Sipping a chilled chardy on the back of the Fairline Targa 47, it occurred to me that this boat testing isn’t such a bad lark after all. I mean, despite the fact that you might occasionally find yourself on a $million-plus luxury craft with all the creature comforts imaginable, it’s nevertheless, surprisingly easy to get a little jaded at times. Some tests, it’s all about time: Gotta get there, get on the boat, blast out to the heads, run it over a bit of chop, lift its skirts and check its donks, then back to shore so life for the boat rep can return to normal. Wham, bam, thank you ma’m.
Then there’s the guy who wants you to test his boat, but only where and when he wants. So you have to make arrangements. You have to swap things around, arrange to fly or drive to the location, get lost along the way, lose his mobile number, ask directions at the local marina, get lost again, apologise for being late – invariably to muttered grumbles of discontent from the subject – jump onboard and go through the motions.
All too often, the boat is treated as an inanimate object, devoid of character or charm. It’s just a product; a bunch of specs on a sheet. Put it through its paces, chat to the rep, poke around a bit then spend some time on a keyboard and there you have it. Tested, filed and onto the next one.
But surveying the scene from the rear of the Fairline, it became apparent that there are boat tests and there are boat tests. I mean, here we were anchored off Whitehaven Beach on an absolutely pristine Whitsunday afternoon. Around us were dozens of other luxury cruisers bobbing in the gentle, sparkling chop, their occupants savouring the sensory pleasures of being parked off one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. We were there for Whitehaven Day, a special social get-together run as part of Hahn Premium Hamilton Island Race Week 2006. Hundreds of people frolicked on the beach under a sparkling Queensland sun in an idyllic scene full of life, laughter and colour. This was what the Fairline 47 Targa was created for. And this was, I decided, most definitely how all boat tests should be…
I sat back on the opulently padded rear lounge and chatted with owner, Malcolm and his ebullient wife, Ann-Maree. Briefly, I considered asking him about fuel consumption, top speed, cruise range, engine performance and other crucial boat test stuff. Then I took another look at the scene around us and had another sip of chardy. Damn it, the tech stuff could wait – I wanted to taste this boat; to feel it, absorb it, touch it and get to know it as it was intended to be used. And what better place to do it than right here in Australia’s nautical playground.
And so we chatted some more, took a brief stroll along the beach, admiring the Fairline’s sleek, graceful curves from afar, and then returned to the arduous task of boat testing.
A HAMMO BOAT
“We were looking for a ‘Hammo’ boat,” explained Malcolm as I probed relentlessly for pertinent information. Pouring a fresh glass, he explained that he already owned a Fairline Flyridge 55 that he kept in Adelaide. But since he and Ann-Maree now spend a lot of time in the Whitsundays, he’d been looking for something that fitted in with the island and local conditions.
“I’m very happy with the 55, and with Fairline boats in general, but I wanted something more suited to the Whitsundays lifestyle,” he said.
And an important consideration for any ‘Hammo boat’ is entertaining capacity, according to Malcolm. For the record, he says a dozen guests can be entertained in comfort on the 47 – and after spending a more than comfortable half day aboard, I can well vouch for that.
Malcolm and Ann-Maree spend a lot of on-water time in the Whitsundays and tend to entertain a few people when they do. On this particular day, we had eight people aboard and the spacious alfresco living and dining area aft and vast expanse of the forward sundeck meant that no one felt crammed or in each other’s space. In fact, lounging about is one of the Fairline’s main features and we were in the best location to test it to the max.
Open space is really what this Brit-built sports cruiser is all about. From the moment you step aboard the generously-proportioned swim platform, you sense the space. There is room to move about with ease, once you’ve ascended the two steps into the aft dining/entertaining space, where you’ll find a large U-shaped lounge to starboard, with a capacity for between six and eight guests. The deck is tastefully finished teak and a removable dining table provides ample room for drinks and nibblies. Directly opposite to port is a food preparation/bar console, in this case housing a barbecue unit, as well as a fridge/icemaker and ice chest. The placement is ideal for entertaining, with everything a mere step or two away from the lounge.
Backing onto the lounge is the two-seater helm chair, with bolsters for easy stand-up driving. This is the heart and soul of the Fairline, where the skipper can command in comfort. Visibility is excellent forward, aft and to the sides, and the gauges and instruments are laid out in an expansive, near-horizontal display that is easy to view quickly – an important consideration that is sometimes lacking in large boats with increasingly complicated instrumentation.
Overhead is one of this boat’s main attractions. The Targa’s hardtop boasts a vast powered retractable sunroof. In operation, it is silky smooth and quiet and when it’s open, it transforms the cockpit into a sun-drenched, delightfully open living area. Discreet lighting adds to the atmosphere when the stars come out.
To port of the helm station is a curved, forward-facing lounge that could comfortably seat three and in the centre of the helm bulkhead is the entrance to the living spaces below. While the above-decks area is a main feature of the Targa 47, designers certainly haven’t neglected the interior. Far from it.
ROOM TO MOVE
Stepping down directly into the large saloon/galley area, you get an immediate appreciation of the quality of finish of the Fairline and the emphasis on having room to move about in comfort. There’s a feeling of open space down here, too, highlighted by the generous head room – those six feet and a bit shouldn’t feel too cramped. On all sides, the rich cherry cabinetry speaks of craftsmanship and quality, while the lush, generously-padded lounge invites guests to be consumed in comfort as they enjoy their lavish surrounds, complete with the usual fare of electronic entertainment options.
There’s no excuse for not dining well, either, with a spacious galley to port – an area that Ann-Maree deems her own.
“Ten out of ten,” she quipped, when asked how she rated the cooking and food storage capabilities. “Having a proper, full-sized fridge is great and there’s just so much food storage available,” she added, lifting the hinged stairs to the cockpit to reveal yet another large storage space crammed with provisions.
There’s more storage in a large bin in the centre of the floor and I noted that all storage areas feature smooth, flowcoated surfaces that are easy to clean and just as easy on the eye. It’s this kind of attention to detail that speaks of a nocomprises approach to boat building.
Cooking facilities comprise a two-burner stove and convection microwave.
Forward is the master cabin, a spacious retreat served by a largish en suite featuring a shower with rotating door for ease of access. Plenty of wall shelving around the master berth aids convenience.
The guest cabin is located at the aft end of the saloon and comprises two single berths laid out abeam that can easily be converted to a double. It’s also served by its own en suite.
The interior spaces are well thought-out to maximise comfort and ease of mobility, while still incorporating plenty of utilitarian features.
Speaking of utility, there is a big tender/PWC garage accessed by the large, electrically-operated hatch in the transom. An electric winch and rollers make operation easy, quick and fuss-free. The transom also boasts a shower and concealed boarding ladder.
From a construction point of view, the Targa is a solid fibreglass craft incorporating unidirectional, woven rovings that are hand-laid. Hull and deck are rigidly interlocked and ’glassed together, according to Fairline. In combination with the fact that almost 100 individual components are bonded into the main structures, this makes for a very stiff and strong superstructure.
A former motor racer and race team owner, Malcolm places a lot of emphasis on performance, and on that score he is more than happy with the Fairline.
“I wanted a boat that would be fast so that we could head out from Hammo each day, get to where we wanted to go and still be back in time for dinner,” he explained.
With a pair of 575hp C9 Caterpillars churning up the water to the tune of 40 knots-plus at wide open throttle (WOT), according to Malcolm, being late home is not a worry.
As we motored back to Hamilton Island over a light chop, Malcolm handed over the helm to me and with plenty of room to move I was able to sample the Targa’s behaviour from the skipper’s perch.
I have to say that steering response and performance were exceptional. Swinging the hydraulically-enhanced helm hard to either side had the big 47 responding immediately – none of the expected lag and laziness of some other boats of this size and bulk. And it turned and steered with pinpoint accuracy, instilling immediate confidence. In fact, it really had the feel of a much smaller craft and is in keeping with Fairline’s reputation for building ‘driver’s boats’ that respond quickly, easily and accurately to commands from the helm. Likewise, the CAT controls were seamless and responsive, with plenty of oomph available when required. Performance-wise, the overall impression of the Targa was of a sports boat that encourages skippers to enjoy their time at the helm and make the most of the boat’s agility and power.
I’d doubt if there’d be any complaints from guests either, as the ride was smooth and soft, while a well-insulated engine room meant that even at WOT, conversation was easy.
The Fairline Targa 47 is very much an outdoors boat; a boat for enjoying those signature perfect days on the water, when the sun is shining, the sea breeze is blowing just enough to take the edge off the heat, and the wine is chilled and flowing well. It’s a stylish boat that encourages those aboard to celebrate being out on the water and would be right at home at any one of the world’s watery playgrounds: Monaco, the Bahamas – or Hammo. As Malcolm says, “This is a great hospitality boat – it’s easy to feel comfortable on the Fairline.”
As we motored serenely back into the harbour at Hamilton Island, as if on cue, the RAAF Roulettes thundered out of nowhere, performing pirouettes and acrobatics overhead to the delight of their appreciative audience. It was a fitting end to what I would like to think might be a typical Club Marine boat test. If only…
SPECIFICATIONS: FAIRLINE TARGA 47
LOA: 14.78 metres
Beam: 4.01 metres
Displacement: 14,410kg (dry)
Fuel: 1402 litres
Water: 364 litres
Power: 2 x C9 575hp Caterpillars
Price (base, with 2 x Volvo D9 500hp): $1,228,759
Price (as tested, with 2 x C9 Caterpillars): $1,294,540
For more information and local dealers, go to: www.fairline.com.