By: Rick Huckstepp, Photography by: Rick Huckstepp

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She may be small as fibreglass fishing boats go but the soft-riding Formula 15 has all the right features in the right places to go just about anywhere for a fish on your own or with a couple of mates, writes Rick Huckstepp


There are some mighty little battle stations getting around on our waters and we found another recently that we couldn't wait to get a ride in. This particular rig is the Formula 15 built by Formula Power Boats Australia, who has their factory in Victoria.

The hull on the Formula 15 comes from the Haines 445 hull, which Formula procured, itself a model which has a good record as a small seagoing boat.  
The '15' is totally handlaid and as you will see, the company specialises in custom fibreglass work.
This test boat is owned by David Granville, past editor of this magazine and also Blue Water Boats & Sportsfishing. David has had many boats and tested many, many more for these publications.
Living on a canal estate, when the urge gets him, he wants to simply walk out the front door and go fishing. Subsequently, these short-notice expeditions offshore are generally solo and he has built the boat around his style.
As David put it: "I wanted a dual-purpose boat that I could go fishing for whiting with, fish the inland impoundments or chase blue marlin out wide. This was it."




Every little bit of space has been put to good use on the Formula including the anchor well. Why have a big anchor well and a token amount of rope in the bottom of it. This well was filled to the brim with 200m of rope and ground tackle so that anchoring on the snapper grounds in 80m of water could be done securely. The hatch can be held open by a bungy loop, and a split bollard with a locking pin for the chain keeps everything secure when on the run in rough water.
A Minn Kota 55lb electric motor with autopilot is mounted on the forequarter next to the anchor well. With the foot pedal attached, this electric motor may be controlled from anywhere on the boat.
The raised foredeck features a removable bum seat and three sturdy, rigid hatches. One is for stowage, in which case Granville stores an insulated fish bag and the other two hold the 90amp/h deep cycle batteries for the Minn Kota. These are hooked up to a 25amp CTEK charger with shorepower connection that keeps them topped up when this boat sits on its mini drydock in the canal. Once the crank battery is fully charged by the 70hp Suzuki, excess charge flows to top up the electric motor batteries when out on the water.
An icebox is secured to the floor between chocks to the side and the front of the console and aft edge of the raised foredeck to prevent it from sliding around in rough seas. It is easily removed for cleaning at the end of the day and features a removable cushion for use as a seat while the front of the console has a permanent padded backrest.
The console is a mini gameboat helm station to say the least. Its depth forward to aft has been kept to a minimum to retain maximum possible cockpit space.
While the bevelled face of the console holds the instrumentation for the outboard, Furuno electronics are mounted on a plate above them behind a tall wind-and-spray screen that is hinged at the console and collapses for towing or stowing under a low roof.




The fire extinguisher and battery control station are rebated in the face of the console and being designed around a one-man fishing show, is fitted with a Raymarine autopilot. While many would ask 'why bother?' they should try and set a spread of lures and teasers, rig live and dead baits at 12kmh while solo!
The remote for operating the autopilot is waterproof and hangs around the skipper's neck. Should he find himself on the wrong side of the fibreglass, the boat can be controlled immediately. There is also a kill switch on the console that immediately de-activates the autopilot so that the skipper can manoeuvre instantly in an emergency with the Sea Star hydraulic steering.
Granville utilises Reelax extended rodholders rather than space gobbling outrigger poles on the gunwales. While his soft plastic and light snapper tackle is stowed in racks each side above long stowage pockets, his billfish tackle which, is obviously heavier, stands in a rodrack at the aft end of his customised double seat.
Rather than being a proper seat, this module is one to lean against while at the helm. The top half hinges forward to reveal dry stowage and in the aft section of that top are twin tackle drawers behind a hatch.
In the deck between the lean seat and the transom bulkhead is a hatch which opens to an 85lt killtank that extends forward under the deck. It is large enough to hold a brace of mackerel or a bag limit of snapper.
The transom bulkhead has a hinged door that opens into the cockpit to allow full tilt on engines with large cowls. This is handy for various outboards on the market though not required once Suzuki's Trim Limit Switch is utilised. With it secured in position, it will stop a lot of water coming over the top of the engine well and into the cockpit.
There are plumbed livebait tanks, 30lt apiece, in each aft corner that will hold a dozen slimy mackerel each for those long days offshore chasing billies.
A sturdy bait-rigging table with a pair of rodholders installed may be removed from the transom if so desired.




Taking the boat out through the bar at Mooloolaba showed it to be one of the softest riding small boats I have experienced. Landings, after being fully airborne, were surprisingly gently and quiet. With the bowsprit so close due to the LOA, one felt like it might bury when hitting these waves at speed, but it proved to have exceptional buoyancy and no water came over the forequarters. Running along the 1.5m swell with wind on the beam, very little spray found its way to the helm. Manoeuvrability was also direct and effortless.
Holeshot was a little slow with two large adults on board and an increase in horsepower to remedy this will bring with it a lot more weight on the transom; something that the owner wanted to avoid. Re-propping to a four-blade Solas if regularly fishing with two on board, rather than a three-blade as fitted on the test boat for a solo occupant, might remedy this.
In any case it was no big deal and for its size, this boat has impeccable manners in big seas.
If you fish solo or as a pair this rig will do itself justice on the Australian impoundment scene, coastal estuaries or farther afield out on bluewater.




A 100 per cent workhorse
Well appointed for multitasking species
Gentle ride in rough seas
Dry and stable




Load-bearing experimentation with propellers to improve holeshot for bar crossings would be a good thing





Specifications: Formula 15




Price as tested:      $44,990
Options fitted:       Minn Kota, Furuno electronics, autopilot, VHF radio, dual batteries, CTEK charger, custom console and seat box, pop-up stainless steel cleats, two plumbed livewells, rodholders, and Reelax rod riggers
Priced from:          $29,990




Material:                Fibreglass
Length overall:       4.6m
Beam:          2.06m
Weight:                  1050kg (BMT dry)
Deadrise:               20º




Fuel:                      90lt
People:                  5       
Rec. max. HP:         90
Rec. max. transom weight: 170kg




Make/model:  Suzuki DF70
Type:                     four-cylinder four-stroke
Weight:                  162kg
Rated HP:              70
Displacement:        1298cc
Gearbox ratio:       2.42:1
Propeller:               17-inch three-blade Solas




Phillip Island Marine,
14 Beach Road,
Rhyll, Vic, 3923
Phone: (03) 5956 9238

Originally published in TrailerBoat #228

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