. Opposite to port, and with a good amount of open deck space, is a two-seat dinette inviting the couple to enjoy some privacy within the suite. Forward of that is a desk with a full chair (no stool here), while large hanging lockers are up a single step, near the stateroom entrance.
The door to a generous head compartment is in the aft bulkhead, and in there beyond the elongated basin-style sink, MSD, and bidet, is a glorious glass-enclosed shower with built-in bench, finished in the tiniest tile I’ve ever seen—each less than an inch square. Very elegant.
Two other en suite staterooms (plus crew’s quarters) round out the accommodations. The forepeak stateroom had the berth angled off centerline to make the most of the space. A starboard stateroom with a pair of single berths had a head compartment to compete with that of the VIP. These felt to me like rooms you could live in—sleek design means simple and comfortable.
Elegance pervades this build—there’s beauty in well-done simplicity. On the main deck directly abaft the starboard helm station, a galley is enclosed yet has a door to the side deck to make provisioning easier. The team at Austin Parker pointed out they’ve designed an open galley version of the S model as well, should you want to be more social.
A dining table to port of the helm seats six with loose chairs chicly designed with white leather seating surfaces and just the right size not to crowd. As you move aft, the saloon is reminiscent of a sunken living room, two steps down (very Hugh Hefner to my mind), with L-shaped settees on opposite corners, the one to starboard with a dinette table. A large sliding glass door opens onto a shaded cockpit, where there’s an L-shaped dinette to starboard and a transom settee. The cockpit also has a stairway to port that leads to the flying bridge, where there is yet another dinette—this one is U-shaped and positioned as companion seating for the helm—as well as an aft sunpad and a console for a grill and sink with refrigeration underneath. Another sunpad is on the foredeck, punctuated by the round hatches lighting the forepeak stateroom.
So lay back on any of the sunpads, either forward or on the flying bridge, or stretch out on a cockpit settee, and take in the views along the Ligurian coast, or wherever you may find her. And if you listen closely, the 64 Fly S will begin to share her own rich story.
A 54 with More
Austin Parker brought the 54 Fly S to Miami last February (2015) and it’s not hard to see why—as the smallest flying-bridge model the company makes, it’s a great introduction to the line, with a top deck that doesn’t muck up her sleek profile. A three-stateroom two-head layout with a galley down places a pair of double guest staterooms side by side amidships. Meanwhile, the forepeak master borrows plenty of ideas about smart use of space from the VIP stateroom in the bow of the 64 Fly S. If you want to see her at an upcoming boat show, don’t even bother with the Down East docks. She’ll be found among the Italian boats—right where she belongs.
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Warranty: 1 year on full boat, 4 years against hull osmosis
Conditions During Boat Test
Temperature: 80°F; humidity: 76%; wind: 5-10 knots; seas: 1-2'
Load During Boat Test
528 gal. fuel, 296 gal. water, six persons, 400 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/1,200-hp MAN 1200 D2868LE433 V-8 diesels
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF510V with 2.00:1 gear ratio
- Props: Progetto Elica, 33.5x44 4-blades
This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.