GLASTRON GS 259 OB

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents -

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.

IN­TER­NAL IM­PLI­CA­TIONS

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.

WOR­THY COM­PRO­MISE?

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.

HAR­BOUR HEIGHTS

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

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