Turning the leather steering wheel with the pressure of one finger, the flagship of Britain’s Fairline fleet gently listed to port as she made her Australian debut off the West Australian coast. At full throttle, and with 33 knots registering on the Raymarine GPS/Chartplotter, the Squadron 78 Custom eased off as I put her into a hard lock.
“Turn her as hard as you can at full speed,” Karl Gilding from Fairline’s Yacht Division called out as we put this $6.5 million vessel through its paces off the coast of Cottesloe.
The S78 is the first Fairline introduced into Australia and coincides with the official launch of the British company’s WA dealership, Fairline Western Australia. Gilding says the weather, relaxed lifestyle and resources-backed wealth puts WA in a similar league to the company’s biggest market, the Mediterranean.
Fairline believes if you can afford to invest in one of its largest and most exclusive models, you have every right to expect special attention. Hence the creation of its Yacht Division, which is made up of specialists like Karl Gilding, who travels the world to meet customers and give advice and service. He also liaises with local Fairline dealerships and the factory back at Oundle, on the banks of the River Nene in England, to make sure the vessel is fitted to the buyer’s requirements. Fairline can even arrange VIP transport to get owners to and from progress meetings as their vessel travels through its production, a process which, at the moment, takes about 14 months.
The Squadron 78 Custom in question has a four-cabin arrangement, with just about every option box ticked, plus a crew accommodation area at the stern. The Yamaha WaveRunner PWC on the upper deck is standard, as is the Williams 385 jet RIB, mounted on the rear teak-laid swim platform, which can be hydraulically lowered during launching.
The vessel has a dry weight of just over 46 tonnes, but takes very little effort to handle.
The hydraulic steering and digital remote control is remarkably responsive on this 24-metre majestic lady. At full speed, you can turn the wheel as hard as you like and the vessel gently leans into the curve, the twin Caterpillar C32-1572 diesel engines easing back a few revolutions until she climbs back to full power. There was no need to touch the throttle at all.
Enter the living quarters from the teak rear deck and through the huge glass doors, and you’re greeted by a cavernous saloon, complete with doe-skin coloured leather lounge suite and ottoman, side tables and lamps. The bar cabinet and retractable LCD flat-screen television is opposite on the starboard wall.
Heading forward, a nine-piece dining suite is located to starboard, a short distance away from the extensive galley and island serving table. The food preparation area is always a busy section on any vessel and the S78 has ample room to move, from the full-size wall oven, past the cook top and to the sink with nearby dishwasher. The work surfaces are hand-selected granite and there are abundant drawers, fridges and freezers to hold enough supplies for extended cruises. Of course, the Fairline Edition china dinner service, cutlery set and crystal glasses are standard.
No skipper likes to be at the wheel while the passengers are being entertained elsewhere on board. With this in mind, Fairline has located the S78’s interior helm station only a few metres forward of the dining/galley area. Conversation between the control centre and the saloon and dining area is easy and there’s even an elbow-height casual breakfast bar, complete with padded stools, on the port side adjacent to the helm.
There are sleeping arrangements for up to 13 on this craft. A five-step staircase leads down to the lower deck and sleeping quarters. At the foot of the stairs, there are two cabins, port and starboard, each fitted with two single berths. Nearby there are two bathrooms. One is the en-suite to the guest bedroom, which has a large double bed with storage underneath, full-height wardrobes and a flat-screen TV.
Heading aft, you enter the master stateroom, with triple portrait feature windows on each side. To port there is a settee and the starboard side is taken up with a full-length bench top and drawers, plus a study desk and chair. A large en-suite fitted with twin hand basins, head and bidet, is located aft of the bedroom.
The flybridge is the hub of outdoor activity on the S78. The upper deck and helm station are huge, with sprawling leather settees that can be converted to a sundeck with the flick of a switch. Adjacent to the helm, there is a rounded lounge, again within easy talking range of the skipper.
The weather-proof seating is plush and the helm has a bank of three separate arm chairs so the skipper can have a bit of company while on watch. Although not activated the day we went to sea, a telescopic concealed bimini protects the entire upper deck area from harsh elements.
Entertaining up top is complemented by a comprehensive barbecue and food preparation station, complete with grill, bar fridge, icemaker and sink. The nearby rubbish bin doubles as a large ice bucket.
It’s an imposing eight metres to the top of the mast on the S78 Custom, which meant that a little surgery was needed so she could clear the old traffic bridge in Fremantle harbour.
The Fairline Squadron 78 Custom gave an impressive performance off the coast of Perth, reaching a maximum speed of 33 knots heading into a stiff summer easterly wind. She handled the turns similar to a vessel half her size.
“The hull is deeper at the front of the vessel and flattens out towards the stern and this reduces drag when maneuvering in tight turns,” Karl Gilding explained. “Very little effort is required to handle her. Docking is assisted by the 25hp bow thruster and 20hp stern thruster; both hydraulically assisted.”
I did as the Fairline UK man suggested and put her through some hard figure eight turns at full throttle. Without any adjustment of the remote controls, the Squadron 78 gently listed as the revs dropped back to around 27 knots. Straightening up, she powered up again, heading into the wind and back to 33 knots, a whisper short of her manufacturer’s stated peak performance. You can blame the stiff easterly winds, which accompanied Perth’s record heat-wave summer, for that.
There’s a critical shortage of pens and moorings in the West and this has been evident in the reduced sales figures for larger vessels. But Fairline Western Australia, with businessmen John Court and Glen Moltoni at the helm, has secured a number of pens and they say they can guarantee Fairline owners a berth.
The Squadron 74 is 1.7 metres shorter than the S78. So what are you losing? Not much, reports Barry Wiseman.
SPECIFICATIONS: FAIRLINE SQUADRON 78 CUSTOM
Height above waterline: 7.72m
Dry weight: 46,250kg
Power:Twin Caterpillar C32-1572 diesels, capable of speeds up to 35 knots
PERFORMANCE: (ex Fairline)
Maximum speed: 35 knots
Cruise speed: 24 knots at 400 litres per hour
Cruise range: 284 nautical miles
Just like the Squadron 78, the S74 devotes a large amount of space to entertaining. There’s a large formal saloon with bar, retracting flat-screen television and home cinema surround sound, a formal dining area and, opposite the huge galley, a massive rear deck – plus the flybridge, of course.
The formal dining area has a matching eight-piece timber dining suite and the huge galley and dining area are just a couple of strides away on the port side. A bone china dinner service, cutlery set and crystal glasses come with the vessel.
Continuing towards the bow, you step up to the main helm station, where the skipper has access to all vessel control switches, including the air conditioning vents and centralised vacuum cleaning system for the lower and upper decks.
A staircase leads down below, with double bunk cabins port and starboard and a forward stateroom for guests.
The master stateroom is amidships and takes up the whole width of the vessel. Natural light is via triple-portrait feature windows and the cabin has a study desk on the port side and a wall lounge to starboard. The master en-suite dressing room and bathroom lead from the main cabin towards the stern.
The open flybridge and second helm position has luxury seating and wrap-around lounges for guests, plus an external bar with refrigerator, icemaker, sink and electronic griddle for barbecues. Two large biminis shade this area from the elements.
At the rear of the upper deck, a davit holds the Sea-Doo PWC securely in position. As with the Squadron 78, the S74 comes standard with a Yamaha WaveRunner jetski (swapped for the Sea-Doo in this case) and a Williams 385 jet RIB. However, unlike the S78, the S74 does not have a hydraulic swim platform for launching.
Fairline has fitted the Raymarine E120 and E80 navigation systems on board the Squadron 74, giving full radar/GPS/chartplotter displays at both helm positions. The same goes for the autopilot and bow and stern thrusters.
Standing at the flybridge helm of this 46-tonne beauty, you tower 7.7 metres above the surface of the water. Advancing the twin throttle controls, we’re sitting on 1800 revs and a cruising speed of 23 knots in no time at all. Effortlessly, the digital controls slide forward and this giant increases to just over 30 knots at 2250rpm. Like the S78, the power steering makes maneuvering the Squadron 74 a breeze.
Fairline Western Australia has just opened premises in Mews Road, Fremantle and sales director, Glen Moltoni, says the dealership already boasts the S74, S78 and a Targa 52 in its portfolio.
For more information, call Fairline Western Australia on (08) 9430 8702 or contact the official Australian Fairline importers, Chapman Marine Group, on (02) 9326 2867.
SPECIFICATIONS: FAIRLINE SQUADRON 74
Overall length: 22.68m
Weight (dry): 42,000kg
Power: Twin Caterpillar C32 1150hp