Before fiberglass was invented many boats were works of art to one degree or another, but in today’s world of mass production true artistry is not commonly seen outside of custom-built yachts like the Weaver 63, or the Vicem 46—until you find a boat like the Chris-Craft Launch 28 GT. We could blather on about the use of real mahogany, the curvaceous custom-created stainless-steel fittings, the classic round gauges and more. But it makes a lot more sense to stop right here, and invite you to check it out for yourself in this First Look video which we shot at the 2018 Miami International Boat Show.
Chris-Craft has invested so much time and effort into this boat’s looks won’t surprise anyone who’s been keeping tabs on the builder lately. Whether you’re talking about the diminutive Capri 21 the Commander 42, or any of the models in-between, you’ll discover artsy touches like the use of varnished wood, gracefully curved lines, and classic styling. Sit in one of the seats on this boat and you’ll also note that like other Chris-Crafts the Launch 28 GT is finished with buttery-soft cross-stitched upholstery and hullside graphics that are in the gel coat, not glued on top of it. And yes, the 28 GT is essentially a bowrider just like the other models in the Launch series. But beyond that, a closer examination of the boat starts to expose some very different traits.
The first and biggest difference between this model and the others in the line is the availability of outboard power. Yes, you can still order it with a stern-drive, but now there’s an option. Fortunately, Chris-Craft didn’t merely cut here and plug there on an old hull design, then clamp an outboard in place. Truth be told many builders do just that, and as a result, the boats suffer from a weight distribution that they were not designed for. This boat, however, was design with the power choice in mind from the very beginning.
In all fairness, we should point out that there’s a third power choice of sorts. While technically still a stern drive, you can also opt for a Volvo-Penta powerplant and get it rigged with a Forward Drive drive unit. These stern drives put the propellers on the opposite end of the lower unit, facing forward, so they’re under the boat and just over two feet farther forward than on a regular stern-drive. This has a few minor-league performance perks (handling in reverse is enhanced and since the props are buried deep they can’t ventilate in hard turns) but most importantly, makes it safe for the boat to be used for wake-surfing. While we can’t say how many 28 Launch GT buyers will want to try wake surfing for themselves, it certainly does open up some new opportunities that models like this haven’t offered in the past.
Another unusual touch is the top. Past Launch models didn’t offer a top other than the traditional Bimini until you reached the largest in the line, the Launch 38 (which was originally splashed in 2014 as the Launch 36). But Chris-Craft designed a completely new type of top for the 28 GT. It’s half arch, half Bimini, with a substantial canvass top that extends back to offer quite a bit of protection from the sun and rain. And as we mention in the video, it does fold down. Many lake-boaters in middle-America have low bridges to contend with, and it’ll also come in handy when trailering in certain areas or potentially for storage if you have a boathouse or a very large garage. Wait a sec—did you think Chris-Craft would expect you to wrestle with the top one bit? Of course not. Just press a button and stand back, as it lowers electrically.
Complaints? They’ll be tough to come by in a boat that’s this finely designed and built. We did feel the aft lounger’s sliding seat back could be smoother, since it took some effort to move back and forth. But beyond that griping is likely to be limited to how much the boat costs. (Final pricing hadn’t yet been determined at the time of publication).
What about performance? We couldn’t get the Launch 28 GT off the dock at the show (grrr…) but since this model has similar dimensions to Chris-Craft’s old Launch 28 (which is no longer offered) and runs on similar powerplants, we can make a few generalities. With the smaller available powerplants this boat should cruise in the low 30’s and come close to or just break 50 MPH. With the max power, speeds approaching 60 MPH are quite realistic. At the time of this printing Chris-Craft hadn’t yet published an exact listing of just which powerplants will be offered, but they did tell us at the show that both Mercury and Volvo-Penta will be in the mix.
Chris-Craft is a boat-building name that’s been around for a very long time, and for many years their boats were artistic creations crafted entirely from wood. Though the hulls are fiberglass today, the 28 GT proves they’re still works of art – and unlike virtually all the other boats hitting the market today, there’s still plenty of eye-pleasing wood in the mix.
Other Choices: Buyers interested in the sort of classic look of the Launch 28 GT may also want to check out the Vanquish 26DC. Finding a Hinkley 29C would be another interesting option.
See Chris-Craft Launch 28 GT listings.