The Great Recession is just a bad memory at Viking, which has just launched its biggest convertible ever.
I couldn’t ignore the irony. Here I was in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to test hull No. 1 of the Viking 92C. The last time I’d been here was to test another Viking during the depths of The Great Recession. At that time the sense of optimism permeating this town was palpable. The casinos were packed with refugees from the financial tsunami, and there were plans to build a number of new, even larger casinos.
Things were considerably less rosy at Viking. Although the company was doing way better than most other boatbuilders, these were dark days for all in the boating industry. Sales had fallen precipitously from just a year before, potential buyers had vanished, and many builders were just trying to keep their doors open. Some said that the buyers would never return.
But now the world has flip-flopped. With four casinos recently shuttered, thousands of layoffs, and crowds too sparse to justify the term, optimism was in short supply in Atlantic City—except at The Golden Nugget marina, where Viking and its dealers were celebrating prosperity, a half-century of boatbuilding, and the launch of its biggest convertible ever. Now the dominant player in what was once a crowded segment, Viking was riding a tsunami of its own making, and you had only to talk to any dealer to learn that it was one of success.
Experts proffer various explanations for how Viking engineered such a successful turnaround, but a tour of the 92C would prove to be just as informative and a lot more entertaining. This is a builder that never sits still—like a shark, it’s always moving forward, seeking ways to make its boats better. And so we have a 93-foot, 4-inch (overall), 205,000-pound behemoth that sprints from idle to 2100 rpm in 14 seconds, tops out at better than 36 knots, and displays the agility of a boat a third its size.
The 92C does all this not just with a surfeit of horsepower, although admittedly these benchmarks were assisted by the first pair of optional 2,600-horsepower MTU 16V2000 M96Ls, a set of engines that offers new standards for power density, smoothness, and low emissions. Even under the hardest acceleration I saw not a puff of smoke.
But equal credit must go to the 92’s hullform, a design that is itself a turnaround, being markedly different from what we’ve seen before from Viking. Like those of the 52 and 62 convertibles, this hull is all about maximizing lift and minimizing hydrodynamic resistance. As to the former, two Viking trademarks—the two-step “knuckle” and the keel—are gone, and the aft sections have flattened out from 15 degrees of deadrise to less than 12. Regarding resistance, a common raw-water intake system has reduced the number of through-hulls, and Viking’s proprietary VIPER electronic steering system has reduced the amount of rudder toe-in, creating a smoother water flow.
Attention has also been duly paid to weight: The hull is resin-infused using both end-grain balsa and foam coring, and the deckhouse is laminated carbon fiber. But even so, the extra lift created by the flatter sections astern has, says Viking, produced a design that can handle a lot more weight without showing adverse affects. As proof, engineers sea-trialed hull No. 1 absent of her interior furniture, then did so again after installing the roughly 10,000 pounds of structure. There was virtually no difference, they say, in their speed readings.
Careful attention to weight distribution has created a hull that runs a bit bow-up with no tabbing, which gives the helmsman considerable flexibility in altering the running angle to suit conditions. For example, we had steep 4-footers on our test day, and by applying about half-tab, we could bring the finer sections up forward to bear, smoothing out the ride with no discernible penalty in speed.
But the 92C isn’t just about engineering; a boat that is $10 million (as tested) ought to turn heads, and this one does. Of course there’s that family resemblance, but what is more impressive is her near-perfect proportions, so much so that unless there is a person or another boat near her to provide perspective, you’d never guess this was a 92-footer. However, once you’re aboard you know you’re on a big yacht. It’s about 10 feet from her forward gunwale to the water and another 9 feet from the helm, so standing in the enclosed bridge, with everything outside, including the seas, seems Lilliputian. Had I not had instruments to refer to I never would have guessed that I was blasting through fours and fives at 30-plus knots.
Yes, size does matter on the 92C. Indeed, think of her not so much as a big convertible, but as a very fast, very agile motoryacht with a fully equipped 238-square-foot cockpit designed for serious fishing. Two gentlemen who were about to write checks for their own 92s certainly felt that way: Each owned a large motoryacht and a large convertible and had justified their buying decision by the fact that they could replace both vessels with a 92C. With six staterooms plus aft crew’s quarters, they both figured she could handle the two jobs easily.
Being as much motoryacht as convertible, the 92C is, as you’d expect, semi-custom; every boat will be tailored to her owner’s specifications. For example, while the owner of hull No. 1 loves the two-tier cockpit mezzanine, the owner of hull No. 2, a more dedicated angler, wants the upper seating oriented aft so occupants can focus on baits. And since he does not expect his wife to accompany him on fishing trips he has replaced the “her” part of the his-and-her master facilities with a bigger closet and a second laundry.
Another choice facing owners will be whether to have an open or enclosed bridge, although one buyer who had wanted the open version changed his mind when he stepped aboard and noted that the 92’s enclosed bridge was pretty much the same size as his 100-foot-plus motoryacht’s saloon. Like I said, this is a big boat.
And there are already plans for bigger versions, although not right away. The immediate task at hand is fulfilling the orders for the 92C, which are arriving at a gratifying pace. Yes, things are looking pretty rosy in New Gretna these days. In fact Viking is expanding both its facilities and its workforce. I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t include a few individuals who’d like to switch from the gambling industry to boatbuilding.