If you’ve never heard of a Sport Top, that’s because until Flipper invented it, it didn’t really exist. Well actually, let me rephrase that: The term “Sport Top” didn’t exist but the layout to which it relates probably did, because it’s basically, a Hard Top configuration with lower profile lines and a more sporting style.
To those of us who have enjoyed HT boats in the past, that can only be a good thing because in most cases, a traditional model tends to look like a Noddy Car, with a lofty structure perched on a diminutive and rather pedestrian hull. Certainly, they have always been easy boats to enjoy but you wouldn’t want to catch sight of yourself in a mirror or let your friends know you drive one.
Happily, on this modern interpretation of the Hard Top, the 640’s designers (Espen Thorup and Raimo Sonninen) have attempted to retain the HT’s core practical merits. You get the same open access to a sheltered bow cabin, leading aft between a pair of helm seats into a large, unbroken communal cockpit. However, a relatively short foredeck enables the use of a much more raked and dynamic screen section, radically improving the external lines of the boat and making you feel like a player rather than a pensioner. In short, it looks excellent but just how much better is it?
On board details
Given that this craft is built by Bella boats (one of the largest builders in Finland), you expect good things in terms of build quality and ergonomic simplicity and the Flipper 640 ST doesn’t disappoint. The quality of the seating, for instance, is lovely throughout, with deep, firm cushions allied to high-end wipe-down fabrics and quality stainless steel adjustment mechanisms. The hinged seat back on the port side also means that, despite the use of a walk-through transom to starboard, there is still plenty of seating for seven, with an aft bench that wraps around the entire port side and turns the whole cockpit into a communal picnic area.
Better still, the fact that the port side of the screen hinges wide open for access to the foredeck via a removable step means that virtually none of that eight-foot beam is wasted on big lateral walkways or internal ladder mouldings. Instead, you get a broad internal space full of efficient accommodation ideas, like a pair of compact, undercut helm pods. You also get excellent storage beneath the central portion of the deck and in neat little nets attached to the console bases - and in addition to a very Nordic stern anchor in the starboard locker, the 640 also provides a quick-fit bimini top, hinged neatly away beneath the aft bench. As for that all-important bow space, well it was never likely to be private, so if you favour the fully closed bow of a classic Scandinavian Day Cruiser, there is also a DC model at this length in the Flipper fleet. But there is no cabin brighter than an open-air cabin and however large you make a closed cuddy, its bulkead means it will never feel as pleasantly inclusive for family boating as this.
On the water
Equipped with a Mercury 150, this boat flies along with a very elevated, light-footed attitude and turns with an extreme (almost disconcerting) commitment to the heeling moment. In fact, so acute is the heel into a turn that if you push hard and look over your shoulder, you can see the topsides flirting with the water’s surface on the inside of the arc. In that regard, it’s not quite the idiot-proof, crowd-pleasing, novice-friendly boat you often get from the popular Finnish family brands, but there’s no doubt that it remains a very efficient and engaging craft to drive.
The visibility when seated at the helm, however, is not all it could be. When you’re in a turn to port, under hard acceleration from a standing start or underway and looking over the starboard bow, the mouldings of that low profile ‘Sport Top’ get in the way, in exactly the same fashion as they do with almost every conventional Hard Top boat ever built. The standing position, however, is perfect. With the bolster flipped up, your feet braced against the angled step and your hands still resting comfortably on wheel and throttle, the visibility over that raked roof is superb for a boat of this type.
How about an upgrade?
Interestingly, the middle of the three craft in the new Sport Top range is just 41cm longer than this entry-level model. It doesn’t seat or sleep any more people and it only adds 2cm to the beam. The layout is also virtually identical, but what the 670 does provide is a little more space in the bow, a 50% larger fuel tank for greater cruising range and a little more variety in your choice of powerplants with a transom capable of accommodating an extra 50 horsepower. It also uses a sliding roof section that, in tandem with the easy-lift bimini, turns it into a remarkably convincing all-weather family boat, so if you like the ST concept, it’s an upgrade you might want to consider.
The Flipper ST is a far more dynamic concept than the outgoing HT range upon which it is based. By adding a much-needed veneer of sophistication to the HT’s undoubted practicality, the 640 ST looks much sexier and feels much higher end than the similarly proportioned 630 HT we tested in the summer of 2012. In real terms, it’s not actually a great deal better than the plainer, more modest craft, but with its higher class of finish and its impressive modern slant on the aesthetics, it is a great deal easier to love.
Flipper 640 ST review: Notable standard features
Three 12V DC outputs
Cockpit and sunbed cushions
Teak laminate trim
Driver’s windscreen wiper
Fresh water tank
Wallas 1800t heater
Wallas stove with heat blower lid
Marine toilet with septic tank
Teak trim (cockpit, bow, swim platform)
Flipper 640 ST review: Specifications
Weight: 1,050kg plus engine
Fuel capacity: 145 litres
Fresh water (optional): 48 litres
Engine power: 115-200hp
People capacity: seven
For a further slice of Hard Top heaven, read any one of these reviews: New Vivante 55 HT from The Netherlands, Numarine 78 HT: Turkish technology meets Italian design or the a smaller HT from Flipper: Flipper 520 HT: a mini overnighter.
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