Our resident used boat expert Phil Sampson explains how to find a good Fairline Squadron 53 on the secondhand market and what features to look out for…
In build: 2017-2020
Price range: £800,000-£1,200,000
Looking at all the big beasts inhabiting the UK boatbuilding ecosystem, few come larger than Fairline. The firm’s current range starts with the Fairline F//Line 33 and extends via six Targa variants and the Phantom 65 up to the Squadron 68.
Add to that a host of previous models and it’s no surprise this brand is ubiquitous on the UK boating scene – there surely can’t be many marinas without a Fairline on its pontoons. It’s all a far cry from 1967 when Oundle-based entrepreneur Jack Newington built his first Fairline – a 19-footer based on a secondhand mould.
Four years prior to that Jack had started his water-based adventures with the purchase of some old gravel pits, which he duly connected by way of a trench to the nearby River Nene in order to create Oundle Marina.
In 1971 Jack’s son Sam took over the business with its 14 employees, and set about building boats and the brand in earnest. In particular he looked to the Mediterranean, where the market was rapidly growing.
Article continues below…
The Fairline Squadron 53 oozes quality, from its soft curves and meticulously lacquered woods to its copious customisation options
Classic lines, strong performance and stacks of space make the Sunseeker Portofino 53 a great used buy
Two highly successful models – the Phantom 32 and the Fairline 40 – were launched during the 1970s to satisfy demand and by the end of the decade Sam’s workforce had expanded ten-fold and the business was turning over £5m.
As the company grew so did the number and variety of models it offered. The Targa range of sportscruisers included some of the most iconic models of the 80s, 90s and 2000s, while the top of the range Squadron flybridges reached a new high with the launch of the Fairline Squadron 78 in 2003.
But as is so often the way with boatbuilders, challenging times lay ahead. To cut a long story short, three changes of ownership between 2006 and 2015 were followed by Fairline Boats entering administration in December 2015.
The assets were purchased a month later by two Russian businessmen, who set up Fairline Yachts Limited and restarted production. The brand has been launching a steady stream of new models ever since and is now in the hands of private equity firm, Hanover Investors.
The birth of the Fairline Squadron 53
One of these new generation models is the subject of this review, the Fairline Squadron 53 first launched in 2017. Designed by Alberto Mancini in partnership with Fairline’s in-house team, the 53 is a high-spec flybridge cruiser likely to appeal to both UK and European-based owners.
One such owner is Nick Culley, whose 2018 Squadron 53 is one of two being offered for sale by Fairline dealer Bates Wharf, Swanwick. Nick purchased his boat new and has since added 148 hours to the clock, mostly cruising out of Dénia on Spain’s Costa Blanca.
“I remember quite specifically how I became sold on the 53,” says Nick. “It started at the Southampton Boat Show when somebody showed me some drawings of the Mancini styling. Up until that point my perception of Fairline had been very well made boats but perhaps a little bit dated in their styling.
“I remember thinking this new approach would give me the best of both worlds; some Italian flair, something really quite striking, but with the renowned Fairline British quality. Together with Richard Bates I visited the Fairline factory, where I saw the production line and met various people involved in the process.
“I was taken hook, line and sinker by their attention to detail. For me, it was a combination of their quality and the styling, plus I was fascinated at how they could achieve a four-cabin layout in a boat of that size. I was really impressed with Fairline’s ingenuity in terms of using space – that’s when we were hooked into this new boat which was coming out.”
In addition to coastal cruising, Nick’s Mediterranean boating saw him take his Squadron 53 across to Ibiza, Formentera and Mallorca: “It turned a lot of heads and consistently performed well.
Although it sounds a bit of a cliché the experiences we had with family and friends on board are some of the best days we’ve ever had – I felt very fortunate to be the owner of that vessel.”
In terms of handling, although he has not been out in extreme weather, Nick recalls encountering strong winds on his first return from Ibiza: “My family all tucked themselves away inside, but I stayed on the flybridge – I was quite enjoying the spray that was coming my way!
“I remember thinking the Fairline felt much more substantial than my previous boat, a 45-foot flybridge. I felt safe, it was comfortable and it certainly handled the swell better.”
Fairline only offered one propulsion choice for the Squadron 53; twin Volvo Penta D11s rated at 725hp each. When MBY tested the first new Squadron 53 in 2017, we achieved a top speed of 32.9 knots with the engines spinning at 2,500rpm and fuel consumed at a rate of 285lph.
But ease back to its most efficient fast cruising speed of 26.3 knots and the fuel burn drops to 199lph. That equates to just over 0.6mpg but stylish, fast fun such as this was never going to come cheap!
The boat itself is a gem with several big sociable areas packaged in a vessel which oozes appeal at every turn. As Nick pointed out, the use of space in his four-cabin Squadron 53 is exceptional but because purchasers had the choice of several different layouts, no two secondhand boats are likely to be quite the same.
As well as three and four cabin layouts with the galley forward or aft on the main deck, the three cabin versions could also be specified with either a utility area and day head or a galley on the lower deck and extra seating in the saloon.
Above and beyond
Over and above that, Fairline were happy to accommodate owner requests wherever possible. “They went far beyond the standard options list,” confirms Nick. “We wanted some additional audio equipment and were able to spec the boat exactly as we wanted it in terms of finish, features and functionality.”
All of which means that prospective purchasers of secondhand 53s can expect to find a fair degree of variety between the boats they view. That said, externally all Squadron 53s share a spacious aft cockpit with a large seating area, part of which wraps around a sizeable table and part of which doubles up as a sunbathing area.
The portside section of the seating hinges upwards to give access to the boat’s crew cabin, which is situated between the bathing platform and the engines. While perfectly functional, we suspect that most of the time this is more likely to be used for storing cushions, covers and toys than humans.
From the port side of the aft cockpit and starboard edge of the bathing platform are steps leading to the side decks. While the walkways are well protected with guardrails and a grab rail on the superstructure, the guardrail sections are retained in their sockets by smallish Allen bolts which, we are told, require periodic checking to ensure they remain tight.
The foredeck incorporates a pop-up table with seating on three sides. While sunbathing would be possible in this area, it is worth noting that the foredeck is split by a large central recess which serves as a walkway and footwell for the table, meaning that any guests sunning themselves will be some way apart.
Access to the flybridge is via an open tread staircase in the aft cockpit. It’s a steepish but worthwhile journey, for the flybridge is a joy with a double helm, wet bar/grille, large dining table and plentiful seating. There’s also a sunbed adjacent to the helm, the back of which hinges up to provide a forward-facing lounger.
Our review boat featured Fairline’s galley-aft main deck layout, which sports clean lines throughout, copious amounts of storage, two large and exceptionally comfortable seating areas in the saloon and some of the glossiest woodwork you’ll ever see.
Like the one on the flybridge, the lower helm is clean and well laid out (if a little lacking in storage) with a glass sunroof overhead. This doesn’t open, however, due to the flybridge behind it.
The boat’s four cabins – a superb full beam owners’ suite amidships, a VIP in the forepeak with an ensuite bathroom that doubles up as day heads, a twin bed third cabin to port and a bunk bed fourth on the starboard side – are all finished to Fairline’s usual high standards.
Three out of the four cabins have their own television and each has its own full-height wardrobe. The Fairline Squadron 53 is a delight to spend time aboard with styling and build quality matched by form, function and performance. Find the right one for you and a Squadron 53 makes a very sound secondhand buy.
Fairline Squadron 53 surveyor’s report
These big Fairline hulls tend to have a long, lazy motion at sea, which inspires a feeling of security. The deep-vee hull softens the motion when heading into a swell for reassuring passage making even in less than perfect conditions. Conventional shaft drive makes for ease of handling and simpler maintenance than IPS.
I have found the construction and build quality of these boats to be consistently good, with very few significant latent issues, thanks in part to the use of resin infused mouldings. Points to note when considering buying:
- Teak swim platforms tend to be scrubbed heavily, so ensure that there is plenty of useful life remaining.
- A handful of Fairlines I have inspected have shown evidence of minor longitudinal stress cracking along the inner radius of the deck and superstructure, either alongside the helm position or along the forward coachroof sections. Nothing too concerning but worth getting your surveyor to check for.
- Boats finished in dark blue can suffer from UV degradation of the gelcoat. Fairlines are better than most but all blue gels tend to bloom over the years, although it can usually be brought back to life with a professional compound and polish.
- Look for signs of water ingress affecting the interior trims and lacquers around windows, ceiling lights and under deck stanchion bases.
- Flybridge helm seats can work loose on their mountings as they often double up as a handhold.
- Headlining panels have a tendency to drop after a number of years so check these are still holding firm.
- Ensure the engine service history is checked and verified, including heat exchanger cleaning. A sea trial when surveying is vital, with an extended run at maximum revs to ensure temperatures remain within specs.
A sound example of this vessel, especially once you have found one with the right layout, spec and price to suit your needs will provide you with a sea-kindly and luxurious mobile home from home.
– Chris Olsen, Olsen Marine Surveying
Fairline Squadron 53 specifications
LOA: 55ft 6in / 16.92m
Beam: 14ft 10in / 4.52m
Draft: 3ft 11in / 1.2m
Air draft: 18ft 2in / 5.56m (inc. arch and nav light mast)
Displacement (dry): 21,000kg
Fuel capacity: 2,412L
Water capacity: 550L
Fuel consumption: 7.86l/nm @ 22kn range 245nm at 22kn with 20% reserve
Design: Fairline Yachts / Alberto Mancini
Hull type: Deep V
RCD category: B for 14 persons
Annual fuel burn: 5,425 litres (based on 25 hours at 26.3kn and 25 hours at 8.1kn)
Mooring: £12,070 (For an annual marina berth on the Hamble River downstream of Bursledon bridge)
What’s on the market?
Engines: 2 x Volvo Penta D11 725hp
First published in the July 2023 issue of MBY.
In association with SETAG Yachts. Design and refit specialists SETAG Yachts bring luxury to the pre-owned market – by creating the bespoke yacht of your dreams, with no compromise. To fall in love with your boat all over again visit www.setagyachts.com or call +44 (0)1752 648618 for more details.
If you enjoyed this…
Be first to all the latest boats, gadgets, cruising ideas, buying advice and readers’ adventures with a subscription to Motor Boat & Yachting. Available in both print and digital formats, our monthly magazine will be sent directly to your home or device at a substantial discount to the usual cover price. See our latest offers and save at least 30% off the cover price.