Once upon a time, the use of aluminium as a boat building material was largely confined to commercial operators. But in the last decade or so, its reinvention for recreational purposes has been increasing exponentially, particularly in Scandinavia, where its resounding practicality has met with widespread approval. It should come as little surprise then that, while Finnish brand Finnmaster has been busy winning plaudits for its lovely T-Series day cruisers, it has also been investing heavily in a new line of aluminium runabouts.
What’s the Finnmaster Husky line all about?
As the name suggests, Finnmaster’s new Husky line is designed to provide faithful, unwavering companionship even in colder, more challenging, off-season conditions. To that end, it uses aluminium construction in the hull, allied to fibreglass topsides for much the same blend of commercial strength and leisure-friendly looks as Yamarin’s extremely successful ‘Cross’ line (see Yamarin Cross).
However, the Husky fleet is also designed to make the ownership experience that bit easier, with user-friendly boarding steps all round, a higher freeboard for safety, an open foredeck for versatility of application and a robustly elevated windscreen that very much prioritises protection over style.
While the first entrants in the Husky range were the R6, R7 and R8, the line has expanded more recently with the addition of the range-topping R8S and the all-new, entry-level R5. Young though it is, that means the Husky fleet now encompasses five boats, with everything from the modestly priced, 50hp, 18-foot runabout you see here, to a 25-foot, 300hp, 50-knot family sports machine costing around £90,000.
It is immediately plain that this 18-foot platform hails from a very practical boating culture. The standard Scandinavian bow rider layout features a full-beam three-man aft bench, a pair of individual seats for the helm and navigator and a step-trough screen partition to a bow that is pretty much devoid of seating. Instead, you get a conventional rail-assisted step-through bow, flanked by a pair of double fender baskets and (in standard guise) a simple boarding step at the front of the port console. The rest of the bow comprises empty space for easy movement and the stowage of bulky items, plus a relatively elevated freeboard for greater security and improved splash deflection. It’s also notable that, with a lockable panel beneath the central walkthrough section of the screen, the R5 also benefits from a proper, deepset family cockpit, offering first-rate protection from the elements.
Take a look on the outside and it is equally plain that the R5’s internal assets are well matched by external seamanship practicalities. Finnmaster has made no secret of the fact that its priority here is on a stable, easy-running hull that will run efficiently and flatter the novice. But as you might expect, the designers have gone a step further, by wrapping the upper section in thick rubbing strakes and including a lower rub rail around the swim platform that projects a decent way forward on both sides. In short, it’s no understatement to say that, with a layout designed for serious seamen, robust aluminium construction and a user-friendly hull designed to cope with the everyday knocks of family use, this is one of the most workmanlike 18-foot bow riders you are likely to see.
But happily, the R5’s resounding practicality in no way detracts from the clarity of its aesthetic. In line with all five platforms in the range, the sparing use of graphics and the simplistic black and white colourways feel strikingly clean, modern and forthright.
A question of performance
Like the R6, the new R5 is designed to be an efficient, user-friendly day-tripper with modest engine requirements, easy on board movement and agile performance – and the quoted figures support that. With Yamaha’s F70 outboard on the transom, it will poke its nose beyond the 30-knot mark and cruise at a commendably frugal 24 to 25 knots with about 15 litres per hour disappearing from your tank. That’s good news, because with a very modest integrated fuel capacity of just 63 litres, it needs careful throttling to keep the range up around the 100 nautical mile mark.
At the helm, Finnmaster’s ‘Smart Design’ concept, which we’ve witnessed before on the company’s more traditional fibreglass craft, also makes itself felt with fine helm ergonomics. The ‘Offshore’ seat comes with stiff wings to give you proper lateral support during a lively trip; the steepness of the screen keeps you fully protected from wind and water; and the near perfect throttle position is matched by an adjustable seat and a sturdy foot brace.
We haven’t yet experienced the R5 on the water, but given the very easy driving dynamics of the R6, R7 and R8 (all of which I’ve tested extensively in their home waters of Finland), I’m willing to bet that the fleet’s most compact hull is every bit as efficient, as confidence-inspiring and as enjoyable for a family day out. Osmo Roukala, Finnmaster’s R&D Director, certainly believes so. With the R5, as with the rest of the range, he has “concentrated on creating a silent, strong and robust hull” with “excellent driving characteristics.”
Naturally then, it would be easy to spec this boat with the basic F50 - but given the quality of the helm, the effectiveness of the hulls and the fact that the F70 costs less than £1,000 more, it makes good sense (for versatility as well as fun) to select the most powerful engine available.
Finnmaster Husky R5 summary
While the R5 is unlikely to find much favour with advocates of the American-style bowrider, its toughness of build, depth of accommodation and practicality of fit-out make it an indisputably capable boat. True, it contravenes the nominal purpose of a bow rider by making it largely impossible to ride in the bow – but by transforming this essentially frivolous form of leisure boat into a more spacious, practical, durable and workmanlike platform, it makes itself a much more serious contender for north European recreation than almost any other 18-foot bow rider out there. For more on the what to look for in a bow rider, see our Guide to Bow Riders.
Finnmaster Husky R5 specifications
LOA: 5.46 m
Beam: 2.1 m
Weight: 545 kg
Construction: 5083 aluminium (3-5mm)
Price: from £26,680