When a boatbuilder burns its brand into a market segment as successfully as Viking Yachts has as a builder of convertible sportfishermen, it can be difficult to venture into new territory. That's why nine years ago, Viking partnered with Princess Yachts International of Plymouth, England, to create Viking Sport Cruisers. The new 75 Sport Cruisers Motor Yacht benefits from the strength and maturity of this international joint venture.
The two companies actually complement each other, for while they build different sorts of boats, performance at sea is a common theme. The 75 is a perfect example. Traditionally, American motoryachts this size were conservative in form and function. Semi-displacement designs with modest power and speeds in the 18- to 20-knot range were common. Europeans, on the other hand, were pioneering performance motoryacht designs. Like Viking's convertible sportfishers, the 75 is packed with horsepower and designed for speed.
Our test boat, for example, was equipped with a pair of 1,500 hp MANs, one of five engine offerings (they start at 1,300 hp). During our sea trial I recorded a top speed of 33 knots at 2400 rpm. When the boat is fully loaded, I suspect this will translate into the 2300 rpm recommended. At 2100 rpm, I noted a swift 28.6-knot cruise. I have been impressed with the offshore capability of the other Sport Cruisers designs I have taken for sea trials over the years, and found the 75 delivered a familiar, pleasant sensation. She is so nimble at speed that it is hard to believe she tips the scale at 112,000 pounds. She rose to a plane without fuss and reached maximum speed in 35 seconds. She charged through the inlet with authority, drawing the attention of those aboard less capable large yachts.
Her moderate entry and relatively deep 19-degree transom deadrise are fitting for a vessel designed for high-speed offshore service. Given her deadrise, her shallow propeller pockets are useful in reducing shaft angle and draft. Sea conditions were not challenging, however, judging by her trim angle and the effectiveness of her chine, she should remain relatively dry in sloppy seas. Her 19-foot beam is svelte by today's somewhat overstuffed standard. This certainly contributes to her solid performance.
Some attribute the design cues common to European motoryachts to the Italians, but this is not entirely fair; there have been other players in the market. Like America's convertible sportfishermen, European motoryachts are designed to function in their environment and are a product of evolution. Over the years, the English have proven adept at generating appealing designs for motoring on the Med. While the 75's systems have been Americanized, this heritage remains intact.
Her high-gloss cherry/maple interior finish and high-end soft goods are lush by American standards, and her rakish, swept-back silhouette and straight sheer will inspire those not bound by tradition. While some European designers seem intent on complicating a yacht's lines with errant styling elements, the 75's look is modern yet purposeful. She is, in my view, an attractive yacht and should remain so as trendy designs fall from fashion.
Her arrangement also reflects a European focus, with full side decks and plenty of exterior play space. An afterdeck seating area faces a glass bulkhead section and door, both of which open to the saloon with a push of a button. While there are side-deck boarding gates, stern boarding is common in the Med, and a passerelle extends from a hidden recess on demand. Those who moor stern-to will find the control station on the afterdeck useful.
The deckhouse is arranged with the saloon aft and a formal dining area for six to eight guests amidships. An electrically actuated partition can be raised to segregate the galley area. The interior helm station is forward, separated by a decorative glass panel that can be electrically frosted for privacy. Pantograph-style doors to port and starboard allow quick access to the side decks, and there is interior and exterior access to the bridge. The bridge/boat deck has space for a 15-foot inflatable tender and is laid out with a complete helm station and a seating and sunning area with a wet bar, refrigerated cool box and grill. The 75's artful blend of business and pleasure will appeal to owner/operators.
Belowdecks, the four-stateroom/four-head arrangement includes a full-beam master suite with distinctive oversize portlights. A VIP stateroom has a queen berth, and two guest staterooms have single berths. Several finish and décor packages are offered, as are the services of Viking's interior designer. The 75's layout is more or less fixed, but it is well conceived. Fit and finish are on par with the highest European production standards.
The crew quarters and machinery space are accessible from the swim platform or side deck. While headroom in some areas of the crew quarters is a bit less than 6 feet, the layout and finish are more sophisticated than those on many European designs. A watertight door leads to the engineroom. Given her allotment of horsepower, things are close, but service points appear accessible. I was pleased to see that machinery removal hatches are provided in the overhead.
Like all Sport Cruisers models, the 75's specifications were fine-tuned by Viking for service in American waters. This includes 60-cycle electrical service and systems design that is consistent with American Boat & Yacht Council recommendations.
"The boats built for us by Princess are different from the start", said Charlie Underwood, vice president of Viking Sport Cruisers. "We work together and have learned from each other; the result is a better product." This thought has additional merit considering that Viking and Princess have been building yachts for 40 years and are still managed by their founders.
"Twelve years ago, Princess made a strategic decision to improve the performance of its products", Underwood said. "New technologies have resulted in lighter, stronger structures and more consistent quality."
A dedicated team of craftsmen builds each 75 from start to finish. The pride these folks take in the effort is evident in their product. The 75's solid fiberglass hull is supported by a network of longitudinal and transverse stiffeners. Closed-cell foam coring is used to stiffen the superstructure and exterior decks. Interior joinery is computer cut, assembled and finished off the boat in a dust-free environment.
While European boatbuilders have found success on our shores, earning the faith of American yachtsmen has taken time. The Sport Cruisers program has fast-tracked this process. Princess has the right products, and Viking has the capability to support them.
"Service is a primary concern of our customers", said Underwood. "We feel that our reputation for customer service is one of our strongest selling points." The numbers tell the story. Today, Viking accounts for about 30 percent of Princess' deliveries-America has become the builder's largest market for good reason.
Contact: Viking Sport Cruisers Inc., (609) 296-6000; www.vikingsportcruisers.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877