Photography by Forest Johnson
The cat’s out of the bag. The Viking 80 is mean, lean, and might just be the company’s best fishing boat yet.
The new 80-footer from Viking started off as a bit of a question mark to marine-industry insiders. Viking, with the production sportfishing sector all but pinned up against the turnbuckle and gasping for breath, already had a much vaunted 82 that had been its flagship before the 92 launched at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat show in 2014. So why hit so close to home, and debut a new boat with ostensibly just two feet less LOA than the 82 at the 2015 Lauderdale Show? The answer is actually quite simple, even if it pokes at one of Viking’s dirty little secrets.
Despite having an overriding reputation for building fishing machines, in truth, Viking has a large portion of customers, more than half I’m told, that use their boats primarily for cruising, not hunting game fish. The 82, despite being eminently fishable, is perhaps better suited to the former pursuit. She’s big. Not 82 feet long, she is actually 84. And she is wide, at 22 feet. That’s great for accommodating guests, but, sorry old girl, it also makes her a little bit pudgy at anywhere between 155,000 pounds and 180,000, depending on options and fuel.
Compared to the 82, the Viking 80 is a sylph.
The 80 is a true 80-footer, with a full foot less of beam, and a trim 145,000-pound displacement with a full fuel load. If the 82 can be likened to a howitzer shell, the 80 is perhaps the finest arrow in the quiver. Viking saved weight by using Kevlar to replace several layers of fiberglass laminate, and also used generous portions of carbon fiber in the superstructure, hardtop, console, and more. Nomex honeycomb abounds. And as you can imagine, that waif-like, yet strong, body made my test boat’s turbocharged, twin 2,635-horsepower Tier 3 MTU Series 2000 V16 M96Ls very, very happy. They actually lead a pretty charmed life, those powerplants. They live in an immaculate engine room with a full 7 feet of headroom, and call a Dometic Sea Exchange watermaker that produces spot-free water a neighbor—that’s a welcome touch for the long voyages this boat was built for. Access, as you might imagine, is exellent throughout, and a soft patch overhead allows the engines to be removed should they ever need repairs.
And let me tell you something, that whole setup, the engines, the weight-savings, the whittling down of the beam—it works. Lots of boats’ press releases claim they go 40 knots. But I’ve tested a number of “40-knot” boats that don’t actually hit that mark when it’s time to put up or shut up, even in one direction of the two-way speed runs Power & Motoryacht conducts. You see a lot of “40-knot” boats hitting 39.6 knots, and you just kind of shrug and say, “Sure, that’s basically 40 knots. Maybe the bottom’s dirty.”
But not the Viking 80. This boat soars. Her two-way average was a cool 41.2 knots, and her transition from slow speeds to fast was flawless thanks to a revamped hull design Viking introduced a few years back with its 52, and one which I personally prefer. The hull is a bit flatter aft with just 11 degrees of deadrise at the transom, which, combined with four lifting strakes, helps the boat fire out of the hole and get on plane in what feels like an instant. Moreover, at a swift 34-knot cruise the boat does nothing less than carve through the sea. The grip that hull gets through S-turns is actually sort of mesmerizing to behold. And she turned hardover in a boat length and a quarter, both to starboard and port.
The bow is visible from the Release helm seat—one of three on my test boat. That may seem like a throwaway statement, but it makes a huge difference when you’re running, and in particular, when you’re docking. And believe it or not, not every large sportfish can boast the same attribute. Imagine driving a boat you couldn’t see the front of. How would that make you feel?
The helm is rounded out by four KEP monitors, the MTU engine-data readout, and a sharp-looking teak console that is the rare aesthetic option that is worth every single cent.
At slow speeds the 80 backed down and spun just like you might expect a fishboat of this caliber to do. And that’s a very accurate description, with all the dietary restrictions the 80 saw in her design, she is essentially the fishier version of the 82. A gleaming Palm Beach Tower crowned my test boat, and a livewell and fishbox were large enough to fit all your bait and all the slobby fish you can reel in. And though she’s not a proper cruiser, the 80 is much more than capable of putting smiles on faces if you feel like shipping out to the Exumas with family and friends. The double mezzanine in the cockpit does more than shroud the nearly endless stowage below, it also makes for an excellent seat for watching baits skip, fish fight, and cocktails deliciously disappear as the sun slips away.
I was taken aback by the saloon on my test boat when I first entered. It was way bigger than I expected, and the huge galley with three-stool serving bar forward and to port, well, that just spoke to me. The interior had the American walnut option, the dark, richly burled wood lends the spaces a certain sense of gravitas. A full-size U-shaped dinette to starboard sits atop extra rod stowage. And forward of the galley, a “pantry” was large enough that Viking actually converted it to a cozy crew’s quarters.
The rest of the accommodations were down below, of course, where the five-stateroom layout is highlighted by a generous full-beam amidships master that is awash with light thanks to two big windows to either side. An en suite head with his and hers sinks and a giant shower nicely acquit the area and will keep even the most demanding owner (and his wife) quite happy I’d guess.
With this 80, Viking has trotted out perhaps its most serious true fishing boat to date—and considering the company’s lineup, that’s a rather impressive title to hold. So even though this boat started out as something of a mystery, once you get aboard her, everything will make perfect sense. No questions asked.
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Noteworthy Options: Seakeeper 26 Gyro Stabilizer ($180,000); Palm Beach Towers tuna tower ($216,275); Release Marine flying-bridge chairs ($23,240).
Generator: 2/32-kW Cummins Onan, Warranty: 5 years on the hull; 1 year for original owner on other parts
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 85°F; humidity 50%; seas: 0-1'
Load During Boat Test
2,200 gal. fuel, 250 gal. water, 3 persons, 1,000 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/2,635-hp MTU 2000 V16 M96Ls
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 3070A, 2.75:1 gear ratio
- Props: Veem 5-blade Nibral Interceptors
- Price as Tested: Upon Request
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.