BENETEAU’S FLYER RANGE HAS BEEN A STEADY SELLER OVER THE YEARS AND ITS GROWING POPULARITY IS UNDERSTANDABLE AFTER AN EXCITING DAY WITH THE LATEST MODELS.
A RUNABOUT WITH FAMILY FRIENDLY features and a range of sizes that allow trailering or will take you down the coast safely mean there is a Flyer for everyone, which is exactly French- builder Beneteau’s intention.
As I look over them at the Palma Royal Nautical Club, I conclude that these day boats are ideal for exploring my favourite Mallorcan coves and bays, but how each model does this varies. All the Flyer range (5.17m to 7.62m) has a Sundeck and Spacedeck model, plus a Sportdeck hull for the Flyer 6 and 7 ranges. The names are fairly self-explanatory, and the new 17-foot Flyer 5.5 and 25ft Flyer 7.7 continue this styling.
The bow rider design of the Sportdeck with overhead ski arch makes a bold statement while the Sundeck’s enclosed bow, two berth cabin and double aft bench is a good family boat. In between sits the Spacedeck, which has a centre console with walking space fore and aft, and without a cabin.
These two Flyer 5s share the same beamy 17ft hull that can take six people, while the bigger Flyer 7 hull can transport up to 10 and its larger size gives enough stability for coastal blasts as well.
“These boats are aimed at the new boater market where convenience and ease of use are important,” says my host for the day, Yves Mandin. The European package includes a trailer, so that would be my choice of using the Flyer 5s, while the Flyer 7 is ideal for dry boat storage facilities or dry sailing from an elevated floating pontoon.
A good selling point on these boats is the usable deck area, allowing families or groups of friends to jump-on and take-off without fuss. The beam carried forward at deck level creates a wide rounded foredeck while beneath the water lies a sharp bow entry with deep V, intended to give a smooth ride without slamming.
The other advantage of this forward beam is buoyancy and space inside which includes useful bilge storage. Another noteworthy feature on these injection moulded balsa sandwich hulls is Beneteau’s patented Airstep chines, which is defined by moulded indents that pull air in and reduce drag. These begin midships and run forward.
Elsewhere, the outboard is set in a deep well, with its floor as part of the hull so gives buoyancy aft and aids the trim under speed. Another good feature is the top door on the well which allows the engine to be elevated clear of the water.
Having the one hull means all the two Flyer 5s are rated for the same engines – up to 140HP – from either Suzuki, Honda or Yamaha. For this sea trial on the Flyer 5, the more economical 115HP Suzuki reached a fairly respectable top speed of 28 knots.
Over on big brother, the Flyer 7 Sundeck used powerful twin 150HPs for an altogether more thrilling ride and it’s ideal for transporting a big family group. Across the Flyer range there are three trim levels that offer a wide variety of gear including rod holders, canopy/tent for sleeping topside and electronics options – with Lowrance Elite 5inch HDS plotters used.
Viewed from dockside, the Sundeck and the Spacedeck have similar deck layouts – both sharing a centre console, with the Sundeck having the addition of a sliding door down to a small cabin. But where the Sundeck differs is its extra lounging space and fully fitted sleeping berths.
The Flyer 7 has, of course, a larger cabin that the 5 model, with a mini-galley that includes fridge and microwave. The 7 also has a forward hatch for good ventilation and light; very welcome in small runabout. The other big plus for the 7 is an optional wet bar with grill in the cockpit, where drop down side seating creates a convivial dining space under the bimini.
Suzuki fuel gauge – are all readable when standing up or at ease on the bucket seat; which height adjustable.
Down below the Sundeck 5 cabin has thick upholstery and leg room for a couple to sleep (headroom of 1.49m) while the optional manual head takes care of the necessities. My only gripe was exposed bolts that could bump the unwary sleeper.
The Flyer 5’s voluminous hull allows for ample locker space on all models so the cockpit sole storage – that includes the tankage and battery – also has room for plenty more. There’s bronze seacocks double clamped and just behind is a hatch for the fuel shut-off.
The Spacedeck is a day boat without cabin or toilet so ideal for fishing and general boating, thanks to table spaces both fore; and there’s even a hammock option for the bow so you can snooze under the optional sunshade. At the bow a deep chain locker, bow anchor on roller and vertical Lewmar electric windlass is a functional layout.
The side console on the Sportdeck 7 creates that classic ski boat layout with bow rider benches forward, but again with oodles of space everywhere so plenty of room for wakeboards, skis and doughnuts.
Water users will enjoy the transom shower tap and the stainless swim ladder, plus there’s a deep locker for ski rope and a manual bilge pump with removable handle for when the yahooing brings spray aboard. In the cockpit, good details that are shared with all three models include the twin swivel seats that rotate clear of the gunwales so give versatility – steering and lunching – is another selling point.
Similar to the Sundeck, the transom bench folds into a double sunpad. The yellow trimmed vinyl upholstery with acrylic coating looked hard wearing. Overhead, I’d have no hesitation skiing off the spray screen does its job, with protection even when standing. Alongside it, the other seat has a sturdy handrail for the passenger, which helps you move forward under way to the wide bow where two others can enjoy the view or four can share the small plastic table when at rest – thanks to all of that beam. It makes these Flyer 7 hulls very spacious and feel much larger than their actual size of 25 foot.
The bow hides some good details including deep bilge locker (which also contains battery switches), locker to starboard and the biggest secret is the head under the port bench. To save your blushes there’s a wrap around canopy and the area turns into a sunpad with plastic inserts and cushions.
On The Water
Palma is a favoured testing ground for Beneteau and a favourite holiday destination of mine because of the stable weather conditions in the spring, and so it turned out for our sea trials. Leaving the majestic backdrop of Palma cathedral and the busy harbour behind, I accelerated the Flyer 5 Spacedeck towards the western horizon where Barcelona lay, easily getting on the plane quickly with three people aboard before skipping along the flat waters at a comfortable cruising speed of 21.1 knots.
The Suzuki fuel gauge told me I was consuming 18.3 litres per hour, which would equate to about five hours motoring with some petrol to spare in the 135-litre tank. Plenty of range to carry me to some favourite rocky coves around the west side of Majorca and once there, the shallow draft allows the Flyer 5 to nudge into the shingly beaches for passengers to slide down the wide bow.
Engaging the gears was done smoothly thanks to the Suzuki Precision Control (SPM) system that has been handed down from its larger V6 250 and 300HP models. SPM gives smooth electronic “fly- by-wire” control of both throttle and shift so easily manages the inline four-cylinder DOHC outboard.
At the wheel the hydraulic steering required little effort and responded well as I swept into some wide turns, the hull skidding slightly until its chine dug in. The motorcycle inspired spray shield deflected the wind nicely and under acceleration the seat felt sturdy, as we peaked at 28.3 knots top speed with the Suzuki spinning at 5,550RPM with 35.9 litres used. One slight complaint was found while changing drivers in the rolling swell, where the thigh-high rails felt a little low but were sturdy enough.
Back in port at the yacht club, I jumped on larger sibling the Flyer 7 Sundeck to find a very different feel to the power, with the twin 150HP Suzukis delivering brutal acceleration, so ideal for pulling those heavy mono-skiers up or other water toys. And, of course, for the sheer thrill of zipping along at a top speed of 40 knots.
The other big plus was the much more stable feel to the 25ft Flyer 7 hull, rather than the slight twitchiness of the 17ft Flyer 5.
It is a similar story on the bright yellow trimmed Sportsdeck 7, which enjoyed smoother power delivery from the V6 250 HP Suzuki and lower seating in a 300kg lighter hull gave a surer feel at speed while visibility was good all round; just what you need when skiers are off the back.
For longer trips the Flyer 7s come with optional 400-litre tanks to increase your range significantly as well. Cockpit ergonomics on both Flyer 5 and 7 felt comfortable thanks to effective handrails, foot support and accessible throttle controls.
Choosing one may be difficult, but the Sundecks in both 5 and 7 get my vote for their versatility.