What direct-drive owners need to know about crossing over to the “V” side.
Remember when you finally admitted to yourself that you were never going to hit that magic 39.5 off at 34 mph (or whatever your personal performance dream may have been)? It was a sobering reality check, but you didn't stop training and, in fact, kept hammering away as hard as any pro. Now you're boat shopping with the same exuberance you had for crushing the course, only today there's also the family to consider — tubing and wakeboarding with the kids, romantic sunset cruising, tying up at the marina for drinks and dinner. You fear the great family boating compromise has caught up to you, too. It's time to consider a V-drive.
But buying a V-drive boat doesn't mean fully trading in your dream of a high-performance slalom machine for a pokey picnic-ready runabout. If you opt for one of the new crossover-friendly Vs, not only can you continue to chase your elusive chest-thumping personal best, but you can ramp up your family's enthusiasm for boating from tame to titillating.
Many of today's V-drives are just a click or two away in performance from the direct-drive tournament ski boats that die-hard course junkies prefer. Add in the inherent versatility — more cockpit room, more luxurious amenities and performance suited to a wide range of water activities — and for all but the slalom purist, the V-drive design just makes a ton of sense. Following is a little reassurance about crossing over to the “V” side to help ease your concerns.
“I still have some hard-core days. I don't want to totally give up on the dream.”
You won't have to. Incorporating comfort into a Vdrive design — whether it's a smoother ride through chop, built-in ice chest or roomy wraparound cockpit — doesn't necessarily mean compromised performance on the course. Manufacturers of recreational V-drive ski boats fully realize the importance of potent acceleration out of the hole and low, soft wakes. So they shape their hulls to work in concert with the rear-mounted V-drive motor and often incorporate adjustable wake shapers.
Malibu's Sunscape 20 LSV, for example, is capable of phenomenal (relatively speaking) ski wakes at speed, even up to 34 mph. It also has an incredibly low bow rise at typical acceleration. Yet this 20-footer has a plethora of storage space and seats a pontoon boat's worth of watersporting revelers for kickin' it with the family or booze cruising with friends.
If you're not ready to plunk down $50,000 on a performance-oriented recreational ski boat just yet, however, there are alternatives. Take the Moomba Outback V. It has the same quality hand-laid fiberglass construction and foam-filled hull as many of the high-end models, and also a tournament-worthy ride, but this alluring number rings high up on the value meter.
“OK, but what about my 12-year-old daughter, who just announced she wants to be a pro wakeboarder?”
While you'll have to handle your daughter's tattoo lecture on your own, today's boat manufacturers have addressed your need for one boat that delivers a range of performance options: It's called a crossover. These are multisport Vdrive boats typically equipped with wake shapers or ballast systems, or a combination of both, to create large wakes for wakeboarding or small wakes for slalom skiing.
The Correct Craft Crossover Air Nautique 211, for example, rises (or settles) to the occasion depending on the desired ride. Slalom skiers can tweak the 211's Hydro-Gate system to soften the wake while wakeboarders can add 625 pounds of factory ballast to ramp up the peaks.
Tigé's Z1, another crossover standout, is sleek and manageable, relying on its versatile hull design and TAPS2 wake shaper to alter the wake characteristics for either skiing or wakeboarding. This is the perfect transition boat for novices wanting to step up from a stern-drive.
And the Moomba Outback V is versatile enough to cross over from casual slalom ripper to wake shredder with the optional 1,200-pound ballast, and at a totally affordable price.
“I've heard V-drives don't handle as well as direct-drive models.”
It depends on your definition of handling. On a crowded Saturday, when the lake is chopped up, a deeper hull with more V is going to cut through the rough stuff far better than a typical flat-water slalom boat. Not to mention the extra freeboard between you and the breaking water means a dryer day inside.
Now, it is true that traditional direct-drive boats track with more precision than V-drives, but again, that's in pristine conditions. On a less-than-tournament-smooth day, any perceptible weakness in tracking is generally overruled by the smoother ride of the deeper-V. Also, tracking can be greatly affected by weight distribution in the boat. Shuffling folks from one seat to another is, more times than not, a good method to improve tracking.
Another great quality of the Malibu Sunscape 20 LSV is its handling. It's solid and stable, both out of the hole and at speed, and feels remarkably similar to a direct-drive.
If the ability to commit to hairpin turns at speed to quickly pick up beginning riders is a concern, the Tigé Z1 is a nimble and highly maneuverable hull shape that will get you back to your fallen son or daughter in a hurry.
“My wife wants to be able to invite a few couples out for pleasure cruises and to watch the sun set, that sort of thing. Can you really fit more than four or five people comfortably in a ski boat?”
Four or five people? How about four or five couples? With the engine mounted in the rear, V-drive boats can fit loads of gear and passengers in the cockpit. Add an open bow, and you're talking a party boat. The MasterCraft MariStar SS200, for example, with its pickle-fork open bow, is rated for an impressive 11 adults, all in a 20-foot-long package.
V-drives also typically come with large sun pads on which to lounge and tan. Some designs help traffic flow and maneuverability within the cockpit. The Correct Craft Crossover 211 is just such a vessel. The entire seating area of the lounge seems to flow toward the transom walkway area.
Lastly, V-drives often have higher gunwales built in, mostly to affect performance, but that also helps keep young passengers without their sea legs in the boat and safe. The Centurion Falcon V Air Warrior is a great example of a deep, safe boat with reliable performance.
“And let me guess, lots of bells and whistles, too.”
Think of it as the difference between an open-wheeled Indy car and a Maserati Quattroporte. The Indy car is stripped of everything that doesn't contribute to performance, and the Maserati, while still blindingly fast, is equipped with air-conditioning, leather upholstery, GPS, a sound system and power everything. Boat manufacturers design great performance into their V-drives, but leave enough room to add luxurious interiors, cruise control, GPS navigation, increased storage, built-in coolers, cup holders and more.
MasterCraft's MariStar SS200 — the company's highestselling boat of all time — does it right when it comes to amenities: Clarion deck with AM/FM radio, CD, four speakers, amp, subwoofer and remote are standard. A dozen stainlesssteel cup holders come standard. A 36-quart built-in cockpit cooler is standard. A teak platform is standard. And the SS200 is available in 20 colors.
Boat design has evolved considerably over the last several years. The V-drive versus direct-drive debate is becoming a thing of the past. For pure slalom performance, there's sti
ll nothing like a direct-drive tournament ski boat. But for any on-the-water pursuits outside that narrow set of buoys — from wakeboarding with the kids to pleasure cruising with neighbors — you'd be crazy not to at least look into the new V-drive designs. There's no shame in smart shopping.