FROM THE ARCHIVES: First published in TrailerBoat #178, March 2004
I’m waiting for a couple of pints at a pub in Echuca on the Murray River, and spark up a conversation with a hip young gunslinger at the bar. I mention I’ve come up from Melbourne to do some fishing, and ask where the local perch hotspot is. He looks at me with the same expression a dog employs when you pretend to throw it a stick but hide it behind your back at the last second. Fishing? You don’t fish in Echuca, man, you wakeboard. He tries to sell me his board — he desperately wants this year’s model — but my beers arrive just in time and I escape with wallet intact.
I knew wakeboarding was big, but not this big. Go for a boat around Echuca on an average Saturday afternoon and it’s like Pitt Street; the majority of craft are tricked-up wakeboarding rigs driven by people whose waistbands stay firmly south of their armpits — they’re not quite at the stage where they’ll brain one another with walking frames to defend a plum spot in the carvery queue at the local RSL.
Boats are back in a big way with young people. Many grew up riding skateboards or skiing behind the family runabout; some surfed waves, others the slopes, and some have done it all. Wakeboarding is the logical progression.
Centurion Boats importer Brett Swan and partner-in-crime Tim Cantanese are decorated members of the wakeboarding army. Young, enthusiastic and boasting real talent on the board, selling the sizzle comes easy. Their secret? They use their boats every chance they get and firmly believe they’re the best on the market, bar none. They don’t need a hard sell, though. Take a look at the passion-red Cyclone we tested here. Don’t pictures paint a thousand words?
Plexus, Permalock, Integrated Composites, Reverse Shoebox — geez, is this a Nike ad or what? Nup, they’re some of the fancy handles applied to the high-tech Centurion hull.
Basically, there’s no timber used; the glue and joins are actually stronger than the hull material itself; the paint and graphics are part of the gelcoat (not applied afterwards); the materials used are light and strong, and the voids are all foam filled. And I’m out of breath.
The hulls are hand built using tri-directional fibreglass and are reinforced with mat rovings. They are then molecularly bonded together with a special resin called Plexus.
The outer and inner moulds are injected with expanding foam and are Plexus-fused together. Under the deck there’s a reverse shoebox stringer system — a design that Centurion says is immensely strong and prevents water seepage into the foam. By the time the hull is finished, it’s practically a one-piece affair.
Likewise for the engine mountings — aircraft aluminium and composite materials are used for rigidity and vibration damping. Once finished, the boats are tested on the company’s private lake so any kinks can be ironed out prior to delivery.
The model profiled here — the Cyclone C4 — is a smaller version of the Avalanche. At a nimble 6.3m, it’s easier to store, costs less to buy, and needs fewer horses to deliver similar performance and wake shape.
Obviously, this boat has come from the drawing board of a keen wakeboarder. Wake shape and wakeboarding performance is priority number one, but not far behind are responsiveness, handling, looks and social interior layout.
Its deep-vee hull smooths wind-blown chop while a beam of more than nine feet contributes to exceptional stability. Deep, high shoulders makes the bowpit and helm position dry, but the boat does lean heavily into turns and the inside corner passenger on the rear lounge gets up close and personal with the water during tight manoeuvres.
The boat is a slick number. Fair, smooth inner skin mouldings, irreproachable paintwork, neatly stitched upholstery, quality fixtures and intelligent design are evident. The bowpit is American-sized, and the lounges are sculpted and tastefully finished in marine vinyl. Drinkholders, polished gelcoat and quality deck hardware all add to an impression of quality.
Move through the wide passageway and raked safety glass windscreen and into the cockpit. The interior is set up with a stern lounge that wraps around the port side before curving into a double observer lounge in the helm.
The passenger can put his or her legs up and slide back like they’re at home watching the teev.
Three can sit in the back thanks to the wide beam. There are enclosed sidepockets for personal items, but I felt the back passengers could use a grab handle or two to steady themselves in high-G turns.
The V-Drive setup opens up the cockpit and doesn’t make hermits of those in the back. Most high-profile wakeboarding boatbuilders have adopted this format. The cockpit is just the place for a picnic, but it really needed a central lift-out table to stage a party.
Strangely, it’s only available as an option on some Centurion variants — for the money, I’d expect one to come standard.
BATTEN THE HATCHES
Dry storage is found under the bowrider lounges, and the hatches were easy to access without having to rip everything apart. The observer-lounge backrest lifts up on a gas strut to get to a cavernous, carpeted waterski locker. It’s more than large enough for the job.
Lift a hatch in the companionway floor to grab a drink from the icebox. It drains into the bilge, and is also fitted with gas struts. Co-pilot is treated to a lockable glove compartment, and other passengers can chuck their hats and sunnies in the sidepockets when it’s time for a dip. Everything is lined or polished and there’s no sign of untidy joins or general rattiness at all. It feels like an expensive, hand-built boat.
Get a few mates onboard and the gear tends to pile up like Mount Kilimanjaro, but don’t sweat it: here’s where the boot comes in. Either side of the engine bay hiding under the rear sunbathing pad are two huge storage bins. Get to them by lifting separate hatches supported by — you guessed it — gas struts. These details make life aboard a pleasure rather than a pain. The lockers are big enough for wakeboards, but if you’ve just spent a packet on a nice, shiny new one, you might as well show it off on the optional board racks.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
The helm chair swivels around so you can chat to your mates (not when you’re driving, of course), and it slides back and forward to accommodate beanstalks and short-arses alike.
The dash is BMW-like with mock carbon-fibre inserts, a spread of Faria gauges, a silky throttle that falls to hand, crisp vision through the screen and — as the cherry on the cake — a big rearview mirror that snaps off easily when you don’t need it. It’s bloody comfortable and exudes class — the Myer of helms as opposed to the Crazy Clint’s.
Mechanical steering was firm and direct, and overall the boat was effortless to drive. It’s like driving from a Smoky Dawson chair, except this baby has a bolster that jacks you up higher than a formal dress on prom night if you need 360° vision.
Any self-respecting wakeboarding boat has a kick-arse sound system. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can stick with the popular option — a six-speaker Sony remote setup — or if you’re flush, lash out and fit a subwoofer so you can scare all the birds away. The feathered kind, I mean.
The Cyclone has a big ballast tank that took a few minutes to fill and empty, but it beefed up the wake like a weightlifter that’s just discovered what juice does. It also comes with an adjustable wake plate as standard.
The Sideswipe Exhaust system is an ingenious bit of gear and it’s a factory option on the Cyclone. Apart from making the most of that V8 resonance, it can route the spent gas to either the port or starboard side of the boat with the flick of a switch. If you’re wakesurfing you can breathe fresh air and not suck down the equivalent of 50 packs of Marlboros while riding the never-ending wave.
Clip-in carpets allow you to turn the hose on the boat to wash away the mud that inevitably finds its way aboard. Everything’s waterproof so you won’t damage anything, and it certainly cuts the time spent tidying up after a session.
The tower had speakers, spotties and racks and folds down so you can slip the boat into the garage. Looks mean, too.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
At wakeboarding speeds you can enjoy one of the best ramps in the business for spectacular pop off the lip. While not the size generated by the Avalanche, there’s more than enough there to keep advanced boarders happy. The wake flattens noticeably as you apply throttle, but it’s probably a little fat for hardcore skiers.
In terms of handling, the boat reacts instantly to the helm, pulls like a train, tracks straight and true, and turns quickly to pick up a lost boarder. The deep-vee hull design and imposing bow should make short work of chop, although we had little to contend with on the day Trailer Boat tested the vessel.
Overall, the boat felt cohesive, eager and smooth. The base power package is a 350 MerCruiser MPI pumping 315hp, and this should deliver the power you need without experiencing feelings of loss and pain at the bowser. If you’re planning to fit in a crowd, maybe consider spending extra on a 340hp model, which is the maximum for this hull.
Apart from the build quality, standard features, layout and performance, the biggest selling point for the Cyclone is the fact that it’s fully imported. Which means every bit of the boat is installed at the factory, right down to the tandem trailer it rolls on. The whole thing is wrapped in plastic before being shipped to Oz to the hands of an excited owner. Which means the dealer doesn’t need to fiddle around fitting stereos and towers — you just tick what options you want at the time of purchase and it’s all done first time, right time in the US of A.
As tested, this rig sells for about $65K, which compares well with its direct American competition — but it is a fair bit more than local product.
This is one convincing boat, though, and it boasts an enviable level of sophistication. Punters will need to suggest a test drive with the bank manager to seal the deal.
CENTURION CYCLONE C4
Price as tested: $65,480
Options fitted: Side Swipe Exhaust, six-speaker Sony stereo, deluxe driver’s seat, Computer Hull metal-flake graphics package, board racks, stainless rub rail
Priced from (BMT): $55,990 with tower, base paint, ballast tanks, tower and 315hp MerCruiser
Packages available: Storm 1, 2 and 3
Material: Fibreglass composite (ICS) with Plexus resin
Rec/max hp: 315/340
Weight (dry): 1315kg
Passengers: Nine adults
Make/model: MerCruiser 350 MAG
Type: Multi-point injected V8 four-stroke
Rated hp: 315
Prop: 12.65 x 13cc three-blade
Centurion Boats Australia, Melbourne, Vic, tel (03) 5261 5174, or visit www.centurionboats.com
Social cockpit layout
Wake and performance
No cockpit table
Fair amount of bodyroll in turns
No grabs for back passengers
Story: Phil Kaberry Photos: Ellen Dewar
First published in TrailerBoat #178
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