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Tue 19 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Challenge the 230

The economical overheads of smaller boats are drawing a new type of vessel owner onto the water.

The economical overheads of smaller boats are drawing a new type of vessel owner onto the water.

While many brokers and companies setting up in the Middle East are looking to the future expansion of the glamorous big boat industry, it is currently the sub ten-metre sports boat category that is growing at high speed, with sales across all brands proving the popularity of the waterfront lifestyle.

Furthermore, with increased difficulty in securing marina pontoon berthing, the ease of trailer launching smaller sports boats means that people can still get out on the water, albeit at the sacrifice of time allowed for launching and recovery.

Underway, the hull was a much smoother ride than I’d envisaged.

The more economical overheads of a small sports boat are also attracting a new type of owner onto the waters of Dubai, a view echoed by Al Yousuf Industrial, builder of Yamaha sport and fishing boats, director Nizar Anik, "There has been a definite move towards more and more first-time buyers."

"Previously, our clients were experienced boat owners, but now the attraction of getting out onto the water for sports or family time is attracting many newcomers."

The key components that make up the entry level sports boat are undoubtedly ease of use, instant speed, ease of maintenance, low running costs and multifunctional use for family, fishing and towing.

Especially when attracting those new to boating, it is essential not to overcomplicate the owning experience.

Offering a variety of adventure sport toys - from jet skis and ATVs, to ski-doos and Evinrude outboard engines - Bombardier (BRP) was at an instant advantage when developing its eight-boat Sea-Doo range, as it drew different successes and technologies from across its products.

"Getting the product right for the owner is particularly important to BRP," explained Kobus Minnaar, BRP's sales manager for its well-known regional dealer Al Boom Marine.

Proving the ease at which keeping a boat on a trailer and launching when required, Kobus had the 7.16-metre 230 Challenger SE on the hard at Jumeirah Fishing Village, and was looking at the swell pounding the entrance from the recent shamal.

"The biggest difference with the Sea-Doo Sport Boats over all other brands available is that they are using a water Jet propulsion," he continued.

"This makes driving, launching, recovering and being in the water around it so much safer than propellers, and also allows you to beach without fear of damaging the drivetrain."
Fully rigged with a bimini and wakeboard tower, the 230 Challenger SE looked much bigger than its LOA, with a shallow-V hull exposing sharp chines purposefully developed for the handling characteristics of the twin 215 HP waterjet drives, which were placed on the transom, underneath the integral bathing platform.

Well finished throughout, the bow seating area can also be filled in with an extra cushion to create a comfortable sunpad, with low grab rails providing support when speeding along.

The snub nose contains a good-sized anchor locker and allows ease of stepping on and off to the dock, especially as when at rest it lies close to the water, only rising clear and high when the power is pushed on.

While undeniably a sports boat, the comfort of those in the cockpit has been cleverly considered when powering along, with a sliding glass door and accompanying windshield creating a watertight protection from any wind or spray.

However, at rest the option remains to slide both the central door away, and, at the click of a switch, for the entire windscreen to electrically lower into the dash - breaking down any barriers throughout the boat.

Carpeted throughout, the sole also hides a massive storage locker for all kinds of ski and boarding gear, ensuring the decks are always clear of personal clutter.

The double co-pilot bench to port can also swivel round to face direction of travel, or slide back against the gunwhale to increase floor space or for a more social seating arrangement.

The aft seating takes a traditional C-shaped arrangement, curving around the transom and offering the option of a removable table for dining post-sports.

Further storage is to be found under the transom seats, with the starboard quarter set apart for a dedicated cooler box for refreshment on the go.

Lifting up the engine hatch that doubles up as the aft cushion, warps and ski ropes can be kept in a small glassfibre infill tray, while the removable cockpit table and legs are set into the hatch's underside.

To access the twin Rotax 4-tec engines, the infill tray is lifted, and a sizeable engine compartment is revealed.

Developed from BRP's extensive experience in the jetski, snowmobile and quad bike market, the compact three cylinder, 1500cc supercharged units are far removed from most inboards in that they have a closed loop cooling system.

They do not require saltwater for cooling, immediately preventing a great number of the maintenance issues saltwater ingress creates, particularly in the Arabian Gulf.
The only saltwater use within the 430hp engine compartment is to cool and silence the exhaust, ensuring the engines run quietly at the dock.

With its flat hull and no props to worry about, launching the 230 Challenger was immensely simple, with all transom weight buoyantly pulling the seven-metre hull quickly off its trailer.

Driving a waterjet-powered vessel is always very different from prop-driven, but the 230 Challenger was instantly different again, with both drives set up to a single throttle, which, set with the shift, lay easily to the right hand and was provided with a thoughtful arm rest.

Set into the dash console, large automotive-style chrome-rimmed analogue gauges were joined by a stereo and switch panel for the windscreen, providing all the pilot needs when underway.

Steering the waterjets directly, the 230 Challenger had surprising agility in slow speed manoeuvring, the double jets smoothly turning the boat almost within its own length - an ideal characteristic when dropping off or receiving extra guests.

Underway, the hull was a much smoother ride than I'd envisaged, particularly given the wild conditions of the day.

Often waterjet boats suffer from the fact there is no skeg to guide the hull at high speed, but this fact had obviously been taken on board as the hull tracked almost dead straight.

Verdict

Obviously an ideal boat for the water sports enthusiast, the 230 Challenger could also be a glimpse into the future of what we might expect from a new-wave of boats built to exceed modern environmental pollution regulations - and it certainly does not take away from the enjoyment.

While the waterjet drive and closed-loop cooling system both make maintenance easier and push technology forward, the experience of driving was far more fluid than many prop-driven rivals.

Specifications

LOA
: 7.16 metres Beam: 2.59 metres Draft: 0.3 metres Weight: 1.5 tons Deadrise: 20 degrees Fuel capacity: 200 litres

Engine: Twin 215hp Rotax

Price Guide: AED 230,000 (US$ 62,600) (full package)

Sea-Doo boats are built in by BRP in the US: www.brp.com

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