Stern drive runabout manufacturers have always aimed their products at the watersports market. They took their bowriders and dual console boats and added ski tow eyes, fancy towers, and onboard compressors to pump up tubes and other tow toys.
But anyone serious about water skiing, wakeboarding, and wake surfing rebuffed the stern drive because it just didn’t do the job as well as an inboard boat. Stern drive wakes weren’t flat enough for water skiers. Stern drive boats were either climbing on plane or falling off of plane at wakeboarding and wake surfing speeds, and the wake they left behind was unpredictable and nowhere near as large and ramped as riders could get with an inboard tow boat. Last but certainly not least, wake surfers had the added worry of falling into the stern drive’s propellers, which extended out beyond the back of the boat.
Just as new technology from Silicon Valley has the power to disrupt markets, so too does new technology from Volvo-Penta. The company’s new Forward Drive was developed in unison with Four Winns’ new TS222, a new runabout aimed squarely at the wake surfing market — and it looks to be right on target.
Based on the existing Four Winns SL222, the TS222 leaves behind sloped, predictable wakes that are perfectly suited to wakeboarding and wake surfing. The TS222 model includes optional surf tabs for wave tuning (which should really be a standard feature), a Zero Off speed control system to tailor the wakes to the rider, and 1,300 pounds of factory ballast. Those are all great, but what makes the package tick is the new Forward Drive from Volvo Penta.
“We’ve seen that the watersports market is really a growing area and we’re all about growing boating,” said Ron Huibers, President of Volvo-Penta North America. “So we looked at our technologies: the stern drive, the DuoProp and the IPS pod drive. We put those together to put the props under the boat, and that allows you to go wake surfing.”
The Forward Drive puts the props in front of the directional skeg, some 26 inches forward of where they would be located in a conventional DuoProp drive. The exhaust port is at the rear, which is completely submerged. That means the exhaust gases bubble to the surface behind the rider, so along with moving the props away there’s less danger from carbon monoxide and no station wagon effect.
There also are some hidden advantages to the TS222. For example, the use of twin counter-rotating propellers allows Four Winns to use less powerful engines, which means less fuel consumption. The drive is trimmable, which results in less wetted area on the hull and therefore achieves greater fuel economy. And the dual propellers also offer better slow-speed control and straighter tracking than an inboard with a right-hand or left-hand propeller.
|Fuel capacity||50 gal.|
In terms of the boat itself, the TS222 comes with the Stable Vee hull, which is great for making sharp turns to go back to pick up a downed skier. The cockpit is laid out smartly for a tow boat, with reversible helm and observer seats for facing fore or aft, a wide G-shape lounge, and a nifty walk-through to the swim platform. The platform itself is outfitted with nonskid foam decking, a swim ladder, and a rear-facing lounge chair, so adults can keep an eye on kids swimming behind the boat.
The interesting thing about the new Four Winns TS222 is that it can do what stern drives were at one time unable to accomplish. At the same time, the new drive allows the TS222 to do what inboards can’t do, which is offer directional thrust and adjustable trim settings.
“The TS222 will capture a niche market of tow sports enthusiasts looking for an affordable yet fully equipped boat for wake surfing and boarding,” said Roch Lambert, Rec Boat Holdings President. “We can now compete directly in the tow boat market with a more comfortable, excellent performing product without any sacrifice on tow sports amenities.”
Volvo Penta is also making the forward drive technology available all across its small-block V8 lineup, which includes 300, 320, 380 and 430 horsepower engines.
Other Choices: This boat is one-of-a-kind at the moment, folks, but expect a slew of Forward Drive stern drive watersports boats to blast onto the market during the coming year.
For more information, watch the Four Winns TS222: Quick Video Tour or visit Four Winns.