We were getting ready to record our first acceleration run when Formula’s executive vice president Grant Porter, who was seated at the helm, exclaimed, “Bill, look!” I knew why he was so excited because I was already squinting into the Florida sun myself, my OceanPC laptop forgotten, my mouth half open, and the hair on the back of my neck standing up like I was seeing the ghost of ol’ Eddy Teach himself.
Porter shut down our Cummins QSM11s. Then, grabbing onto the walk-through windshield’s beefy safety rail, he bounded up the steps, swung the central panel open, and hustled out onto the foredeck of our 48 Yacht. “Better view from up here,” he enthused, and I joined him immediately. We stood there, awestruck, while the voluptuously styled 48 swung unattended, adrift, utterly besieged.
“Rays!” Porter marveled. Or to be more accurate, millions of rays! More rays than either of us had ever seen in our entire lives. With wingspans of up to three feet, they were well below the surface, zooming under and around the 48 with the cohesion of a single-minded whole. It was a fabulous thing to witness but unsettling, as if we’d somehow stumbled into the forbidding depths of prehistory. We watched until the last one was gone.
“Seeing stuff like that’s what cruisin’s all about,” Porter opined as he fired up the mains at last and got us underway again. He was absolutely right, of course—beyond the technology and sweat that go into today’s boats, there are deeper, more compelling realities. Later, as I climbed behind the 48’s mahogany-rimmed Dino wheel after Porter and I had finished measuring and recording the performance data that accompanies this story, I resolved to bear that sentiment in mind. After all, there’s as much poetry behind test-driving a race-bred Formula as there is technology and sweat.
Ergonomics got the ball rolling. The comfort I felt upon settling into the half-seated position I prefer when driving performance boats belied the crisp shape of the double-wide helm seat’s flip-up bolster and the thick aluminum hinges that support it; Formula’s famous for the quality of its in-house upholstery work, and the lounges and seats in our cockpit made it easy to see why. Visibility was excellent, both over the windshield and through it. Automotive-style side windows proffered natural ventilation, plenums on the dash provided optional air conditioning, and the wheel was both three-way adjustable and easy to turn, thanks to Sea Star power-assisted hydraulics. Cool? Oh yeah!
The steering console layout kept the theme going. Except for the radar and stereo, which were far to the left, I could read and operate all controls and components without leaning forward more than a couple of inches. Bennett trim tab rockers, an ACR spotlight touchpad, a VHF, a Vetus bow thruster joystick, and a Raymarine autopilot were all within easy reach. And although there was digital engine detail on the Cummins monitors in front of my peepers, Formula had installed Livorsi analog gauges as well.
But then came the real poetry. To perform our wring-out, Porter and I headed for the open Gulf of Mexico, which was flat calm and, as luck would have it, devoid of mass-migrating rays. What twanged my heartstrings right off the bat was cornering. Our 48 did hard-over turns, figure-eights, and fast, back-and-forth course changes like an F-16. Then there was the acceleration. Although our test boat’s time to top end was middling by comparison with competing sport cruisers, the experience of planing was uncommonly and incredibly smooth, with no detectable break-over point. The curve I recorded with my OceanPC substantiates the observation: It’s virtually linear and clearly shows the 48’s tendency to rise steadily and bodily out of the water as speed increases rather than struggle over a hump. Trust me, the sensation you feel when you firewall the throttles of an 18-ton cruiser and seemingly levitate may not quite qualify as transcendence, but it’s dang close!
We concluded our sea trial and tied up in time to devote most of the afternoon to a dockside walk-through. This began with the 48’s interior, which adheres exactly to the layout of the Formula 47, intro’d in 2003: master stateroom forward, large guest stateroom/lounge area aft, and galley/dinette/saloon between. (Formula replaced the 47 with the 48 because the 47’s hull form did not have enough buoyancy aft to support big diesels. Extended pods and running surfaces under the 48’s reverse transom overcome that deficiency.)
A couple of interior features warmed the cockles of my heart. These included solid-maple drawers in the U-shape galley, each with dovetailed corners and a solid bottom, gorgeous book-matched American cherry joinery in the saloon, and an adjustable Corian cocktail dining table there with leaves and filler cushions to convert the adjoining settee into a berth.
I was also happy with the engine room, accessed by simply deploying a switch to raise the lounge area at the rear of the cockpit and then walking down a couple of steps. Elbowroom between the engines is decent considering their size, and there were several inches of clearance overhead when I sat down on one of the massive I-beam engine bearers. All fuel, sanitary, and plumbing hoses were laid out in schematic fashion, cushion-clamped, and for the most part split-loomed.
Porter and I ended our time together with a return to the foredeck, a fitting spot for our boat test wrapup for a couple of reasons. First, the place had earlier afforded us the opportunity to see a truly amazing sight. And second, the place gave us a great view of the racy exterior styling of the 48 Yacht, which, in league with potent performance, finely finished interior appointments, and well-engineered machinery spaces, makes her a fitting flagship for the Formula fleet.
Imron graphics; Spartech Marine companionway hatch; Bomar foredeck hatch w/OceanAir SKY screen and privacy shade; Volvo Penta SeaKey telematic system; Livorsi Marine instrumentation; Ritchie compass; Raymarine ST60 Tridata and Raychart SL520 chartplotter; Kenyon 3-burner cooktop; Sharp Carousel microwave oven; Nova Kool refrigerator; Clarion AM/FM stereo/CD stereo player w/Sirius hookup; Bose Lifestyle 35 w/5 cube-type speakers and subwoofer; Panasonic 22" and 15" LCD TVs; 2/VacuFlush MSDs; 20-gal. Seaward water heater; duplex 75/500 Racor fuel-water separators for main engines; 29,000-Btu Marine Air A/C; 12.6-kW Westerbeke genset w/500MA Racor fuel-water separator; 80-amp Charles Industries C-Charger 5000 Series battery charger; 2/ITT Jabsco Sensor Max VDS water pumps; Sea-Fire auto. fire-extinguishing system; Glendinning CableMaster w/50-amp service
Flagship custom Imron graphics; hardtop w/Bomar half-moon hatches; Raymarine 120C radar and ST8001 autopilot; U-Line cockpit refrigerator/ice maker; Gaggenau BBQ
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/660-hp Cummins QSM11 diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 325 IV/1.76:1
- Props: 26x391/4 4-blade ZF nibral
- Price as Tested: $1,002,225
This article originally appeared in the April 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.