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Spencer 70

Triple Threat


At Spencer, high-tech boats are built in much the same way traditional wooden boats were.

In a bay in a boatyard in Manns Harbor, North Carolina, a 70-foot custom sportfisherman is approaching completion at what is, by custom standards, breakneck speed. This project is noteworthy for many reasons, one being that this boat was commissioned not by an individual owner but by an engine company, Volvo Penta. Volvo is working with Spencer Yachts to build the first vessel in North America with its new IPS1200s, larger pods mated to its 900-hp D13 diesels. The Spencer 70 will feature three of them, and sometime after her launch next month, the engine manufacturer will put them to the test on the tournament trail.

“We’re going after the sportfishing market,” says Kent Lundgren, vice president of marine diesels at Volvo Penta. “We want to show that a triple installation in a 70 convertible works, and works extremely well.”

In fact, Volvo already has a number in mind for when the Spencer 70 hits the water: 40. It wants to see 40-plus knots out of this boat and prove that with IPS you need less horsepower to achieve higher speeds. Radar gun readings always catch the eye, but a more critical benefit of an IPS-powered convertible is efficiency—needing less fuel and being capable of traveling farther. Indeed, Volvo is expecting a 550-NM range at a cruising speed of 30 knots for the 70.

“We’re estimating a typical fuel savings of 12,000 gallons a year versus comparable inboards,” says Lundgren. “That’s 40 percent less fuel burn.”


A The Spencer 70’s outboard engines are mounted farther forward and mated to the pods via jackshafts.
B The port starting batteries and house batteries are located between the engine and IPS pod.
C The centerline powerplant is mounted farther aft, near the transom, and close-coupled to the pod.
D Even though there are three motors in this space, their smaller blocks allow for better access to other components such as the 16,000-Btu A/C unit.

At this point all of these numbers are obviously estimates and are contingent on whether the boat makes the goal of a 90,000-pound wet weight. That figure will be determined by both construction and interior layout, which are both the result of a collaboration among Volvo, Spencer Yachts, and Belkov Yacht Company of Annapolis, Maryland, which also designs and builds interiors for custom boats. Naturally, the way this boat is laid out all starts with the engine room, and the triple installation of IPS.

The 70 is Spencer’s sixth IPS-equipped boat, so this builder knows the system well. And this boat’s design nicely matches the triple-pod-drive setup. “We made no changes to the running surface of the hull that Spencer uses,” says Lundgren. “The wide beam and moderate deadrise are the perfect recipe for IPS installation.” The 70'6"x20'0" hull features a deadrise of 11 degrees at the transom.

All three of the pods are installed in an aft engine room; the center pod is close-coupled to the engine while jackshafts connect the two outer pods to their engines, which are mounted farther forward. Even so, Volvo says the triple installation takes up less room than a typical twin inboard setup would since all of the engines are farther aft, allowing for a significant gain in interior space. IPS also eliminates the need for a separate exhaust and steering systems, saving more space. And since all components are manufactured by Volvo, both installation and service are simplified.


A This is Spencer's first-ever enclosed-bridge design.
B This bridge features a raised settee with a table so guests can watch the cockpit action below in style.
C The steps leading below decks are illuminated with natural light from the expansive hull-side windows.
D The IPS installation allows space for a full-beam master stateroom.

In accommodating the IPS drives, Spencer did have to alter some construction details compared to those for a conventional inboard boat. One was the laminate schedule. “The last ten feet of hull is beefed up with solid glass,” says Paul Spencer, founder of Spencer Yachts. There are 55 layers of lamination there, versus two or three in other places because the IPS drives are designed to sheer off on impact. In this unlikely event, the beefed-up lamination, built to Volvo’s specs, insures that the hull bottom won’t breach in the event the drives collide with something under water.

For its IPS boats Spencer also departs from its traditional cold-molding method by coring the hull with high-density structural foam—two layers on the bottom and one on the sides. Like its inboard boats, however, everything is still laid over a male jig. “We do it for weight,” explains Spencer. “Weight versus horsepower equals speed and performance.”

All of this is part of the plan to hit that 90,000-pound target weight. A smaller fuel tank, possible because of the drive system’s better efficiency, will save weight. It’s a bit farther forward because, according to Spencer, “the variable weight is in the center of the boat not aft,” where it has less effect on running trim as fuel is consumed. The builder also says that the 70’s draft will be within two inches of that of a conventional inboard-drive boat, despite the protruding pods.

Above the waterline, the 70 will look like any other Spencer with one notable exception: this will be the custom boatbuilder’s first enclosed-bridge design. There’s no access to the bridge from the cockpit, just via a spiral staircase in the saloon. An intriguing (and unusual) element in this sportfisherman is the addition of hull-side windows that let light into the master stateroom, guest stateroom, and the hallways leading below decks.

But it’s the layout below where IPS really changes the game. It allowed Spencer to move the engine-room bulkhead aft nine feet, which provided space for a full-beam master under the saloon. “There’s a huge amount of room down there,” says Larry Belkov, president of Belkov Yacht Company. Indeed, this 70-footer sports four staterooms including a master, VIP, guest stateroom, and crew quarters, plus that tackle room, a nod to the hard-core fishing set. There are also five heads, including a day head just inside the saloon so anglers in the cockpit can have a quick break.

Everything in this boat is well positioned because Belkov Yachts did 3-D modeling of the interior. It then cut out each component on a CNC router and sent the entire package to Spencer for assembly and installation. All of the mechanicals were installed at Spencer, with everything pre-plumbed and prewired, which helps explain the rapid build pace. If she finishes on schedule, the Spencer 70 will have taken 15 months to build, almost half the typical 28-month build time for a boat this size. The goal is to splash the boat and fine-tune her in time to fish the Tred Barta Boys & Girls Club Billfish Tournament in Beaufort, North Carolina, which starts on July 15.

“We’re basically building the boat in a virtual environment,” explains Belkov. “We have online meetings with Volvo and Spencer to make sure everybody’s getting what they want.” Then as soon as a component is finished, it’s shipped to Spencer and installed. There’s virtually no stockpiling.

As for fit and finish, they’ll reflect the fact that this is not just a fishing boat but a custom yacht as well. “We’ve gone with a very high-end interior, which isn’t typical in a hard-core fishing boat,” says Lundgren. “It’s kind of a mix between a battlewagon and a luxury yacht.”

While the 70 is by any yardstick a legitimate battlewagon, she is also a showpiece that has been designed to convert hard-core anglers to IPS. Indeed, Volvo wants to show elite anglers just how well its IPS1200 pods match up to the needs of a custom 70-foot sportfisherman. The goal is to demonstrate all of the system’s benefits: improved efficiency, maneuverability, performance, and reliability, and do so right where these guys compete.

Considering how tradition-bound these tournament anglers are, that could be a tall order. Can Volvo and Spencer do it? There’s good reason to think they can. Remember these two companies teamed up three years ago to build the first IPS sportfisherman, the Spencer 43 (see “Edge of Tomorrow,” May 2007), and have worked closely ever since. Spencer’s crew helped to develop Volvo’s Sportfish Mode for IPS, which cocks the pods outward for rapid response movement in close quarters, like backing down a fish (see “Sport-fishing Digest,” this issue).

Mike Meyer, a Volvo consultant who’s heavily involved in building the Spencer 70, summed it up for me in two sentences. “One thing I know, in my 51 years in the business—the most important thing [for the hard-core angler] is that first impression. He gets [a positive] first impression, then he wonders what the inside looks like, and if you like that you ask, what makes it go?”

CONTACT: Spencer Yachts (252) 473-6567.


  • Builder: Spencer

This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.