When I first drove a Salcombe Flyer back in May 2004, I was genuinely surprised by its ability in a lumpy sea. Despite its diminutive size and unassuming looks, the old 530 did a great job, and not just in terms of its performance as a traditional fast fisher (which we had all come to expect) but also in terms of its outright ability as a driver’s boat. It was a great shame therefore when Salcombe Flyer ceased production and disappeared from view…
But such was the fondness for the marque that its DNA was kept alive in the background and when Hugh Hodgson of Pembrokeshire Sports Boats bought the old manufacturing moulds from the Salcombe-based Bananashark team, a new era began for the Salcombe Flyer fleet. Today, under Hugh’s careful guardianship, a five-strong range is being built and sold from the company’s HQ on the stunning Pembroke Estuary in West Wales - and happily, that line-up still includes the original boat that so impressed me back in 2004. At the bottom of the new range is the 440, available either in Tiller form (for up to 25hp) or in Sport guise (for up to 60hp). Above that is the 480Sport and the 530Sport and at the top end of the range is Hugh’s most recent addition, the inboard-powered 600Sport.
The 530 basics
It is gratifying to see that Hugh’s new Salcombe Flyer 530Sport looks much the same as the boats we used to know. In addition to the retention of the classic Flyer colourways of blue with yellow and white trim, the hull itself retains the classic Flyer profile, with a relatively wide beam and a moderate V. The result of this ought to be lots of pace from relatively minor horsepower, as well as plenty of inboard space for fishing - and with a simple console and seating unit which leave much of the deck unencumbered, it seems to work quite nicely.
Despite the 530’s modest dimensions, there is seating for no fewer than seven people - two aft, two at the helm, one in the ‘suicide seat’ and two in the bow. However, the seats at the back end, on either side of the outboard, are a bit tight - and so too is the twin seat at the helm, where this boat’s laudable simplicity is perhaps taken a touch too far. It’s all well enough appointed but some lateral support for those at the helm would be good, as would an angled footbrace, some extra adjustability and a screen rim to use as an additional grabbing point.
But the real acid test for this new incarnation of the Flyer 530 is whether it can offer the same dynamic performance as its predecessors did. Certainly, the hull shape and the weight distribution look ideal, but the boat also needs to enjoy extreme rigidity and that is achieved in several ways…
Longitudanal stiffening is provided by a substantial girder chassis, which runs either side of the keel and is laminated to the hull before being sandwiched between the hull and deck. There is also an overlap joint between hull and deck that is both glued and screwed into place, plus end-grain balsa stiffening throughout. As for the all-important transom, that uses 50mm marine ply as a minimum, again sandwiched between the hull and deck mouldings, so what we have a right to expect from the new Flyer is a strong, stiff boat, better able to cope with a seastate, better able to execute the demands put upon it from the helm and better able to retain its value, should you ever come to sell it on.
The hull in action
This is not a large or weighty boat, so even the relatively modest engine choice (a 90hp Optimax which is a full 25hp short of the maximum available) gets great results. She planes at low speeds and pulls hard throughout the range to a top end in excess of 42 knots. She can of course slam a touch in an awkward swell but her limitations in ride softness are compensated by an ability to skip out of trouble with great dexterity. In fact, she is such an agile runner that amending the attitude, trim, position and pace of the boat to match a changing seastate is virtually instant.
Of course, with those relatively shallow hull angels, she’s not as hard carving in the turns as she might be, but the benefits more than make up for that. She planes with ease, runs efficiently at a decent cruising pace of around 22 knots, handles predictably and offers as much space as you could ever want from an affordable monohull of this length. If you were keen to scare yourself, you could go for the top-end 115hp engine option (in which case an extremely rapid 50 knots would fall well within your remit), but the basic 90 will be quite sufficient for most family boaters. Even in this more sedate guise, her performance in the rough stuff is proof that she has retained all the key performance traits.
With package prices around the £20,000 mark, the Salcombe Flyer remains the accessible do-it-all fast fisher it always was. For that money, you get a splendid hull with generous internal space and the kind of handling that will see you heading back out on the water just for the fun of the drive. It’s not a complex, generously appointed or especially luxurious craft and it pays no more attention to the fickle transience of fashion than it ever did. But the few things this boat does, it does very well and for the many lovers of the marque, that will come as very welcome news indeed... For more details, contact Pembrokeshire Sports Boats.
Alex Smith is an ex-Naval officer, with extensive experience as a marine journalist, boat tester and magazine editor. Having raced as a Pilot in the National Thundercat Series and as a Navigator in the inaugural Red Sea RIB Rally, he has now settled in the West Country, where he lives and works as a specialist marine writer and photographer from his narrowboat in Bath.