With a renewed commitment to building proper boats, Fairline launches a Targa 53GT that handles the details so you can focus on the fun.
Let’s play a quick game of word association. When I say the word targa what comes to mind? If your brain’s version of Google doesn’t immediately retrieve a selection of images of Porsche 911s from the 1970s (though the Targa design was introduced in 1966), with a fixed back window, an open top, and a brushed-finish metal arch over the heads of the driver and passenger, then I really can’t help you. The cars that carry the Targabadging to this day combine the safety of an integrated rollbar with the open-air excitement of a ragtop. Of course, the look seemed to become dated over the years, at least for some of us—as did the idea of stowing that slice of hardtop somewhere on board (or in the garage accompanied by a silent prayer for clear skies). But the Targa 53GT from Fairline strives to conjure the positives associated with the automobile while letting the downside fade away, and the company seems to have focused its energies in all the right places.
For the last few years, Fairline has designed its hulls to accomodate three new models each. The Targa 53GT is no different, adding both a 53 Open (an express model, with house open to the cockpit, which will launch in September at Southampton and Cannes) and a Squadron 53 (with a flying bridge, which will make her debut in January next year in Düsseldorf and London). The consistency across all three models starts with the hull and running surface, of course, and then goes on to include the accommodations parts and engineering, and even encompasses some of the deck molding. “When we design a boat, we make sure that the hull is optimized for all three load conditions,” says Andrew Pope, design director for Fairline Yachts. “So, in addition to the GT, it could work for a very light open boat or work for a heavier flybridge boat with a higher center of gravity. And the trick really is to design all three up front.”
To streamline its manufacturing process, Fairline has gone to complete resin infusion of the hull, liner, and deck and cap parts. “It massively improves the tolerances we work with,” Pope says. “We want consistency as we put these pieces together.”
Speaking of putting the pieces together, Fairline has undergone a fair amount of restructuring itself lately, with new ownership rescuing the brand from being consigned to the dusty confines of history. If you have followed the rise of British boatbuilding, there has always been the “big three” anchoring the London International Boat Show, with Fairline in the mix, as well as Sunseeker and Princess Yachts. But if you’ve been to the London show in the last few years, you may have noticed it has shrunk a bit, taking on the feel of a regional show, and certainly Fairline’s demise would not have helped stem that tide.
But fear not. UK-based Russian investors (and passionate boaters) have appointed a new managing director, Russell Currie, who is CEO of Fairline North Mallorca and has previously held high-level positions at both Sunseeker and Princess Yachts International.
In February, I saw Karl Gilding at the Yachts Miami Beach show. He’s returning to the Fairline fold as head of business development, and was proud to represent the brand for a management team that seems to understand the importance of Fairline Yachts in the grand scheme but also on a local level. “The workers in Oundle were lined up at the gates when we announced we were resuming production,” he said. “They would come in to speak to us and many of them were second- and third-generation boatbuilders recently laid off, and they were ready to start working again.” The new ownership group seems to understand that this sort of organizational intelligence doesn’t just appear overnight, and I expect it will give Fairline a leg up as they develop new models and further streamline the build process.
As a production builder, Fairline’s designers clearly understand that one boat will not be the solution for every customer. To address that issue, the Targa 53GT has two layout configurations, one with the galley at the after end of the saloon, and the other with the galley forward and on the lower deck. Our test boat had the latter, galley-down layout, and I was surprised to find myself leaning toward that preference. I say surprised because, on the one hand, I find an accessible on-deck galley to be a boon to creating the self-service environment, where, if our test boat were mine (it is a rich full life I lead in the imaginary world I inhabit, you know), I wouldn’t have to fetch fresh drinks and pass platters of food to everyone on board: It’s all right there: Grab and go, by all means, help yourself.
But on the other hand, by moving that galley forward of the helm and to the lower deck, it’s not in the middle of the action, sure, but now you get the true indoor-outdoor lounge space that comes from the wide-opening three-panel sliding door that separates the cabin from the cockpit. The settee that runs from the saloon out to the cockpit with just an 8-inch gap (for the door) is a full 15 feet long. That’s a lot of comfortable seating and that’s not even all of it.
It struck me as noteworthy that there’s a cabinet positioned just forward of the long settee, with a table lamp and a fiddled indent for personal effects. After considering the design of the boat, I realized that that cabinet relies on some space beneath it, space cleverly subtracted from the lower deck—always a sign of a well-thought-out design: minimal intrusion above, less intrusion below.
Belowdecks the galley serves as a foyer of sorts for accommodations comprising a full-beam, amidships master, a guest double forward that shares its stall-shower-equipped head with the port side twin-berth double. The master has large hullside windows and a standing-height vestibule with crawl-into-bed height over the king-size berth, and the arrangement is roughly the same in the port stateroom. It’s a tradeoff that makes sense in a boat this size. How much time is going to be spent in the master beyond sleeping, really?
I must admit I was perplexed by the Targa designation until we’d finished with our speed, sound, and other measurments during our sea trial. Then we opened the sunroof over the helm and companion seating area. The thing is mammoth and engineered really nicely. It uses an inflatable gasket that lets you lock the sunroof in place whether you want it only partly open or slid all the way back and gaping wide. Simply pause the opening where you want it and you hear a very quiet air pump engage to inflate the gasket. It’s a neat solution, and that big slice of hardtop isn’t going anywhere until you want it to.
With the helm area two steps up, I figured out in short order that the arrangement facilitates a driver’s occasional desire to stand with his head out the sunroof. Nevertheless, sound levels inside—even right at the helm—were barely affected by our fully open sunroof as we swept through long, smooth, arcing turns. And on a beautiful, flat-calm day off Miami, with this cool setup, there was nowhere I’d rather have been. And what’s more, I knew right where the missing section of our hardtop was.
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Generator: 9.5-kW Cummins Onan
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 89°F; humidity: 65%; seas: flat; wind: 2 knots
Load During Boat Test
350 gal. fuel; 4 persons; 200 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/725-hp Volvo Penta D11 EVC
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF305 2AE 1.73:1 gear ratio
- Props: 27x35 Clements 4-blades AB2
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.