Video Questions Effectiveness of Sea-Doo Braking System; Is It Truly Independent?

Video put out by a so-called "independent consulting firm" questions effectiveness of Sea-Doo's braking system, but in fairness, also looks anything but independent.

10th June 2010.
By Jeff Hemmel

Apparently I should check the responses to my YouTube account more often. Today I discovered a video response to a clip I had put together on Sea-Doo’s iControl Tour. In it, professional rider Rob Greenwald voices his opinions on the Sea-Doo braking system; the video notes he was solicited by an independent consulting firm, and that he has not been compensated.

In the interest of fairness, I’m putting the video out there, as I think it notes some valid concerns — namely that current off-throttle steering solutions, or even a rider’s careful control of throttle and steering, can sometimes produce a better end-result than relying on a brake. It also points out that the computer can prevent a rider from steering clear of an object once the brake is activated…unless of course they release the brake first.

Most of the scenarios in the video are presented at relatively close range, situations when off-throttle steering or driver control typically produce better results. In longer, straight-line scenarios, it’s clear from numerous tests that a brake-equipped model will stop in about half the distance as a non brake-equipped model. An experienced rider will likely know when to use what action for the best result. Inexperienced riders will have to learn that one technique isn’t the perfect solution in all scenarios.

Personally, I think the brake is effective, especially for the inexperienced who have a tendency to panic and stay in a straight line. More experienced riders will know to turn, even apply throttle, to avoid a collision rather than soften it. As I’ve said many times before, I also think the brake’s biggest advantage is how it enables the boat to behave in tight confines. Being able to start up in basically a “neutral” mode, then shift into forward or reverse, is a huge plus. I’ve seen many a launch ramp or dock mishap because an inexperienced rider simply did not know how to control a craft’s normal forward thrust. But again, it’s not the perfect solution. Rather, it’s just another tool in the arsenal.

In the end I suspect the video won’t change much. Sea-Doo fans will note flaws and continue to support their manufacturer’s system; Sea-Doo critics will jump on it as proof the system is flawed. Those who can keep an open mind will have to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision on their own, preferably after their own test ride.

As any responsible journalist would, however, I do have to add this comment before I get to the video: The aforementioned racer in the video, Rob Greenwald, has a strong affiliation with Yamaha. In fact, he’s identified as a “pro racer for Team Yamaha” on more than one occasion to anyone willing to do a quick Google search. With all due respect to Greenwald, just having a rider with these affiliations in the video prevents it from getting the attention it may in fact deserve. Most “independent consulting firms” I’ve ever dealt with would have checked into those details in order to eliminate even the possibility of bias.

Sea-Doo reps already argue that he’s not actually braking at the pole in the video, as evidenced by the lack of immediate spray at the stern of the craft, and when he does brake it’s not with the full force available, again as evidenced by the spray. The “independent consulting firm” in the video is not identified so I can’t really ask them for their response, but I would imagine that if I could, they’d say Greenwald was giving it all he’s got.

It’s he said, she said, and perhaps ultimately the average YouTube viewer won’t make the test rider connection or question the operation.

That’s an important thing to remember in today’s instant-media environment. Any manufacturer can make their products seem that much better, and with ever-dwindling third party media to test for themselves, the “testing” they put out often goes unquestioned.

And believe me, they’re putting stuff out there. I questioned Sea-Doo’s involvement with a YouTube test last year. Now, I’m not so sure another manufacturer isn’t behind this latest “independent” test.

Again, make your own informed decisions…


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About the author:

Jeff Hemmel

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Jeff Hemmel writes for boats.com, Boating, PersonalWatercraft.com, and Powersports Business. The former Senior Editor at Watercraft World, Jeff is a multi-time award winner as well as a 2008 inductee into the IJSBA Hall of Fame. His first book, "The Anti-Pirate Potato Cannon...and 101 Other Things For Young Mariners To Try, Do, & Build On the Water," received a bronze medal in the 2010 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. For more info, visit Jeff Hemmel's website.

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