Issue: July/August 2005
That do Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, JFK and Marilyn Munroe have in common’ No, they are not all singers, although the infamous Ms Munroe did sing ‘happy birthday Mr President’, once. They have all owned a Chris-Craft speedboat at one time.
In 1874, at the age of 13, Christopher Columbus Smith built his first boat a wooden lake boat designed for duck hunting. Chris had a natural talent for working with wood and he and his brother Henry went on to build many boats with great success.
As their reputation spread, the Smith Brothers developed an interest in racing boats. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Chris started building speedboats and experimenting with a variety of hull and petrol engine combinations. This quest for speed resulted in highly innovative hull designs with elegant, sleek lines that flashed across the water with, in those days, unprecedented velocity.
However, along with the speed also came luxury and the introduction of fibreglass allowed Chris-Craft to achieve new standards in deep-vee hull design and manufacture. The company went on to build an extensive range of boats for just about every type of recreational boating. And while they no longer build wooden hulls, wood is still a significant feature in every boat that leaves the factory today.
Enough of this history lesson, what about the Chris-Craft range on offer now’ There are nine models available from the 20 Corsair Speedster to the magnificent Roamer 40. This test boat (the Corsair 28) is a 28-foot runabout with a finish and performance that’s to die for.
What makes these boats so seaworthy is the fundamental geometry of the hull design and bulkheads that ensure their rigidity. Because of this rigidity, the Corsair 28 gives a soft and stable ride, even in choppy conditions, as the deep-vee hull slices through the water cleanly.
Out on the water, this Chris-Craft Corsair puts in an impressive performance under the power of twin Volvo 5lt GXI 270hp petrol engines. The Corsair 28 really gets up a boggies, topping out at 52mph in choppy conditions with ease. Pulling 3500rpm, she’ll cruise comfortably all day at 42mph, while 15mph at 2000rpm gets her up and planing.
As readers can imagine, even at 28 feet in length, her race-bred hull gives her all of the handling and performance of a 20-foot ski boat, without any banging or spray coming inboard. Push the hammers down and this almost 4000kg hull rockets out of the hole and planes easily. There is now excessive bow rise and a little ‘trim out’ has the hull kimming along effortlessly.
Away from her flashy performance, it’s her sleek lines and classy looks that draw the eye. All of the boats imported into Australia by Chapman Marine feature what Chris-Craft call its Heritage Pack ‘ the heavy use of teak decking and wooden features which combine to transport us back to a classic time. She looks like a classic runabout, but modern construction processes and techniques ensure buyers get a super-strong hull that can handle anything you many wish to throw at her.
It is the company’s longstanding expertise with wood and exquisite interior workmanship that will have all boat lovers in awe. Double stitched leather upholstery, teak decking, coamings, transom walkway and forward sun pad, barbeque/sink unit, pop-up cleats and plenty of drinkholders and grab rails ‘ the list of features goes on and on. While there is a double berth in the cabin, the headroom is a bit low, so this area is normally used for storage. But there’s nothing stopping you from stretching out for a kip below deck. Plus, for the ladies, there’s also a VacuFlush toilet in the cabin.
For the skipper, the helm area is well laid-out with analogue instrumentation and a wide, heavily padded bolster seat that gives good vision through the windscreen. Th e split windscreen gives access to the bow, but unless you wish to go forward to soak up a few rays there’s little need, the windlass takes care of all anchoring tasks.
Chris-Craft has been building these magnificent vessels for more than 130 years. It has created the perfect blend of fibreglass and wood to deliver a high performance craft that turns heads wherever it goes. They are stylish boats with a classic look that, even though they are aimed at something of a niche market, will have all boat lovers drooling.
With a price tag of $240,000 they are not cheap to buy, but remember, you only get what you pay for and that’s a lot with the Chris-Craft Corsair 28.
The test boat was powered by twin Volvo 5lt GXI V8 270hp petrol engines. Engine options range from 210hp diesels through to massive 8.1lt 420hp V8s capable of propelling this boat to a top speed of more than 70mph.
With three adults onboard in choppy conditions the Corsair 28 recorded the following performance figures.
Speed to RPM: 10 mph @ 1600 rpm, 15 mph @ 2000 rpm, 28 mph @ 3000 rpm, 41 mph @ 3600 rpm, 42 mph @ 4000 rpm, 52 mph @ 4850 rpm.
DEADRISE: 20 degree
+ Magnificent finish
Top performance & handling
– Low cabin headroom