Fairline’s update on a classic turns out to be very rewarding
Fairline took on a considerable challenge when they decided to introduce a new Squadron 55 to their range. The original 55, which was developed ten years ago, was an iconic design that has proved to be their most successful model ever. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the original 55 marked the beginning of the modern day Fairline – hundreds of the 55 have been sold. Could the new version life up to this reputation? After a sea trial in challenging conditions, the answer is a resounding yes.
With 35 already ordered from the drawing board, it seems that I am not the only one with this viewpoint.
What has changed over ten years? Well the same sure handling and comfortable living areas are still there, but the big difference is in the sophistication. The interior of this new design is very sophisticated and modern, but manages to combine this with an extremely comfortable feel, so that you don’t feel over-awed by the high style. Then there are the onboard systems. Computer control rules the roost here, with even the steering using fly-by-wire systems. But there is enough manual input required to leave you still feeling fully in control. It is a happy combination that makes you feel that this is a true leisure yacht that works with you all the time.
The 55 feels great in port and it does not disappoint out at sea. The wind was blowing at 25 knots – the sort of conditions in which many builders would not let you take a boat out for a sea trial. Fairline has no such reservations and positively encourages the use of full throttle in four-foot waves that had breaking crests. At full speed, there was some slamming into the head seas, but you wouldn’t normally use full throttle in these conditions. Ease back the throttles and the ride becomes smoother and well controlled.
You can use the quick acting flaps to keep the bow down in these conditions, but the ride was smoother with the flaps up. The boat was a joy to drive and at the 26-knot cruising speed, it felt as though you could go all day at this rate. Turn downwind in the rough conditions and the ride was a bit less frenetic. The full bow shape came into its own, creating generous lift the smooth out the ride. Having just come back from the rough ride of winning the Round Britain Powerboat Race, it was sheer joy to experience the best of the sophisticated side of boating.
The hull that creates this good natured performance appears fairly conventional, with a moderate deadrise vee in the hull and a chine line that keeps low at the bow. Below the waterline the entry is quite fine but the bow shape widens out quickly above the chine to create generous space for the accommodation. The Fairline designers have tweaked the shape here and there based on experience and the propellers operate in shallow semi-tunnels. The hull extends aft partially under the swim platform to get the maximum waterline length.
Rather than squeeze in the maximum number of cabins, Fairline has opted for a three-cabin layout below with the VIP cabin forward and the twin cabin sharing a bathroom. This means that all of the cabins are endowed with plenty of space and this in turn leads to a relaxing feel. The décor is subdued and features a combination of textured fabrics and highly polished American walnut wood with some black leather trim. Other lighter woods are available to offer a change to this style
In the master cabin, the bed is athwartships and faces the bathroom on the starboard side. There is a clear view through a large side window in the bathroom and there is a matching window on the other side above the head of the bed. You can’t help feeling that the bed might have been better placed with the headboard against the aft bulkhead but here there is a large double closet, lockers and drawers all finished as mirrors that expand the apparent size of the cabin. This helps to compensate for the reduced headroom over part of the bed.
The twin cabin and the VIP cabin forward follow a conventional layout. The clever design of the escape hatch in the VIP cabin incorporates a forward facing window so there is good light in this cabin. The shared bathroom is large and is ensuite with the VIP cabin and it also serves as the day head with a door at the foot of the access stairs. All of the cabins are fitted with iPod docking stations, with a fourth station in the deck saloon.
The saloon is divided by steps into the lounge and the galley/dining area and over the lounge the headroom is only around six-and-a-half feet, which gives it something of a cramped feel. Yet, it feels comfortable once you are sitting down and there is a large flatscreen TV opposite the settee for entertainment. Although it looks wonderful, I am not sure about the off-white carpet over the whole of the interior – it could prove a nightmare to keep clean, but there are options for alternative colors.
The open plan galley is brilliant and easy to use, although serious cooks might prefer a proper oven rather than the microwave fitted. Opposite is a foldout diagonal dining table that fits into the corner settee with two stools to make up the seating numbers. This is one of four possible dining areas on this 55 footer, and with cooking facilities in the galley and on the flybridge barbecue bar there is no shortage of eating options.