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It's sporty and it's sexy and it has a retractable sunroof. But Fairline's 48 GT is a family entertainer too. What can't it do?

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It’s not easy deciding which Fairline 48 to buy these days. Do you go for the traditional flybridge Squadron model, or something more sporting?

Then, would you choose the sun-kissed Open model or stake your dollars on the slick retractable glass roof of the Gran Turismo aka GT?

For this reviewer at least, the choice was made by my friends at Leigh-Smith Yachts on the Gold Coast, who made available the latest targa-topped sportscruiser from this reinvented UK builder.

Reinvented, because it wasn’t so long ago that observers could be forgiven for thinking Fairline Yachts was firmly washed up on the rocks, following a 2015 announcement the company was going into administration after a succession of tough years.

However, this esteemed boatbuilder was saved by enthusiastic Russian investors who promised to reinvigorate the British company, and on recent results, it seems they’ve done just that.

Already riding on a reputation for British-built quality and exacting standards, newly-released models such as our Targa GT 48 offer exciting concepts such as a sliding sunroof over the entire helm area.

Inside-outside boating? I was sold…

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Fairline has always offered a tidy line in Euro-style sportscruisers, but it’s been in the time since Italian designer Alberto Mancini took over that the brand has really begun turning out increasingly refined — and dare we say it, sexy — models.

Rooflines have been trimmed, waistlines slimmed and the "wow factor" turned up to 11 following the appointment of former superyacht designer Mancini who puts his inimitable stamp of Italian style on all new Fairline models.

Mancini’s influence will be showcased in an even more radical format next year, with the unveiling in 2019 of Fairline’s F-Series open dayboats, beginning with the sports car-inspired F/Line 33 – a stirring, modern reinvention of the classic launch.

Fairline’s decision to have a noted designer pen its new models is part of a reinvigoration of the brand that began when new Russian owners took over in January 2016.

Alexander Volov and Igor Glyanenko were clever enough to recognise the strong foundations of British craftsmanship upon which the Fairline brand was founded, but also savvy enough to realise the company needed a fresh direction.

As Leigh-Smith Yachts’ director Ryan Leigh-Smith explained to Trade-a-Boat, Fairline’s owners recognised it was essential to maintain the legacy of matchless UK-built quality in a crowded marketplace.

"Fairline didn’t want to build cheap boats, they wanted to build world-class boats," Ryan said.

"And they’ve done that and made those necessary changes in an enormously short period of time."

Fairline’s first big move was to sign up Mancini as designer, but the company also involved Dutch engineering company Vripack to assist with streamlining production at Fairline’s Southampton factory.

"Their new focus was cutting-edge design, but coupled with reliability and performance," Ryan said.

"This has resulted in the holy trinity of design, construction and engineering which is what we see in the GT 48."

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While cruising around the Gold Coast Broadwater, dodging showers on a cloudy Saturday morning, much of the enjoyment we had in the Fairline could be linked directly with that sliding sunroof overhead.

There are few better feelings than tearing down an open waterway at 25kt with the sun overhead and the smell of the ocean in your nostrils, while sitting cosily enveloped in the plush confines of a gloriously upholstered helm chair.

The smart design of the GT’s Targa roof means users can enjoy open-air boating without being blasted in the face by punchy sea breezes.

The helm of the GT 48 is slick and minimalist – everything you need and nothing you don’t. It wouldn’t be out of place on a high-end luxury car.

There’s contrast stitching and multiple Garmin units (including a 20in touchscreen), while all the usual controls fall easily to hand.

Importantly, there’s an IPS joystick just outboard of the steering wheel and this little number does wonders to make your life afloat more enjoyable (and very much stress-free).

Right next to the driving position is a cushy L-shaped lounge that really works to create a social vibe aboard the 48.

Family or guests can easily chat to the skipper while underway (and enjoy those very same views afforded to the captain from his plush helm chair).

There’s no more captain–crew separation that comes with flybridge helm positions, meaning everyone can feel part of the action — just one more reason why boat-buyers are taking a shine to single-level cruisers these days.

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Each Fairline GT 48 is available to potential buyers in a range of modular layouts, with our test boat comprising the popular ‘galley-up’ model — perfect for those owners who enjoy entertaining and socialising with friends.

What this translates to is a well-appointed, functional galley space located amidships, just aft of the helm on starboard and accessed from the rear deck through the sliding, stainless-framed doors.

The cabinetry (and indeed, all the woodwork) gleams in high-gloss walnut with lime-brushed oak underfoot, but a range of alternate finishes are available, including carpet throughout or satin-finished oak panelling for a more casual look.

Yet another welcoming lounge sits opposite the galley bench and it’s from here you can also view the pop-up 32in flat screen TV on a riser behind the helm chairs.

Chefs will enjoy a two-burner induction hob and a "real" oven and grill by Fisher and Paykel, alongside a deep sink and Isotherm drinks fridge (a full size domestic fridge/freezer is located forward in the utility room).

As Ryan explained, it’s a layout that will perfectly suit the Aussie boating lifestyle: "We chose this GT as the first inventory boat for the Gold Coast because we wanted the galley up, we wanted three cabins and, most of all, we wanted an al fresco dining area for friends and family," he said.

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The term "single-level entertainer" is gaining plenty of traction in the housing market and on the water, and it’s very applicable here.

Save for a handful of small steps, there are few obstacles between the helm seats and the cool ocean off the back of the boat.

Of course, en route you may want to lounge on a sofa, select a bottle of wine, grab a snag off the barbecue or launch the tender; there are worse choices to have.

While the retractable roof does makes the helm and saloon area very attractive at anchor, the smart money is on owners spending the majority of their time appreciating the aft deck – it’s one heck of a space.

White lounges provide plenty of room for relaxing on portside and at the stern, while an electric barbecue plus sink make alfresco cooking a simple affair.

A submersible swim platform with 350kg capacity means a small RIB or Williams jet tender can be comfortably carried at the stern of your Fairline for shore excursions or exploration.

There’s even a crafty safety feature that ensures the engines cannot be started while the platform is down — peace of mind for those with children who swim.

Our test boat chose to do away with an extra crew cabin down aft (c’mon – who needs crew on a 48-footer?) and the gain in space means the lazarette can swallow up all sorts of handy gear.

Beneath the aft lounge, which lifts on gas rams, there’s room for fenders, lines, dive gear, fishing gear, water sports equipment and more. This versatile storage will also prove valuable for long-distance cruising.

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While there might not be a crew cabin on our test boat, there are still plenty of accommodation spaces for friends and family to choose from.

The bow holds the VIP guest cabin and this is another space where Fairline has excelled with fresh thinking.

Instead of the usual vee-shaped double, the GT offers a "scissor bed": two singles that pivot from the bow to form a double bed when required. Genius!

Below a dark leather bedhead, these modular beds are easy to move around, but stiff enough to stay put when moved together. It’s a really neat inclusion that simply offers greater versatility from the available accommodation.

The VIP shares a bathroom with the starboard twin cabin and each includes full-height wardrobe storage.

The bathroom itself offers a toilet located beneath a flip-up stone benchtop. Again, this is clever use of space, offering an extra work surface where usually there would be none.

Moving aft, you enter the master cabin which makes the most of its 4m-plus full-beam width.

There’s an inviting daybed on starboard, with extra storage on port, plus large picture windows and portlights for cross-flow ventilation.

Headroom is reduced over the bed itself, but this makes no difference to the cabin access unless you were planning on using the mattress as a trampoline.

In the ensuite, there’s a neat step down into the shower recess that provides ample room to move and beneath the bed is extra storage to take care of anything the myriad cupboards won’t deal with.

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Given Fairline’s sporty heritage and the racy looks of this yacht, we can safely assume most buyers will enjoy blasting between anchorages and enjoying sun-drenched lunches in secluded coves.

But those versatile IPS drives can also deliver you between ports with ease at cruising speeds, and while it’s not the biggest tank (1300L), fuel figures provided by Fairline demonstrate that the GT can offer a range of around 300–400nm at 9kt, so blue-water exploring is certainly not out of reach.

The engine bay (accessed below the cockpit table) presents a surgically-clean utility space with all components clearly labelled and a healthy volume of headroom for maintenance jobs.

Power delivery from the 435hp Volvo Pentas is smooth and quick onto the plane with incredibly low noise levels courtesy of that pod technology.

Speeds ramp up dramatically within the 2500–3500rpm range and we pushed the 32kt barrier at full noise; who knows what’s possible if you tick the box for upgraded IPS 700s that pump 550hp per side?

Potential buyers with their hearts set on shaft drives still have plenty of options of this size within the sportsboat market, but it’s good to see Fairline has planted its flag in the IPS corner — and not without a comprehensive total of research and development behind the decision.

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Before hitting financial troubles in 2015, Fairline Boats (as it was then known) had established a proud and enviable history among UK luxury boat manufacturers.

The company was formed in 1963 by Jack Newington. Fairline’s first boat was a 19ft river cruiser, but by 1979 Fairline employed more than 140 people and was developing high-speed cruising yachts.

The iconic Targa range was launched in 1985 and the powered hardtop roof was first included on the 2004 Targa GT.

These versatile sportsboats proved incredibly popular with boaters world-wide, and Fairline Yachts’s Targa 38 was awarded European Powerboat of the Year for its size range in 2006.

Fairline launched its 12,000th yacht in 2010, but the company was not alone in finding the going tough in 2015 — going into administration as fellow UK boatbuilders Princess and Sunseeker both shed staff and reported record losses.



2x Volvo Penta IPS 435hp; five people on board; 100% fuel load and water load

800 4.7 24.5 0.19 242.41
1000 5.9 26.1 0.23 285.65
1600 8.6 25.7 0.33 422.85
2000 9.8 48.4 0.20 255.86
2400 11.9 87.1 0.14 172.64
2600 16.5 95 0.17 219.47
2800 19.7 109.3 0.18 227.76
3000 22 125 0.18 222.40
3400 29 153 0.19 239.51
3600 31 168 0.18 233.17

 *Fuel burn figures supplied by manufacturer leaving ten per cent in reserve 



PRICED FROM : $1,260,000

PRICE AS TESTED: $1,349,000

OPTIONS FITTED: Upgraded upholstery, gloss Walnut interior, Lime Oak flooring, galley and bathroom worktops in Avonite Avalanche, bowthruster, bunk cabin, Fusion stereo and speakers to cockpit, 22in TVs to guest cabins, freshwater deckwash, mosquito screens on hatches, submersible swimplatform, high capacity air conditioner, 11kW generator.


MATERIAL Fusion moulded GRP

TYPEMonohull sports yacht

LENGTH 15.64m

BEAM 4.32m

DRAFT 1.17m

WEIGHT 13,500kg (dry)


PEOPLE 6 (night)

FUEL 1309L



MAKE/MODEL 2x Volvo Penta IPS 600 435hp

TYPE Common-rail diesel pod drives


WEIGHT 699kg (each)


Leigh-Smith Yachts

42D Quay St, Sanctuary Cove, QLD, 4212

PHONE 07 5577 9200



The full review featured in issue #506 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest boat news, reviews and travel inspiration.  


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