SARASOTA, Fla. — More than 150 representatives from Chris-Craft dealerships in the United States and around the world gathered here during the weekend for the opportunity to test the boatbuilder’s entire fleet, including the new flagship Commander 42 and the new Calypso 30 dual console.
It was the first public showing for both boats.
“This is our biggest event of the year,” Chris-Craft marketing director Allison Scharnow told me as I waited my turn to test the Calypso. “It’s the only time we have all the models in the water at the same time. Dealers and customers get to touch, feel and drive them, and talk to the engineers. It’s important for our customers and dealers to see them here, at a special event for them, not just at a boat show.”
About 150 registered customers are also attending the event, a good number of them from outside the States, said Scharnow. Dealers and clients had the chance to test 11 boats from 21 to 42 feet. The Sarasota builder had the vessels docked at the Hyatt Regency’s marina, with a large tent covering the T-dock so participants could escape the Florida sun (it was 93 degrees).
Chris-Craft enters a different market — express sedan/coupe — with the Commander 42. The yacht has the interior amenities and accommodations of a modern express cruising boat, but with a classic, lobster-yacht exterior design, Chris-Craft chairman Stephen Julius told me during a demo of the Commander 42 on a choppy Sarasota Bay.
“The lobster yacht style dovetails with our DNA,” Julius said. “There are a lot of forgettable boats out there. We’re in the business of creating beautiful boats — memorable boats.”
The Commander is a joint venture between Chris-Craft and the Italian yacht builder Austin Parker. Austin Parker designed the hull, and Chris-Craft designed the interiors.
Powered with twin 435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600s, the Commander 42 topped out at 36 knots during our test run. The enclosed deckhouse’s aft end opens to the cockpit via two centerline sliding glass doors. There’s a large “sunbed” on the bow, a cockpit galley, sleeping below for five people, a head and separate shower, teak cockpit soles and mahogany exterior trim.
Dual L-shaped settees in the deckhouse with a dinette table that fits between should be a social hot spot on the yacht, said Julius. The builder put the helm on the port side to maximize cabin space, said Chris-Craft vice president of engineering Chris Collier.
The Commander was by far the most popular boat at the event, with non-stop demo rides. But the new Calypso 30 — the second dual console from the builder — drew a steady flow of passengers, too. With its twin Yamaha F300s, I had the boat doing 54 mph at full throttle. She’s 30 feet, but handles like a 19-foot runabout, with great acceleration and nimble handling. It’s a blast to drive and gets decent mileage for a boat with 600 horses — 1.4 to 1.7 miles to the gallon from 30 to 40 mph.
I liked the starboard-side enclosed head under the helm console. The entire forward-facing seat lifts up, giving you a wide-open passage inside. The starboard boarding door is clever and functional, as well. It swings inboard and then can be lifted and placed on top of the gunwale, revealing a recessed swim ladder.
The versatility and comfort of the cockpit seating impressed me. You can fill the entire space with seating by pulling out the port and starboard settees, which are recessed and hidden along the gunwales, or clear the decks when you need to move about freely.
I talked to two dealers — one from the local area and the other from Sweden. Goran Ganstrand is the CEO of the dealer Vatt in Nacka Strand, which is near Stockholm. Vatt has been a Chris-Craft dealer for nine years, carrying models from 21 to 32 feet.
“This is a new market for us,” Ganstrand said of the Commander 42. “There is a lot of day boating in Europe, but this gives you the opportunity to do both day boating and weekend — or longer — cruising.”
Casey Smith, of the Viage Group’s St. Petersburg office, praised Chris-Craft for giving dealers and clients great access to the boats and personal attention. “I don’t know of another company that goes to this extent,” he said. “This is the first public showing of this boat, and customers can run these boats all day.”
Julius, who was darting around the boats during the demo ride answering questions, was clearly excited about the Commander. As he guided a customer around the boat, Julius said, “I believe this is the most beautiful lobster yacht design I know of. I think she’s a beauty.”