GLASTRON GS 259 OB
TESTED Glastron has broadened the appeal of its GS 259 by adding an outboard engine
nce upon a time, it was clearly understood that a recreational cruiser was at its best when fitted with an inboard diesel engine. Given a steady supply of good fuel, clean air and regular services, such engines would reward you with endless reliability, cruising economy, lots of torque and optimised sea-keeping manners, courtesy of their natural position, deep beneath the cockpit sole.
Now, however, in response to the buying choices being made by the vast markets of America, there has been a global shift toward outboard motors – and engine builders and boat manufacturers have been quick to collaborate with the trend. Outboard engines have increased greatly in output, with models from 300 to 400hp now readily accessible from the mainstream manufacturers; and the torque-optimised 425hp Yamaha XTO has brought an even more perfectly tailored cruising solution. This has enabled the creation of outboard options for virtually every kind of sub 50-foot boat model, so it was only a matter of time before Glastron embarked on a similar campaign with its highly regarded GS 259.
The Verado 300 is positioned a long way aft, at the trailing edge of the two-tier swim platform, and while that does little for the elegance of the 259, it does ensure that the back end of the cockpit remains largely unaltered. The two-man transom bench still has the capacity to face aft over the swim platforms; and the platforms themselves still afford you unencumbered freedom of movement from the water, from the pontoon and from the port side of the cockpit. Happily, the rest of the boat’s layout seems equally unaffected. It still offers the four-berth accommodation, nine-man cockpit, separate heads compartment and full-height galley we’ve enjoyed before – but the absence of the inboard engine has enabled the 259’s lack of cockpit storage to be directly addressed.
The vacated engine bay has been lined with vinyl panels on all sides, which means you can stow your bulky baggage in there without cluttering your cabins. True, it would have been
good to see Glastron’s designers attempt something more ambitious with the space – perhaps even a camping berth for kids – but even in this most basic form, it’s still a major improvement to the boat’s cruising credentials.
PERFORMANCE IN PERSPECTIVE
In principle, outboard propulsion has the potential to make Glastron’s excellent GS 259 even more attractive for boaters looking to make the transition from day boating to authentic cruising. But when you head out, it’s immediately evident that the impact here is both good and bad. On the one hand, there’s a pleasantly muted quality, both in terms of engine noise and vibration, that lends this boat a degree of refinement the original model can’t quite match. But while the established inboard 259 offers a composed performance in a lively sea state, the transition of so much weight up and aft has done the 259’s on-water performance few favours.
While the top end of nearly 35 knots is similar, there’s a propensity to porpoise here, which takes a fair bit of work with wheel, throttle, leg angle and trim tabs to alleviate. It encourages you to plough the bow a bit more than you would naturally choose and that’s of no benefit to ride quality or cruising economy. In fact, with optimum fuel flow of between 2.6 and 3.0 litres per nautical mile and an unchanged 265-litre fuel tank, a range of around 80 nautical miles is down on the 250 and 300hp inboard models, both of which exceed 100nm.
The pick-up is also less user-friendly. It spends the bulk of the lower rev band at displacement speeds, only settling onto the plane at around 4,600rpm. Its most frugal cruising speed is a rapid 30 knots with 5,500rpm on the clock. It feels fine at this speed and, with a 34.5-knot top end, outright pace is competitive, but compared to the inboard equivalent, this new outboard model feels a touch frenetic.
The GS 259 OB differs from the original in precisely the ways you might expect. Its quiet ride and uprated storage capacity are counterbalanced by the fact that it is less frugal, less fun to drive and slightly incongruous to look at. But that’s an issue of type as much as model – so while keen drivers and passionate purists will continue to scoff at the compromise in range, ride and seakeeping, the rest of the world’s boat buyers will simply rejoice that Glastron has embraced the zeitgeist and delivered the outstanding GS 259 in outboard form.
LOA 25ft 3in (7.7m) Beam 8ft 3in (2.54m) Engine options Single 250– 300hp outboard Test engine Mercury Verado 300hp Top speed on test 34.5 knots Fuel consumption at 20 knots 58lph Displacement 2.8 tonnes Fuel capacity 265 litres Price inc VAT from £88,271 Price as tested £104,590 inc VAT Contact Burton Waters Tel +44 (0)1473 225710, www.glastron.com
The real test of a hull is not how fast it feels but how well it disguises it. Some boats feel positively scary at 25 knots while others are totally relaxed at twice that speed. I discovered this early on in my time with the Windy Solano 27. I’d be running at speed alongside our photo boat, a Zonda 31, so that our snapper Richard could reel off some nice tracking shots. A westerly breeze was just starting to kick up a short chop directly on our bows and both boats were lapping up the conditions, drilling through the wave tops at 40 knots with salvos of spray ricocheting off the chines like bullets from a Gatling gun. The 27ft Solano had no trouble keeping up with its bigger sister in these conditions and thanks to its single 430hp petrol V8, the most powerful engine option available, it still had more to give. A lot more. A couple of explorative bursts saw the tacho stray well past 45 knots and by the time I eased back to 35 knots it felt like we were barely moving. That, at any rate, is my excuse for what happened next.
The photo boat had slowed to around 14 knots so that Richard could change lenses, kicking up a sizeable wake as it dragged its stern through the water. This was too good an opportunity to resist. I pointed the Solano’s bow at the tallest, steepest section of the wake and eased the throttle forward to what felt like a 25-knot cruise but in retrospect must have been a good 10-15 knots faster. When we hit the wake, the hull’s flat running angle and sheer momentum was enough to briefly bury the forefoot in the wake before generating the lift needed to launch the bow skywards. For a horrible moment I thought I’d overcooked it as first the hull and then the propeller parted company with the water. The engine note barely faltered but I can still remember the sudden absence of hull noise as water gave way to air and we flew straight as an arrow for a good couple of boat lengths before landing with a satisfying whoomph and continuing on our way.
I turned to my co-pilot, Berthon’s Windy sales manager Ben Toogood, and gave him my best “I meant to do that” grin. I’m not sure he fell for it but he smiled back, even though the whites of his eyes told a different story. It’s only later that he admits to me it wasn’t my driving he was fearful of but the owner’s reaction to a photo of his boat appearing in MBY with clear blue sky between hull and water. As it happens the owner was decidedly underwhelmed, taking one look at the photo and remarking that he’d regularly managed to get it further off the deck!
A DAY IN THE LIFE
If this tomfoolery sounds a little too much like chest-beating for the type of boating most of us enjoy, let me assure you that exploring the Solano’s stability in flight was never my intention, quite the opposite. Having only ever enjoyed a brief spin in hull No1 at last year’s Cannes show, the idea was simply to get to know the boat better over the course of a full day on UK waters. We rarely get the chance to explore a boat this thoroughly so my first thought was ‘what would an owner do?’ Given that it’s designed primarily as a fast, open day boat, a round trip from Lymington to Poole seemed the obvious answer. We could suss out its sea-keeping off the Needles, clarify its cruising comfort crossing Poole Bay, check out its cockpit credentials over lunch in Studland then pin down its pottering potential with a gentle cruise round Poole harbour. The final blast back to Lymington would give us a chance to assess its real world fuel consumption but also to see if we still felt good about the boat after a full day in its company.
Berthon seemed up for the challenge and more importantly so did the Solano’s owner, even though he wouldn’t be with us on the day. Perhaps that’s because he enjoyed the Windy experience so much that he’s already upgraded to a Zonda 31, meaning this six-month-old Solano is now for sale at £164,950 with an extended five-year Volvo warranty on the engine.
THREADING THE NEEDLES
Unintentional aerobatics over with it’s time to knuckle down and get some miles under the Solano’s belt, pausing briefly in the shadow of the Needles to assess its handling characteristics. Having recently used these waters for a test between an Axopar 28, a Cormate T27 and a Nimbus W9, they are
still fresh enough in the memory to make a meaningful comparison. On balance I would say the Windy sits somewhere in the middle. It isn’t quite as agile in the turns as the Cormate, but it rides the rough stuff better than the Nimbus and puts its power down more effectively than the Axopar. We get a chance to put all of these things to the test in the overfalls a few hundred metres further off the Needles, where the tail end of the Shingles bank is kicking up a real mess in the strengthening winds.
In a hull this good it’s easy to forget you’re in a boat measuring only 27ft with a relatively low freeboard and a totally open cockpit, until you’re faced with waves several feet higher than you. I needn’t have worried, by backing off to 16 knots and keeping the bow up we push through the worst of it and are soon clipping along at 25-30 knots through more manageable 2-3ft waves. Every now and then we catch one at the wrong angle and land more heavily than usual on one of the chines but by keeping that deep vee pointing downwards Windy’s famous magic carpet ride is limited only by the Solano’s modest dimensions, which could never hope to flatten waves as effectively as the bigger, heavier Zonda and Camira.
Twenty minutes later and we’ve rattled off the 12 miles from the Needles to Old Harry Rocks using just over 20 litres of fuel. The flat water in the lee of Studland gives us a chance to verify this with a set of performance figures. This shows that at our benchmark 20 knot cruise the big 430hp V8 is burning 32lph – usefully less than the 40lph consumed by Mercury’s 300hp Verado outboard at the same speed on the back of an Axopar 28. In truth you’ll never have the self-discipline to stick to this speed, but 50-60lph cruising at 25-30knots, equivalent to around 2.5mpg, is a more realistic figure. Flat out we reach 47 knots at 6,000rpm.
It also gives us the opportunity to put the Solano’s cockpit to good use with its sociable L-shaped seating, sturdy stainless steel grab rails and multiple lined lockers with hinged, cantilevered lids and expensive-feeling upholstery. It isn’t quite sunny enough to justify lifting the bimini shade from its recess under the rear seats or sliding the backrest to expand the size of the sunpad but it helps explain where the money goes and why Windy owners are so loyal to the brand. The compact cuddy makes overnighting possible but we suspect it will mainly be used for dry storage and occasional shelter. It’s the separate heads compartment that is more likely to gain the approval of owners and guests alike.
Sandwiches downed and video drone recovered, we motor past the chain ferry at the entrance to Poole Harbour for a tour of its pretty backwaters. The channels which snake between the islands range in depth from ten metres to less than one, but the Solano’s shallow draft and lifting sterndrive give us the confidence to explore the parts larger cruisers can’t reach. It’s so pretty and peaceful round here that we’re grateful for the silky murmur of a V8 petrol engine rather than the rumble of a four-cylinder diesel.
By the time we drop Richard off at Town Quay and sink a fresh coffee, the shadows are lengthening and Ben and I need to get a shimmy on back to Lymington. Once free of the harbour limits I ease the speed up to 40 knots, revelling in the flat conditions off Sandbanks beach and thinking we’ll cover the 20nm back in under 30 mins. My wishful thinking disappears in a cloud of spray as the swell grows ever bigger the further out into the bay we get. By the time we pass Hengistbury Head the peaks are almost two metres high and we’re riding up the back of the waves and surfing down the faces like a runaway carriage on a roller coaster ride. The Solano does a fine job of coping with the conditions but for the first time I wish the windscreen were a little taller to prevent the regular dousing we’re getting.
THE FINAL HURDLE
It’s only when we pass Hurst Point that the sea flattens off and I celebrate with a final sprint up the Solent, briefly touching a tide-assisted 50 knots on the way to the Lymington channel. It has taken us 40 minutes and we’ve burnt another 33 litres of fuel, but the Solano has looked after us remarkably well and we’ve tested every aspect of its character over a varied day. While plenty of similar-sized boats could have completed the same journey, it’s hard to think of any that would have coped as well and given us such enjoyment. A Botnia Targa 27.2 or Paragon 25 would have kept us dryer in the rough stuff but we’d have missed out on the joy of an open cockpit at anchor in Studland where the sociable seating comes into its own. A Cormate might have been more thrilling and an Axopar would be cheaper but neither have the level of accommodation or quality that the Windy has. It’s a supremely well-rounded craft that can lend its hand to anything. The only sticking point is the price, which is why this tidy secondhand one might provide the helping hand you need to overcome that final hurdle. CONTACT www.berthon.co.uk
With a single 300hp Mercury Verado outboard we achieved a top speed of 34.5 knots on test
DRIVE TIME The OB version isn’t as engaging to drive or efficient as the inboard TAKE THE HELM The bolster seat at the helm allows the driver to lean back and look over the windscreen
The compact galley has all the basics in place The open plan dinette converts to make a double berth The comfortable mid-cabin is partitioned off by a curtain The clever cockpit makes the most of the limited space on offer There is good access to the bathing platform
The Solano’s deep vee hull and punchy V8 engine ensure it flies across the Solent chop
The Solano coped admirably with the rough journey back, despite a proper soaking The Solano touched a tide-assisted 50 knots on the final sprint back to Lymington