Somewhere in the bank of folk wisdom gained from my mother is a piece of advice relating to books and covers. Something about not judging on first impressions, as I recall. But I’ve always found first impressions to be pretty accurate, although that is the subject of another discussion.
My first impression of the Formula 240BR was that it could only be American. The yellow hull, with red detailing, white upholstery and a hectare of chrome and stainless is a dead giveaway. This is as American as George Bush’s cowboy boots.
But you can’t judge a boat entirely by its cover, not these days. Technology and clever product planning are blurring the edges of traditional definitions.
The Formula brand was founded by the legendary Don Aronow in 1962, initially to build offshore racers. And they still do. So this boat, which looks like a river-based funboat, has a 20-degree deep vee hull, which rides like an offshore racer in sloppy conditions. But a funboat it is; there are sun lounges in the bow and stern; there’s a removable ski pole and the tower is for wakeboards.
But there is also a bimini, all-round clears, a toilet compartment, icebox stowage and pressurised cold water. And there is the heart of the matter – the 320hp 5.7-litre Volvo-Penta V8.
And this is where things get really interesting. The Volvo drives through an Ocean sterndrive leg; the Ocean tag means it has a composite coating and is fitted with Volvo’s Neutra-Salt flushing system. So, when you are finished for the day, you push a button and run the engine for 30 seconds. Magic stuff squirts into the leg and cooling system, neutralising the salt and coating the unit’s innards. No more flushing. Now that’s clever.
At 2.59m wide, to tow her in NSW you need a permit, but you can move her around. Weight is listed at 2268kg – this is, after all, a 24-footer – but the V8 Land Cruiser with the Wide Load sign on the roof heaved her up the ramp without much effort.
The 240BR is a big boat, with a lot of good detail. Peter Squires took us on the tour and showed us the foldaway swim ladders bow and stern, the fold-down sun lounge aft and the in-fill sun lounge forward. There are drink holders/cup holders everywhere. There are sound system controls bow and stern and a CD stacker. Aft is a retracting shower, the icebox is standard-sized, portable and hidden away in its own locker. It can be taken home when not in use.
The table, which was mounted in the bow for our outing, can be moved to the cockpit area, or you can specify a second table. The screen centre panel locks back with an old-fashioned, positive latch. A door closes off the walkway for cold-weather boating. The toilet is in its own compartment, ahead of the passenger seat, and has a 38-litre holding tank. But stay tuned – there is lots, lots more detail.
The last time I photographed a boat with the bimini in place, the editor of this magazine had a go at me. So I thought about this when we took out the 240BR. But the bimini is a nice colour, it looks good and the weather is hot, the sun at cooking temperature. We choose to leave it up and cop the flak from the editor later. The cover folds forward and out of the way if you don’t need it.
Peter tells me I am over-steering when trying to correct the sterndrive low-speed wanders. We reach open water and hit the throttle, the Duoprops bite and three seconds or so later we are planing level and true.
“We have to educate people to get onto the plane fast, because the hull rides so well when at the right angles,” says Peter.
“People new to the boat tend to slow down to turn, but there’s no need – it will turn and do anything at any speed.”
The boat rides very, very well. When you hit a wave, the hull cushions most of the impact, but the seats do the rest. The hull gives a muffled thump as it hits the crest, then your bum sinks into the seat, which goes squish and absorbs all residual shock, as if the cushions are full of air. These are the best boat seats I’ve ever sat in.
I am poking around the Harbour at 25mph or so, until finally Peter can stand it no longer. “Open her up a bit and trim up the nose,” he says. I do as I am told and – bingo – the other side of the Formula’s schizophrenic nature comes out. With a deep vee, the faster you go, the higher the ride. The higher the ride, the faster you go – and the better she rides. Now she is skipping across the crests, behaving like an offshore race boat, under full control and riding beautifully.
Later, back on the ramp, when I check the hull’s underside, I can see no tricks; there are only two strakes of modest width, a short one towards the centre and a longer one nearer the chine. The Formula people must practise some alchemy not visible to the naked eye.
There is plenty of freeboard and she is a dry boat. You wouldn’t try to cross the Tasman in any bowrider, but this hull is capable of going places. On our outing, we had decent harbour swells, the usual wind waves and slop and muck thrown up by passing ferries, frigates and ocean liners. The Formula 240 took everything with aplomb.
I give the helm back to Peter, who then tosses the boat into a series of high-speed doughnuts; the sort of manoeuvre I like to watch other people do. The Duoprops bite, she spins in about twice her hull length and goes where she’s pointed; no hull slippage and no cavitation.
Top speed is around 46mph. There is no speedo on the 240; instead, the maker has fitted a GPS chartplotter, which includes a speed log which, we realise, too late, has not yet been set up. The performance figures shown below are the manufacturer’s.
Usually, when I try to summarise boats like this, I lean back in the chair, look into the middle distance and, after a few minutes, a concept of the boat’s character starts to form. Not so easy with the Formula 240BR, though. This is a skiboat and wakeboarder, with a hull that works extremely well on open, broken surfaces. It’s a picnic boat, a hedonist’s boat, but the pedigreed hull expands its scope remarkably. Or perhaps modifies what might be seen superficially as limitations.
She is a wide boat and needs a towing permit. Value? If the price quoted here worries you, look carefully at the options list. The boat we tested carried every bell and whistle, while the base boat starts at $106,253, before GST and any charges are added.
At first glance, the 240BR seems targeted at an obvious niche, but in reality her niche is wide, expanded by the many options. By choosing the options carefully, an owner would define that niche better than I can.
First impressions, second impressions, I don’t know … I’ll have to think about it for a while, yet.
SPECIFICATIONS: FORMULA 240BR
Beam : 2.59m
Weight: 2268kg approx.
Engine: 320hp, 5.7-litre Volvo Penta V8
Deadrise: 20 degrees
Holding Tank: 38lt
Price (as tested): $155,737 (incl GST)
Trailer: Dual axle with electric brakes: $9835
RPM Speed (in knots)
More information from Macarthur Marine, Camden, NSW, tel (02) 4655 7793, www.macarthurmarine.com.au.