Lewis Eclipse V-Drive Review

Issue: April 2004
Manufacturer: Lewis Boats 

There have been many rumours of late about the practice of building wakeboarding boats with floooding tanks, to increase the size of the wake the hull generates, may be coming to an end. It seems that ‘the powers that be’ are now considering outlawing these tanks, because they greatly affect the gross weight carrying capacity of individual boats. Look at it this way, if a boat is licensed to carry 800kg, or six adults, and then you add another 400kg plus of water ballast, if the six adults were onboard, then the boat would be grossly overloaded. We’ll have to wait and see the outcome of this one, but some boat manufacturers are already looking at hull designs that can still produce excellent wakes for ‘boarders without using flood tanks, or portable Fat Sacks and the likes. 

Steve Parker, from Lewis Ski Boats, is one such designer/builder who is continually tweaking his designs to improve his products. Lewis also has wakeboats in its range with flooding chambers and Steve is one of the first to agree that using flood tanks is the best way of enhancing wakes ‘ check out the superb Lewis Challenger range ‘ but it’s not the only way. The new 6.45m Lewis Eclipse V-Drive is one such boat that’s right up there when it comes to top ‘boarding wakes, but it achieves these good wakes through hull design and engine placement ‘ hence the use of the V-drive ‘ rather than added ballast. 

At 6.45m (6.95 including swim platform), or 21′ 4′ for those of us that still talk about boat lengths in feet, the Lewis Eclipse is a fair lump of a ski/wakeboarding boat in terms of buoyancy. So, by utilising a V-drive and mounting its 350 MPI 315hp MerCruiser 365kg engine as close as possible to the transom, at 22mph the downwards pressure exerted by the engine’s weight, combined with the angle of the hull and its bottom shape, produce excellent wakes for all styles of wakeboarding. The Eclipse hull is ‘stepped’ to break the water’s surface tension. It has an extremely sharp bow entry and wide chines reaching well forward towards the bow for top rough water handling and lateral stability. 

These chines create mini tunnels between the outer extremities of the hull and the keel, but there are also small tunnels moulded into the hull bottom next to the chines for even better tracking. Consequently, the Eclipse hull tracks like a ‘Go Kart’ on rails. But it is also the combination of the downwards pressure exerted by the weight of the engine and the water passing through the tunnels in the bottom of the hull, that help the boat’s hull form top ‘boarding wakes. Because these wakes are well formed they hold their shape in tight turns. Another contributing factor to this hull’s performance is its ‘delta & at’, which begins under the driver’s seat, where the fins are also located, at 2” wide and extends all the way back to 19″ wide at the transom. 

This enables the hull to rocket onto the plane during skiing applications, or general cruising and helps improve overall fuel economy. As a general rule of thumb, this 5.7lt V8 chews about 15lt per hour during a day of general running around in between sessions of ‘boarding/skiing. Not bad. However, after 20 years in the military, which left me with a bit of arthritis in both knees and a suss back, you could say I missed the wakeboarding craze. But having spoken to countless ‘boarders and boat builders alike, I have a fair idea of what riders want from a wake. On the day of this test, wakeboarding identity Richard Whitheld did all the onwater tricks, including some that would have left this body twisted like a pretzel and he gave the Eclipse the definite thumbs-up. Oh to be young again. Richard’s in flight antics made boarding look as easy and as graceful and as dancing a waltz. 

The analogy they’d have drawn if I’d been me out there on the end of that rope would have been more along the lines of ‘falling off a log’. Richard summed up this boat as having the right level wakes for any level rider. But with a price tag of only $53,000 (as tested), I’ll also add at the right price. With a price like this some readers may suspect that a few corners may have been cut in the quality of fixtures and fitting used in the Eclipse’s construction. But having seen the Lewis factory in operation and watched their boats being built, I can vouch for the standard of expertise, workmanship and quality of components used. 

The savings come from keeping overheads low, making many of the boat’s components themselves and not applying as high a mark-up on the finished product. Buyers still get Faria gauges, wood-grain trim, a sports steering wheel and quality Clarion stereo, but there’s also an added plus that is not quite as obvious ‘ the padding under the upholstery. It’s made from extremely high-density foam that continues to spring back into shape after literally hundreds of hours of heavy-duty use. Yes, it does feel firm to sit on, but it’s not uncomfortable and its longevity makes it a much more durable choice for boat seats. 

As far as layout goes, the forward bowrider is heavily padded and carpeted, it features plenty of under-seat storage and has the obligatory grab handles and drink holders. The raked toughened glass windscreen is high enough to protect the main cockpit occupants completely from the slipstream and the wake tower/bimini set-up is a ‘pearla’ that adds style and functionality to the boat. The helm station is a driver’s delight that features full instrumentation, an adjustable steering wheel and a slideadjustable driver’s seat. The main cockpit is open and uncluttered and features an L-shaped lounge for the observer and other passengers. 

The engine bay and cavernous portside storage locker hatches are supported by gas rams and double as a sun pad when both are closed. On the starboard side there’s a large under floor locker and walkway that accesses the transom and swim platform making boarding from the water a breeze. The boat comes mounted on a driveon/ off ‘Easytow’ tandem trailer that makes launch and retrieval easier. Plus, being fully galvanised it should give years of trouble free boating. Out on the water, the 350 MPI 315hp V8 MerCruiser delivered smooth and flawless performance driving through a fourblade Nibral prop. 

On the day of the test it delivered the following speed-to-rpm reading: 10mph at 2000rpm; 21mph at 2500rpm; 29mph at 3000rpm; 40mph at 4000rpm and 45mph at 4200rpm (Wide Open Throttle). For mine, this hull/ engine combination was near on perfect, but there are other options available, such as the 5.7lt 270hp MerCruiser, or an MX 6.2 320hp MerCruiser, which would probably be the choice of those doing more skiing than wakeboarding and skating. In summation, the Lewis Eclipse V-Drive is an ideal wakeboarding/water skiing boat for the family, or specialist ‘boarder alike, but more importantly it’s offered at an extremely reasonable price. The fixtures and fittings are first class, the hull/motor performance is flawless and the wakes she produces will have any boarder heading skywards, while bopping to the enormous sounds emanating from the massive ‘boom box’ speaker riding high on the tower. 

Lewis prides itself on the standard of finish of its boats and the Eclipse V-Drive is testament to the quality of boats now being produced by Aussie boat builders. 

Words by Ian Macrae