BOAT TEST: FORMULA ICON 54

By: DAVID LOCKWOOD

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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The impressive Icon 54 cruiser from New Zealand boatbuilder Formula answers the call of the serious coastal cruiser, discovers DAVID LOCKWOOD

BOAT TEST: FORMULA ICON 54
Formula Icon 54

One of the great things about pleasureboating is the chummy bunch of seafarers you meet along the way. A wave as you pass to port becomes a chat at a shared anchorage then a meeting after pulling your tender to shore. Thereafter the offer of drinks at sunset on their deck and, if all goes well, future cruises in company. Of course, discussions soon turn to boats. Listen up: you can glean a lot from fellow sailors, their experiences, trials and tribulations.

It's word of mouth that led to the recent launch of Formula's eighth Icon 54, Karizma, pictured hereabouts. Needless to say, the owners didn't take their $2 million-plus purchase lightly. After all, they are serious cruising types who like nothing better than getting away from it all at Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast. Jervis Bay - where there's no marina, no safe access to a fuel wharf, or fresh water, and the winds blow hard - doesn't suffer fools or lesser boats. While their previous production-built Riviera 48 (this writer shared anchorages with them in that boat) was faithful right up to the end, the Formula Icon 54 is a different kettle of fish.

Purpose-built for adventure boating, Karizma boasts twin 825hp MTU Series 60 engines so you can run hard and fast at sea, beat a storm and power to your homeport, if not easily reach the canyons for some big tuna or mahi mahi in the pan. At night, heavy-duty anchoring gear - a 63kg plough and 100m of 12mm chain - keep you safe, while the build quality and engineering is survey-like in its application.

Pack the family, the fishing gear, but leave your boating worries behind - that's pretty much the charter of the Formula Icon 54 - and everywhere you look there's evidence of a boat built to go the distance. Open the fridge, for example, and you'll see factory-made stainless steel retaining catches that keep the shelves in place. No flying fridge doors and provisions on the floor in Karizma.

 

 

FORMULA FOR SUCCESS


It's almost a year to the day that we last tested the Formula Icon 54. That boat, Weaponry, was launched for a Kiami-based boater. This 54, Karizma, is bound for another Kiama-based boater. See what we mean about getting the good oil from fellow boaters? Only Karizma is more family orientated and, thus, arguably the most comfortable of all the 54s on both sides of the Tasman. "We went for a run on Weaponry and were convinced," says Karizma owner Scott. "That was the clincher. We loved the ride."

As with most boatbuilders, Formula has evolved the Icon 54 in even just the last year. "A lot of the changes are subtle improvements on what we know works from our previous boats," said Troy Woods, Formula's sales and marketing manager, "but taken as a whole they are significant. Karizma would be without doubt the most cruising orientated Icon 54 we have built to date and most areas onboard have undergone some degree of change to better reflect the owner's plans for the boat."

In good economic times, Formula trots out eight big boats a year in a range of flybridge cruisers that also includes the 58, 62 and 68. There's now a new 42 (formerly the Eureka 42) and 10.4m cat (just tested). The yard works closely with its customers, from concept stage to eventual delivery, happily tweaking internal layouts to suit particular boating bents. Along the way, you get log-in details to your boat's website to monitor its progress. There's a lot of dialogue and discussion to ensure you get exactly what you want. Oh, and with the present exchange rate, that includes 25 per cent more boat for your buck.

Grant Senior, Formula's general manager, owner, shipwright and marine architect, says it usually takes about 24,000 man-hours to build an Icon 54. The boats are very much a labour of love and <I>Karizma</I> is built like all Icon hulls, to survey standards, with a solid (2.5cm thick) fibreglass hull below the waterline and vacuum-bagged Corecell foam-cored sides and decks.

The hull is an interesting one - a warped-plane design with variable deadrise from a sharp 58-degree entry at its forefoot to 21 degrees of deep-vee just ahead of the engines to a relatively flat 10 degrees at the transom. Efficiency is generated by the flat run aft and the low 7.9-degree shaft angles, as is stability.

In reverse, the boat also scoots back without digging in like a traditional deep-vee; this endears it to gamefishing. With a 2.16m of freeboard in the huge flared bow you can travel at displacement speeds - or troll all day into a headsea - without shipping water like a submarine. The boat pushes the water away and it rides over the swells.

But the wonderful 11.2m² of cockpit space is as much a motivator for outdoor pursuits. Then comes an aft galley, big saloon with almost two metres of headroom throughout, huge amount of storage space including outdoor rod locker, three-cabin layout, and enclosed bridge for cruising in comfort. Wind shifts and fronts usually come at night in Jervis Bay, so the bridge has a bed for the skipper.

Compared with other locally-made cruisers around the same length, the Icon 54 is wider but lighter, displacing about 30,000kg loaded. The boat is backed by a 10-year warranty, twice that offered by some Australian production yards, and the company looks just as solid.

 

 

NEW GEAR


The Formula 54's huge foredeck resembles a flight deck. Besides the beefed-up anchoring arrangement, with provision to fit a bridle - thereby removing chain noise while sleeping at night - there's a 500kg Davco davit, Nautica tender and liferaft, and still plenty of floor space left over for doing sundowners with guests. The wide walkaround decks are just as useful and, with a high bowrail reaching well aft, kid crew can head forward without fear of falling overboard. New moulded steps in the cockpit also help with foredeck access, while the survey-height coamings provide safety back in the cockpit.

Among the other new features are smart frameless glass windows that bring a more modern look to the exterior - and more light into the interior. With smart engine vents high-up on the superstructure sides, and a two-pack painted hull, the Icon 54 looks sharp. The high quality, heavy-duty stainless steel rails, aft rocket launcher, and outriggers point to the offshore intent, but the crossover cockpit can cut it any which way.

While there are concealed gaff racks, a walk-in rod locker for hose-down tackle cleaning, 200lt-plus in-transom livebait bin, big outward opening marlin door, and heavy-duty hawsepipes, at the same time you get aft-facing lounges under the moulded overhang (200lt freezer contained underneath) and twin teak tables for up to eight people at lunch. Dive tank storage is included, too, giving owners and their family the ability to play above and below water or attend running-gear issues.

 

 

INDOOR DESIGNS


The high-gloss cherrywood joinery, buff headliners and timeless beige carpets create a liveable interior with the right amount of luxury and serviceability. Even at close inspection the fit and finish are hard to fault, while the layout flows in a bump-free manner at sea. Same goes for the internal staircase, which wends up to the cruising-oriented flying bridge in a supportive manner.

<I>Karizma</I> has a new 0.5m longer, fully enclosed and air-conditioned flybridge with a forward helm position and full aft bulkhead complete with electric drop-down window. A second outdoor docking station on the bridgedeck, which has seating for four, assists with manoeuvring at the marina. There were also bow and stern thrusters.

The twin helm seats offer great views forward, a bow camera monitors anchor retrieval, while a big spread of Raymarine electronics assist navigation. The L-shaped flybridge settee converts into a double bed, in effect creating a private fourth cabin. As the owners' plan to cruise with extended family, this area will be well utilised. A fridge is nearby, while the lighting plans include underwater lights.

Back down in the saloon, the aft galley is ideally located for feeding the family back outdoors, via the electric window, when not flipping a steak on the electric barbie. Appliances range from four-burner cooktop, oven and grill, and convection microwave to dishwasher and oversized fridge and freezer with ice and water dispenser. There's abundant storage space, upmarket Corian counters, soft-close drawers and a built-in wetbar with glass and bottle storage. The AC/DC control panel now features BEP (Kiwi-made) C-Bus switching on a touch-screen display.

The inviting U-shaped lounge to port can seat eight people around a dinette/coffee table, but the electric pedestal converts this dinette into another double bed. A two-person lounge is opposite and all seating enjoys good views of the flatscreen (satellite) TV in the forward cabinet. With the generator and air running, noise levels were pleasantly low and unobtrusive - the boat's engines have underwater exhausts - while a 4000W inverter lets you run the AV in silent-ship mode, too.

 

 

HOME SWEET HOME


Down the companionway is a roomy three-cabin and two-head layout. The starboardside cabin has crossover bunks, the VIP cabin up front features an island berth and there's a communal or shared en suite. The owners' stateroom amidships to port boasts an island berth and en suite with man-sized shower and Tecma head. All told, there's comfortable sleeping for up to 10 people in three cabins, the saloon and flybridge.

But that's not to say the boat isn't setup for game fishing, with a number of tournaments planned already. To this end, <I>Karizma</I> has a huge, dedicated, security alarmed rod locker, concealed gaff and tag pole lockers, Reelax gamechair, large cockpit freezer, livebait tanks, and Raymarine electronics package with 3kW and 1kW deep-water depthsounders, and high-definition digital radar. After the rods are bundled away, the clan will return for more cruising.

Servicing room is excellent around the MTUs in their fan-assisted, watertight engineroom and the 17kW Kohler generator in the aft engineering space, where you'll also find a washer-dryer ready to serve at holiday time. Icon 54 number three has 1000 hours on its MTUs and they've performed brilliantly, we're told, while <I>Weaponry</I> (#7) clocked up 400 hours in its first year.

With 4000lt of fuel, you can really go places, aided by the 1000lt of water and, moreover, the FCI watermaker. And, take it from us, a long, hot deck shower after a day's play in Jervis Bay is close to boating nirvana. Lights out, with the big anchor down below, you will sleep comfortable in the knowledge you have jumped aboard this boat.

 

 

(Facts & figures)
Formula Icon 54

 

 

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING


Offshore, the stiff and strong warped-plane Formula hull cuts a real swathe. The twin MTU 825hp engines give a top speed of over 32kts with comfortable cruising speed of 26kts, which is fast for a 54 footer. At 20kts, the save working range is more than 500 nautical miles and at 10kts it's almost twice that. And when you take up station in the bridge, well, you do feel like going somewhere special. The ride feels great and, although a lot of water is thrown about, the Carolina flare throws it out. And in the hardtop, you only need switch the wipers and turn-up the air-con. A cruising beauty.

 

 

PRICE AS TESTED


Approx $2.5 million w/ MTU Series 60 diesel engines, and options

 

 

OPTIONS FITTED


Semi-custom fitout with upgraded Raymarine electronics (3kW and 1kW transducers, 48nm HD digital radar, E140 hybrid touch screens), ICOM HF radio, satellite TV (Raymarine), settees convert to beds in saloon and FB, saloon table in electric leg converting from coffee table to dining, FCI watermaker, liferaft, Reelax heavy duty rod holders, tender, custom fitted and alarmed rod locker, and more.

 

 

PRICED FROM


Approx $2.125 million w/ twin MTU Series 60 diesel engines

 

 

GENERAL


Material: Solid GRP hull w/ resin-infused vacuum-bagged decks and hardtop
Type: Warped plane variable deadrise monohull sans keel
Length overall: 17.8m
Hull length: 16.4m
Beam: 5.65m
Draft: 1.2m
Weight: 24,000kg dry w/ std. engines, some 30,000kg loaded

 

 

CAPACITIES


Berths: 10
Fuel: 4000lt
Water: 1000lt
Holding tank: 270lt

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model: 2 x MTU Series 60
Type: Six-cylinder turbo-diesel with common rail fuel injection
Displacement: 14lt
Rated HP: 2 x 825
Max. RPM: 2300
Gearbox (Make/ratio): ZF/2.192:1
Propellers: ZF Faster 34 x 41.5in

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


Formula Cruisers
P.O. Box 84-022 Westgate, Massey,
Waitakere, 0657, NZ
Troy Woods, Sales and Marketing Manager
Phone: +64 (0)21 555 344; +64 9 416 4836; +64 9 416 5476
Email: troy@formulacruisers.com
Website: www.formulacruisers.com

 

 

TRADEABOAT SAYS


A shining example of New-Zealand boatbuilding talent, the Icon 54 will be hard to miss on the waterways. No doubt, there will be a throng hoping to get an invitation aboard. Meanwhile, the family can rest easy at night in the knowledge they've bought one of the very best bluewater cruisers in the Antipodes. Formula has just sold the ninth 54. It's not heading for Kiama - the tiny harbour wouldn't fit another one - but word has got around the WA waterfront. It could be the start of something big as the boat fits with the Wild West's way of adventure cruising.
 

Find Formula Icon boats for sale.

 


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