Review: Force F23 + Tohatsu BFT250A outboard

By: Andrew Norton, Photography by: Barry Ashenhurst


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The latest package from Force Boats is the Force F23, powered by a Tohatsu BFT250A outboard motor.

Set-up with hydraulic steering, jacking plate and foot throttle (all performance boats need these), the Force F23 ski boat is a genuine 95-plus-kmh rig that can cruise all day at 75kmh (42kts) sipping way less fuel than a big block V8 engine. And from trials conducted with my long time co-tester Richard Ardizzone, according to the decibel meter we used, the noise levels are less than an outboard motor of half the Tohatsu’s output.

 

FORCE F23 + 250hp TOHATSU

Force F23

Hull construction includes foam-filled fibreglass-encapsulated stringers with foam sandwich cockpit floor over-built to produce a skiboat that’s fairly hefty compared to the direct competition.

Michael Goddard from Lakeside Marine, Charmhaven-NSW, the national Tohatsu distributor, wanted a stand-out hull to showcase the most powerful four-stroke Tohatsu outboards. He also wanted a boat with rough-water capability that could safely take his family and himself out for a day on the NSW Central Coast lakes or Sydney Harbour. The Force F23 he chose was set-up more for social skiing, so some sacrifice of top-end speed was inevitable.

First impressions of the Force F23 are that it’s reminiscent of the Miami Vice Cigarette-style powerboats from the ’80s, though outboard powered instead of a harbouring a big-block V8 in the bilge.

 

LAYOUT

Force F23 rear lounge layout

The foredeck that stretches forever ends at a low wind deflector instead of a glass windscreen and has a neat pop-up stainless steel cleat. There’s space under it for a double mattress, though due to a distinct lack of headroom doing anything else on this other than napping would require some contortionist action.

A curved opening accesses the bunk to port of a moulded step with two stainless steel drinkholders and a sub-woofer to the foredeck. To access the bunk the passenger seat faces forward, but for skiing this would have to be turned 180-degrees to provide an observer’s seat. Starboard of the step is a moulded recess for the foot throttle and space for a conventional remote-control box to select forward or reverse, jacking plate control, Garmin instrumentation and sound system which I didn’t try because being such a nerd I’d rather listen to the engine instead. Just as I do when driving my cars.

The thickly-bolstered helm and passenger seats hold occupants firmly when throwing the boat around and despite the low mounting level of these, there’s still good vision over the foredeck that, due to the hull’s reverse sheer, droops away.

Force F23 cockpit

Aft of these seats is a wraparound lounge with three separate storage compartments beneath. The quality of the mouldings in these compartments has to be seen to be believed, with no raw fibreglass edges to catch fingers.

Ahead of the engine well is a stainless steel skipole along with additional cleats for towing skiers, plus another pop-up cleat in the aft hull sponsons that increase buoyancy aft for hefty four-strokes like the BFT250A outboard and when hauling a tired skier aboard. As the folding boarding ladder is right next to the outboard getting a skier aboard will still require some heaving.

 

HANDLING ON THE WATER

Force F23 ski boat

Launched at the Mannering Park ramp at the southern end of Lake Macquarie, (the Central Coast lakes are just too small for performance testing), the Force F23 was easily driven off but in the afternoon cross wind retrieval was a little harder as the boat kept blowing off centre, requiring some real manhandling by Lakeside’s Dave Denny.

Leaving the Mannering Park jetty the long bow caught the wind but the combination of coarse pitch prop and deep gear ratio enabled us to back out from it without giving the gunwale rubber a real workout or scratching the vinyl wrap.

Over my 30-plus years of testing boats I’ve driven only a handful of them having jacking plates, so each one is a learning curve. Dave showed me how to set the jacking plate and outboard leg trim once we had reached 3500rpm with the hull fully planing.

Due to the smaller than gearcase diameter prop hub with ventilation holes designed to let the engine quickly reach its torque band when towing two single skiers, we took six seconds to reach planing speed, but from 3000rpm wide open throttle was reached in 18 seconds. That’s not bad for a naturally aspirated four-stroke 250 pushing a total of 1400kg including Dave and Richard on one side balancing my bulk on the other.

Tohatsu 250 outboard with cowling off

At 3500rpm the secret was to start raising the jacking plate then trim out the leg to about 60 per cent out while flooring the foot throttle. Because the BFT250A has normal cooling water intakes just above the gearcase torpedo, the engine couldn’t be jacked as high as a dedicated race engine such as the Mercury OptiMax Pro XS 250, so we closely monitored the water pressure gauge. Through tight turns at 3500rpm the jacking plate was left up and the leg trimmed in – coming out of the turn I again hammered the throttle while trimming up the leg. Absolutely no prop ventilation occurred with the helm hard over.

Upwind to WOT the hull was rock steady with a beautifully soft and dry ride but across the chop or with the wind on our port or starboard quarter, the hull reached WOT then violently chine walked, not recovering until the leg was trimmed in and throttle floored.

I believe the culprit was the four-bladed prop designed more for tow sports than top-end performance. Had a three-bladed prop such as the Quicksilver Tempest been fitted the hull would have been way more stable and delivered closer to 110kmh (59.4kts) due to less blade drag.

 

THE VERDICT

Stern of Force F23 boat

Apart from its relatively high cooling water intake, the Tohatsu BFT250A outboard motor was a logical power choice for this rig. It’s the second Honda-based 250 I’ve tested on a performance hull and the VTEC is now so refined that transition from normal intake valve opening duration to extended opening no longer comes in with a bang as did early models.

The engine is quiet and responsive and its lean-burn midrange rpm technology returns cruising fuel efficiency unmatched by most of the DFI two-stroke competition.

Though expensive compared to other outboard skiboats in this size range, the demo Force F23 + Tohatsu BFT250A package combo was beautifully kitted out, with mouldings and gelcoat finish I’ve rarely seen on Aussie boats.

Force Boats sure knows how to build performance boats and Lakeside took the effort to set the boat up correctly for social skiing, with a hull finish that leaves no one in doubt as to the power choice.

 

HIGHS

• Flawless mouldings and gelcoat finish

• Solid feel over steep chop

• Traditional Cigarette-style looks

• Supportive wraparound helm and passenger seating

• Fast relaxed cruising speeds

• Quiet four-stroke power

 

LOWS

• Twitchiness at high speeds

• Limited cockpit space for length

 

FORCE F23 SEA TRIALS

Single 246bhp Tohatsu BFT250A with Quicksilver four-bladed 25in pitch propeller

RPM

SPEED (KTS)

FUEL BURN (LT/H)

600

2.7

2.1

1000

4.3

4.3

1500

6.1

7.6

2000

6.9

12.3

2500

19.8

17.2

3000 (plane)

17.6

19.2

3500 (max economy)

28.5

24.7

4000 (cruise)

31.4

28.8

4500

38

41.5

5000 (max cruise)

42

58.3

5500

48

73.2

6000 (WOT)

53.6

84.2

* Sea-trial data supplied by author.

 

FORCE F23 SPECIFICATIONS

Force F23 price: $130,000 (as tested)

 

GENERAL

MATERIAL Vacuum-bagged fibreglass

TYPE Monohull ski race boat

LENGTH 7.14m

BEAM 2.15m

WEIGHT 700kg (hull)

DEADRISE 21°

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 6

REC. HP 200 to 300

REC. MAX HP 350

FUEL 220lt

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL Tohatsu BFT250A outboard motor

TYPE V6 four-stroke petrol outboard motor

RATED HP 246.5

DISPLACEMENT 3583cc

WEIGHT 284kg (dry)

GEAR RATIO 2:1

PROPELLER Quicksilver four-bladed 25in pitch Trophy Plus

 

MANUFACTURED BY

Force Boats

Phone 02 4575 4038

Web forceboats.com

 

SUPPLIED BY

Lakeside Marine

Arizona Road,

Charmhaven, NSW, 2263

Phone 02 4392 6110

Web lakesidemarineptyltd.com; tohatsu.com.au

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #461, January / February 2015. Why not subscribe today?

 


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