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September 30, 2013

Viking 52C

Purpose-built convertible was made to fish.

After running along in a following sea, I lazily spun the wheel and put the bow of the new Viking 52C into the long, deep and low ocean swell. The early morning sun, now red and leaning toward orange, cast a shimmering path out to the horizon. The gaudy and colorful skyline of Atlantic City, New Jersey,  back-dropped by fair-weather clouds in a blue sky, began to shrink behind me as I headed offshore. I took a glance at the well-positioned — and quite beautiful — Release Marine teak center-console helm station, taking particular note, as is my habit when running any boat, of the engine and systems parameters, including revolutions per minute, rate of speed and gallons per hour. All was in order, and the instruments told the rest of the story: 1,750 rpm, 31.5 knots, 76 gph.

It was also, as I remarked to my four companions up on the flybridge, quite comfortable in those relentless mostly four-foot rollers. And while there would be many more outstanding observations to make by the time I got the new Viking 52C back to the dock, the real story about the latest convertible from the venerated New Jersey builder begins back at Viking Yachts’ 810,000-square-foot Bass River plant, way before the fully infused 52 hulls and all their myriad parts move down the production line and ultimately to the water and their new owners.

Design and Engineering

“When we sit down at what I like to refer to as the ‘group lunch meetings,’ ” Viking designer Dave Wilson says, “it includes sales, marketing, our executives and even our demo captains and mates as well. And while we’ll discuss everything about a new design — whether it be on a 42- or 92-footer — and anything from the running bottom, to the interior, to the flying bridge, in the end, we’re not going to do something unless it’s a positive improvement.”

Some remarkable products have come out of those meetings, and that last statement Wilson mentioned is as important to Viking as any other concept in the company’s long and storied history, which dates back to 1964.

Joe Snodgrass, the company’s naval architect, gave some insight as well. “Among the many other factors that we paid attention to, there were two main focus points in the 52C’s design and engineering of particular importance,” Snodgrass says. “One was the actual shape of the hull, where it is wide or narrow, its chine distribution and the ability to efficiently move it through the water along with everything that goes inside. The second was keeping things properly balanced so that the performance is right where it is supposed to be. That was the ultimate goal.”

To accomplish that goal, the Viking design and production team looked at what they had learned when building the 52’s larger siblings — especially the 62EB and 54C. Both Wilson and Snodgrass agreed that the 52C is an almost identical sister ship to the 62EB. “Everything we learned from the bigger boat, all the significant positive changes that made her such a successful build, we put into this boat,” Wilson says. Those changes included the removal of the keel, no fair body flat on the bottom, the increase in warping deadrise and the elimination of the offset knuckle fully aft, thus adding more flat bottom at the transom.

The question of balance also came up as the conversation shifted to the deep pockets used on the 52C. “While pocket use results in taking away buoyancy, it nets out with the decrease in draft,” Snodgrass says. Indeed, even with the added weight of the bigger engines and optional fuel tanks, this boat lost some three inches over the previous 52C, one designed without pockets. “Pockets also tolerate less tip clearance for the props, here about 7.5 percent as compared to about 10 to 15 percent on a traditional hull, thus cutting down on impulse and vibration and permitting the use of a flatter shaft angle, larger diameter props and deeper gear ratios,” Snodgrass says. Translation: Better and more-efficient performance.

Construction

Viking’s commitment to making positive improvements found its way into its construction techniques as well. The hull of the 52C is now fully infused, as are many of the boat’s parts, including the fuel tanks and air boxes, among others. Those fuel tanks, along with both the freshwater and holding tanks, all have fiberglass baffles inside. They have balsa-cored sides for added stiffness and are sealed to the hull with resin foam.

For added strength, her hull boasts a Kevlar/carbon-hybrid laminate construction to shed weight without sacrificing muscle. “We will be the last to show up at the dance and not follow in anyone else’s footsteps,” Wilson says. “We will never give up strength for weight.”

The stringers are encapsulated and foam-cored, and the composite bulkheads — main, intermediate engine room and forward — are vacuum-bagged. The salon sole, which is the engine room overhead, is Airex-cored for both sound and thermal insulation. As in the 42C, the entire forepeak area is a one-piece liner.