Boat Review: Viking 50 Open

After looking over Viking's brand-new 50 Open, my only question is why anyone wouldn't want a 50-foot express.

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Why in the world would anyone want a 50-foot express boat? The question is one I've heard every time large express models are released by today's production boatbuilders. If you're going to buy a boat that large, they ask, why not go for the convertible and the extra accommodations it affords?
After looking over Viking's brand-new 50 Open, my only question is why anyone wouldn't want a 50-foot express. Express boats are lighter and faster than a comparably sized and powered convertible. They keep captain and crew closer together throughout the day, are easier to run with a small crew, and have unparalleled amounts of lounging area and storage within two steps of the fishing rods.

Alone in its class, the 50 Open ranks as the largest sport-fishing express model available today. Other builders offer similarly sized express cruisers with some fishing options, but the Viking stands as the only offering built from bow to transom door strictly for the tournament fisher.
"If somebody wants to buy the Viking 50 Open and put a radar arch on her and cruise around, that's fine," says company vice-president Pat Healey. "But that's not what we built
her for."

The 50 Open's dedication to the serious fisherman is obvious throughout. Look in the cockpit, where a transom door, two fish boxes and tackle center come standard. Look on the bridge, where visibility from the center-line helm is unhindered in any direction. Look in the spic-and-span engine room, which Viking seems to have down to a science. Even look in the comfortable salon, where a day head is positioned close to the sliding entryway for quick access during fishing. (A second, private head resides in the forward stateroom.)

But some of the Viking 50's best features are those you don't notice right away. On the cockpit lockers, you'll not find a single hinge, latch, handle or knob to catch fishing line or chamois cloth. All compartments are opened via a press-latch arrangement, including the starboard locker door, which reveals a hidden gaff storage compartment first introduced on the Viking 55 Convertible
last year.

On the air-conditioned bridge, single-lever controls and a pod-style helm capture the immediate attention, but an angled electronics suite hidden behind a lockable clear door and a unique hidden radio box arrangement really set this boat apart.

But most of all, the Viking 50 is simply a solid sea boat. Based on the same hull as its widely successful 50 Convertible, the 50 Open received rave reviews from Capt. Robert Creagan, who ran Hull No. 1 from New Jersey to Florida for the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show. In fact, Creagan refutes the primary criticism of the express design -- its tendency to be a wetter boat than a comparably sized convertible due to the windshield's closer proximity to the surface. "We only had to use the windshield wipers 10 times during the entire run down," he says.

With the standard 800-hp MANs, the Viking 50 cruises 30 knots at 2,100 rpm and tops out at 34 knots. At her cruise, she sips 62.4 gallons per hour for a range approaching 350 miles. Those who want a bit more punch can upgrade to 1,050- or even 1,200-hp MANs, at which point you can expect to receive a 40-plus-knot top end for your $136,000 investment.

For more information, contact Viking Yacht Company, Route 9, New Gretna, NJ 08224; 609-296-6000.