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Ripple Effect

Design innovations aboard the Fairline Squadron 68 offer clever solutions to age-old problems.

Fairline Squadron 68

Fairline Squadron 68

We’ve all been there: Tucked in bed in the early hours, not quite asleep, anchored in some idyllic harbor with just the faintest breeze to raise a ripple on the water. A day of perfect cruising rewarded by a night of rest, with more fine weather in prospect for tomorrow. Sheer heaven. This is what boating is all about.

Plip, plop, plip.

It’s that ripple, lapping against the spray rails.

Plip, plip, plop. It’s actually a bit annoying. Once you’ve heard it, it’s impossible not to listen. Sleep is out of the question. In fact, it’s not just annoying, it’s infuriating—and in the morning everyone will probably ascribe your sleep-deprived crabbiness and bleary eyes to a hangover.

This phenomenon might not be the greatest problem facing the world’s naval architects, but the Fairline Squadron 68 is the only boat I know where the hull designer not only took it into consideration but came up with a solution. And it’s very simple: The chines and the spray rails are below the static waterline. Ripples can only interact with smooth gelcoat, silently.

Fairline’s new management can’t take the credit for this innovation, but they did have the bright idea of commissioning the Dutch naval architecture studio Vripack to draw the hull of their latest Squadron. Styled by Alberto Mancini, it’s a bold design that in some of its detailing nods at Fairline’s heritage. But that’s where the similarities end. It’s somewhat longer, slightly wider and significantly heavier than the Squadron 65 it replaces. It shares its hull with the next-generation Targa 65, and in addition to the six-cylinder, 1,150-hp Cat C18s, comes with the option of 1,200-hp V8s, courtesy of MAN.

Choice is a big part of the Fairline offering—which is another way of saying that fully 20 percent of the bottom line of this 68’s U.K. price was accounted for by the options list, from the Seakeeper and six-figure hardtop, complete with louvered sunroof, to a set of angora and lambswool throws.

There are four interior decor schemes available, with such alluring names as Amalfi, St. Tropez and Hamptons. Then there is the variety of layouts offered, which involves not just choosing between seating or a sunpad at the forward end of the flybridge, but between three- or four-cabin accommodations below—with the additional temptation of an enlarged forward cabin with a bigger head. This gives the VIP suite almost the same footprint as the master.

03-Squadron 68 Interior

In every case, the foredeck seating comes as standard, with its settee and sunpad, while the fold-down bench seat on the transom and the twin-berth crew’s quarters in the stern are extras.

Perhaps more surprising than this level of choice, though, is the shipyard’s willingness to take on serious customization work on any of its boats over 60 feet. Our particular 68 was the third off the line, and although a stock boat brought in by the French dealer for the Cannes boat show, where it sold, it featured a custom (now standard) galley layout, with counters facing fore and aft, that the American owner had come up with. The second boat, meanwhile, was still unfinished at the time of our test because its Chinese owner had asked for even more significant modifications, including no fewer than three galleys—on the lower deck, the main deck and the flybridge.

The three-cabin layout of our test Squadron was set off with a smart gloss-walnut finish and oak flooring. Its midships master suite had a usefully large dresser on one side and a two-seat settee on the other, and a bed measuring 6 feet, 8 inches by 5 feet, 2 inches. The head, with an unusually spacious shower, was arranged across the aft bulkhead in tandem with a big walk-in closet.

Our 68 had the standard-sized VIP forward, where the bed was almost as impressively proportioned as the master’s. This is of course a good thing, except for the fact that the inward-opening door swung so close to it—within an inch or two—that it made the cabin seem smaller than it is. It would be a simple matter to move the door further aft into the corridor; the optional layout with the enlarged VIP would do away with the issue altogether.

02-Squadron 68 Interior

The third cabin was a simple twin-berth affair, which, with just one hanging locker, was perhaps a little short of storage space. Its beds, too, at 25 inches, were on the narrow side, although plenty long enough at 6 feet, 4 inches.

Up on the main deck, the salon, galley and cockpit work well together. Huge side windows fill the interior with sunlight, while low-level furnishings and individual helm seats open up sightlines and accentuate the feeling of space. The galley’s two counters, along with a sliding aft window, link the two zones like the crucial piece in a jigsaw.

It was a couple of weeks after the Cannes show, and the Squadron had been moved a few miles along the coast to the yacht harbor at La Napoule, which was bustling with activity and blessed with late-season sunshine. A gentle breeze had raised a slight chop in the bay, but it was nothing to tax a yacht of this size. In its sea trials, the 68 proved as poised and precise as a Fairline ought to be, accelerating well and tracking flawlessly through the most ambitious helm inputs. The turning circle was, if anything, somewhat tighter than necessary—the harder the turns, the more speed we scrubbed off. There was, of course, a simple solution—just stop winding—and in fact the shipyard is considering reducing the size of the rudders, which might also marginally improve straight-line performance.

Not that there were any issues there. We clocked a two-way average of 28.5 knots just as, right on cue, a passing superyacht provided the biggest waves of the day. The Squadron’s hull barely noticed. The 68’s forward sections are remarkably fine, and its 19-degree deadrise amidships barely moderates in its run aft to 17 degrees at the transom. A fixed interceptor plate across the stern takes care of running trim, so unless you’re coping with challenging conditions or you need to level up in a crosswind, the 68’s substantial trim tabs can mostly be left alone.

The riding angle of our 68 was set up perfectly, and the yacht proved pretty happy in the cruise at any speed from about 18 knots upwards. In the benign conditions of our test day, 24 knots seemed ideal—quiet, relaxed, reasonably economical—and as we barreled along the coast, the Squadron imparted that settled sense you get with a confident, comfortable cruising machine.

It’s a yacht perfectly suited to fun, sunlit days on the water rewarded by long, peaceful nights of slumber, undisturbed by any annoying interjections from ripples along the waterline. And you’ll never get up in the morning to find yourself accused of suffering from a hangover—unless you’ve actually got one, of course.

Squadron 68 Exterior 4916

Fairline Squadron 68 Test Report

Fairline Squadron 68 test-report

Fairline Squadron 68 Specifications:

LOA: 69'3"
Beam: 17'2"
Draft: 5'1"
Displ. (dry): 88,183 lbs.
Fuel: 1,236 gal.
Water: 285 gal.
Power (as tested): 2/1,150-hp Caterpillar C18-1150

This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.