Frances and Michael Howorth report on the latest developments at Fairline, as well as going full throttle on the new 53GT…
There’s probably no-one at Fairline HQ up in Oundle who would tell you that it’s been an easy time these past couple of years. With more owners than you have bought new boats, the company has experienced more than its fair share of highs and lows recently. But with the London Boat Show beckoning in early 2017, there is thankfully now much to cheer about at Fairline. The company is celebrating its 50th year, its new owners seem passionate about the brand and their designers are releasing a whole slew of fresh ideas that seem set to plot a new course for this once-beleaguered craft.
Both Alexander Volov and Igor Glyanenko, the new owners of the company, hail from Russia, and acquired the brand for an undisclosed sum. These two long-term UK-based Russian investors are both highly experienced in managing and developing marine businesses and are expert in the production of high technology products, IT and media services. Both are businessmen who enjoy boating; they know the brand, they’ve got the cash and there are plenty of folk at Fairline who have got the vision to take the whole shooting match to the next level.
This global brand will continue to operate from its manufacturing facilities in Oundle, Northamptonshire, and the new bosses have been quick to ensure the continuation of boat production by inviting previous employees to apply for the hundred or so jobs on offer as they became available. This move confirmed their intention to continue with the design, engineering, manufacture and distribution of luxury boats in the 11-24m range.
The company plans to show their latest craft at the London Boat Show in January 2017, among them the Targa 53GT. Dubbed ‘The Express Cruiser to the World’, it marks the launch of not just a new model but what the company hopes is an entirely new concept, which eliminates the need to compromise when purchasing a boat…
Built to order, this new boat offers a level of personalisation that Fairline believes has yet to be met by other boat builders. It claims there will be no such thing as an ‘off the shelf’ model with the Targa 53GT, allowing customers to design and purchase something that is truly their boat. Designer Andrew Pope comments, “The Targa 53GT represents a dramatic step forward in motorboat design; using our design DNA to create a model that perfectly blends form and function. The use of smart design principles throughout the boat eliminates the owner’s need to compromise. We want our customers to regret nothing and when choosing this boat, the owner will receive unrivalled flexibility in layout and complete confidence in its construction and features.”
Its build is unique too, with four separate mouldings coming together to create a monocoque construction. This procedure, along with the resin infusion process, adds structural strength and rigidity while reducing weight, noise and vibration.
On first sight, the exterior lines reflect a dynamic performance potential and are immediately distinctive. Her classic swept stern shape integrates well with the hull lines, creating a functional yet attractive transom, and gives the boat a dynamic look even when at rest. Design features have been used well to create an “in and out” experience: the 53GT has a single-level floor from the cockpit to saloon, with one step up to the companionway to maximise the feeling of space. Large, three-piece patio doors span the full width of the upper deck, the L-shaped cockpit seating boasts a substantial three-person sunpad utilising a moveable backrest, giving ‘open’ style exterior space while still being able to close the doors on any inclement weather.
This new model features a glazed retractable hardtop, a key advantage of which is the pneumatic seal, providing a waterproof seal and one-touch movement from closed to open. The windows in the saloon allow light to flood in and provide a stunning 360-degree panoramic experience with an uninterrupted view.
There is an option for a submersible bathing platform, with variable height hydraulic mechanism and a 500kg capacity. The platform holds an integrated ladder for those wanting to swim, which conveniently swings and locks away when not in use. Emphasis has been placed on creating a flexible layout providing owners with the chance to create their perfect boat, hand-built to their specific requirements. This includes the choice of galley up or galley down, providing the customer with class-leading flexibility in layout.
Designed to be a sociable boat inside and out, it combines large cockpit seating and sunbathing areas with interior saloon seating to provide a seamless flow of entertaining and relaxation space. A stone inlaid wooden high/low dining table with folding leaves can convert from dining to coffee table, allowing the main saloon seating to serve as a dining or relaxation area. A drinks unit stands next to the starboard sofa and a 40-inch rise and fall flat-screen television is part of the yacht’s standard inventory.
Companion seating opposite the twin helm adds to the boat’s sociable and inclusive experience. The helm station is designed to ensure the best visibility for the driver due to a central helm position, and the boat is equipped with Garmin navigational technology.
The full-beam mid-ship master cabin boasts what Fairline describes as a king-size bed, but during our test we measured it across to be just 1.5m wide. In the same cabin we liked the feature headboard, mood lighting and large panoramic windows, but felt the sofa was a waste of space which could have been better used by building in a set of drawers for extra storage. Interior materials used throughout are of good quality and include stone worktops and leather-panelled drawers and bed surround. A flush-mounted 32-inch TV, along with a standalone vanity unit with illuminated mirror, are just a couple of examples of the luxurious touches in the master cabin. The master en suite features the option of marble worktops throughout – a first for this builder – and large windows to light the spacious bathroom.
In addition to the master cabin, there is a VIP forward double cabin, with the option to convert the double to a scissor berth, and glazing overhead with integrated blinds. A versatile extra cabin is to port, with side-by-side twin beds. The twin cabin features the same attention to detail as the other accommodation, and design touches including a full-length mirror. For additional accommodation, there is the option of a crew cabin aft, but having negotiated the entrance ourselves we can only suggest hiring skinny crew or using the space for when the kids are on board.
The galley is visually open to the upper deck, ensuring those enjoying the ambience below decks are always connected to other guests. Owners can choose from three beautiful stone worktop options, and the galley’s contemporary yet practical features include a full-height fridge freezer, induction hobs and soft close drawers. The marble countertops felt very much akin to those of much larger superyachts. Storage options in the galley include large eye-level lockers above the worktop and an under-floor larder. Customers opting for the ‘galley up’ option will gain an additional day head and flexible utility room in place of the galley.
Design details are dotted throughout the boat and include feature piping and stitching on the sofas and leather-bound and stitched handrails. Owners can select options for sofa coverings, fabric and leather from four sumptuous interior schemes.
Take to the water
Under way, we found her sea-keeping to be nothing short of excellent in all conditions, and we would go as far as declaring she is a true boater’s boat. Fairline offers a choice of two shaft-driven engine options from Volvo. Up to 725bhp is available, but we think bigger better suits the handling and performance characteristics of this 15m-plus boat.
Fairline claims the 53GT can reach 33 knots in a fully loaded state, including fuel and water, and boasts high capacity fuel tanks for longer range safer cruising, but during our tests we topped out at just under that.
Prices start from £840,330.00 including VAT, with the 2x Volvo Penta D11-675 EVC engine option.