Viking 72 Convertible Review
February 22nd, 2017
A shakedown fishing trip on the eve of the White Marlin Open is the proving ground to determine whether the Viking 72 Convertible is truly an improvement over the 70 that it replaces.
"Right teaser," Capt. Ryan Higgins said in a calm, metered voice into a headset worn loosely around his neck. His notice was transported through the stereo speakers in the cockpit, bringing the already alert anglers and mates to attention. Among them was Pat Healey, president and CEO of the Viking Yacht Company. We were 96 miles off of Cape May, a few days before the White Marlin Open, and I was experiencing the company's latest tour de force, the open-bridge 72 convertible, in action.
We had slipped the lines at the Canyon Club at 4:30 a.m. and run into a head sea at an effortless 32-knot cruise, arriving offshore of the Lindenkohl Canyon around 7:30. The dredges and teasers were deployed, and four lines with naked ballyhoo were added to the spread, with several more strategically placed around the cockpit, ready for dropback when needed. In less than 20 minutes, the first marlin of the day was hooked, fought, and released. There'd be more-singles, doubles, and triples-in the coming hours, with a final tally of 17 releases out of 21 fish raised. With each fish, Higgins put the thoroughbred under his command through its paces, backing down, spinning it on its axis. Whatever direction the billfish dictated, the boat quickly followed. If you can call a 72-footer nimble, this one fits the description. The big MTU diesels, working in harmony with the Viper rudder system, bow thruster, and Seakeeper, make it as responsive to helm input as a vessel half its size. And it does it all quietly, without generating exhaust smoke.
Ryan Higgins has been Viking's lead tournament captain for a dozen years, in addition to his position as the demo program manager, which paid big dividends for the company. Basically Viking puts select new models on the East Coast billfish circuit each season before mass production begins, with anglers and crew consisting almost exclusively of company personnel involved in the design and production of the boats. The time spent running, fishing, relaxing, eating, and sleeping aboard the demos gives them the opportunity to judge the execution of their creations and make observations to fine-tune current and future models.
"Having company personnel fishing the boats is an important part of the program," Higgins said. "They interact with other teams, some running our boats and others running boats from the competition. There were probably 40 Vikings fishing the White Marlin Open this year, and we talked with people from all of them. What they like, what they want to see in future models, it's all on the table. We field compliments and deal with any concerns or issues, and even have a service team on site if they need assistance.
"Even though the demos are crewed by Viking people, don't get the idea that we aren't there to win," Higgins said with determination. "Whether it's building the best boats or high-stakes tournament fishing, we're extremely competitive, and we work very hard at it!" Viking's dominance in the convertible sportfish market and its tournament record are proof of how hard the company works and plays.
Before I saw the 72 in person, I spent a few hours at the Viking facility in New Gretna, New Jersey, speaking with Lonni Rutt, vice president of design and engineering. "A lot of time and effort went into the 72," he said. "Our goal was to refine and improve one of the most popular boats in Viking history-the 70 convertible. Since its introduction in 2010, we delivered 40 of them. Their owners love the way they fish and the amenities, and they have been extremely successful in tournaments, so the bar was set high before we started the project. From concept to launch of the demo, our design, engineering, and production teams invested three years in the project."
Rutt explained how Viking refined the running surface by tweaking the deadrise at the transom, removing the chines aft to gain more beam, and doing away with the fairbody and keel to create a more conventional V configuration, which positively affects the hull dynamics by creating a more slippery surface. One of the results is increased speed. The hull was lengthened and the freeboard raised in the bow to open up more room belowdecks. The hull incorporates extensive use of an E-glass and carbon-fiber-hybrid material from Vectorply that provides added strength and stiffness while reducing weight. The vacuum-bagged, resin-infusion process further reduces weight, and also lowers styrene emissions to near zero. All of these advanced processes are in line with the design goals for this new Viking: Extend the LOA, but build the boat lighter and stronger. With the millions of dollars the company pours into research and development each year, it not only stays ahead of the curve, it forces its suppliers to push the envelope and keep up with Viking's own blistering pace.
The exterior of the 72 includes subtle changes, such as a taller bow and reworked sheer and chines. When I met the boat at the Canyon Club in Cape May, the full impact of seeing her in the slip, resplendent with her dolphin-blue hull, gleaming white topsides, and faux teak toerail, was breathtaking. There isn't a hard corner to be found. Even the tower and hardtop, designed and built by Viking subsidiary Palm Beach Towers, was accented with curved cross members that complement the lines of the boat.
While Viking is applauded for its well-executed interiors, first and foremost the company builds sportfishing convertibles, so my tour started in the cockpit. The 70 had a spacious one, but the 72 improves upon what many thought was already the best, and offers the flexibility to rig it for any kind of fishing that the owner might enjoy. Some of the additional length of the hull was invested in making the cockpit deeper, but its roominess is enhanced by the curved mezzanine deck, which is wider at the gunwales than in the center, providing more room behind the fighting chair. It also sits higher, which means anglers and mates have access to deck boxes that are not only bigger, but deeper. There are two refrigerated boxes on the port side, one a four-stack rigged-bait box; the engine room access is on centerline, and a freezer box fed by the Domenic ice maker is to starboard. A drink box and stowage compartments are located under the steps to the saloon, and the space below the mezzanine couch offers additional stowage, but also includes a lift-out bottom that provides cockpit access to the boat's battery bank-a great maintenance feature. A tackle cabinet with rigging station is on the same level to port, and the bridge overhang has been lengthened to offer more protection from the elements. It includes molded-in drip rails and scuppers, to prevent water from dumping on people in the cockpit when they clean the bridge.
There are two versatile, insulated, in-deck fishboxes (one on either side of the Release Marine fighting chair) that can be set up for dunnage, as ice-fed fishboxes, livewells, or with inserts for tuna tubes. The transom box can be used as a kill box for the day's catch, and is also plumbed as a livewell. There are cutting boards on the underside of both hatches. If fishing live bait for sails is your thing, Viking offers access plugs set in the center of the scupper plates linked to the raw-water system to feed above-deck livewells. The cockpit is wired for electric dredge and kite reels, too.
Seakeeper gyro stabilizers have become a popular option, so all Viking models are designed to accept the appropriately sized model in a compartment located on centerline just forward of the lazarette. The unit is accessed through a deck hatch for easy servicing or removal, if necessary. That's forward-thinking.
The bridge takes full advantage of the 20-foot beam. The ladder from the cockpit rises up through the hatch behind three Release helm chairs. The helm is laid out so the captain has complete control over all systems through a touchscreen control panel for the Octoplex Gen 2 digital breaker and power-routing system, a more user-friendly update of the original. Our test boat was equipped with three 19-inch KEP monitors for the Furuno NavNet 3D plotter, sonar, and HD radar, in addition to video feeds from the cameras in the engine room. There's a compass behind the glass doors, and controls and readouts for Viking's exclusive Gen 2 VIPER (Viking Independent Programmable Electrohydraulic Rudder) rudder system that includes trim-tab and rudder-angle indicators. Recessed boxes on either side of the teak helm pod keep everything at the captain's fingertips, including the controls for the NavNet system, radios, Octoplex, watermaker, ice makers, Seakeeper, fire-control system, engine sync, radios, and more. Sightlines are excellent, especially over the foredeck and bow.
VIPER operates the rudders independently via a computer. Why? In a nutshell, when turning the boat, the inside rudder is doing the work, while the outside rudder has a propensity to ventilate. This system automatically feathers the outside rudder in a turn, but also adjusts the rudder trim when running in a straight line, to reduce flutter and drag associated with rudders set statically with a tie-bar.
Push the button on the side of the tackle station on the mezzanine and the teak door slides silently to permit entry into one of the nicest saloon/galley arrangements you'll find. The interior décor by John Kelly at William Bales & Company is beautiful and soothing, with rich walnut cabinetry throughout the boat. A door to starboard offers entry to the dayhead, a welcome feature when spending long days in the cockpit, or evenings in the saloon entertaining. To the left is a U-shaped couch with a center table, and the wraparound polished granite countertops of the galley are forward of that. The galley offers two 30-inch Sub-Zero freezer drawers, two 27-inch refrigerator drawers, a microwave/convection oven, a recessed stovetop, a trash compactor, and plenty of cabinet and drawer space featuring new Southco silent latches.
Stairs to the living quarters are located to port, forward of the dinette. At the foot of the staircase to the left are four stairs that go down to a nicely laid out crew's quarters with two full-sized bunks and a private head and shower, plus the bulkhead door to the engine compartment. Farther forward along the companionway is the master stateroom to port that features two hanging lockers, his-and-hers credenzas, and a plush private bath.
There's a bunkroom to port with a head and a full-sized lower bunk, and the guest stateroom is located in the bow; it features a raised queen berth, a hanging locker, and another full, private head. The 72 is also available in a five-stateroom configuration.
The engine room is a combination of gleaming white and polished stainless steel, and home to the massive 2,635-horsepower MTU V16-M96L diesels, a pair of Cummins Onan 29-kilowatt generators, and a plethora of components and systems. It's so large and well laid out that there's room to spare and easy access to everything.
On our ride back from our very successful day of fishing, I sat with Pat Healey in the saloon, to get his take on the 72, which, I might add, was a conversation held at normal voice levels even though we were cruising at 36 knots! "We took an iconic boat, our very popular 70, and made it even better," Healey said. "Our focus was on the hull, saloon, cockpit, and master stateroom, and we brought it all together in a package that performs incredibly well. We maintained the weight of the 70 in what is actually a much bigger boat, and it was a team effort all the way." It wasn't an accident that a number of members of that team were aboard that day, practicing for the White Marlin Open.
As the boat returned through Cape May Inlet, Higgins pushed the throttles to the pins, and Healey smiled as he pointed to the chartplotter displaying on the TV over the dinette. The SOG rose rapidly, topping out at 47.5 knots with just a little push from the incoming tide. Healey beamed with pride, the shared pride of everyone involved in this build. The Viking 72 Convertible is an engineering achievement wrapped in the trappings of an elegant and comfortable home away from home.