Issue: October/November 2005
The Beneteau Flyer 12 is not your typical luxury sport boat. Her classic lines are reminiscent of an old-world motoryacht.
But these lines disguise a new world hull designed specifically around Volvo's revolutionary new Independent Propulsion System (IPS) with forwardfacing drives.
What's unique about this craft , compared to most other IPS driven vessels, is Beneteau and Volvo collaborated from the ground up to design a hull featuring level underside ports to mount the IPS drive units on. Th is gives much better performance than simply mounting the drives on an existing hull.
For me, the enjoyment I got from taking a conventional Beneteau Antares 12m for a long run on the Mediterranean Sea disintegrated when I switched to the IPS-driven Flyer 12. This boat clearly demonstrated the advantages of IPS. The IPS Flyer was powered by twin D6 310hp Volvos and she left the conventionally powered 12m Flybridge Antares well in her wake.
WHAT THE HECK IS IPS
At this point I should explain what IPS is all about. Volvo has released a revolutionary drive system featuring a leg with the propellers facing forward. It was partly inspired by its well established yacht Sail Drive, which has the leg coming from the underside of the hull instead of the stern.
IPS delivers unobstructed forward thrust and improved power at the prop. And set-up correctly, all cavitation in turns should be eliminated. The disadvantages are unclear at this stage, but some commentators have noted they feel uncomfortable about having the prop so exposed. But Volvo has designed the leg to drop off in drastic circumstances, such as a high-speed grounding, saving the hull and engines from severe damage. And after all, a lot of traditional shaft drives on planing hulls have exposed props without the safeguard of Volvo's 'sacrificial-leg system'. There is a lot more on the topic at www. volvo.com if you're keen for more detail. Only time will tell whether the space saving IPS is the new way for midrange powerboat propulsion. But my initial experience onboard the Beneteau 12m Flyer indicates this drive system has a lot going for it.
So far, most of the boats (and there are only a few) have had IPS units retrofitted to hulls that were designed for legs or shafts. The IPS is essentially a twin-engine arrangement, with the legs coming from either side of a deep-vee hull's keel. But imagine a craft with only a moderate deadrise. If the legs only were just whacked on, in tight turns the prop with less water (the side raised during the turn) would have trouble performing at its best. But there were no such problems with this Beneteau Flyer when I got to drive this magnificent 'red rocket' off Valencia in Spain. From the outset it was clear this large craft manoeuvred like a much smaller vessel. Its steering was as light as a feather and tight turns could be completed without any loss of power. The hull demonstrated all the sea-keeping skills of a top 12m-vessel and the flared bow kept everything dry.
Engine noise, which is something I believe genuinely effects the long-term enjoyment of any boat, was so low that a quiet chat was possible, even at speed. There's no doubt about it, the new IPS specific Flyer 12 is an exceptional boat.
The Flyer's layout is sport-cruiser like, with a large electronic sunroof that converts the enclosed cabin into something closer to an open sport boat. The test vessel was 'Hull No. 1', so some layout adjustments are planned on later models. But 'chic Euro styling' pretty much sums up the interior, which features an aft settee, open galley, two double berths and two bathrooms. There's no doubt the French builders have packed a lot into this 12m vessel.
The older brother of the Flyer 12 is the Antares 12. This vessel follows more traditional flybridge lines, has an equally stylish interior and is also powered by the Volvo 310hp D6 engines, but this time with shaft drives.
Side-by-side comparison of the boats revealed the following results (See tables below). The conditions on the Mediterranean Sea were smooth, but there was a small, long swell running. Overall, these results show nimble performance from both vessels. It is hard to compare the IPS with the Shaft drive, because the latter has a flybridge and weighed about 700kg more.
The IPS craft on the other hand, is a lot quieter in the cabin, because the engines are located aft.
The 'in stock' Antares 12 at Sydney-based JW Marine (at the time of publication) has the covered flybridge, which I feel is more versatile and less precarious than the European test boat. This was a great ad-on arranged by the locals at JW Marine, but the top speed might be slightly affected by the extra windage.
JW Marine Director, Adam Waters, says that in Sydney, the A12 flybridge with shaft drive set-up is so popular with traditional boat owners they're undecided about ordering an IPS unit for the locals. IPS has clear benefits, but it is a premium product with premium pricing. The interior layout of the A12 Antares has two double berths and two bathrooms. The main bathroom also features a separate shower. The bright saloon has a long portside galley, a settee and dual seats at the lower helm.
The A12 Flybridge set-up was interesting with the seats located right at the back of the area, which creates a large sun pad. There's also seating forward of the helm, but not a lot of grab holds, something rectified on the local boat.
Finally, both the Flyer and Antares have generous aft cockpits and good access right around both vessels. The Flyer 12 also features a hydraulic swim ladder and there are plenty of options to choose from, like a washing machine.
If you're keen to have a look at one of these new 12m Beneteaus, have a chat to the guys at JW Marine. Pricing for the A12 Antares begins at $635,000, while the Flyer pricing starts at $615,000.
Then, to top that off , the decision to go with the IPS will cost an extra $50,000.
RED FLYER 12 TWIN IPS
DRIVE VOLVO D6 310HP
2500 rpm @ 20 knots, 2600 rpm @ 22 knots, 2800 rpm @ 25 knots, 3000 rpm @ 27, knots, 3300 rpm @ 30 knots, 3500 rpm @ 33.5 knots
BLUE ANTARES 12
VOLVO D6 310HP
1500 rpm @ 7.1 knots, 2500 rpm @ 18 knots, 3000 rpm @ 23.7 knots, 3600 rpm @ 29.3 knots
AT A GLANCE
HULL LENGTH: 11.96m
MAX HP: Twin 370hp
FUEL: Twin 600lt
CE CERTIFICATION: B/10 C12
PRICE: From $635,000
HULL LENGTH: 11.98m
MAX HP: Twin 370hp
FUEL: Twin 600lt
SLEEPS: 4 people
CE CERTIFICATION: B12
PRICE: From $615,000
+ IPS-drive units. Performance & handling
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