Issue: January 1999
Among the outstanding craft at Melbourne Boat Show last year were two new releases from local manufacturer Stejcraft Boats – the classy Monaco family runabout and an eye-catching bowrider-styled inboard centremount called the Extreme. The latter really stood out amid the myriad of every-day skiboats that filled a major portion of the Victorian show. It’s a very specialised centremount rig, built primarily for the blossoming wake-boarding market.
Wake-boarding, like other fields of waterskiing, has its specialties once you get serious about it, and the basis for excellence or expertise lies largely in the performance of the tow craft. Boarders need a flat wake with an edge that’s deeper than normal to give a launch platform for the tricks and aerial antics. They don’t want a rolling edge, nor a sharp crest, to that wake, and certainly the top of the wake should be flat and free of turbulence or prop wash tail.
Through a close involvement with wakeboarding events like the Nationals and Boardstock, Stejcraft have worked with the best talent in the country, and on the basis of that experience they developed the Extreme. A mild-vee hull with a very delicate variation in deadrise, a small flat along the bottom of the running surface, and smooth, round edge strakes, this boat is intended to snuggle into the water and create a wake, but to do so without being a slug. As our test showed this boat runs nice and clean, is light and smooth on the water, and will hug on tight no matter how hard or fast it’s turned. For a boat that was designed to create a very special wake, it runs more efficiently than a lot of other inboard centremounts I’ve tested in recent years. With an 18″ deadrise, the Extreme is also a very smooth-riding ski boat that doesn’t jar or thump over other boat washes. It glides ever so gently on to the plane without any hint of bow raising or need to give it a burst of power to get going.
The key to the Extreme’s success doesn’t lie solely with the hull design. Since the release of the first model, Stejcraft’s Tim Cantanese has been experimenting with a metal plate positioned on the underside of the hull just above, and slightly aft of, the propeller. Having fine-tuned the size and depth of the plate, he now feels that the principal is just about perfect. This metal plate, about 230mm wide and 100mm wide, helps the hull displace a wake that is pretty darn close to ideal. Its position below the hull bottom can be adjusted, although not while underway – the plate can be raised almost hard on to the underside of the hull for normal running and skiing, or lowered to the specific depth (about 25mm down) to create the wakeboarding wash. It is a matter of lifting out the rear seat and then lowering the plate and locking it in place. The test boat had the prototype with a screw-down action, while production models have this plate operated by a lever. The significance of the Extreme is that it doesn’t need added weight to create the boarding wake. A simple adjustment does it all, taking the boat from a conventional ski centremount to a wakeboarding specialist in a matter of moments.
I’d expected this plate to drag the boat down, throw up spray and generally play havoc with the handling and performance. Not so! In fact, there was nothing out of the ordinary at all. Above the water, the open layout is quite different. Combined with the futuristic styling and its stunning presentation (a deep green/black metallic gelcoat and a suede-like upholstery) it captures attention wherever it goes. The Melbourne Boat Show demonstrated that, and the Saturday morning of our test drew enormous interest at both the launching ramp and on the water. The cockpit flows around the starboard-side driver’s console, with ample space to move about, lounge about or simply get in and out. Naturally, the absence of any foredeck or passenger’s console frees up the boat enormously.. Although the driver is the only person afforded any immediate shelter with his screen and console, I don’t believe that it’s needed for the rest of the boat. This is a summer machine, designed for skiing when the weather is fine, with people getting in and out of the water and generally enjoying the open air. In any case, I didn’t think that sitting in the passenger’s/observer’s seat – the side-bow lounge or the rear seat – was all that much different to any other bowrider. Indeed on a hot day it is rather pleasant to catch a bit of cooling breeze.
Though the hull sits low in the water at rest and planes distinctively flat at all speeds, it is relatively dry. However, like any specialist ski boat, you can expect a bit of spray if you use the boat in open bays or windy and choppy conditions. Thanks to the open bowrider format, the engine box doesn’t seem to restrict space as much as it does in a traditional layout. In addition, on-board noise levels are extremely low, particularly at skiing and cruising speeds. It’s easy to carry on a conversation with passengers, and particularly the observer, without having to raise voices. The 260hp MerCruiser Competition Ski engine does little work in planing the hull at just on 2000rpm at slightly less than 10 knots. Propped down for wakeboard towing, the Extreme was extremely responsive to the throttle right through the range. Of course, this underpropping limited outright speed, but this boat is more about providing low down power for towing at around 3000 to 3500 revs (23 to 26 knots).
The Competition Ski engine, as the name implies, was developed specifically for inboard skiboats, and is a very effective package. Apart from numerous safety features (particularly in regard to sparking and fire safety) this engine is at home as a centremount installation. Gear change is smooth and positive, there is plenty of torque at low RPM and noise levels are very low. Behind the wheel, the Extreme is a delight. Stejcraft have gone to lengths to ensure you don’t have to be a contortionist to get in and out of the driver’s seat, and that you can drive it comfortably. Countering the overall low profile of the boat, there’s a set-down in the floor beneath the console to enhance leg room under the dash. Well positioned is the standard side-mounted MerCruiser throttle/gear lever with the slide release to prevent accidental engaging of forward or reverse gear. The Stejcraft Extreme is a very special, very attractive and very rewarding centremount ski boat. While built around the wake boarding market, it is flexible enough to be used for any form of social skiing.
Story by David Toyer.