Outboard Offshore Sport Boats: The Next Big Thing in Performance Boats
Nothing is more clear in the marine industry and we’ve talked about it at length at Wave to Wave, outboards are dominating the market. From center consoles of all sizes, to sport cruisers, runabouts of all sizes, and even cruisers are bolting on the power. The benefits are obvious and engine manufacturers have done a great job of making the most powerful, efficient and easiest to operate engines possible. With more power comes more use cases for outboards and to me the most obvious market shift is going to be the offshore performance V hull sport boat market.
The offshore performance sport boat market has probably been hit the hardest in the transition to more outboard powered boats. When I cruise around poker runs, events and boat shows it becomes pretty obvious why. People want performance but most don't want it at the cost of dependability, convenience and ease of operation. I think an old flat deck with big blocks and open exhaust is cool but many do not. When I talk to boaters and meet people at the docks one thing that comes up often is that they wanted performance but they also wanted a windshield and to carry multiple passengers in comfort. Often, other family members wanted the ride to be quieter. Boating is a family affair for sure.
An ultra rare one off 46’ Cigarette. With a full windshield and sit down seating, this is the epitome of a luxury offshore sport boat. Imagine it with outboards.
Does this mean the long lean offshore boats will all go away? No, but they will evolve. There is still a market for them and I think offshore V hulls can benefit most from the latest modern powerful outboards. Outboards have always been a part of offshore racing and builders have always experimented with them but let’s face it, the older generation small displacement outboards just weren’t as torque rich and efficient as the new ones. With quiet operation, incredible power to weight, cost effectiveness and ease of service; I believe we will see a proliferation from top builders of newly designed offshore performance boats in outboard form. With the new 450R from Mercury Racing, the performance is there even on bigger hulls.
People seem to be surprised by the expansion of the sport cat market but once you ride in a few it is easy to see why. Outboard sport cats can offer an unrivaled smooth and quiet ride at incredible speeds. Any top sport cat in the 30’ to 36’ range with twin Mercury Racing 300R, 400R or with the new 450R HP outboards from can cruise at 80 MPH, effortlessly. And, you can run 110 to 130 MPH, with a fully warrantied engine that is extremely cost effective compared to custom built big blocks with performance drives. Turnkey performance like that used to be a wish, now it’s reality. Seeing a larger offshore sport boat rumble in while everyone covers their ears from the deafening sound is one major difference. Behind the sleek windshield of a sport cat, you can have a conversation with everyone in the boat.
But the solution is simple and it is compelling. Sport cats don’t necessarily compete with offshore sport boats like I’m talking about. Center console boats do compete though and in a big way. Many of the top offshore builders have resorted to building center consoles, and even some cat builders got into the game to drive sales and keep loyal customers. But let’s face it, center consoles suck. Sure, they have their use and I love some of the more traditional ones. For fishing inshore and offshore a good center console is fine. For high speed cruising with the family in a poker run or to the sandbar; I’d take a sit down sport boat any day.
Riding in center consoles that don’t have real sit down or bolster seats is terrible, very few have good seating. You end up standing most of the time and by the end of the day your legs feel like you just finished the Tour De France. Luxury center consoles are basically giant bathtubs designed to carry people and booze to sandbars where they can pass out in lounge seats. Not for me. Plus, they mostly all look the same. If I’m getting a CC, I’m getting one designed for big water and fishing. It is hard to compete with dedicated builders like SeaVee, Sea Hunter, Yellowfin and many others who often have better build quality and resale value.
Sport boats can have many advantages. For one, closed deck boats are better in rough water, even the most deep flared bow will stuff or get splashed eventually and it becomes a giant bathtub. Second, in a sport boat with a proper windshield, you are really protected from the wind. Comfort is a huge factor when selling a boat to a modern performance boat family. Center consoles just aren’t as comfortable when going fast.
And, sport boars are faster. Center consoles are generally way heavier because of the design, have less rigidity due to there being no deck, and they are less aerodynamic when going really fast. The open nature of the boat requires tons of extra support and reinforcement in the structure, elaborate consoles with tops also add weight, and are bad aerodynamically. An Outerlimits SL-41 weighs about 9500 Lbs. An MTI CC V42 weighs about 15,000 Lbs, and a Sea Hunter Tournament 39’, 14,000 Lbs. Most large luxury CCs, even with quad 400Rs are struggling to break 80 MPH. Adding more engines to the transom seems to be the solution, but it just gets stupid after a while. More than three, in most cases, and your weight and drag coefficient exceeds your net performance gain.
Lately, we are seeing more and more offerings. Outerlimits, who has done a great job with their lineup and added an outboard version of their SL-41, with triple 400Rs, it’s a 105 MPH+ boat. Outerlimits’ SV lineup have windshields, and luxurious sit down seating, it is not hard to see why the are so popular. Hustler Powerboats, Adrenaline, Nor-Tech, Donzi, and a few others are making new outboard offshore sport models. Adrenaline and Hustler have really compelling designs with really smart seating layouts. Active Thunder was early to the game years ago, offering their 27’ and 29’ in outboard versions.
V hull offshore sport boats are still the epitome of luxury and performance, the market is demanding more comfort, performance and design. Will some of the legacy builders catch up to the more progressive builders? They will, or they will perish making really expensive bathtubs.