- The Beneteau Flyer 7.7 SPACEDeck is a high-quality, multipurpose sports boat – impressive both in terms of construction and in its ability to perform.
- Bates Wharf have a winner here – a great boat that’s hard to find fault with.
- Nothing aboard this boat rattled or gave the impression that it wasn’t well made or substantially put together.
- These engines were a great match and simply sang their way along through the seas!
Beneteau Flyer 7.7 SPACEDeck
HMS travels to Poole and catches the last day of summer to test a brand-new Beneteau model for 2016, the stylish and capable Flyer 7.7 SPACEDeck.
Beneteau are a world-renowned GRP boatbuilder responsible for producing a wide range of leisure craft – both sail and power. Their sports boat and cruiser range is likewise extensive and they appear intent on fulfilling virtually every role the market may demand! This is emphasised at boat shows where you can often see great ‘racks’ of Beneteaus lining the pontoon berths and exhibition hall walkways. But now there is yet another model joining this comprehensive line-up: a 7.7m vessel known as the SPACEDeck Flyer – a craft sold and marketed in this country by one of the UK’s largest and most respected boat retailers, Bates Wharf.
Our appointed test day was near perfect, and as I left home early that morning to drive along the wooded heights of the Blackdown Hills and on through the mist-filled Dorset valleys, the biggest golden sun ever steadily rose amidst clear blue skies to warm the late autumn landscape.
Upon my arrival at the Bates Wharf yard in Poole, I was greeted by the centre’s chief boatman and customer liaison representative Gary Graybrook, a pleasant and welcoming gent who has worked for the company for some years now and is responsible for customer handovers and helping new owners become acquainted with their newly purchased craft. As we walked over the road bridge to the town quay marina and the pontoon berth where both the test boat and our photo boat were lying, we chatted about the market in general, the successes Bates Wharf were having with their multi-brand business and why the team felt the 7.7 Flyer was such a welcome addition to the current range.
Enthusing over the prospect of showing me through her paces, Gary explained: ‘With this new model we really feel confident we have a product that is not only a great example of high-quality contemporary boatbuilding, but one that also represents genuinely good value for money … We’re all quietly very excited by the Flyer because we feel it has the ability to bring a lot of pleasure to a lot of people – particularly those who are seeking a capable and stylish sports boat that benefits from being functional and very manageable at the same time.’
Poole Harbour’s dark-green waters sparkled and dazzled in the sunshine; we simply couldn’t have picked a better day. So with all haste we slipped our lines and edged out of the busy marina. Then, taking advantage of the ‘out of season’ relaxation of the harbour’s usual speed restrictions, we sped on toward Sandbanks and the mouth of the harbour, passing Brownsea Island and Green Island with the pastel backdrop of the Purbeck Hills away in the distance.
From the vantage point of the photo boat, it struck me that the SPACEDeck Flyer’s appearance is unusual in some respects. Riding high on her multi-chined hull, she gives the appearance of having several ‘faces’, depending on which angle you spy her from. I would say this is due to the combination of her bluff bow, her side profile styling and the manner in which the hull integrates with the vessel’s topsides. Despite her French origins, my initial impression was that her influences were not altogether European but perhaps took inspiration from the North American market as well. Furthermore, it occurred to me that besides the Flyer’s designers clearly wanting to offer a sports boat of seagoing ability, they also had in mind the sea angling potential of the craft and the latter sector’s target audience.
Out past the chain ferry, then, with Studland Sands and the ‘Old Harry’ rocks off our starboard side, we bore away eastward and into the blue seas of Bournemouth Bay. Once we had the shoot in the bag, it was time to ‘jump ship’ and get behind the wheel of the 7.7. Immediately I liked the feel of the helm: its layout, its generous proportions, and the way that the helm position and seating complemented each other so well. The wheel and throttles fell nicely to hand, affording comfort and control, and the engine displays, including the Lowrance Touch-Gen 3 screen etc., were all positioned to enable good line of sight. The helm and navigator’s seating can be adjusted for either semi-standing or fully seated positions and worked really well, I felt – their design providing a high degree of comfort and support for the user.
I needed little time aboard to recognise that the Flyer 7.7 SPACEDeck was a quality boat and a substantial one at that for its size. The space aboard this craft is unencumbered and I liked the fact that the layout on this demonstrator featured just the two forward crew seats, with the aft lazarette providing the additional passenger seating. That said, if you do need more, the gunwale bulkheads either side of the aft deck each have a let-down/foldable seat, which, although they may not be ideal in a heavy chop or cross wind when the spray begins to fly, nonetheless are very useful items to have. Of course, up on the foredeck one also has the option of either sunlounging or socialising – the latter courtesy of the additional seating that the chunky lockers and dry stowage sections built in to the bow provide. Without doubt, this boat scores big time in terms of its internal space, and its various GRP units and fixtures help maximise this.
You’ll see from the photographs that the back end of the 7.7 SPACEDeck features a very substantial moulded transom section that affords not only great access to the motor/motors, but also, thanks to the extensions either side of the outboard cutaway, a very substantial bathing platform complete with boarding ladder. On-deck security is high on this boat throughout.
As one moves about the boat, other items and accessories stand out. These include a remote-controlled electric windlass, the option of a stainless steel framed bimini, gunwale topped handrails, a forward sunbed hammock and, possibly best of all, within the helm console itself, a marine toilet/heads with underdeck holding tank. This aspect of the Flyer’s anatomy also makes for a very useful ‘glory hole’, and being lockable it provides a ‘secure’ place to leave kit and clothing overnight.
This particular boat, rigged with twin 150hp Suzuki TGXs, certainly doesn’t hang about! Even running into the oncoming tide and sea we made a good 43 knots. These engines were a great match and simply sang their way along through the seas! Despite the substantial twin-outboard rig hanging off the stern, this 7.7m craft remained exceptionally well balanced and easy to handle. She felt very stable and behaved impeccably underway – whether punching cleanly through the oncoming waves or performing with a reassuring degree of lift in the following seas. Putting the Flyer into a hard turn on either lock failed to expose any loss of grip or tendency to skip out of a turn. The ‘Air Step’ hull the boat features is a design unique to Beneteau, and although propelled by some 300hp, it showed a consistent ‘predictable’ handling quality throughout the test. Driven responsibly, the Flyer gives every indication of being a very safe and sure-footed boat to drive, and being such is well suited to the recreational/family boater.
The conditions on the day didn’t give an opportunity to reveal how dry-riding the hull was, but her soft-riding hull gave every impression that its design would be efficient at deflecting any spray away from the boat’s interior if the sea state increased. I will say, also, that even when pushed hard, nothing aboard this boat rattled or gave the impression that it wasn’t well made or substantially put together. Bates Wharf have done a fine job in rigging this boat, and to their credit it was presented fully prepped for our test day. (You’d be surprised how often this is not the case!)
In conclusion, the Beneteau Flyer 7.7 SPACEDeck is a high-quality, multipurpose sports boat – impressive both in terms of construction and in its ability to perform. It’s my view that Bates Wharf have a winner here – a great boat that’s hard to find fault with. And if that wasn’t enough, it also represents impressive value for money.
- Quality of construction
- Helm ergonomics
- Sea-kindly hull
- Relative value for money
- LOA: 7.10–7.64 m (23′ 4″– 5′ 1″)
- Hull length: 6.96m (22′ 10″)
- Overall width: 2.73m (8′ 11″)
- Beam: 2.66m (8′ 9″)
- Draught (min/max): 0.50–0.90 m (1′ 5″–2’11”)
- Air draught: 1.80m (5′ 11″)
- Light displacement (EC): 2100kg (4628lb)
- Light displacement without engine: 1638kg (3610lb)
- Fuel tank (optional): 280 or 400 litres
- Water tank (optional extra): 100 litres
- Max. engine certification: 300hp
- Hull development: Remi Laval Jeantet, Tanguy Le Bihan & Patrick Tableau
- Designers: Style & Design
- RCD category: Cat C – 10 persons
- Retail price on the boat tested is £62,425 including VAT, delivery and commissioning.
Bates Wharf Marine Sales
Poole office: 01202 679 421