The old adage “Don’t tinker with success” must have filled Fairline Boats with trepidation when it first considered designing a new Squadron 55 because the previous version, launched in the mid-’90s, had proved legendary in its success. But adages can be old wives’ tales, and, in this case, Fairline took an already nice yacht and made it, well, magnificent.
This was not a “freshening” of the previous yacht but an entirely new design from the keelson up. In profile, the swoopy lines and Cleopatra-eyed windows are something that a boat-crazy teenager might doodle in his biology notebook, but it is a look that works. She’s pretty now, and she should prove ageless as well.
While the three-cabin layout (plus crew) is delightful, I found the really impressive stuff under the skin. Take the electrical system, for example. Most owners endure this part of their boat, never quite sure why something goes “zap” at the wrong moment. Fairline, however, has created Pilot, a comprehensive system so user-friendly you don’t need an electrical engineering degree. The heart of Pilot is a touchscreen at the helm that manages literally everything. One switch turns the power system on, and a PC-based computer decides which systems you need immediately. One switch turns the system off, and, once again, the computer decides which systems — such as bilge pumps — should be overlooked.
When the generator is started, Pilot brings systems on line incrementally, so the air conditioner and freezer don’t fight for power. Plug into shore power that isn’t sufficient, and Pilot offers a choice of systems to shut down. You might choose, for example, to sacrifice power to the Bang & Olufsen entertainment system in favor of air conditioning. And, if the dock power goes off, the system automatically switches to inverter and sends an alert.
Fairline has also taken advantage of modern technology, and nowhere is this better illustrated than at the fuel fill. Not only is it aircraft grade with anti-splash and anti-foaming properties, but there also is an LCD display that tells you exactly how many gallons are in the tank. No more excuses for overfilling!
Inside, the Squadron 55 is the very essence of luxury, from the stitched-leather Recaro helm seats to the deep wool carpet more often seen in Rolls-Royces. The salon furniture is loose, which gives a megayacht feel as well as an openness, and a second sitting area with dining table is opposite the galley on the raised pilothouse level. Our test yacht, from Total Marine in Dania Beach, Florida, has a walnut interior, which is pleasantly grained, but you can also choose white oak or cherry to change the décor.
The galley has all the expected goodies as well as decent stowage at eye level and under the Avonite counter, which I wish had anti-spill lips. But there are sufficient backsplashes fore and aft to keep uh-ohs in the galley from falling onto the leather seats.
The lower helm is quite functional, with backup analog gauges in the line of sight forward, electronics neatly placed in the leather dash for easy scanning and, of course, the Pilot touchscreen at your elbow.
The creature comforts continue down the curving stairwell to the staterooms, which are surprisingly spacious when you remember that this is a 55-foot hull and there is a crew cabin abaft the engine room. The master suite spans the nearly 16-foot beam, and, with a wall of mirrored hanging lockers, plus the large ports on each side, it’s bright and airy. Up in the bow is the larger guest cabin with an island berth. There are two hatches, again creating a light and open feel.
The stateroom has direct access to the head to port, which also serves the twin cabin opposite. I liked that the showers are large and enclosed by square doors on husky hinges. No flimsy folders here.
Gentle steps from the cockpit lead to what can only be described as an immense bridge. Aft, there’s a seating area for a dozen guests around an oversize dining table, while a pad large enough to stack sun worshippers like anchovies surrounds the console-like helm.
The cockpit is open except for a bench seat across the transom, and Fairline provides a full enclosure as standard equipment. The bench allows more headroom in the crew cabin beneath.
Our test boat had 865-horsepower Caterpillar C15 diesels, which are one step above the standard 775-horsepower Volvo Penta D12s and one step below the 900-horsepower D13s. The construction is first rate. A very extensive grid of foam stringers and a proven shoebox hull-to-deck joint create a rugged monocoque structure, and I liked the seamanlike way that all the plumbing and electricals were secured.
Under way, the Squadron 55 is a blast. Sitting behind the bronze helm console, you’re the master of all you see. Spin the wheel, and the 55 banks like a fighter jet into a turn. With the hammer down, spray is thrown away from the hull. We topped out at 31.5 knots with full fuel and water, which is about a half-knot slower than the factory numbers. Interestingly enough, the choice between 775-horsepower and 865-horsepower engines doesn’t make much difference, according to Fairline, so your choice is likely to be brand preference.
Replacing an existing yacht in your line is not to be taken lightly, yet Fairline has come up with another winner in the new Squadron 55, which creates its own adage: “Tinker with success!”
Displ.: 21.8 tons
Fuel: 650 gal.
Water: 256 gal.
Transom Deadrise: 11 degrees
Test Power: 2 x 865-hp Caterpillar C15 diesels
Standard Power: 2 x 775- hp Volvo Penta D12 diesels
Base Price: $1,844,580
Price as Tested: $2,182,010
Fairline Boats, +44-1832-273-661; www.fairline.com
To read more about Fairline's history, click here.
To read about the Fairline Targa 64, click here.
To read about the Fairline 74, click here. For a gallery of the 74, click here.