Author : Barry Thompson
Generally boats are easy to define. A sportfisher, a flybridge cruiser, a saloon, a pilothouse or a sport sedan to name but a few. But just where does the Corvette 340 fit in? A flybridge aft cabin cruiser perhaps. It’s as individual as it is unique and very different to almost anything else on the market…..well in New Zealand and Australia anyway. Yet it is not so much that it is avant-garde or retro. In fact the Fleming Corvette 340 is certainly none of those. It is precisely practical and a well thought out design boarding on a traditional English cruising heritage, that offers another alternative to how we go boating.
When Fleming Yacht principals, Duncan Cowie and Adi Shard purchased the Corvette moulds and inventory in 2009 from the receivers for the UK builders, they were already familiar with the brand. First appearing in 1974 and with more than 200 built, over 70 of those since 1992, the Corvette had somewhat of a cult following and both Cowie and Shard could see it formed a nice fit into their existing Fleming range.
Cowie says,” There were many similarities between the Corvette and the Fleming such as the semi displacement hull, the ability to cruise slowly or fast, twin engines and wide side decks, which meant that by taking on the Corvette brand we were not doing anything hypocritical to the Fleming design philosophy”.
Cowie points out that while the Corvettes are being built by the same builders of Fleming, Tung Hwa Industrial in Taiwan, they are owned by a separate company, Corvette Marine (HK) Ltd of which Cowie and Shard are directors.
For the important transition between purchasing the moulds and getting the first boats to water, they also employed the services of the previous owners of Corvette Marine in the UK, Steve Robson and Rod Nixon, to assist them in putting the boats together.
“Their experience in manufacturing the previous Corvettes has been invaluable to us and allowed for a seamless transition through the build process,” said Cowie. Cowie adds that their plans are for 12 to 15 boats a year.
Until the Corvette moulds arrived in Taiwan the only model available was the 320, although plans for the 340 had been drawn up none had been built. With the change of owners and builders it was decided to immediately tool up for the new 340, which while retaining the same hull dimensions as the 320 is quite a different boat. Both the first two 340s will be going to the UK, with the first ‘public’ outing at the Southampton Boat Show, with hull #3 destined for the Annapolis Boat Show, Maryland, USA.
While the Corvette has an extensive options list, the layout is unchangeable, with colours, fabrics and timbers the owner’s choice. American cherry is standard, with a teak option.
The major changes from the 320 to the 340 are a new console layout with twin helm seats, new electrical system, the saloon is now 300mm wider due to the narrowing of the side decks and the aft cabin now goes from gunwhale to gunwhale. The for’ard raised deck is longer, giving more capacity in the forward cabin. The result is a bigger internal volume and more useable outside space, especially on the aft deck area. A lot of the hardware and fittings have also been upgraded, especially in the areas of hatches and stainless components and rails.
The Corvette 340 features a three-cabin, three-berth, twin-ensuite layout with provision for a fourth temporary berth in the saloon – very impressive for a boat of this size. The forward accommodation is quite different, with a large single berth either side of the ensuite, complete with shower stall, head and Corian bench surface. The berths are over 1m wide at the head end and surrounded by plenty of lockers for gear stowage. An overhead hatch and sliding side windows provide extra lighting and ventilation and there is ample head height in the traffic areas. To retain privacy, timber slides and doors can close off this area from the saloon.
To me the ‘piece de resistance’ is the owners’ aft cabin. It makes the boat really appealing for a couple who do most of their cruising on their own, but have the provision for guests, such as grandchildren and friends and family for’ard. It’s comfortable, private and very homely. While the cabin was always large, now with the rear side decks being removed that space has increased tremendously. It has also allowed for a redesign of the layout, with a full central island berth and a separate shower to port and head/vanity to starboard. Prior to this the layout had a combined head/shower and the bed was up against the hull side. There is also a convenient dresser with a swing-out seat and vanity unit with lift-up lid. Strategically placed lighting abounds throughout the cabin as well as large opening windows.
To starboard is a bedside cabinet and hanging locker, with box blinds installed in the side windows.
Again, with the changes to the 320, the saloon area has been increased and it is reflected not only by the fact there is now space for twin helm seats, but also there is a more open feeling to the whole area. The sole has been lowered 50mm from the 320’s, giving the 340 close to 2m headroom.
The sole is finished in teak and holly, with a carpet option and the upholstery is again available to an owner’s choice. There is a 19″ TV with DVD on a lifter to starboard or you can go without the TV and use the space available for extra storage. Again, the choice is yours; it just depends on how many ticks you put in the boxes of the extensive option list.
The saloon helm has been totally altered from the 320, with a new facia and is available with either twin swivelling helm chairs or a single double bench seat. The dash is large enough to handle all the necessary instrumentation and navigation equipment. Corvette Marine offers you the choice of either Raymarine ,E120 or Furuno Navnet packages based on a single screen with interfaced radar, plotter, GPS and sounders.
Unlike buyers of Flemings who generally have their electronics fitted by the dealer, the Corvettes are being sold complete and ready to go, with electronics and all extras provided from the factory before shipping
While air conditioning is an option, for those who prefer the natural air, the opening front, rear and side windows allow for good cross ventilation.
The saloon features an L-shaped settee and adjustable-height table that can also convert to an extra double berth. Opposite is the galley complete with Corian bench top, four-burner cooktop and large fridge. Storage drawers and lockers have been built into most of the available spaces in the saloon.
You always learn something with the first of a new model and one of the changes in future boats could be to raise the dinette seating area to offer improved lateral viewing, something that has decreased due to the sole being lowered.
The aft and upper deck levels lend themselves to drinking cocktails at sunset, but also provide an excellent external helm. The Corvette has all the necessary duplication of controls plus a triple helm seat with reversible backrest. The forward facing lip on the flybridge brow causes an air pocket behind so you don’t get blasted by the wind. Storage is provided in the flybridge eyebrow and under the seating.
The optional upper and lower biminis with forward and side clears would be a good choice for anyone looking at this boat to use ‘down under’. Protection from the UV is today just as important as from inclement weather.
The flybridge provides seating for seven and the lower aft deck caters for at least that many again. A number of table and seating options are available. The additional beam of the large aft deck of approx 8sqm with high, secure stainless steel guard rails is finished with teak laid decks and accessed from both the port and starboard side decks.
A stainless ladder gives passage to the small swim platform, which is another area that may see some changes in future models. A large platform would provide good tender stowage as well as be more convenient when boarding or debarking. A carbon fibre 2.7m passerella which weighs just 4kg and folds up in a bag for stowage can be mounted on a pre-fitted stainless steel bracket.
Great Sea Boat
The very first Corvette 340 to be built by the new owners, and in fact the first Corvette 340 ever, was only one day in the water when I arrived in Kaohsiung. Recreational boating in Taiwan is unlike anywhere else I have been and requires you to go through passport control both exiting and entering the harbour. Custom officers come about and check you both ways to see you aren’t smuggling contraband or illegal immigrants, but other than that it’s a reasonably simple process.
The waters of the Kaohsiung Harbour were particularly messy with a 1m plus lift and a steady breeze, blowing across the shallow area along the foreshore.
The Corvette 340 performed exceptionally well and considering its compact 10m length, better than I would have expected. With the standard package of twin Yanmar 6LP-315 STP engines, we topped out at around 26 knots in a relatively calm patch of water. Twin Volvo D6 330 hp or Cummins QSB 330 hp engines will be offered as options, with all engines supplied from specially constructed, non-corrosive fibreglass fuel tanks. The engines are flexibly mounted under the saloon, with good access for routine maintenance and daily service. They run through conventional shafts onto 4 blade propellers.
In both the following and head sea the hull tracks well and doesn’t have any obvious vices. At speed you can put the boat into a very tight turn and it stays level with very little heel. We ran with the sea for a while at around 22 knots and the ride was both comfortable and predictable. Heading back up the coast with the swells on the bow we dropped back to 12 knots and again the Corvette 340 performed better than expected. It’s a speed I felt we could have easily maintained for extended periods in total comfort and not just the few hours we had for the trials.
One of the special attributes of the Corvette 340 is the unique hull lines, which is an ideal combination of planing and semi-displacement characteristics. The aft sections are very flat, with flat side chines and wide forward strakes plus a deep keel. This all contributes to this semi displacement boat’s good handling, seakeeping and economy at slow to moderate speeds, as well as enabling the hull to a plane efficiently at higher speeds. The hard chine flats and considerable topsides flare assist in keeping the boat very dry. The fact also that the chines run parallel in the aft sections means it wouldn’t be too hard for the builders to offer a lengthened version in the future, something that I am sure has already been considered.
Hull construction is solid hand laid GRP using vinyl ester resin for the outer layers. The stiffeners in the hull are constructed using a foam core and extra strength is provided by the use of woven rovings.
The Corvette 340 would make a great cruiser for the Whitsundays and Sydney Harbour or the Bay of Islands and the Hauraki Gulf. Not only does it have a hull form that can handle most of our waters, it also offers maximum space from its compact size and lacks for none of the standard amenities you would expect in a much larger boat. With the build quality of the Taiwan based Tung Hwa yard, the same company that builds the Fleming range of motor yachts, you have the confidence of quality and finish that is made to last.
Dare to be different? Why not.
- Design Name: Corvette 340
- Builder: Tung Hwa Industrial / Taiwan
- Designer: Compton & McGill
- Interior Design: In-house
- Year Launched: 2010
- LOA: 10.36m
- LOH: 9.95m
- Beam: 3.96m
- Draft: 1.0m
- Displacement: 8.5 tonnes
- Max Speed: 26 knots
- Cruise Speed: 18-20 knots
- Fuel Cap: 890 or 1097 litres
- Water Cap: 510 litres
- Construction: GRP
- Classification: CE Cat B
- Engines: 2 x Yanmar 6LP-315STP
- Price from : $US375,000