BOAT TEST FORMULA 15


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The Formula 15 centre console is a brilliant take on an very popular hull design that works as well now as it did when it was first popped from the mould. The new boat has been designed, built and fitted out for one purpose: catching fish!

BOAT TEST FORMULA 15
Formula 15

Most fishos with scales cemented to the backs of their fingers fall into two camps. They either love tinnies or hate 'em; they love 'glass boats or hate 'em. Like many Holden or Ford fans, they will not countenance compromise.

The majority of dedicated fishing boats around the 4.5m mark, until now, have usually been made from alloy. Formula Power Boats Australia - a GRP builder - often heard the lament from the alloy haters: "I love the fishability of those centre-console tinnies, but I wish someone would build one in 'glass".

So they did, and the Formula 15 is the brilliant result. Beginning with an adaptation of the moulds from a long-decommissioned but popular and great-performing 4.45m hull originally built by Haines Hunter, Formula has produced a beautifully-thought-out and finished centre console that can be fished just about anywhere - from shallow coastal creeks to the Shelf off Bermy on a good day.

So successful has the boat's debut been that the company's order book has already developed a significant waiting list.

The Formula 15, while it makes no statements about being anything other than a purpose-built fishing platform, is nonetheless beautifully and practically fitted out. It's obvious that the guys who designed and built this little craft are serious fishermen.

CONSOLE YOURSELF

Storage space on a small centre console is at a premium, so an anchor-carrying bowsprit is a must. The Formula has one, with a small rope locker and a side-hinged cover behind a large, split stainless bowpost.

A split stainless bowrail is as strong as buggery and gives you a mounting point for spray clears if you really want them. On test day we found that while some spray came aboard during headsea runs - as it will in all open centre consoles - it wasn't bad enough to complain about.

Although this boat didn't have one fitted at the time of the test, there is plenty of space on the forward gunwales to bow-mount an electric motor for river and stream work.

The centre console is, obviously, the core of the action aboard - so let's look at how that works. It is set up a little astern of the boat's centre point and on top of the centrally-mounted 90lt underfloor fuel tank, which allows heaps of room to fish off the bow - but not as much back at the blunt end.

I wondered, actually, whether pushing it forward just a few inches would give better balance - but this was a personal-use viewpoint. In fact, Formula will position the console wherever you want, to suit your style of fishing - even to one side if you wish.

Those who love bow fishing - particularly using a front-mount electric motor in creeks - will like the console just as it is.

The console itself is a model of versatility. Everything you need to get your hands on quickly is at your fingertips. As you stand (or sit) at the stainless, spoked helm, you look down on your gauges (rpm, speed, fuel and trim) and a compact Humminbird Matrix 65X GPS fishing unit.

Behind the helm is a lipped, carpet-lined open pocket for odds and ends, and under that is the battery. On the left is an hours meter, power outlet and switch panel. To the right is a marine radio right where it should be - in clear view and easy to use.

At shin height are moulded pockets for EPIRB and fire extinguisher - an inclusion that's often forgotten on other production boats. If you need either in a hurry, you won't have to move to grab them.

The console is topped with a poly screen in a very solid stainless frame that incorporates grabrails. Aerial and GPS mounts are fixed to the top of the screen rail.

This boat didn't have a T-top, but they are available as an option.

ROOM TO WORK

There is one very comfortable Rae-Line padded helm seat, which can be removed and shifted to a spigot in the bow section for bream fishing using your electric motor. In fact, the test boat had chairs in both positions and I think I'd stick with that simply because my back loves it when I sit on something a little more comfortable than the gunwales.

Moulded on to the front of the console is a small storage box that doubles as a seat with a padded cushion on top. This puts three bums on seats "Indian file" and makes the boat a very comfortable fishing platform for three - although two-up would be preferable in this size craft with the second seat left at home. Remember, small boats are all about creating useable space.

In the bow section - a great example of this very principle - are the two coaming nets that house the lifejackets. They're out of the way, safely stored and, again, within quick and easy reach. And under the anchor locker there's another little hatch that opens into the boat to store bits and pieces.

Long, solidly-built sidepockets will hold plenty of gear. All interior surfaces are flow-coated for easy cleaning, but carpet is available if you so desire. All cabling is underfloor, and an automatic bilge pump is mounted in the compact bilge.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

The Mercury 75 is mounted on a standard transom and swings up into the engine well - the back of which is a Teflon door that swings down with the engine in the "up" position. This maximises useable interior space.

Either side of the well are inbuilt boxes in the stern quarters, which can be plumbed for use as livebait tanks. The test boat lacked these bins - which were on back order - but they're critical fittings for a fisho.

Sitting high above the transom is a huge nylon baitboard that incorporates two stainless (not plastic) rodholders and a swing-up Teflon cutting board over a shallow bait bin, which drains overboard. Great idea.

With the battery being positioned in the centre console, the area beneath the lip of the transom is wide open and ideal for storing a couple of tackle boxes. There are four flush-mounted, rear-facing stainless rodholders in the gunwales for trolling as well as four other lighter plastic fittings for removable holders - two of these in the bow section.

So all up, and counting the two spots on the baitboard, you could have 10 lines in the water. Not bad for a little boat!

Outboard on the port transom is a swing-down stainless boarding ladder.

The whole package comes on an Easytow trailer fitted with centre rollers, Teflon guide and balance bars, and carpeted side bars - which should make for easy one-man operation. 

BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

While the test boat had a few options included in its price of almost $28,000, the basic centre-console boat is very competitive with its tinny rivals at under $21,000. And if you want to go even further downmarket, the Formula 15 also comes in a basic tiller version with bench seats, similar to a standard tinny.

In my opinion, the Formula 15 gives a far more comfortable and dry ride than a comparable tinny, and it is very stable at rest. Being comparably heavier (hull weight 450kg), it sits "in" the water better, and its 20° deadrise gives it the ability to handle large seas with ease.

It positively flies down and across sea (WOT at 5800rpm gave us a top speed of 72kmh) and handles a headsea with delightful smoothness and dryness for such a small, open craft. We found the cruising comfort zone at 3800rpm and 48kmh to be very respectable indeed.

The boat was powered to the max with a 75hp motor, but I suspect a 50hp outboard would be ample and more economical for the work most people would do with this boat.

On the road the boat weighs 900kg which, while certainly being heavier than a tinny, is still an easy tow for most family cars.

Formula Power Boats Australia has built an enviable reputation for quality build, finish and performance with its 21-footer - and the 15 certainly reinforces that reputation.

FORMULA 15

Price as tested: $27,750
Options fitted: Bowrail, baitboard, GPS/sounder, transom ladder, radio, bilge pump, hydraulic steering, extra Raeline chair
Priced from: $20,900

GENERAL
Material: Fibreglass with 'glass-encapsulated stringers
Length (overall): 4.6m
Beam: 2.06m
Deadrise: 20°
Rec/max hp: 50/75
Weight on trailer: 900kg

CAPACITIES
Fuel: 90lt
Water: n/a
People: Four

ENGINE
Make/model: Mercury 75
Type: Oil-injected carburetted two-stroke
Rated hp: 75
Displacement: 1386cc
Weight: 139kg
Prop: Three-blade 18in Vengeance stainless steel

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

HIGHS
Stability and fishability
Fit-out and finish
Soft, dry ride
Open layout good for fishing

LOWS
No T-top, but available as option
Tight fishing position over transom
Limited storage

Story: Bernard Clancy Photos: Ellen Dewar
First published in TrailerBoat #176

Find Formula boats for sale.

 


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