BOAT TEST: FAIRLINE SQUADRON 42
The great outdoors await footloose sailors, up top and all around, aboard the easy-to-maintain baby Fairline Squadron 42
If the Fairline Squadron 65, reviewed last month, represents the company's flagship (or near to it, there is after all a Squadron 78 Custom) then the more compact Squadron 42 is best summed up as the family-wagon. If that sounds like a negative it isn't supposed to be. Perhaps the term family-wagon is a bit bland, all-rounder might be a better description; an Adam Gilchrist with a little more polish - easy in anyone's company, honest to a tee and up for any plan hastily hatched over a beer.
As when testing the 65, Ellen and I enjoyed a perfect Fremantle day out of the Royal Perth Yacht Club.
This is a place steeped in history and as a passionate boating geek it was a pleasure to walk in the footsteps of the Greats. In 1983 Bondy's revolutionary winged-keel boat Australia II changed the course of America's Cup racing forever beating the Yanks at their own game and wresting the Auld Mug from the New York Yacht Club for the first time in its 126-year history. The Royal Perth club became its home and would be the staging ground of a whole new type of campaign.
The famous 1987 regatta could well be where the seed of my infatuation for all things afloat was planted. I remember listening to those enthralling races on the school bus - not many events can silence a bus-load of teenagers, but those did. As a kiwi it was the "plastic fantastic" KZ7 we were barracking for. "Dirty" Dennis Conner, who accused the Kiwis of cheating with the question, "Why would you build a plastic yacht... unless you wanted to cheat?" eventually beat the fibreglass boat. DC (who is not really dirty, just super competitive) went on to defeat Iain Murray's Kookaburra III returning the silverware to the US.
Okay, enough history, back to the future….
I have mentioned before how good the Fairline WA guys are to deal with. To put things in perspective bad weather looked likely to shut down two of our scheduled three days on location, so we had a lot of work to get through and not much time to do it in. We started shooting the Fairlines at 7am, squeezed in a handful of trailerboats up the coast in the middle of the day, before returning to Freo to finish of the big boats in the evening. It was a long day but the WA team did a great job and bent over backwards to ensure we had what we needed.
USED AS INTENDED
The Fairline Squadron 42 we tested is owned and actively used by a syndicate. It does have a few miles on it but has been kept in Bristol condition, testament to its ease of daily use. The baby of the Squadron line is configured in the familiar and proven flybridge cruiser style, with two cabins forward, a centrally located galley on a mid-level and a saloon aft leading out to the cockpit space. Above, the flybidge has a hardtop and clears.
The boat has a gelcoated fibreglass hull with a relatively deep vee (12.5° of deadrise). Fairline is yet to experiment with pod drives preferring to stick with tried-and-true shafts. To increase the internal volume and compete with pod-driven vessels the propellers are set into shallow tunnels. This allows the engines to be shifted aft freeing-up space and maintaining a shallow shaft angle - so important when it comes to delivering efficient on-the-water performance. Add to this the integrated swimplatform (increases the LOA) and you have a package benefiting from the expertise of naval architects without being cutting edge.
SPACE UP TOP
The flybridge has a similar size ratio-to-volume we saw on the 65, which is said to be the largest in its class. Well set-up for family-style outdoor living, with an abundance of comfortable seating and a functional al fresco dining table, I can see no reason why this pleasant space wouldn't become the social hub of the boat. There is plenty of watertoy storage under the seats, upholstered with longevity in mind.
Twin bolstered helm seats are accompanied by an inviting chaise longue. Sun lovers will be hard to prise from this decadent lounger, as would I be. It is easy to see yourself kicking back with a G&T, while someone else takes responsibility for the driving.
The flybridge helm itself is a more practical version of the main station downstairs. It features quality Garmin electronics, without all the extras that may suffer from exposure to the elements. Lastly, I am always pleased to see a lockable hatch to this upstairs station. It is not really there for security, more to keep unwarranted distractions away from the skipper, should conditions ever demand such an approach.
SUN AND SURF
A quick trip down the stairwell lands you in the heart of the aft cockpit and transom area. I have occasionally commented that some European-manufactured vessels take a "floating apartment" approach. I find this leaves me feeling slightly disassociated from the water, which is somewhat contradictory to the point.
Not so the Squadron 42. While it won't win too many votes from hard-core fishos, the central two-person lounger presents itself as the ultimate spot to wile away a day at anchor. Its reversible backrest facilitates an easy transition from forward facing - engaged in social banter with companions in the saloon - to aft, facing the vista only inches from the water, the temptation to dangle your toes in tantalisingly close.
If you are anything like me and such close proximity to water quickly becomes too inviting to resist, the full-beam swimplatform is a safe and easy place to access the sea, with or without the inbuilt ladder. It is also worth noting a small central section of this platform can extend and submerge on a hydraulic arm to assist with tender launching and retrieval. An abundance of LED lighting ensures all the stairwells and potential tripping hazards - those to the bow as well as those up from the water - are illuminated adequately, while augmenting the relaxed evening mood nicely.
One step through the glass and stainless steel slider is the cosy saloon and entertainment zone. Much like the rest of the vessel the décor is very similar to the contemporary, slightly modernist take we are seeing from many of the European manufacturers. On the 42, Fairline have sensibly taken a more functional approach than on its larger models ensuring the boat can stand up to plenty of use. The standard U-shape couch surrounds a fixed dining table, all facing the combination entertainment/cocktail cabinet. I particularly liked the use of split-level windows, which ensure all guests have an eye-level view of the panorama outside either sitting or standing.
Forward and on the same level as the saloon is the main helm station. Followers of boat design will note this return to the primary downstairs station, where many manufacturers have been phasing them out in favour of the primary flybridge station. Feedback from owners is the reason for this return to the past based on the skipper's desire to be part of the family at all times rather feeling isolated upstairs. As with all its models Fairline has done a great job of presenting a helm station that looks more like a spaceship's command module. Quality components are combined with Fairline's classy vessel monitoring system for a high-tech, sophisticated feel.
DINNER AND BED
One level down to port but still in the same room finds you in the Squadron 42's galley. I do remember being particularly impressed with the capping on the handrails. It sounds like a pretty minor item to notice but I thought the hardwearing high-grip material looked great and felt really safe so it got a tick from me. The galley itself works well in the context of the vessel's intended use. Adequate bench and storage space as well as a range of cooking options combine to ensure a lack of fuss at mealtimes. The eye-level panoramic window helps to reduce any sense of claustrophobia.
Also on this level, but forward and separate from the saloon and galley area, are the accommodation spaces and dual en suites. The master cabin lives in the bow section and features what is referred to as an "oversized" double. The guest cabin sits to starboard and back under the saloon floor, its twin singles push together to form a double allowing for versatility where needed to accommodate the kids or your VIP guests. Quality en suites service both cabins independently. Warmth is added with a liberal use of teak flooring and trim.
The Fairline Squadron 42 appeals to me because I see it as a vessel designed for the busy family man who doesn't have an unlimited chequebook to throw at professional crew and constant detailing. It really is a very good spur-of-the-moment vessel. No muss, no fuss. Just climb onboard with the appropriate supplies, untie the lines and go.
Yet it is presented with enough quality fittings and comfort to ensure those nearest and dearest will feel they are boating in style. Overnighters will be a pleasure and extended cruising is not out of the question.
We are all talk about getting more lifestyle into our frantic schedules yet so few ever actually achieve that goal. This boat has been designed to help realise those aspirations.
And that, in a nutshell, pretty much sums up both my first, and my lingering impressions of Fairline Yacht's Squadron 42. It's a boat kind a lot like your best mate. Not likely to turn you down on any adventure - big or small.
FAIRLINE SQUADRON 42
PRICE AS TESTED
MATERIAL: Handlaid fibreglass
TYPE: Planing monohull
WEIGHT: 13.29 tons (dry)
PEOPLE (NIGHT): 4+2
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Volvo Penta
D6-370 EVC; 2 x Volvo Penta D6-435 EVC (optional)
TYPE: Electronic six-cylinder
RATED HP: 370 (each)
DISPLACEMENT: 336 cu in
From Trade-a-Boat magazine Issue 431, Sept-Oct 2012. Story: Jeff Strang Photos & video: Ellen Dewar.
Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.