BOAT TEST: FORMULA 21

By: Phil Kaberry


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Don't be fooled by the traditional lines of Formula's 21ft wave-eater. This rig is on the right side of an evolution path that's made it the diehard coastal angler's wet dream...

BOAT TEST: FORMULA 21
Formula 21

FROM THE ARCHIVE: First published in TrailerBoat #179, April 2004 

 

 

Any angler worth his or her salt will notice two things about the Formula 21. First, its lines suggest exceptional rough-water capability; and second, the no-nonsense interior layout was designed by someone who fishes regularly and understands what works and what doesn't on a boat, and prefers keeping it simple rather than going stupid with useless accessories.

While I don't profess to be Australia's answer to Zane Grey, these distinctions were not lost on me when I first saw the F21 on its trailer at St Kilda Marina.

To me, the classic hull shape recalls Roger Moore-era Bond films and high-speed chases down Venetian canals. Sounds a bit fanciful, I know, but as it turned out I wasn't too far off the mark. The lines of this hull were designed in the 1960s by Jim Wynne for playboy offshore racer Don Aronow and branded Donzi. It proved unbeatable.

Adrian Clancy, proprietor of a boutique boatbuilding yard based in Bulleen, Victoria, bought the original moulds and spent the time perfecting what is now an incredible fishing machine.

Adrian's a bloke who happens to like fishing even more than he does going very fast in powerboats. What you see here is his idea of a perfect general-purpose fishing boat that's easy to tow and store, yet remains within the financial reach of many like him who live for weekends and fishing with a few mates.

 

 

THICK AS THIEVES



This hull actually measures 19ft 6in: the pod, which took more than 18 months of intensive trial-and-error testing to perfect, frees up interior space in the cockpit by doing away with the traditional outboard well. It also works to generate lift, buoyancy and stability. Add its length to the anchor-carrying bowsprit and you get your 21ft.

Structurally, the hull is made using traditional methods. Think 'glass-encapsulated timber box-stringers, handlaid fibreglass and vinylester resin. The major difference between the Formula 21 and some  of its competition is the amount of 'glass that goes into it.

The bottom, sides and bulkheads are immensely thick and strong. It's a heavy boat and feels rock-solid. For example, the cabin bulkhead is more than 15mm thick. It's my guess that a boat like this would outlast its owner.

The hull has a dramatically flared bow, slightly reversed gunwale sheerline and an incredible 60° of vee in the bow constantly variable to 20° in the stern. The chines reveal subtle reverse sheer, while two strakes either side of the keel help it track straight.

For a high-performance boat with such a lot of vee in the hull, stability is reasonable thanks to a healthy 2.39m beam. Most of the weight is low in the boat, and the full-width pod also contributes to its adequate stability.

 

 

HAIR TRIGGER



My time aboard involved a blast across Port Phillip, which graciously rolled out the red carpet in the form of steep metre-high waves. I admit to keeping speeds to a prudent 20 and 30kt - driving this boat is akin to trading your flea-bitten nag for a thoroughbred racehorse and takes a little bit of getting used to.

In the right hands it will win every "friendly" from the shelf to the ramp. Cautious Claudes like this writer will leave the racing to the rev heads, and instead enjoy the excellent ride at quick cruising speeds. An economical 3800rpm on the 200hp two-stroke returned 56kmh, while full throttle will realise a claimed 80kmh.

To sum up this rig's performance, I'd say the hull rides superbly but feels a little highly strung at speed until you get used to it. The more experienced hands of its owner would coax more knots in complete comfort, but I treated this steed wih respect.

These days, boats are often compared to cars as they get fancier and more, well, car-like. I'd say the F21 is similar in some respects to a mint-condition HR Holden - timeless, solid as a rock, polished, and lovingly finished in every nook and cranny, but with the convenience and comfort of a new Commodore. This is no Japanese sportscar with paper-thin panels and tacky accoutrements.

Built to 3C survey specifications, everything on the F21 is over-engineered in terms of build quality, fittings and workmanship. It's strong, timeless and classy.

Check that huge cockpit out: completely unobstructed. And what about the stern? You're looking at a boat that can fish three people over the back in real life - not in sales-brochure fairyland.

The hull is not self-draining - a downside for some - but the pod setup negates the chance of waves swamping the vessel by reserving the boat's transom height and adding buoyancy. In fact, the boat has very high sides all round. But two high-flow bilge pumps are installed just in case.

The pod has a custom berley bucket installed within arm's reach. Batteries and oil bottles are found behind triple-locking hatches in the transom bulkhead and are raised up off the floor. The transom coaming has a thick, padded bolster and a big, plumbed bait tank in the port quarter, as well as provision for a bait-preparation station.

Underneath the deck is a centrally located 260lt stainless-steel fuel tank complete with stainless lines and connections, and there are two cavernous moulded iceboxes beneath hatches in the floor. There are moulded recesses for the extinguisher and EPIRB, while the portside cockpit has the biggest sidepocket I've ever seen in a boat of this size. Just the place for fenders, lifejackets, gaffs and other
odds and ends.

The cockpit is serviced by a high-flow raw-water deckwash for post-session cleanups or to wash your hands. My only gripe with the cockpit - which as a rule has been designed with functionality in mind - is a raised lip atop the coaming that stops you from using it as a seat while fishing.

This cockpit is designed for active anglers that prefer to stand while fishing. In calmer conditions, the deck is big enough to accommodate two or three plastic outdoor chairs so you can relax while watching your lines. Or you could drop one of those big Baileys ice chests in the middle and sit on that - a popular factory option.

There are just two seats in this boat (not counting the five-foot bunks in the cabin), and those are two superb custom-made pedestal helm chairs.

 

 

KEEP IT SIMPLE



The big flat-top dash has a mile of room for mounting big electronic nav units and is sheltered by a tall, solid safety glass screen. Snazzy frills are dropped in favour of clean, simple, functional features like the stainless spoked wheel, spread of Faria gauges, switch panel, throttle, trim tab and windlass buttons and a binnacle compass. All you need, right?

The cabin is neatly finished but it ain't the Taj Mahal. It's got seated headroom, and you can fit a chemical toilet between the bunks. You can really load in the gear too, especially in the lined sidepockets on either side of the cabin.

Up on the foredeck you'll find a massive anchor locker serviced by an electric windlass. Get to it through the wide, padded cabin hatch - there's a bloody huge bowrail to hold onto while you're up there.

The engineering of the F21 is beyond reproach: hardware like cleats, bolts, wiring, hatch hinges and so on are oversized and top-quality. Six stainless rodholders are found in the stern and cockpit coamings, while the test rig had an optional rocket launcher.

 

 

JOIN THE FAMILY



Formula is a custom boatbuilder and deals with its customers directly, which means you can personalise your boat, to a degree. Most customers are anglers that have been there and done that, and as such each boat tends to be different. You can also pick whatever brand outboard you desire and have it factory-fitted.

A barebones F21 will set you back around $56,000 with a 200hp Mercury two-stroke. More than likely you'll want to fit a few extras: there's a long list of things you can add on from the popular side-opening dive doors to outriggers.

This boat is a workhorse but beneath its purposeful exterior are pedigree, beauty and understated class. The builder has an attitude of getting it right first time and delivering the sort of boat its new owner will fall in love with.

It's a formula that's hard to argue with.

 

 

 

SPCIFICATIONS - FORMULA 21

 

Price as tested: $69,900
Options fitted: Stainless rocketlauncher, bowrail, s/s bait board, 2 x GME radios, deckwash, GPS/sounder, dive door, trim tabs, electric winch, bimini and clears, plumbed livebait tank, lights, clip-in carpet, outriggers, custom deluxe bucket seats, berley bin, prop upgrade

Priced from: $56,000 with 200hp Mercury

 

 

GENERAL


Material: GRP
Length (overall): 6.4m
Beam: 2.39m
Deadrise: 20° variable
Rec/max hp: 200/225 single; 2 x 90/2 x 115
Weight (hull only): 1150kg
Towing weight: 2450kg

 

 

CAPACITIES


Fuel: 260lt
Water: n/a
Accommodation: n/a

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model: Mercury OptiMax DFI
Type: Six-cylinder direct-injection two-stroke
Rated hp: 200
Displacement: 3032cc
Weight: 241kg
Prop: Three-blade 19in Mirage s/s

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


Formula Power Boats Australia, Bulleen, Vic, tel (03) 9850 9280

 

 

HIGHS


Excellent rough-water performance
Superb build quality and attention to detail
Excellent fishability
High-level engineering

 

 

LOWS


Cockpit coamings won't double as seats
Cabin could use more headroom
Rocket launcher could be sturdier

 

Story: Phil Kaberry Photos: Ellen Dewar
First published in TrailerBoat #179

 

Find Formula boats for sale.

 


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