Can the all new Targa 53GT save the Fairline brand? Ocean test drives the boat the British builder is banking on to turn the tide in the company fortunes.
With a procession of CEOs the British boatbuilding brand Fairline has acquired its seventh new Captain in as many years. It does so as an entirely new entity following the demise of Fairline Boats Ltd and the creation of a completely new company that is called Fairline Yachts Ltd.
Ayiaz Ahmed was CEO of Farline’s former owner Wessex Bristol, and failed to cut the mustard after replacing Kevin Dady an operating partner at vendors; Better Capital the British private equity firm founded by Jon Moulton. Better Capital’s 2009 Fund and West Register Investments Limited had purchased the troubled yacht builder from the investment capitalists; 3i in July 2011. They like 3i before them had struggled to turn around the loss making firm and had for some time been seeking to off load it from their business portfolio
For Wessex Bristol, the acquisition of Fairline was in line with its strategy to invest in luxury brands and to grow its presence in the luxury boating industry having already owned and operated a portfolio of exclusive brands in the luxury sector including Fletcher, the UK-based sports boat manufacturer. Despite its good intensions Wessex failed to turn the company around and the company was put into administration by them.
The new company, Fairline Yachts, acquired for an undisclosed sum, is funded by Alexander Volov and Igor Glyanenko two long term UK-based Russian investors, who are both highly experienced in managing and developing marine businesses and in the production of high technology products, IT and media services. Both are also passionate boat owners.
Russell Currie a former Fairline dealer in Mallorca, has been appointed as Managing Director and will lead the new business. With nearly 30 years directly relevant experience, Russell has a very strong background in the luxury motor yacht industry. Prior to his role at Fairline North Mallorca, he was Engineering Director at Sunseeker International’s factory team based at Mallorca, and was Chief Test Engineer at Princess Yachts International before that.
Under Russian management the company now seems to be finding its feet after the last few years of uncertainty. It retains its status as a global brand, and will soon be celebrating its 50th anniversary, continuing to operate from its manufacturing facilities in Oundle, Northamptonshire. The company was quick to ensure production would continue, by inviting previous employees to apply for the around 100 jobs that became immediately available. It confirmed its intention to continue with the design, engineering, manufacture and distribution of luxury boats in the 11 to 24 metre range.
Securing the future of its new designs the luxury builder then announced a new partnership and collaboration package with Italian yacht designer Alberto Mancini and Dutch naval architects, Vripack with the instruction to design new and innovative yachts that will surprise, excite and delight Fairline customers throughout the world.
Andrew Pope, Head of Design at Fairline told us, “It was an exhaustive selection process, Alberto clearly demonstrated his understanding of the brand and we’re very excited to see him applying his talent and design language to our future new models. Vripack will ensure each of our new models are at the leading edge of marine technology.” It is hoped that Alberto Mancini who has been responsible for the design of a number of innovative yachts launched in the last few years and has worked alongside many well-known shipyards on yachts ranging from 24 to 55 metres will add panache and international appeal to the brand while Vripack at the forefront of naval engineering will bring decades of experience to the association having designed boats as diverse as tenders to long distance explorers and everything in between.
The company hopes that its new Targa 53GT, a design it inherited from Fairline Boats, will turn the company’s future around. Dubbed by them 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, the new boat offers levels of personal choice and buyer satisfaction, which they believe has never before been properly recognised or met by boat builders in the past. They claim 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. Design Director 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.”
The builder takes a unique approach to constructing its boats 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.
The exterior lines reflect a dynamic performance potential and is immediately distinctive. The 53 GT’s classic swept stern shape integrates 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 boat 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 sun pad utilising a moveable backrest, giving an ‘open’ style exterior space whilst 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 barrier via one touch opening and closing.
The windows in the saloon channel natural inlight in and provide a stunning 360 degree panoramic experience.
There is an option for a submersible bathing platform, with variable height hydraulic mechanism and a 500-kilogram capacity. The platform holds an integrated ladder for swimmers, which conveniently swings and locks away when not in use.
Emphasis has been placed on creating a flexible layout providing owners 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 and widening the boat’s appeal to meet the demands of a global market.
Designed to be sociable inside and out, the boat combines large cockpit seating and sunbathing areas, with interior saloon seating to provide a seamless flow of entertaining and relaxation space. A stone inlayed 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 yachts standard inventory.
Companion seating opposite the twin helm adds to the boat’s convival social atmosphere. 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 midship master cabin boasts what the company describes as a king size bed, but during our test we measured it across to be just 1.5 metres wide. In the same cabin we liked the feature headboard, mood lighting and large panoramic windows but felt the sofa could instead have been better used by building in a set of drawers for extra clothes 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 television, along with a stand alone vanity unit with illuminated mirror are just a couple of examples of the luxurious touches in the master cabin. The master ensuite 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 (not bunk) beds. Often overlooked, the twin cabin features the same attention to detail as the other accommodation, with no need for guests to sleep in bunk beds and design touches including a full length mirror. For additional accommodation, there is an 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. On the boat we tested the marble countertops had a feel very much akin to that 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.
Well thought out 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 based on popular boating destinations – Capri, St Tropez, Amalfi and the Hamptons.
Underway 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.” The company 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 15 metre plus boat.
The Targe 53 GT 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.
Every on board feature has been carefully planned to enhance the experience of the owner and their guests. Gyro stabilisers are a factory fitted option, while there’s a 45 percent increase in air conditioning output, 35 percent increase in exterior glazing, and 70 percent increase in cockpit seating and sunbed areas.
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