Boat Review Date: November 2010
Author: Mike Brown
I recently trialled Chaparral’s new wake board-ski boats on Victoria’s Lake Eildon, which incidentally gave me a taste of what Wellington Dam might be like if it was ever opened to recreation.
Chaparrals have been available in Perth for several years, but their wake boarders have not achieved a great following. The weakness of the US dollar, the elimination of a middleman, and a tremendous amount of re-work on the tow boat range by America’s largest independent builder look set to change that.
We actually looked at two ranges: the SSi, bow riders which Chaparral calls sports boats but which did a fine job of towing, and the Xtreme which are full blooded wake boarders with all the goodies. There are five SSi and four Xtreme on offer, I looked particularly at the 204 Xtreme (a 6.25m boat), the 6.8m 224 Xtreme, and the 6.55m 216 SSi. All of them are just over the 2.5m permit-free beam and, although less than a couple of feet separate the biggest from the smallest, astonishing extra quantities of fit-out get added as the boats grow.
The SSi models share the power ballasting and de-ballasting feature. Not only can you tune wakes with ballast, wake maker, speed and trim, but the electronics let you store the favoured combinations of the individuals in a group of boarders. Dial up the boarder’s number, open the throttle, and the boat does the rest.
The 224 Xtreme, especially, has a magnificent wake board tower that looks capable of towing ships. A sculpture rather than just a structure, it carries a Bimini that is almost as impressive. Cantilevered fore and aft it barely twitched when, minus our wake boarders, we wound up to 47 knots. This turned out to be the same speed the other boats reached, the 216 SSi using the same 300hp 5.7L Mercuiser and the 204 Xtreme a 260hp 5.0L.
The board racks are something special: the lower set on each side unlocks and pivots, swinging the boards inboard for easy removal.
Between canopy and arch the Xtremes carry the stereo speakers placed there for the benefit of the boarder: four huge and two large, powered by top of the line Clarion equipment. Something stronger than an urban myth says that, at the Sydney Boat Show, a pair of buyers tried out the stereo systems on all wake board boats there and chose a Chaparral on the basis of sound. To my tin ears they were simply loud.
There are plenty of alternate reasons for buying. Our invited wake board aces loved the sharp-edged wakes of the Xtremes, and were more than happy with what the SSi produced; and, in a reciprocal spirit, the Xtremes matched the SSi in providing what you could want in a day cruiser. The Xtremes lost a little something in ride - they all have an 18deg deadrise where the SSi mostly have 20deg – but it’s all a matter of, shall we say, degree: they handled crossing the hardest wakes with ease.
The 204 is scarcely basic, but almost seems so compared with the 224. The forward cockpit has couches with curved rear rests for people facing forward, and a foldaway bow ladder to match the one at the stern. Unusually for a US boat there is a lidded anchor well that all the other Chaparrals also have.
All the boats have tables that can be fitted in clever mounts fore and aft – or in dedicated stowage when out of use – and the 224 adds a stove and sink to the fit-out. It is the only ski or wake board boat I have met that has a toilet aboard: in the port console. Or rather the standard boat does; the buyer of this one chose to have the space fitted out as a bar.
A crawl around the 216 and the 204 reveals plenty of good detail and tidy thinking. Cleats are pop up, and midship sets are fitted; there are fuel fillers port and starboard – use any fuel bowser that is vacant; ski lockers are almost big enough to hold surfboards; motor compartments have fixed fire fighting systems; gullies around the underdeck lockers to drain stray water; there are abundant 12V sockets, and drink sockets as well; tailor made eskies lift out of top-load lockers; and for after boarding or skiing, there is a shower – which we did not need in our fresh water lake.
The 224 of course tops all these: dual batteries, showers fore and aft, four eskies, and a settee for gearing up facing the swim platform aft of the sun lounge. You pay a premium for it of course, but for a slightly smaller, fully equipped wake board boat the 204 Xtreme looks pretty good at a dollar under AUD $86,000 and, similarly for a powerful all-rounder, the 216 SSi at AUD $66,999.
224 Xtreme: AUD $115,999
204 Xtreme: AUD $85,999
216 SSi: AUD $66,999