With a coveted invitation to Viking Yacht Company’s annual VIP preview event in hand, I set out to see what the company had in store for 2018 and beyond. The New Gretna, New Jersey, builder’s new 68 Convertible undeniably proves that Viking is living up to its company motto of building a better boat every day. After my sea trial, I caught up with Viking vice president of sales Joe Schwab and senior project engineer Bill Gibbons, who offered insight on the company’s newest addition to its fleet of sport-fishing thoroughbreds.
At first glance, there is no mistaking the sleek styling and clean lines of a Viking Yacht; the new 68-footer is no exception. In fact, the boat’s profile is quite striking.
“Our evolution from one model to another incorporates what we learn from the last build to the next, improving as we get feedback from our demo team and our customers,” says Schwab. “We put our best foot forward with every boat we build,” says Gibbons. Assisting the Viking Design and Engineering Department from inception to post-delivery, and with more than 3,000 Viking builds in his 42-year tenure with the company, Gibbons expects excellence with every new model. “We have great technology to help ensure our ideas come to fruition, but it’s still exciting every time I hit the throttles for the first time. We nailed it again with the 68.”
|Fuel:||2,060 gal. std.**|
|Power:||Twin 1,945 hp MTU Series 2000***|
*with standard fuel load; **2,423 gal. optional; ***optional
Cockpit and Flybridge
Viking prides itself on the outstanding fishability of its boats. Its demonstrator teams fish hard on tournament circuits on the East and Gulf coasts and in the Pacific. Having built two Vikings myself, I can attest to the fact that the boats are well laid out in every respect. The cockpit of the 68 proves that form follows function, with plenty of room for mates and anglers to work during a busy day offshore. With 176 square feet set in golden teak, the mezzanine-equipped 68’s cockpit boasts a tremendous amount of usable space while keeping all necessary connections, cabinets, storage lockers and refrigeration out of sight but easily accessible. Tackle storage is abundant, and all the necessities are within easy reach. The boat can easily switch gears from South Florida sailfishing to big blue marlin in Bermuda and never miss a beat.
The center console design of the flybridge allows for three helm chairs in a complete walkaround style, with under-storage bench seats port and starboard and a two-person jump seat forward of the helm. The massive, temperature-controlled refrigeration box in the brow has plenty of room for bait or food when traveling for extended periods. A chiller box is easily accessible by the helmsman aft of the bench seat, and the freshwater outlet on the bridge makes those end-of-the-day washdowns quick and easy. During our sea trial, I noted that vision is excellent from the helm, with no blind spots fore or aft. Working a tripleheader of sails on light tackle or backing on a blue marlin would be no problem.
The 68 follows on the heels of the company’s highly successful 72 Convertible. Viking was able to incorporate a number of the popular features of the larger boat into the 68 — including the walkaround center console flybridge helm and the tournament-tested cockpit — without compromising the interior layout, which also includes a convenient day head.
The four-stateroom/four-head layout has a full-size midship master stateroom, a VIP stateroom forward, a guest stateroom to port and crew quarters for two with discreet access. Entering the salon, the day head is immediately on the starboard side, with an L-shaped lounge to port. The well-appointed galley, with its walkaround island and raised dinette, makes onboard entertaining a breeze, while the portside companionway makes great use of the available space. The overall design is open, airy and inviting.
The layout and amenities make the 68 an excellent choice for tournaments or long-range travel, with plenty of room for privacy, onboard dinners, long runs and overnight fishing.
As expected, the Viking 68’s engine room is bright and well-lit, with excellent access to all maintenance points on the engines and equipment. The optional twin 1,945 hp MTU Series 2000 V12 M96L diesels are mounted directly to the hull stringers, making access to the engine beds a cinch.
The tops of the stringers are 1-inch-thick aluminum saddles that are bonded with the laminates, making it the ultimate in strength and rigidity. “This structure, including carbon fiber on the tops of the stringers, makes it stiffer — with a perfectly flat mounting area for the engines to rest on,” Gibbons explains.
The use of new materials and available technology is the latest result of Viking’s constant forward thinking, and it’s all showcased in the newest build. The company’s resin-infusion processes are continually evolving, incorporating not only end-grain balsa and composite core materials but also reinforcements such as Kevlar and carbon fiber. By utilizing these materials, Viking can build a lighter, stronger and, ultimately, faster and safer boat. Carbon fiber alone is not strong enough to tolerate the high demands of today’s sport-fishers, but as Schwab says, “By incorporating carbon fiber with materials that support it as part of the bigger laminate, we can maximize the benefits while improving overall structural integrity.”
“At 68 feet, the ride is remarkable,” says Schwab. “We have taken what we have learned from other models — the 72, the 80 and even the smaller boats like the 62 — and put them into the 68.” The efficient hull design gives the 68-footer improved lift and performance, cruising in the mid-30-knot range and topping out at 40.5 knots.”
“This boat is sharper at the bow than our previous models, which softens the ride even more, and it’s a little flatter aft, which lifts the boat,” says Gibbons. The hull design, coupled with advancements in the VIPER steering system, results in a boat that tracks true in all sea conditions, even at a svelte 115,306 displacement pounds.
Viking refuses to allow anything but the best to roll off its production line. The company takes its research and development seriously, and the result is a vessel that wows its buyers. Viking customers expect improvement year after year, and the company, which celebrated its 54th anniversary on April 1, consistently delivers. The Viking 68 is proof of its relentless pursuit to build a better boat every day.