This could be the boat that de­fines this era of Fairline Yachts. We test it prior to its launch at the Cannes Boat Show to see if it lives up to the hype

Motorboat & Yachting - - CRUISING - Words Jack Haines Pho­tos Paul Wyeth

We are snaking through a mine­field of wa­ter­borne ex­ot­ica in search of the per­fect empty patch of blue for some aerial footage. That, how­ever, is a tall or­der when the lo­ca­tion is the an­chor­age be­tween the Lérins Is­lands off Cannes at the end of Au­gust. There are so many boats jostling for an­chor­ing space they have ef­fec­tively formed a chain of lux­u­ri­ous step­ping stones that you could walk be­tween the is­lands on. We find a hand­ker­chief-sized dol­lop of turquoise wa­ter over white sand, which should look tasty from the drone, and hover a cou­ple of feet off the bow of an Ital­ian-flagged Sun­seeker Ca­mar­gue. The owner marches down the side deck to, I as­sume, tell us to keep our an­chor away from his but in fact he en­quires as to the make and model of the boat we’re on. “It’s a Fairline Targa 43,” our skip­per replies from the fore­deck. Our friend sticks up his thumb and smiles: “Nice!”

He’s right, it is nice, and has been draw­ing ad­mir­ing glances from the sec­ond we de­parted Port de La Napoule. This is the 43’s first out­ing and this – hull num­ber one – was shipped from Ip­swich the pre­vi­ous day be­fore hav­ing its IPS600 pods plugged in and its bot­tom dipped into the balmy wa­ters of the Côte d’azur.

Like the Targa 63 GTO, launched this time last year, the ex­te­rior styling is by Al­berto Mancini, so it’s no mis­take that the 43 looks an aw­ful lot like the flag­ship has been put through a hot wash. It shares the same dis­tinc­tive win­dow de­sign and sweep­ing roofline, which dis­guises a truly enor­mous slid­ing roof. When it’s open the aper­ture is stag­ger­ingly big, yet it folds back very neatly into a cas­sette within the radar arch. A par­tic­u­larly neat Mancini touch is the pair of ‘wings’ that stop the bunched up fab­ric from peep­ing over the top of the roofline and dis­turb­ing the pro­file. Be­low the spec­tac­u­lar roof is a cock­pit free of the shack­les of hav­ing to in­cor­po­rate a set of doors and an up­per sa­loon. The 43 is a sportscruiser in the shape of how sportscruis­ers used to be, its cock­pit open to the el­e­ments and del­i­cately bal­anc­ing slabs of sun­bathing space with enough com­fort­able seat­ing to feed a boat load of guests. The main deck is ver­sa­tile, it has a ten­der garage large enough for a Wil­liams Mini­jet but also the op­tion of a hy­draulic bathing plat­form with the ca­pac­ity to stow a jet­ski on (though that’s a lot of weight back aft). Atop the ten­der garage is a sun­pad with a two-way back­rest that can push for­ward to cre­ate a slop­ing headrest for when guests want to recline. The teak ta­ble can be con­cealed be­hind the dinette seat­ing in a mat­ter of sec­onds by re­mov­ing the cush­ions and fold­ing it away and the aft-fac­ing seat next to the wet­bar has a de­tach­able squab so it can be drawn up to the ta­ble to cre­ate an ex­tra din­ing spot. It’s sim­ple, clever de­sign that Fairline has al­ways done so well and it helps to make the most of a cock­pit that, due to the boat be­ing nearly a foot wider than the old Targa 44, al­ready feels im­pres­sively spa­cious and is hot on the heels of the Targa 48 when it comes to liv­ing space.


The theme con­tin­ues be­low decks where the 43’s height pays div­i­dends. You may have to reach above your head to at­tach a spring line amid­ships but the vol­ume within the in­te­rior is note­wor­thy. Ei­ther cabin can be nom­i­nated as the mas­ter by sec­tion­ing off the bath­room to limit day head ac­cess. Our test boat had the mas­ter for­ward so the door to the amid­ships cabin is set fur­ther back to al­low guests to use its en­suite dur­ing the day. If you want the amid­ships cabin as the mas­ter the door is brought for­ward and an en­trance to the for­ward bath­room is

cre­ated in the star­board bulk­head to al­low day ac­cess. Per­son­ally, I pre­fer the lat­ter as the door breaks up the im­pos­ing for­ward bulk­head and, of course, it gives the owner the im­pres­sive cen­tral cabin. It’s here where the boat’s height pays off most as a per­son of 6ft or more can com­fort­ably stroll about with­out crack­ing their head on the ceil­ing. The aft end drops down a touch where the cock­pit step is but there are no other ob­struc­tions around the athwartships dou­ble bed. Both cab­ins aren’t short of stor­age with a mix of full-height wardrobes, shelv­ing and eas­ily ac­cessed un­der-berth stor­age that doesn’t in­volve lift­ing up mat­tresses. One ex­tra string to the for­ward cabin’s bow is the op­tion to have scis­sor-ac­tion twin berths in­stead of the stan­dard fixed dou­ble. There are few com­plaints in the sa­loon where a neat gal­ley sits op­po­site a plush dinette spa­cious enough to host break­fast if it’s too cool on deck. The omis­sion of a full-height fridge/freezer may frus­trate but there is sup­ple­men­tary cool­ing space in the wet bar on deck and there are thought­ful touches to max­imise space like stow­ing the mi­crowave in the for­ward bulk­head with a re­tract­ing flap to keep it hid­den away when not in use. The fit and fin­ish and at­ten­tion to de­tail of the in­te­rior is back where it needs to be and rem­i­nis­cent of the orig­i­nal 43, which set the bench­mark two decades go. There is a lus­tre and so­lid­ity in com­par­i­son to French and Ger­man ri­vals; it is a scaled down 63 not only in look but in feel as well.

Drive time

Early in the de­vel­op­ment stages of this model Fairline sug­gested that there would be stern­drive and IPS ver­sions of the 43 but as the project pro­gressed it be­came ap­par­ent that the 400hp limit per stern­drive wouldn’t be man enough. As such it is a pair of (435hp) IPS600S squeezed into the void be­low the ten­der garage. Squeezed is the cor­rect verb, too, as there is very lit­tle space around the en­gines in or­der to make room for a Wil­liams Mini­jet in­side the ten­der garage. In fair­ness, the garage floor hinges once the RIB is out to make ac­cess eas­ier but try­ing to fix a prob­lem in a heav­ing sea would not be a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. What of per­for­mance, though? Well it’s not ex­actly blis­ter­ing given that we topped out at 30.8 knots, al­beit with 80% fuel, and full wa­ter tanks plus the Wil­liams on board. De­clin­ing sportscruiser per­for­mance is a trend; take a look at the Sun­seeker Preda­tor 50 tested in last month’s is­sue or Pres­tige’s coupe line-up. Liv­ing space is king and with wider beams and heav­ier spec­i­fi­ca­tions comes an in­evitable drop in out­right speed.

The thing is though, the Targa 43 doesn’t feel slug­gish; in fact it nips up on to the plane ea­gerly and set­tles at a 23-knot, 3,000rpm cruise so com­fort­ably I would have been quite happy sit­ting there un­til the fuel tanks had drained. De­spite hav­ing no cock­pit doors and with that enor­mous sun­roof peeled right back the helms­man can chat to pas­sen­gers sit­ting op­po­site with­out hav­ing to raise their voice over en­gine or wind noise. The han­dling is light and ac­cu­rate with just enough heel in turns to have a bit of fun, but noth­ing that is go­ing to lead to a loss of con­trol. Though con­di­tions were be­nign on the day, there was enough wash from pass­ing craft to kick up a chal­leng­ing ar­ti­fi­cial play­ground which the 43 ne­go­ti­ated com­fort­ably. Its abil­ity to flat­ten out the awk­ward chop with­out slam­ming or let­ting off squeaks and rat­tles sug­gests that the qual­ity of con­struc­tion is more than skin deep. This is not a hard-edged sportscruiser in the mould of a Windy or Hun­ton but more a laid-back grand tourer suited to cov­er­ing dis­tances at a de­cent lick with­out get­ting ruf­fled. The driv­ing po­si­tion is per­fect for this as the seated po­si­tion is so com­fort­able and easy to ad­just on its pow­ered pedestal. A fold­ing step al­lows you to stand at the helm if needed but the lack of bol­ster means it’s not that com­fort­able for long pe­ri­ods of time. When it came to ne­go­ti­at­ing the nar­row fair­ways of Port de La Napoule stand­ing on the step with sun­roof open en­sured a great all-round view and al­lowed me to place the boat with dainty tweaks of the joy­stick.


If per­for­mance fig­ures are on a neg­a­tive gra­di­ent it seems prices are head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. The boat we tested, with op­tions, cost £830,111 inc VAT. Clos­ing in on £1 mil­lion for a 43ft (okay, it’s more like 46ft all told) sportscruiser is steep to put it mildly. This be­ing hull num­ber one Fairline stuffed it with fac­tory op­tions to give a worst case sce­nario in terms of load­ing and per­for­mance so you could po­ten­tially shave off some costs here and there but not many. Apart from the lu­di­crously pricey Volvo dy­namic po­si­tion­ing sys­tem at £19,861, nearly £45,000 of

air-con and the hi-lo bathing plat­form at £25,000, which isn’t nec­es­sary be­cause there is a ten­der garage, most own­ers will want the rest of the op­tions boxes ticked. Fairline finds it­self in a tricky po­si­tion at this level. Un­der-en­gi­neer the boats and it is ac­cused of cor­ner cut­ting to com­pete with higher vol­ume man­u­fac­tur­ers that have the economies of scale to keep prices lower. En­gi­neered to the level it is and, though beau­ti­fully put to­gether, it’s un­der­stand­able that some cus­tomers’ heads might be turned by the bang for buck on of­fer from a yard like Pres­tige, Bénéteau or Galeon. The Pres­tige 46S tested ear­lier in this is­sue, for ex­am­ple, which has two en­suite cab­ins, a hard­top and is avail­able with IPS600S starts from al­most £120,000 less than the Fairline. It’s not as well put to­gether as the Targa, nor as stylish, but that’s a se­ri­ous amount of money to keep in your pocket. VER­DICT Putting the price to one side, though, (which is eas­ier to write than to do) there is a very good boat here. Con­sid­er­ing it was box fresh it looked and be­haved more like hull num­ber ten than num­ber one and, most im­por­tantly, it drove and felt like a Fairline should. The re­as­sur­ing sea-keep­ing is there, the el­e­gant styling is there and cru­cially the fit and fin­ish are there. It’s this per­cep­tion of qual­ity and all the spe­cial lit­tle touches that go with it which will ul­ti­mately help jus­tify the price to those in search of the best 46ft sportscruiser rather than the best value one.

With the 63 GTO, Fairline em­phat­i­cally an­nounced its re­birth, with the hotly an­tic­i­pated F33 it showed its creative am­bi­tion but it’s the Targa 43, with a string of class-lead­ing an­ces­tors bob­bing along in its wake, which will ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine the yard’s long-term suc­cess. Pro­vided you can swal­low the price and aren’t fussed about tear­ing along at 35 knots plus then we’re con­fi­dent the Targa 43 will hit its mark and power the yard to new heights. CON­TACT Fairline Yachts. www.fairline.com

Ever since the age of 10, when our neigh­bours on a hol­i­day camp­site in the South of France took me out in their Mir­ror dinghy, I’ve al­ways loved boats. I spent much of my 20s sail­ing Sigma 38s, mak­ing friends for life with the peo­ple I met. I bought my first mo­tor­boat, an old 72ft trawler yacht, in 2000. Ini­tially my sail­ing friends re­fused to come on board my ‘stink boat’ but dur­ing Cork Sail­ing Week they needed some­where to stay and once they re­alised how com­fort­able it was I couldn’t get rid of them! I crossed Bis­cay three times in her de­spite get­ting knocked over sev­eral times. I fi­nally sold it in 2004 to fo­cus on my ca­reer.

It wasn’t un­til 2014, af­ter 10 years with­out a boat, that I took the plunge again. I’d flown to Mal­lorca to look at a hol­i­day villa in the moun­tains. The villa wasn’t right for us but while I was there I chanced across a 2004 Hori­zon 78 mo­tor yacht for sale in Port An­dratx. It was on of­fer for roughly 15% of the villa’s ask­ing price, but was still in good con­di­tion and had four com­fort­able cab­ins.

I bought Vi­vace as a float­ing apart­ment know­ing that she was large enough for all five of my chil­dren to stay with us. They ab­so­lutely loved her, and the high bul­warks and big deck spa­ces meant she was safe for the younger ones to move around on. Even now the older ones have grown up and left home, it’s still the only place they will all come and stay!

We rarely cruise for any great dis­tance — there are so many great places to an­chor near Port An­dratx that we nor­mally just turn right or left out of the ma­rina, mo­tor for no more than an hour and drop the hook. The only draw­back is the swell that of­ten builds up dur­ing the day and the wake from pass­ing boats. We have a won­der­ful chef who comes and cooks for us when there’s a crowd on board. On one in­fa­mous oc­ca­sion she’d pre­pared an amaz­ing lunch for us all and laid it out beau­ti­fully on the cock­pit ta­ble when a big boat charged past the small cala we were an­chored in. The en­tire lunch ended up on the cock­pit floor and our nor­mally mild-man­nered chef turned the air blue in frus­tra­tion. I de­cided there and then that we needed to retro­fit sta­bilis­ers.

I in­ves­ti­gated all the op­tions in­clud­ing hy­draulic fins and gyro sta­bilis­ers but retro-fit­ting ei­ther of them to Vi­vace pre­sented a num­ber of is­sues. Lim­ited space in the en­gine­room would have meant re­mod­elling the aft cabin to make room for the hy­draulics or cut­ting holes in the cock­pit floor to in­stall the two smaller gy­ros needed to sta­bilise the sub­stan­tial size and weight of our heav­ily-built Hori­zon. Both op­tions were pos­si­ble but not with­out con­sid­er­able ex­pense and has­sle.

Then, at the Palma boat show, I wan­dered past the Humphree stand and saw its new elec­tric fin sta­bilis­ers. They had only re­cently been launched but they ap­peared to solve a lot of the is­sues we were fac­ing. The elec­tric ac­tu­a­tors for the fins were small enough to fit into the cor­ners of the en­gine­room with­out any re­mod­elling. There were no high-pres­sure hoses or hy­draulic reser­voirs to worry about, just a cou­ple of elec­tric ca­bles and a pair of ad­di­tional charg­ers. They also seemed to of­fer a num­ber of po­ten­tial ben­e­fits. Pro­vided we added ex­tra bat­tery ca­pac­ity, we could have the sta­bilis­ers on with­out need­ing to run the gen­er­a­tor, and un­like the gy­ros we wouldn’t need to wait 45 min­utes for them to come up to speed be­fore us­ing them.

The hull is solid through waves and well-bal­anced, though some may crave more speed

The enor­mous cock­pit and sun­roof are key to the 43’s charms. It shines in the sun

The en­gine­room is very tight but there is at least an ef­fort to make fil­ters ac­ces­si­ble Teak side decks are only an op­tion but they add a classy flour­ish to the deck spa­ces

ER­GONOMICS The re­la­tion­ship be­tween the driv­ing con­trols is re­ally good OLD AND NEW The MFD is sup­ple­mented by ana­logue con­trols at the top of the dash STOR­AGE There are a cou­ple of cuphold­ers but the dash could do with more cub­by­holes

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