Jet-powered pocket rocket

Chris Beattie | VOLUME 27, ISSUE 2

Streaker has engineered a lot of fun factor into the DNA of its radical new Raptor.

Generally speaking, when I hear the term ‘raptor’, I tend to think of scary lizards terrorizing clueless cast members in Hollywood blockbusters. Raptors (from the term velociraptor, relating to carnivorous, smallish and extremely agile, pack-hunting dinosaurs) were made famous/ infamous in Jurassic Park, in which they were apparently given a largely undeserved reputation for being sneaky and devious hunters of small, annoying children.

My own recent experience with the species would tend to suggest that, rather than being blood-lusting hunters of the small and young, they are far more likely to leave kids squealing with delight as they are flung about with ‘raptorous’ abandon.

Melbourne manufacturer, Streaker Boats has earned a reputation for building solid, sensible, dependable and practical trailerable craft, with a large range of runabouts, fishing boats, bowriders and cruisers to its credit. Brothers Leon and Paul Savage have a fine feel for what the boating market is looking for, and have delivered with boats that cater to most recreational tastes.

But at last year’s Melbourne Boat Show, there was something different on display at the Streaker stand. Very different, actually. It had a certain threatening reptilian quality, courtesy of some striking graphics and looked like it was built for speed – and fun.

JOINT EFFORT

A collaboration between Streaker Boats and Mercury Marine, the Raptor is a 200hp jet-driven pocket rocket designed to span the gap between high-performance PWCs and conventional ski boats. And based on my time with the Raptor, I’d say the Streaker crew has come up with a very impressive cross-breed to suit both markets.

A day spent on Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay provided the perfect showcase for the new boat. Throw in a tow rope, a tube and a couple of youngsters with a taste for speed and fun, and you have a recipe for a great day on the water.

Built at Streaker’s Bayswater, Melbourne factory, the Raptor is ‘over-built’, according to Leon Savage, in anticipation that owners will want to extract a lot of performance out of their boats. A full fibreglass craft, including ’glass stringers, each Raptor is foam-filled for added safety. With a capacity for three adults and one child, seating is designed with good side bolstering to counter the high cornering forces of which the Raptor is capable courtesy of its jet-drive and sleek, bullet-shaped hull design.

There are grab rails pretty much everywhere they’re needed, a few well-placed cupholders and plenty of non-skid surfaces, including a sturdy rear boarding platform.

Beneath the large rear engine hatch, supported by a pair of gas struts, lurks the heart of the beast. The big two-stroke Opti’ Jet Sport drivetrain takes up surprisingly little of the relatively cavernous rear space, leaving adequate room either side for storage for PFDs, lines, safety gear and water toys. There is also room for the battery (with isolator switch), oil tank and automatic bilge pump.

TWISTS AND TURNS

Further forward, there is a near full-beam bench seat, with individually moulded side bolsters for two passengers and the driver. It’s a bit squeezy, but the bolsters were certainly appreciated when we decided to push the envelope with some spirited twists and turns.

The driving position is good, with excellent visibility, while the throttle is well-placed, and the instruments easy to read. Speaking of which, the dash is not over-complicated, with a pair of SmartCraft gauges monitoring speed and rpm, while a waterproof switch pad incorporates buttons for the bilge blower and pump, cockpit, anchor and nav lights. While not fitted to the test craft, a Fusion stereo system, with iPod docking, is standard fitment.

Behind the dash is a small storage locker, with two additional shallow storage pockets under the main seat and beneath the bow ‘jump seat’. Three lift-up cleats, a tow bollard and 90lt fuel tank complete the standard features list.

The Raptor is sold as a turnkey package, complete with a quality Easytow full-roller trailer.

Admittedly intended mostly for freshwater or sheltered water usage, the Raptor, nevertheless, felt right at home on the calm waters of Safety Beach one early autumn day.

At only 4.4m in length, including the rear boarding platform, the Raptor attracted attention at the boat ramp; its striking lines and graphics hinting at a capacity for speed and performance. And it certainly didn’t disappoint once on the water. Prior to attaching a tow rope, we spent a while getting acquainted with its handling and power and the more I drove it – and pushed it – the more I liked it.

HARD TO FAULT

The combination of the compact deep-vee hull and large-capacity V6 Mercury OptiMax Jet Sport engine/jet unit is hard to fault. From a power-to-weight point of view, I’d think it falls somewhere between an F1 car and jet fighter. It has gobs of power – and torque – pretty much everywhere, yet despite its relatively small size, never felt like it was overpowered or unmanageable. In fact, the faster I went, the more stable it felt. I managed 55mph indicated speed (close to 90km/h) at 5500rpm, and the Raptor held its course like it was on rails.

Turns at any speed were predictable and enjoyable. A virtual complete lack of hull slip meant that driver and passengers needed to brace for the G forces at higher speeds, but that just added to the fun. Like its carnivorous ancestor, the Raptor bit hard into each turn and showed no signs of letting go, no matter how tight or fast.

With the weight of two 15-year-olds clinging to an inflatable tube, I expected the Raptor to take a while to take up the strain. But those 200 ponies in the back rose to the occasion every time, without the slightest hint of effort. And with the Savage family’s ski racing heritage, Leon assured me that skiing and wakeboarding is well within the Raptor’s capabilities.

So what is the target market (or maybe, who is the natural prey) of the Raptor? Well, according to Leon Savage, of the 10 or so Raptors sold so far, there has been a surprisingly broad mix of buyers.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from PWC owners, who like the agility and performance of their jetskis, but want to be able to carry more,” he said. “They appreciate that the Raptor can carry a lot more gear and stay dry, plus it is a lot more stable than their ‘skis.”

RACER RAPTORS

Jetsprint racers have also taken a liking to the Raptor, no doubt due to its sharp handling and turn of speed.

The advantages of the jet-drive are not lost on fishermen, either, says Leon, with the Raptor able to navigate shallow waterways out of bounds for conventional outboard or sterndrive craft.

“We’re just building a special fishing version for a guy from the Hawkesbury,” he said. “We’ve added casting platforms on the front and back, as well as a mount for a Minn Kota electric motor and a decent sounder, which should make for a great fishing platform.”

And further illustrating the versatility of the Raptor platform was a special wake/ski version, which was on display when I picked up our test craft. It comes complete with a proper wake tower, board racks and bimini cover and I’d predict is likely to find a few friends amongst the serious watersports crowd.

I’d characterise the Raptor as a mixed breed, displaying all the handling, agility and performance of a PWC, bred with the utility, towing muscle and comfort of a ski or wakeboat. While its namesake is long deceased, I predict that this modern variant has a solid future amongst those with a taste for performance and fun on the water.

Our base test model, complete with trailer, is priced at $39,900, while the glamour wake/ski version is pegged at $43,110.

SPECIFICATIONS: STREAKER RAPTOR
Length overall: 4.4m
Beam: 2.1m
Weight (with trailer): 900kg approx
Fuel capacity: 90lt
Carrying capacity: 3 adults/1 child
Mercury OptiMax Sport Jet V6 200hp
Engine/drive: Price as tested: $39,900
For more information, Streaker Boats, tel (03) 9729 8288, www.streakerboats.com.au.


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