By: MARK BRACKS, Photography by: MARK BRACKS


A little-known South Aussie boatbuilder is making big waves with an innovative little tow boat with a jet-sprint heritage that packs one hell of a punch, and is aimed fair and square at stealing sales from the big players. Mark Bracks reports


Last New Year's I was out with some friends staying on a houseboat for a few days on the beautiful Lake Macquarie on the NSW central coast, and during that time we were joined by a few guests.

One of the visitors had what I thought was a speed boat. I said hopefully: "Nice boat - must be worth a bit. Any chance of a ski?" To which he replied, "Yeah, it's from the States and worth about 70 grand but you can't ski behind it, it's a wakeboarding boat, it's got too big a wake."
"Well you got a longer rope? Seems a lot of money to pay for a boat you only do 15 knots in!"
That last comment didn't go down too well, but it serves to highlight the gulf developing between boat designs for the different sports. It seems that you're either one of the old school of purists who enjoys the speed and power of skiing or the new school of wake-boarding aerobatics enthusiasts.
Happily, though, if you look hard enough there are boats out there that can cater to devotees of both sports, which is certainly handy for large families.
When in Adelaide recently I discovered an awesome Aussie boat that caters to both ends of the high-performance spectrum. The Extreme X-Factor will give the better known and more expensive imported items a real slalom run for their money!




The 6.2m X -Factor is one extreme boat. It's a remarkable craft and will surprise even the most blasé performance boat driver with its handling and performance, the final result coming from years of experience in two different variations of Australia's favourite extreme summer pastimes.
Extreme Ski Boats is owned and run by ex-slalom champion, Craig Irons, so you could say he knows a little of what makes a good skiboat. After retailing other manufacturers' craft for some time, he decided to have a go at his own. The designer of the X-Factor is Darren Phillips, a jet-sprint frontrunner who designed his own sprint boats - he retired in 2002. One of his boats was also national champion in 2004 and is the current national number two, so it makes for a pretty potent combination.
The pair put their heads together to come up with the design that is as impressive to look at as it is to steer with the original craft being designed for the 2003 Adelaide Boat Show. So far 40 craft have been built.
Darren had free reign to bring his idea to reality, incorporating what has made his sprint boat design such a potent weapon: horsepower, manoeuvrability, stability under hard turns at ballistic speeds, and remarkably quick to plane.
If the opportunity arises I enjoy going to the boatbuilding factory before heading out onto the blue in a new boat, and Darren was more than keen to explain his hull design with one of the latest orders sat on the rack nearing completion.




The hull features a reverse angle delta-pad with a taper from the middle of the hull to the stern, and combined with planing strakes for more just over the length of the front half of the hull, works to aid in rapid planing while producing less cavitation, Darren explained. There is also a trim tab for changing the attitude in ski or wake mode.
Also with the angle of the hull the stabilising fin amidships doubles as a debris detecting device instead of the prop!
He further explains that the downturn chines aid in handling, concluding with a smile, "You'll see what I mean when you take it on the river."
The craft is 6.2m long including the timber ski platform with a 2.2m beam, and has since undergone two incarnations. Originally, it was a full-deck ski-boat but then came the bow-rider option with opening screen and now in production is a walk-thru bow-rider. Some storage space may have been sacrificed up front, but it allows more friends to share the pleasure - and you'll have plenty lining up!
No matter the choice of deck format you opt for, the boat has two moulds: the hull and the deck which are combined with all seats part of the upper mould. If ballast tanks are required they are moulded as part of the hull - a 150lt tank running either side of the hull makes up part of the structural strength of the craft filled by access at the bow and emptied by large bungs at the rear.
Craig claims that it is a fairly unique design as all the air is expended when filling the tanks and so the boat "sinks" easier as Darren explains, "Have you ever tried to sink an upturned bucket? It's the same with ballast tanks in some other boats; there's still air there so it's hard to get them to lower in the water."
With the X-Factor, that doesn't happen, Darren claims, and as such you don't need as much water to sink it so there is also no need for "fat sacks" either to clutter the floor.




As in any good skiboat, you basically sit on the floor with the rearward facing observer/passenger seat part of the mould. The front seat lifts out for storage. The driver sits in a moulded adjustable bucket seat with the Morse instruments housed in a trick optional carbon-fibre dash with a large speedo and tacho on the left-hand side of the panel. All are easy to read with the throttle in easy reach with unhindered operation and plenty of bracing to place your feet.
On the pilots' left is a drinkholder and behind that is a handy six-can esky, with the three-piece screen opening for access to the bow and is carpeted throughout.
The rear of the engine cover can either incorporate another seat or drinkholders. There is a wraparound removable rear seat for accessing the stern and ski ropes, large hatches for more storage as well as the newly incorporated 200lt fuel tank that sits laterally across the hull. There are also four stainless-steel pop-up cleats around the gunwales.
There's no mistaking it's a high velocity boat - the big bubble engine cover in the middle of the deck blows any idea that it's a simple runabout.
We headed to Murray Bridge (about an hour outside of Adelaide) to test the boat.
It literally jumps on the plane the instant you hit the throttle and lopes along extremely well, getting to speed in a blink. The way it sits with the swept-down nose means visibility is excellent. With the MerCruiser power it hits a top speed of close to 100km/h at around 4500rpm. At full noise Craig said, "Now, turn it hard!" Turning the wheel violently to port it was like the X-Factor was tracking on submerged rails. The hull didn't tilt a bit! With hardly any loss of speed it just sat level, spun like a top and took off again! Stunning - no wonder Darren had a smile on his face when he was explaining his designs. A merciless driver could put a skier/rider into orbit!
The X-factor handles just like a jet-sprint boat. Fast, precise, stable steering, very quick to plane, confidence inspiring ride and performance that will have you laughing louder than Fran the Nanny!




In ski mode there is next to no wake: a flat stream of white water departing the boat, but when the tanks are full and the trim tab has been tuned there is a wake that would keep a Hawaiian surfer stoked! There was a respectable ramp for great pop off the lip and wakeboarding speeds.
There's plenty of options to personalise the craft including a wide range of colours with a newly designed bimini also part of the accessories list. It also comes with a seven-year structural warranty and an Easy Tow trailer is included in the price.
The X-Factor will undoubtedly grow in popularity. It's not only the ride but the attention to detail that proves what value for money it is, especially when you look at the pricetag of some higher-profile brand names.
Now, to save the pennies!




* Awesome performance, drive and handling
* Flat wake for skiing, good ramp for riding
* Seven-year warranty on hull
* Good design and craftmanship




* Lower-profile brand name may affect resale price
* Small dealer network makes it difficult to see the boat in the flesh in the eastern states
* Some of its competition has all-fibreglass construction; X-Factor has timber insert in centre of floor




Specifications: Extreme X-Factor




Price as tested (BMT): $47,175
Options fitted: 315ci MerCruiser V8, graphite dash, bowrider (can be retro-fitted), Fluid Core wakeboarding tower, bimini cover, fibreglass gelcoated ballast tanks
Priced from (BMT): $33,300 with MerCruiser Soft Clutch with painted Easy Tow galvanized trailer




Material: Fibreglass
Design: Reverse angle, delta taper hull
Length overall: 6.2m with ski platform, 5.7m sans platform
Beam: 2.1m
Draft: 0.65m
Deadrise: N/A
Towing weight: 1150kg




Rec/max HP: 270/330hp inboard
Fuel: 200lt
Passengers: Eight-person (bowrider), six-person (centre-mount)
Ballast: 150lt per side (optional)




Make/model: 315ci MerCruiser
Type: V8 inboard four-stroke petrol
Output: 270hp




Extreme Ski Boats,
73a O'Sullivans Beach Rd,
Lonsdale, SA.
Phone: (08) 8384 6268



Originally published in TrailerBoat #196

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