Back from the archives, the Phantom name sports a whole new contemporary style and a sporty attitude on a new 65, Cecile Gauert says...
My two hosts, in town for a few days from the UK where Fairline builds its boats, are suffering from the heat. It is a brutal 90 degrees and with the humidity, the "feels-like" temperature is something absurd, even for a Floridian.
So soon after exchanging hellos, Fairline’s Miles Morehouse and I retreat to the air-conditioned main salon where we settle onto a very comfortable sofa for a chat, while the captain heads to the top deck to turn on the engines. It may feel like I am cheating a bit, but after all, why not when you have a captain and crew?
The headline on this new Fairline is that it is a very nice option, with real plusses in a fairly crowded field of 18 to 20 metres. The sport bridge is actually quite a decent size (larger than what a sport bridge usually is understood to be) with ample seating – two seats at the helm included – table and grill, and I can vouch for the super nice ambience of a saloon fully surrounded by large windows on the main deck – even at the dock. It makes it very pleasant to be in there if you must keep all the windows, the sunroof and doors closed. The full-width and curved windshield complements the overall visual impact.
"From an interior perspective, the boat really sets the bar for future Fairlines. If you look at a Fairline of even five years ago, it’s conservative," Moorhouse says. "For this one, we’ve gone for a more contemporary, more modern [feel] and emulated that kind of 'beach club' feel. We love it and it’s been very well received, and we will be carrying it across our models moving forward. We have gone overboard on as much light and space as you can possibly get." It is working.
But on a pleasant day, or away from the dock, where you can catch more of a breeze, the whole main deck can be transformed with receding windows, wide opening doors (they recede behind the staircase to the sundeck) and a sunroof. The fully equipped galley then becomes as much part of the cockpit as it is of the main saloon. It’s not an unseen feature, but it is very well done, and the transformation is quick and pain-free: just hold a couple of buttons for several seconds. The outdoor teak table unfolds to accommodate a few more guests, and an extra seat flips down.
The Phantom 65 has a bit of a transformer spirit built-in, with a multiple-function swim platform, which goes into the water, and a garage that holds a Williams 365 Jet tender. A small seat unfolds from the transom to face the swim platform, and there is a very small crew cabin, suitable for a very motivated self-starter, although the space makes more sense for storage in terms of its dimensions. "We very much aim at the owner-operator," Moorhouse says. A nice forward lounge with a foldable table complements a very generously sized sunpad aft.
The décor on this hull seems ideally suited for the American market. It mixes dark veneers with light, plush fabrics. Nice fluting on wood panels (hand-sanded and finished at the yard), matched grain and a few touches of maple burl inlay on the doors of the three cabins below showcase the yard’s craftsmanship and add a nice luxury feel to the modern ambiance. Yes, it’s a production boat, but the details (like cabinet rods with built-in lights) give the feel of a made-to-order boat. Add a few knick-knacks and personalised throws and pillows, and it’s easy to make it your own. "It’s that attention to detail that we think sets us apart from other production builders," Moorehouse says.
The owner’s cabin, as is to be expected, is the nicest overnight space with windows close to the waterline, a large central bed, a vanity and a nearly full-width bathroom with a great big shower fitted with a large rainshower head. The second largest cabin is, as usual, at the front and it benefits from a nice attention to detail. The guest cabin has two twin beds that merge for a couple. A day head is standard on the lower deck. Here, the space is used as a utility room with storage, extra refrigeration and a freezer, plus a foldable ironing board, which Moorehouse says is a Fairline staple they brought back from years past, "So your shirt is never creased." There is an option to create a fourth cabin with bunk beds as well.
Back on the main deck, the central section is dedicated to the saloon and the helm station is, as expected, on the starboard side. The two seats at the helm are particularly comfortable and easy to adjust, facing a compact helm with 4.9-metre Garmin multifunctional displays and a Fairline proprietary monitoring system.
"Because a lot of our customers are analogue people, we also have switches and gauges," Moorehouse says, "so a bit of comfort, should your electronics go down – although they don’t."
This model was born during the Covid pandemic. Like everyone else, Fairline keeps an eye on the competition and makes no mystery that the success of its British competitors with their own sports bridge models was a motivation to come up with an option in this size range. "It’s our first sport bridge model. Why have we done it? Well, we looked at our direct UK competition and we see them building and selling these models, and thought maybe we’re missing a trick here," Moorehouse says, "Let’s get it sorted out."
For this, the company decided to dust up the Phantom name, which has a nice ring with anyone who’s followed the ups and downs of the brand throughout the years. Today, with a nicely filled order book and "well over 100 boats on order", Fairline is cruising along.
And so is the new Phantom 65. On the plus side of the high-pressure environment is amazing sea conditions – not quite glassy but dead calm. Even coming out of the Port Everglades inlet is easy today. From the upper helm, I try my hand at the wheel for a while and soon we are coasting at 36 knots, and it feels like we could go faster.
Although many Fairlines have Volvo power, the choice for the Phantom 65 is Caterpillar (with options for C18s or C32s). This boat has two Caterpillar C32s with 2350 top rpm – "Everyone in America has to have big power," Steve Leeson, head of sales operations for Fairline America says, and it will cruise at 27 to 30 knots. I’d love to go on to Bimini, which we could reach in 120 minutes, but it won’t be for today, pity.
I put the boat in neutral for a while and we bob gently in the deep, salty ocean. A Seakeeper 18 is optional – this one doesn’t have one and with this sea state, it’s no problem. But really, why not include it? A Bimini shades the top deck and does not budge despite the high speed. Humphree trim tabs automatically adjust the riding attitude. The fly-by-wire steering is light and responsive. It’s a fun ride.
If the Phantom 65 is not exactly groundbreaking, it is a great synthesis of many of the best ideas of the past few years and it feels very well put together. What doesn’t hurt, certainly, is how nice it looks from all angles, day and night. It was designed in-house as an heir apparent of the Targa, penned for the British builder by AMD.
The Phantom 65 debuted in the United States at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.