The Delta 88 incorporates striking Swedish design, an adventurous spirit, and lots of carbon fiber to impress the crowds from Miami to Marstrand.
“I’m alive because of carbon fiber,” declares Chapman Ducote as he sits in the cockpit of the Delta 88 bobbing stern-to at a dock in the historic Swedish resort town of Marstrand. “I’m literally sitting here today talking to you because of that stuff.”
Ducote, a professional race car driver, expert spearfisherman, and all around daredevil, isn’t kidding. He’s been in a gang of crashes during his days on various pro racing tours, but the one that reigns darkest in his mind was a particularly violent event in Atlanta back in 2007. Slinging around a high-speed turn, Ducote was bumped off course by another car and hit the wall going fast. Very fast. “Literally the left side of the car disappeared. Just gone,” he says, eyes widening as he remembers the impact. “Gone,” he finishes for effect. He emerged from the accident with a concussion, though it could have been much worse. “Race car drivers sit in carbon-fiber tubs for protection,” he explains. “They used to use other materials, metals and so forth, but they weren’t strong enough. Guys were getting their legs crushed on impact—or worse. But when they switched to carbon fiber, the sport became much safer. Some people will try to tell you that carbon fiber is brittle. Pfft. Not a chance. It’s the strongest substance on Earth.” Ducote would know. He’s living proof.
And he’s repaying the debt as best he can. It seems like everything Ducote owns, from his iPhone case to his fishing spear, is carbon fiber. It’s that fascination with the material that in large part led him to Delta Powerboats, a Swedish builder founded in 2002. Delta has a line of design-forward boats from 26 to 88 feet, however what really sets it apart from the competition are its two largest builds, a 54 [see “Studio 54,” November 2013] and an 88 that are built almost completely out of carbon fiber.
Gasp. Shock. Shudder. “But what about the cost?” is something you’re probably asking yourself right about now. Carbon fiber is notoriously expensive—you can order one of those aforementioned iPhone cases online for a hefty $55. And yet the Delta 88, while certainly not, y’know, cheap, probably isn’t clocking in with the price tag you might be expecting. At less than $8 million, she’s actually competitively priced for her class, thanks to an in-house build process that helps control market fluctuations. It also allows them lots of control. As company cofounder Kalle Wessel put it, “We want no one to blame but ourselves.” Though it didn’t appear to me that anyone will be pointing fingers anytime soon.
That’s because Delta got a whole lot of things right with this boat, starting with her lines. She’s exactly what you might expect from a Swedish builder: clean, sharp, simple, and efficient. This 88 is decidedly a swoop-free zone. And the result is a boat that practically grabs you by the temples and says look at me. As she glided into the Marstrand harbor, vacationers enjoying the waterfront cafés put forkfuls of pickled herring and glasses of cold Pripps Bla beer back on their tables and flatly stared. In fact, the captain of my test boat, who has worked on superyachts up to 150 feet, says that the 88 gets more photographs taken of her than any other boat he’s ever been on.
And yet, like all good Swedish designs, her form follows function. My test boat, which is currently owned by an intrepid Swedish businessman, recently came back from an attempted trip to the North Pole—or at least as close to the North Pole as a boat can get. She made it all the way to the 74th parallel north (which splits Greenland about evenly between north and south) before having to turn around because her impellers kept freezing. It was a bold undertaking, and one that no doubt made the owner happy that his boat was fully built to RINA specs.
So yes, this yacht is more than just another pretty face. She’s got wide side decks and high, sturdy bulwarks that lend her a real degree of safety when docking or if you need to access the foredeck while at sea. And those bulwarks serve another purpose. The boat has a comfortable lounge area on her foredeck, with a large sunpad that is at just the right height that the bulwarks stop chilly breezes from hitting your skin as you lay on them. It’s a touch that perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise coming from a Swedish company. During my stay in Marstrand the temperatures dropped quickly as night fell, from deceivingly hot daytime highs approaching 80 degrees, to crisp nighttime lows hovering around 50.
And of course, while that carbon-fiber frame certainly offers a level of security (particularly if you’re weaving your way through Arctic icebergs), it also has another huge advantage. It’s light. Uber light. Seriously, if you’re in the market for an 88, do some comparison-shopping when it comes to displacement. At about 90,000 pounds dry, she’s the kind of yacht that could make her “competitors” develop eating disorders. I use quotation marks there, because Ducote is fond of saying that the Delta 88 has no competitors. And the more I saw of the boat, the more I tended to agree. She could easily snatch the interest of a Pershing or Riva owner, but her lines and functionality could also possibly appeal to a Down East owner looking for something new. Her appeal is that broad. And if you haven’t already guessed it, that bantam-weight displacement translates to some admirable fuel-burn numbers. With her triple Volvo Penta IPS1200s revving at 2,100 rpm, the boat can cruise at 32 knots burning 103 gallons per hour for a leggy range of 443 miles. One hundred and three gallons per hour may sound like a lot, but again, do some window shopping—I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, or in this case, off the boat.
But it’s not just in terms of efficiency that the Delta 88 shines performance-wise. Revving your way through the rpm scale from idle to 2,290, the boat was breezily smooth. The 88’s chef had just whipped me up a cappuccino in the open, amidships galley as we began our test, and I had placed it unthinkingly on a small table to port of the helm as I powered her up and out of the harbor. The foam of my drink was even with the lip of my mug, and yet, it never spilled. Doubly impressive considering the boat hit a top hop of 35.4 knots. She also careened cleanly and smoothly through S-turns at around 26 knots, slicing easily through what little chop we found.
As I sped the 88 past the rocky Swedish coastline, I found it easy to see why Delta is trying to promote the area as a new marquee cruising ground. There is magic in Marstrand. On my first day in the city (for historical reasons, it’s technically a city despite having a population of just 1,319) I was casually strolling the waterfront when I stumbled across an art museum, the Strandverket. I thought of my wife, a fine arts minor in college, and how much she’d love this place—an ancient stone building bright-lit by the unending sun. I turned a corner into the museum’s outdoor courtyard and there she was. My wife. Eight feet tall, the spitting image of her in statue form. I was stunned. Woman (Being Looked At) is a piece by the British sculptor Sean Henry that’s on permanent display at the Strandverket. It’s a woman who has forgotten her keys, and in the realization of that fact unwittingly caused a commotion in a public place. A vulnerable look plays across her face, and her body is frozen forever in the awkward instant between motion and stasis. To say that statue got my stay in Marstrand off to a surreal start is an understatement.
Another strange moment occurred as we cruised through one of the nearly uncountable islands that surround Marstrand, when I encountered the Swedish concept of Allemansrätten—literally “every man’s right” but colloquially known as “the freedom to roam.” Many of these islands are privately owned, with a single rust-colored, barebones home presiding over the brush-strewn earth. And yet even on the private islands, we saw anchored boats with happy Swedes swimming off the beaches and setting up tents on the high ground. I asked Wessel about all this, and he explained that in Sweden, private land is available for public use, as long as no one disturbs, destroys, or exploits it. I pondered this for a moment, and then said something extremely American. “What are the gun laws like here?” I asked.
“Very, very strict,” Wessel replied.
Though gun laws seem to be the only thing strict about Marstrand and the surrounding areas. Historically the island’s fortunes rose and fell with the herring catch, and in the 16th century Marstrand became the center of the European herring industry. Times were so good that the city allegedly became known as “the wildest town in Scandinavia”—no small feat when you consider Scandinavia at the time was only a few centuries removed from its Viking heyday. The city has always been known for its religious freedom as well, and was the site of Scandinavia’s first synagogue.
Today a distinctly bohemian vibe still presides over the island. A typical day might truly get started with fika, a meal akin to a second breakfast, often consisting of tea or coffee and a cinnamon roll. This would be followed by a hike through the island’s wild, rolling, honeysuckle-covered center to Carlstens Fastning, an imposing stone fort built in 1658 to protect the wooden town below. Next might come a trip to the island’s western half, where a lone diving board has been built into the barren stone. A jump from the board launches you into the bracing water of the harbor entrance. Though the view there is just as bracing. Bare humps of gray-beige rock line the coast as far as the eye can see, and stretch out into the steel-gray sea like the rounded backs of submerged leviathans. (Our Raymarine electronics package was put to good use helping us avoid them as we cruised.)
As the day wears on the summer sun lodges itself in the windless sky, and time begins to bend. We mostly spent the early evening hours sitting in port in the boat’s ample cockpit watching the cafés lazily fill with tourists and locals alike. Everyone has a cup in front of them. Beer, wine, coffee, it matters not. The conversation bubbles and spills out into the cobblestone streets. There’s a surprising amount of English. Nearly everyone speaks it, and admirably well. Dinnertime saunters up around eight-ish, and you’d be wise to walk down the waterfront to Lasse Majas, a tavern specializing in seafood. The owner, Richard Waje, a successful, Gothenburg-based restaurateur, still often finds time to catch his own fish in the morning, and you can tell. You’re having lojrom to start. That’s bleak roe served with lemon, crème fraiche, diced red onion, chives, and bread. It’s a Swedish delicacy, it’s significantly milder than the caviar you might be used to, and it is delicious. For the entrée get whatever the fish special is. You won’t be disappointed.
As the temperature drops and the night progresses you may lose a few members of your party, but that’s OK. There are new friends to make here. The locals wrap themselves in heavy blankets at outdoor cafés and drink beer and fisk shots, and may invite you to join them. The arts are highly appreciated in Marstrand, and music pours from everywhere at nighttime. Slip inside some candlelit bar and you just might hear the siren song of an alluring jazz singer—a blonde, of course—all but cooing in your ear, imploring you to sit, stay, drink, eat, stay up all night, as the Swedes are wont to do. Just remember, you’ve got a lot of exploring to do in the morning. So try your best to get at least a little bit of sleep.
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NOTEWORTHY OPTIONS: Seakeeper M16000 gyrostabilizer; Williams 385 RIB; Opacmare carbon transformer; 8/Mastervolt lithium-ion service batteries; fully integrated av/video/audio system (prices upon request).
The Other Side of Sweden
Though it’s a maritime capital, Marstrand isn’t the only place to cruise in Sweden. On the country’s eastern coast is the Stockholm Archipelago, which is made up of about 24,000 islands and islets. Though the Baltic Sea often ices over in the wintertime, in the summer, the archipelago is a prime ground for boating and the ideal place to take advantage of Allemansrätten. Like Marstrand, the archipelago has long been a hot spot for the arts. It’s where ABBA wrote a good portion of their songs and it also plays an important role in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Sailing is very popular in Sweden, and the Orno runt race is an annual fan favorite, though powerboating in the region is also on the rise. The other nice part about the Stockholm Archipelago? Quite obviously, you’re close to Stockholm itself—one of the coolest cities in the world. No pun intended.
Generators: 2/30-kW Fischer Panda, Warranty: 2 years on boat; 3 years on engine pending commercial or private registry
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 76°F; humidity: 40%; seas: 1'
Load During Boat Test
600 gal. fuel, 50 gal. water, 4 persons, 6,613 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 3/900-hp Volvo Penta IPS1200s
- Transmission/Ratio: Volvo Penta IPS3
- Props: Size 6, nickel and bronze
- Price as Tested: $7,800,000
This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.