BOAT TEST: FORCE F19X SOCIAL STERNDRIVE

By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD


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With wins all over the world, Force boats are legendary on the ski race circuit. John Ford found the company's latest social skiboat hard to hand back at the end of the day.

BOAT TEST: FORCE F19X SOCIAL STERNDRIVE
Force F19X Social Sterndrive boat. It’s something of a change from Force Boats’ serious racing machines.

Would I own this boat? As a boat-testing marine journalist, it's a question I often ask myself. But in the case of this Force F19X Social Sterndrive, the answer is easier than usual. Let me put it this way: I'd give up my firstborn to see it permanently garaged underneath my house. Mind you, my firstborn has long left home, and I think even he would see it as a fair swap.

While some of the Force boats previously seen in these pages have been rip-roaring speed machines, this new offering is much more refined, yet still fast and thrilling when let off the leash. Match that with a sparkling and flawless finish and you can start to see why it left a yearning place in my soul.

Force boats are built to order in a small factory on the banks of NSW's Hawkesbury River, Western Sydney's water ski playground and home to the annual bridge-to-bridge race. More works of art than boats, everything that leaves the Force factory is customised to the owner's specification from a list of options that only include best quality components. And while much consultation with the customer goes into the build, there is still space for Force's main man Rod Bickerton to weave his magic, giving each some personality.



HERITAGE LISTED

A ski-racing heart and heritage of race wins around the world are what pump life into of all Force boats. This new vessel has that DNA, but it has been toned down to create a social ski boat that won't bite an unskilled driver. Years of development have gone into the design, creating hulls that are fine-tuned for peak performance across a range of water conditions.

This social F19X comes out of the same mould as the race boats, but it doesn't need to keep weight down with exotic materials, so a combination of iso-resin and vinyl ester is hand laid into a solid glass hull with foam sandwich floor and stringers. No timber here.

This F19X has a brilliantly white, low-slung hull with metalflake silver trim that is painstakingly applied into the gel-coat - in a process Rod says gives him nightmares - until the hull pops out of the mould. It's worth the insomnia, however, because the result is pretty much perfect. Little touches like this are what make the boat special.

A sharp bow entry gradually flares out to the cockpit, where driver and observer seats are set low at the front with two corner seats either side of the engine bay and a central lounge in front. This new rear lounge treatment gives 100mm more cockpit space. The seats are quality white vinyl with silver trim, themed to match the hull. Carpet covers the inside hull liner which, according to Rod, takes seven-days to cut and fit in order to achieve the sort of finish he wants.

There is a simple silver dash panel in front of the driver, with data from a GPS and the Mercury 377 MAG engine supplying all the information you would need; details about speed, fuel used, fuel flow, and so on can easily be read on the computer panel in the speedo. The tacho panel is home to all information regarding engine diagnostics, and this is backed up with separate gauges for fuel and trim. Controls for the sound system are placed out of the way below the dash.

A silver wind deflector across the dash takes the place of a screen, and because the seats are set so low it does a good job of sending the breeze overhead when under way. The well-crafted bimini that protects the front passengers is an item not found on most Force boats.

The driver's seat is a comfortable bucket with good lateral support and a slide for plenty of leg room. To keep an eye on skiers, the passenger gets a rear-facing seat with thickly-upholstered padding along the side. Storage in the bow is accessed through a fold-down section in the passenger backrest and there is more storage under seats and in a ski locker along the side decks.

At the stern, there are steps and swim platforms with carbon fibre inserts either side of the motor, and a fresh water shower to port. In another neat example of attention to detail, the transom is hand-finished to create a seamless join between the hull and deck moulds (anodised gunwale strips along the sides cover this join).



DOWN TO BUSINESS

When we finally started our blast up the river, the boat fitted me like a glove - the seat wrapped around to hold me securely in place. My legs stretched out to the Mercury Big Foot throttle and the Italian Isotta steering wheel was well placed to throw the boat lock-to-lock without getting tangled up. The motor turned over at the first punch of the starter and emitted a subdued V8 rumble.

The digital throttle and trim system clicked into gear easily. There is on option for throttle control from either the side-mounted hand control or the peddle under the right foot, but the foot seems the most natural for the full rev-head experience. With 320hp on tap, there is plenty of acceleration and the boat lifts momentarily before taking off on the easily-driven hull.

The 19X planes at 9kts (16.5kmh) at 1800rpm, but it's quickly up on its running strakes, pulling 26kts (48kmh) at 2500rpm. Put the boot in and 40kts (74kmh) comes up quickly, with almost no speed sensation as the wind deflector directs the breeze overhead. The weight of the in-board keeps the boat low at the stern and gives a feeling it's stuck to the water speed and into full-on turns.

Steering is light but direct, with good feedback through the Ride Guide cable power assist steering. We did not run the fresh engine to full revs out of respect to the new owner, but it was later tested to 65kts (120kmh) after a run-in period.



THE WRAP

I've already given away the fact I loved the Force 19X, and while a weapon like this is hardly a boat for the masses, it probably could be. Its quality finish and power are matched to handling and ride that inspire confidence, and it's price point puts it among some more mainstream production boats.

On the plane...

  • Superb finish
  • Handling and ride is excellent
  • Power on tap
  • Race pedigree



Dragging the chain...

  • Could be louder



SPECS: FORCE F19X SOCIAL STERNDRIVE

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $95,000 (including trailer)

Options fitted: Trailer

Priced from: $86,600



GENERAL

Type: Social ski

Material: Fibreglass

Length: 6.05m

Beam: 1.96m

Weight: 1700kg BMT

Deadrise: 22°



CAPACITIES

People: 6

Rec. HP: 230

Fuel: 280L

Water: No



ENGINE

Make/model: 320hp Mercury Seacore 377MAG

Type: Fuel-injected V8

Weight: 451kg

Displacement: 6200cc

Gear ratio: 1:1.5

Propeller: 15 5/6in x 22in Bravo



MANUFACTURED & SUPPLIED BY

Force Boats

River Road, Lower Portland, NSW 2756

Tel: (02) 4575 4038

Web: www.forceboats.com

Originally published in TrailerBoat #288, November 2012

Find Force boats for sale.

 


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