Sugar Sand Calais Jet Boat review

Sugar Sand Calais

Issue: July 2004

Manufacturer: Sugar Sand 

It’s a reasonable analogy to compare the Sugar Sand Tango 4+2 the Modern Boating team tested for the last issue with a Chev Corvette. Especially, if you can find a skid pan somewhere to do a few burnouts and doughnuts in a Corvette. Just for fun of course and without offending anybody if you get away from people, just like you can on the water in a Sugar Sand Tango 4+2. But on the other hand the Sugar Sand’s Calais is more your 7 Series BMW. It certainly looks as though high levels of performance can be taken for granted and indeed they can. 

But there’s a certain dignity with more than a touch of luxury attached to it and it comes with just a hint of looking down your nose regard for the fun and histrionics the Tango begs. Funnily enough, given the BMW 7 Series analogy, much of the Calais model’s appeal will go to fairly serious wakeboarders and skiers. Power options include the 250hp Mercury Optimax powerplant fitted to the test boat and remembering that the thrust is transmitted to the water through a Mercury Jet Drive, it provides plenty of that out of the hole thrust. Or so we thought until learning that the engine was still in run-in mode, the engine management computer restricts revs until after a predetermined amount of engine hours. 

So there was still more speed and acceleration yet to come. Although that, as they say, is getting ahead of the story. So, getting back to her looks, you can see for yourself from the photos that this is one beautifully styled boat. Style is the word, regardless of analogies and no more need be said about that simply because her style speaks for itself. Sugar Sand have shown tremendous commonsense with the Calais layout. And we went to considerable trouble to obtain photos of the boat looking down from directly overhead to show just how well it is laid out. Apart from the bow lounge area and the sunbathing pad over the engine room, the Calais interior is very like that of a car. 

There’s a pair of deep bucket seats for helm and passenger and a spacious bench seat behind that. The only thing missing is the transmission hump down the centre. But the flat floor is a deck and doors have no place in a boat anyway. The Calais storage lockers are enormous. Take the one beneath the bow lounge. Like the Tango, this is a lay upon type lounge rather than the sit up lounges we are more accustomed to in our locally built bow riders. In any case, it lifts on gas struts to reveal a spacious storage bin. 

During this test the bow storage locker contained no less than seven life jackets, plus an anchor, chain, a big bundle of rope, a few other boating life essentials, such as an EPIRB and V sheet and was far from being packed to its proverbial gills. Underneath the full width aft lounge there’s a ski locker. But if those not into skiing leave out the skis you’d be hard pressed to filll it. And then there’s the sunbathing pad atop the engine compartment, it lifts on gas-assisted struts to reveal the engine. 

But so compact is the 250hp Optimax power head there is more room on each side of the engine for even more storage bins. All the storage areas have easy to clean moulded liners and that in itself is some indication of the standard of finish clearly evident throughout the entire boat. Few boats indeed even approach the Sugar Sand Calais standards of finish, it’s really quite exemplary. The only problem with this is that it tempts dragging out the Beemer analogy once again, because that’s exactly the kind of classy deal you’re looking at. Setting style aside for a moment, however difficult that may be in this case and the other factor completely in keeping with all we’ve said to date is comfort.

Perhaps our poor overworked comparative Beemer doesn’t put any wind through your hair the way the Calais does, its seating is once again Beemer kinda comfortable. It’s surprising, but sitting at the helm, or in the matching passenger bucket seat behind the console, even though your head appears to be stuck well up into the slipstream above the slick aero windscreens, any buffeting from rapid passage through the air is minimal. The aft lounge is more affected as you’d expect, but the effects of slipstream even there are still acceptable. 

Also mounted behind the aft lounge is a stainless steel ski pole. What the bucket seats do have that both the aft and bow lounges lack though, is suspension. Yes sir, suspension seating, not that the ride on the day was a rough one, or at least not that we noticed. Like the Tango, the Calais had quite direct steering, which takes a few minutes to become accustomed to, but once you get used to it you wouldn’t have it any other way. The Calais longer waterline and greater bulk prevented the tight turns we enjoyed so much in her little sister; however, the same lack of dramatics under acceleration and in tight turns applied. 

Even experienced skippers won’t believe how well a Jet Drive performs until they’ve tried one themselves. The Mercury unit doesn’t have a gearbox, reverse is selected by the control lever lowering a bucket over the jet nozzle to redirect thrust, which means forward and reverse is seamless and being able to select reverse at any time effectively adds brakes. Brakes, an extraordinarily shallow draft and the never to be underestimated safety aspect of not having a propeller to endanger swimmers, what more could we ask for ?

The test Calais ran a Mercury Optimax 250hp power unit, which is the top rated option for this boat. Other options include Mercury’s 200hp Optimax and 240hp V6 EFI. A 210hp V6 EFI is the standard power unit. As we said earlier, although the engine in the test boat was still in running-in mode we enjoyed the sting in the Calais tail very much just the way it was. Nevertheless, with the benefit of hindsight and allowing that a few more hours would have brought more performance, we figured that more serious skiers and wakeboarders would have no problems finding room for one in their repertoire. 

Although sporty and spirited, one of this boat’s genuine graces is forgiving handling, white knuckles and the racer’s edge aren’t part of the game. The rest of the Calais commonsense is hidden literally below its skin. All handlaid fibreglass construction with enough inbuilt buoyancy to keep a Calais afloat and upright if it ever is swamped adds another safety factor that shouldn’t be underestimated. Sugar Sand hulls impress with their integrity on the water. They’re noticeably quiet, the usual rattlings and thumps expected in any boat moving fast across choppy water are still there, but they’re muted and unobtrusive. But it’s the way the Calais does things. We pointed that long bow back down the Broadwater towards the ramp. 

Playing with the standard equipment stereo I found a blues station on the radio, so we settled back to enjoy the ride. To hell with Beemers; we’re into boats. Anyway, on a balmy southern Queensland summer day we’d rather be cruising on down towards where the Gold Coast’s high-rise towers over the horizon, listening to great music, in a Sugar Sand Calais any day! A standard model Sugar Sand Calais with 210hp V6 motor will set you back around $48,840, plus dealer delivery charges. 

Words by Warren Steptoe