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Chris-Craft Corsair 33

When you think of Chris-Craft, you likely think of a classic beauty; a jaw-dropping, solid-mahogany runabout that’s reminiscent of a bygone era. Indeed, during the 1950’s, the Chris-Craft name was practically a synonym for pleasureboating. But the builder’s 130-year-long career has not been all highs; in fact, during the 1980’s and 1990’s, Chris-Craft fell on hard times and lost much of its stature. Today, after rising out of the ashes of Outboard Marine Corporation’s (OMC) bankruptcy five years ago and thanks to a company president and vice president committed to restoring the brand to its former grandeur, Chris-Craft has a new lease on life.

Its latest launch, the 33 Corsair, exemplifies that rebirth, offering the classic beauty, stunning woodwork, and sleek lines Chris-Craft is known for with the agile handling, performance (a top speed just shy of 50 mph), and cruising comforts today’s boater demands.

The 33 is the result of a collaboration between company president Steven Julius, a European businessman who is not a boater and who once resurrected Riva before it was bought by the Ferretti Group, and vice president Bob Greenberg, who is a boater with 30 years’ experience in boating and boatbuilding. While Julius’ aim for the 33 was to deliver a boat that re-established the Chris-Craft image, Greenberg’s was to create a user-friendly and affordable (base price of $281,956) boat. The result is a beautiful vessel that merges form and function, fills the gap between the company’s 36 express and 28 cuddy cabin, and is ideal for either day-tripping for a crowd or overnighting for a couple.

Most noteworthy about the 33 is, undoubtedly, her classic exterior styling: a flared bow and tumblehome aft. Smooth, contoured lines and soft radiuses dominate; there are no blunt edges or hard lines. And everything is accented by custom 316 stainless steel (not aluminum) gauges, cleats, and vents that Greenberg fondly refers to as “jewelry,” which combined with the Heritage Edition package (a $26,000 extra) and burgundy hull on my test boat (white, blue, forest green, and black are also available) to create an eye-catching look. Details abound: The anchor is hidden inside a fiberglass bow compartment; grabrails are made of teak; a rub strip (accented in stainless steel) is under the cleats along the bow on both sides; and another three-foot-long one runs just above the waterline on the hull to prevent scratches when fenders don’t. It’s features like these that move Greenberg to claim that the 33 is not a “‘me-too kind of boat.”

The teak-sole cockpit is accessible by climbing aboard the teak swim platform (standard with the Heritage Edition) and over two teak steps (shore-power cords are concealed under the first step) in the middle. It has space for about eight guests on a double-layer-foam, vinyl-covered U-shape seating area with removable table aft and wet bar to starboard; the cushions have vents to prevent mildew. The seating area rises on hydraulic lifts to reveal the full-beam (12’3”) engine compartment, which is lined in acoustical insulation. It’s a crawl space, but all service points are accessible. My test boat featured optional twin 375-hp MerCruiser gasoline Bravo Three stern drives (twin 280-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 Gis are standard) and a standard 5-kW Westerbeke SafeCO genset.

The helm area sits under a standard removable bimini top surrounded by a wraparound Solex glass windshield framed in stainless steel (are you detecting a theme?). It has a two-person flip-up bolster seat and molded footwell, and there’s another double passenger seat to port. A three-step stainless steel ladder with teak steps leads through a hinged section of the windshield to the foredeck; the steps are designed so that when you’re descending them, you can see the next one from the one you’re on.

Because of Julius’ commitment to a sleek exterior profile with curved lines, cabin space is limited; headroom is only 5’6”. Access from the cockpit is via two maple stairs, and the area is trimmed in solid, 3?8-inch-thick maple planks with cherry trim; Greenberg says this combination was chosen to brighten what would otherwise be a dark space, since there are no ports. There is a Bomar hatch above the forward dinette, which converts into a seven-foot-long, queen-size berth. Greenberg refers to the other sleeping area aft of the port-side galley as the “bunk,” since it’s designed as much for stowage as sleeping and requires you getting on your hands and knees to access it. However, I could easily see a young child being charmed by the “coziness” of it. The grain-matched, solid-cherry-wood cabinetry, shelving, and inlays on the dinette table and door to the head (with Tecma MSD and handheld shower) highlight Chris-Craft’s trademark woodwork; even the vents for the standard 16,000-Btu Polar Bay air conditioning are artfully concealed in cherrywood.

But the 33 isn’t all appearances. In fact, she shined out on the water. Credit that to her modified deep-V hull, which features down-angled strakes and chines for good lift and spray control. Handling was smooth, agile, and predictable, and her power-assisted steering was effortless. And talk about a speedboat: I measured an average top speed of 48.9 mph with the Mercs turning 4800 rpm. A 250-gallon fuel tank gives her a range of 202 miles at a fast cruise speed of 35.1 mph.

The Book of Tao states that failure is an opportunity, and if that’s true, Chris-Craft has certainly seized the opportunity. This latest launch is not just a throwback to a bygone era of boating; it merges traditional style and panache with modern features and performance. It’s also a testament to what lies ahead for this grand old marque.

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This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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