| |Courtesy Viking Yachts|
While the Bass River in New Gretna, New Jersey, does not hold any significant game fish, it is home to a very specific top-of-the-line predator of another kind. Viking Yachts designs and builds its famous line of sport-fishers there, and my quarry for this outing was nothing less than the brand-spanking-new Viking 55C.
The first 55C, drawn by Bruce Wilson — who has been with Viking since 1968 — was introduced at the 1997 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. It was extremely well received, and Viking built 153 55Cs, cementing the model’s place as one of the premier sport-fishing boats in its size. Accordingly, the 55C occupied a strategic place in the Viking fleet. Equally impressive is the fact that Wilson’s son, Dave, designed the new 55C.
In describing the 55C from the bottom up, Dave Wilson explained how the convex shape is softened up in the midsections. “We’re always looking to refine it some with tank testing; maybe drop the deadrise 2 degrees, and then another [degree]. This new 55 is at almost 12 degrees at the transom, where my dad’s boat was at 15, 15½. Among other things, we’ve been working at getting a sharper entry up front and a little flatter in the back for [an] improved and efficient planing area aft,” Wilson says. “Nothing too exotic here. We weren’t looking for any buzzwords to describe the design. It is what it is, and if you come out with a good product, you can call it a Viking,” he says with pride.
| |Courtesy Viking Yachts|
I have always asserted that, aside from the several factory visits at those strategic times during a new build, one should inspect the engine-room space before anything else on board. With Viking’s Peter Frederiksen as my guide, I easily lifted the upper cockpit’s centerline hatch and, after comfortably descending the stairs, entered the space. My first impression was that it was a roomy space with the kind of working room that would all but eliminate the elbow-busting, knuckle-scraping conditions often found in engine rooms of similar-size boats. Viking applies a gelcoat to the overhead and a bright-white Awlgripped finish to the bulkheads and bilge. The engineering staff fit in the pair of new MAN V12 1,550 hp CRM power plants to provide complete access on both the inboard and outboard sides. Among many other outstanding features, the new engines include: maintenance-free, gear-driven freshwater pumps, starter motors that can be fitted to both sides, and multistage injection for quiet operation.
During my performance runs, all of the engineering came together, providing powerful acceleration and lightning-quick reaction to the throttle. With that kind of power and room to move, the space is a skipper’s dream.
Viking’s efficient use of resin infusion plays a major part in the company’s approach to boatbuilding. Weight savings, along with stronger hulls and parts, and a cleaner, more environmentally safe workspace, come along with this efficiency. “We are using a lot more cored material, like foam and balsa coring in the bulkheads, bringing in new composites, and being careful to look for anywhere to save some weight,” Wilson says.
Many of the smaller parts on board, including up on the bridge and underneath the hardtop, as well as both the fuel and water tanks and the shower compartments, are resin-infused as well. Other notable Viking construction techniques include using vinyl and polyester resins in structural laminates and topsides; fiberglass through-hulls; prop pockets for draft reduction; a solid reinforced keel; an encapsulated foam-and-fiberglass stringer system; and vacuum-bagged composite bulkheads, including the engine room’s, the intermediate engine room’s, and the forward bulkhead.
| |Courtesy Viking Yachts|
Viking prides itself on its ability to supply almost 90 percent of everything you find on its boats through its own design, engineering and manufacturing entities. And that includes the interior as well. Entering from the cockpit, the sliding door opens up to a well-balanced and functional salon. On this particular 55C, I found a C-shaped leather couch to port — with removable cushions and storage underneath — and a dinette just forward. The galley sits to starboard and is available in either an island or peninsula configuration; the latter allows for a bit more counter space and can include a trash compactor as well. There is ample cabinet storage above the three-burner electric stovetop and a sink in either arrangement. The four-drawer, undercounter Sub-Zero units ensure that this galley is equipped for quick eats for busy fishermen and an elegant sit-down dinner at the end of the day.
This 55C came with a three-stateroom, two-head layout. The master, with an en-suite head, lies to starboard, with the two-berth quarters directly across to port. The forepeak, available in either island berth or in an angled over-under configuration, shares the portside head with the stateroom on that side. All of these well-appointed living spaces offer up quite a bit of room with excellent headroom and adequate storage. And no matter where I looked or examined, I found excellent fit and finish complementing the tasteful decor all around.
Driving the 55C proved to be nothing short of exhilarating. Like a well-tuned and performance-oriented sports car, this Viking delivers an exciting and impressively hot ride. While my test day saw clear skies, marginal wind and flat-calm seas, there is no doubt in my mind that she’s all Viking and would devour a more challenging sea state. When calling upon the twin MAN V12s for a full-throttle run, I was amazed by how quickly she came up out of the hole and spooled up 41 knots.
The boat handled nicely as well. Whether carving long and looping S-curves, letting her dig in either on port or starboard sides during hard-over maneuvers, or just sitting back and letting her run straight and true, you enjoy near-instantaneous control.
At 2,050 rpm, she settled into a comfortable 34.7-knot cruise, and when I knocked her down to 1,800, the instruments displayed a 29.8-knot speed with a 93 gph total fuel burn. At that rate, this particular boat could expect a range of approximately 440 nautical miles. As a testament to today’s engine technology, and MAN in particular, I never detected any smoke or exhaust from the engines throughout the entire performance testing.
| |Courtesy Viking Yachts|
The 151-square-foot, self-bailing cockpit is Viking-ready for action and packed with all the requisite equipment to make this boat a formidable participant, whether on the tournament circuit or hosting a day of fun fishing with family and friends.
The extended flybridge overhang provides shade on particularly sunny days, while the now-indispensable mezzanine gives guests a 50-yard-line seat for all the action. The mezzanine also holds a freezer compartment, insulated storage spaces and tackle drawers. Add an optional fighting chair, an additional livewell in the cockpit sole, livewell tuna tubes in the transom and a pair of Rupp outriggers, and all you’ll need is a crew.
Topsides, the flybridge comes in two configurations; the first is the traditional setup with access to the forward area on the starboard side, and the second is a center-console style with access forward on both sides. Either version allows for comfortable seating, ample storage areas and excellent sightlines for the skipper. You can customize the helm station to your liking with a variety of options and electronics, and also select a full enclosure or hardtop.
| |Capt. Ken Kreisler|
As we backed her into the make-ready dock, where over the next week or two she would get her finishing touches in preparation for her delivery, I had two thoughts: First, I applaud Viking’s decision to reintroduce the Dave Wilson-designed 55C to the convertible lineup. Given its size, power, performance and amenities — on both its fishing setup and creature comforts — she is truly a boat for the times, and there is little wonder why the plant is already eight hulls out.
My second thought was admittedly selfish. I hoped that in the future, sooner rather than later, my phone would ring with an invitation to spend some time fishing on a new Viking 55C. Now that would be a really good call.