As you might imagine, even the concept of a boy racer’s boat is likely to get a few eyebrows twitching at your local yacht club.
Ancient mariners will dust off their corduroy and come running, shotguns in hand, to root out the errant commoner. Serial petitioners will leap at the chance to sidestep their empty lives and lobby Government for an immediate ban on you, your boat and your right to breathe within two time zones of their Home Counties Estates.
But let’s get one thing straight. The boats we’re looking at here are not about a lack of respect or seamanship ability on the part of the driver – and neither are they about throwing vast amounts of cash at a high-end race craft adorned with the brash, vajazzle-happy aesthetics of an 80s hot-hatch. Instead, they are about two very simple things: (1) helming dynamics that will get you grinning every time you take the wheel; and (2) a price, size and weight that a young man on limited budgets might realistically afford. If you don’t like these thoroughly fair and inclusive boating criteria, then you are probably too pompous to enjoy what follows. Otherwise, ignore sensible considerations like storage, seating, cup holders, dining stations (and the patronage of the Yacht Club Tweed Brigade) and indulge yourself in some brilliantly affordable fun…
(1) C-Fury Patrol AWC
A pair of hulls tends to mean flat, stable turns, efficient, idiot-proof trim and soft, user-friendly handling, but here, the short waterline length and the use of a hydrofoil mean this is a boat the keen driver can really enjoy.
Known as the Patrol Adventure Water Craft (AWC), the use of a Yamaha F70 (30hp more than its predecessor) means seriously responsive helming and it also comes with a much more entertaining options list than the rest of the range. Chief among the upgrades are an A-Frame and towbar for watersports, LED head and decklights, posh electronics and a 70-litre fuel tank (nearly three times the size of the original) so you can drive it as hard as you like and stay on the water all day. In fairness, it is a touch pricy for a boat of this size but it’s also great fun, cheap to run, cool to look at and capable in a lumpy sea. It’s difficult to argue with that.
(2) X-Jet 140
Small jet boats are always great fun, full of sideways slides, 360-degree handbrake-style turns and frothy, nose-high leaps onto the plane.
There are of course some relatively civilised models for the high-end tender market from the likes of Williams, but the X-Jet 140 is every bit as bright, striking and engagingly euphoric as the jet boat driving experience itself. Dressed in waspish black and yellow colourways, with a stooping bow and a fat planing surface, this Weber-powered 14-footer employs some dynamic automotive touches like raked engine vents and carbon effect dials on the dash, plus recessed mouldings for the cleats and useful aft space for skiers. It’s a happy, saccharine shot of simple jet boat fun.
(3) Phantom 16
The Phantom 16 was created in the late 1960s as a means of funding the race exploits of the boat’s designer, Steve Baker.
However, he was so impressed by the performance of the boat that even though he had designed it as a general-purpose runabout, he began racing it. It would go on to win the Class 3 Offshore Powerboat Championship in 1971 – and today, the Phantom 16 continues to be built in the UK alongside its larger sibling, the Phantom 18, to the original lay-up specifications. Available to buy as a bare hull or as a fully rigged boat with your choice of finishes and an Evinrude ETEC outboard, this attractively aggressive little missile of a boat might be impractical, but it is also fun, affordable and famously fast.
Search all Phantom 16 for sale – www.boats.com
(4) Sea Doo GTR 215
The pared back approach of the GTR 215 means that, despite being a three-seater, it weighs 20kg less than the two-man RXP-X (and nearly 100kg less than the suspension-equipped RXT) – and for the rider, this simple formula of huge performance on a small, lightweight platform means a radically fast, razor-sharp drive.
Better still, the extra slip of the recreational hull makes it much more stable in the chop and more forgiving at pace than the company’s race-ready boats. Yes, there are more complete craft in the Sea-Doo fleet (larger, smoother, more sophisticated, better specced and more comfortable) but this is unquestionably the high point. With no clever features to get in the way of the driving experience, a price of £12,299 makes this unrelentingly raucous boat one of the best value thrill machines you can buy.
Search worldwide for Sea-Doo GTR 215 for sale – www.boats.com
(5) Avon Seasport Deluxe 490
Finally, let’s take a quick look at the used market in the form of a personal favourite of mine that can now be yours for as little as £7,000.
The 490 used to be the second largest of Avon’s Seasport Deluxe tender range – and while you can still buy a new jet-powered 430 craft for around £30,000, this old outboard-powered model was a great driving boat. Heavily built with a squared off bow, large diameter tubes and a 115hp engine, it could seat six and dance its way through a lumpy sea with great dexterity and balance to a dry, comfortable and thoroughly entertaining top end of around 40 knots. If you can find one, it will make a mockery of its modest styling with performance to delight even the most committed boy racer.
Search all Avon Seasport Deluxe 490 for sale – www.boats.com
Postscript – Brilliant boy racer boats
There are lots of unassuming little boats that also deserve a place on this list – not least, the remarkably entertaining AMT 150R, the nimble Salcombe Flyer 440S or any number of aggressive, high-powered jet tenders. The pleasantly peculiar Zego Sports Boat is also good fun and (as illustrated by entry number five) the used market is full of small, fast RIBs from quality builders and traditional Fletcher-style hard boats for little more than pennies. Employ a little selectivity in the buying process and there are lots of great options for a man with a modest budget and a penchant for helming heroics.
For more exciting performance under power, take a look at: World’s Fastest Powerboats: 5 Famous Record Breakers or Five Classic Power Boats: Triana, Broom, Riva, Fairey, Albatross