It doesn't seem possible that it's been thirteen years since Viking Yachts launched its Sport Cruisers line. In that time, Viking and its English partner, Princess Yachts International, have built the brand's identity and introduced a loyal flock of American enthusiasts to yachting Euro-style. The V58 has been one of the marque's most successful products, so when it was updated late last year, I was anxious to take a look.
The V58 falls into a sweet spot in the Sport Cruisers lineup, which currently ranges from 50 feet to 95 feet. "Some V58 customers own larger, captained yachts and want a hands-on ride, but most are migrating from smaller U.S.-built express cruisers," said James Nobel, Marketing Director for Viking Sport Cruisers. Indeed the V58's overall length of just under 60 feet places her on the high end of this active niche. "When you get above 50 feet there are a lot more choices and customers tend to shop different brands," said Nobel. The V58 appeals to those who favor express cruiser design and don't care to change the way they spend their time on the water. "Whether they spend an afternoon at the sandbar or a weekend in the Bahamas it is the start-and-go approach to boating that appeals to them."
To prove his point Nobel and I hopped on the boat and were off with minimum effort. Like most express layouts her helm is handy to the afterdeck and with the bow thruster and just a piling or two to lean on I would be comfortable handling her without a mate if necessary.
Our test boat was fitted with the optional 1,100-horsepower MANs. The V58 handles the horsepower well and I would opt for these engines instead of the standard 865-horsepower Caterpillars. At maximum turns I recorded a speed of 38 knots. At a conservative 1800 rpm I noted 28.4 knots and a fuel burn of 56 gallons per hour on the MAN electronics. Given her 685-gallon fuel capacity a range of a bit more than 300 nautical miles should be possible. The V58 responds evenly to throttle without clouds of smoke and she planes off without the need of her tabs. Designer Bernard Olesinski has worked with Princess since 1984 and seems to have found a hull form that makes sense. The V58 has a fine entry and a deadrise of 21 degrees at the transom. Her bottom extends beneath her integral platform which is a plus as it adds to the length of her lifting surface without a significant weight penalty. Shallow propeller pockets minimize shaft angle and result in a draft of just 3 feet, 8 inches. This is ideal for South Florida boaters wandering the skinny waters of the Keys or the Bahamas.
The V58 has an electrically actuated sunroof that replaces a canvas affair on the earlier model. This is an option that I would insist on as it expands the boats service envelope - you stay cool when its hot, and dry when its wet! The sunroof allows for an improved indoor/outdoor arrangement with a bit more seating and a more efficient wet-bar design. An isinglass enclosure between the seating area and the sunpad creates an all-weather bridge. A transom tender garage has an electrically actuated door and a winch and roller system. According to Nobel, most customers opt for an 11-foot rigid-bottom inflatable with a water jet. A hatch in the cockpit sole leads to the engine space. Because of the garage, the compartment is tight, as is the lazarette where the generator is located. This is a fairly typical compromise for this sort of design and should serious mechanical work be required a portion of the cockpit sole can be removed.
The arrangement provides comfortable accommodations for two cruising couples. The amidships master has a private head and the forward guest stateroom has direct access to the second head. A smaller amidships stateroom has upper and lower berths and would be great for kids.The galley is small but workable and is home to the washer/dryer. The fit and finish of the cherry interior cabinetwork is above average and what Americans have come to expect from European production builders. Sport Cruisers customers have access to Vikings interior designer and the soft goods they select are shipped to England for installation or installed in the U.S. prior to delivery.
The V58 is built at Princess's one-millionsquare-foot production facility in Plymouth, England. Unlike some European builders, Princess's 1,800 employees are responsible for everything from welding the stainless steel railings and the aluminum fuel tanks to wiring and plumbing the boats. CNC routers cut interior components and all cabinetwork is assembled and finished on site. This vertical process is similar to the one Viking employs at its facility in the U.S. The V58's hull laminate is solid fiberglass and the bottom is supported by a network of fiberglass stringers and web frames. Marine plywood bulkheads are mechanically fastened and fiberglassed to the hull. The hull and deck are joined in the same fashion. White and blue hulls in gelcoat are offered and the exterior fit and finish is first class.
Whether you are moving up or down in length, the V58 is worth taking a look at for those who like hands-on express boating and solid performance. Her design is distinctive although given the success of Vikings Sport Cruisers program you won't be alone on American waters. While Viking equips the boats with the sort of gear American boaters want, if my plans included wandering the Bahamas I would upgrade from the shorepower isolator to the SmartBoost system and add a watermaker. Other than that, just turn the key and go!
Viking Sport Cruisers, (609) 296-6000; www.vikingsportcruisers.com