Ten years after Yamaha popularized watercraft with the trend-setting WaveRunner, they're still reshaping the industry with ingenious designs. The new WaveBlaster II succeeds the original WaveBlaster, which blazed a trail for the SeaDoo HX and Polaris Hurricane to follow — but don't let the common name or sibling resemblance fool you. The WaveBlaster II is a totally-unique, highly-innovative, state-of-the-art design that's all new from hull to helm. I have to admit, the WaveBlaster name diluted my expectations and had me believing it was simply a modified version of the original. However, that couldn't be further from the truth; so forget your preconceptions while we share our impressions of this stunning new machine.
Shortly after Yamaha introduced the WaveBlaster in 1993, company officials began brainstorming on the WaveBlaster II, a highly-agile craft targeted for the average person who may weigh more than 200 pounds and possibly stand over 6 feet tall. According to Steve Lawlor, Public Relations Coordinator for Yamaha Water Vehicles, six or seven prototypes were scrapped during their relentless pursuit of these specific goals.
"The WaveBlaster turned out to be one of the most exciting watercraft to ride, although it's not as versatile as we had hoped," Lawlor said. "The Blaster II is targeted for similar buyers looking for a very reactive craft between a sit-down and a standup, but is also well suited for tandem riding — and you don't have to be athletic to enjoy it."
The Blaster II is remarkably easy to flick from side to side, and seems to react in reflex to your thoughts alone. It handles like a motorcycle with a natural lean in turns, but has a character all its own. "The faster you go, the more it rides upright," Lawlor explained. "Some of the early prototypes laid over more in turns like the Blaster I, but didn't have the stability we were looking for."
The Future Takes Shape
Driven solely by design goals, Yamaha sculpted the WaveBlaster II without concern for racing or IJSBA size restrictions. The 107.1 inch long by 40.6 inch wide motorcycle-styled body looks and handles like a Sport craft, but narrowly exceeds the width restriction for that class. Although racing had little to do with its conception, the WaveBlaster II can run in the 785 runabout class where it should fare extremely well. The hull is a complex, hydrodynamic masterpiece that's densely woven with highly-accentuated bottom features. The keel has a sharp forward entry for slicing rough water, while the long running section on the underbelly is flattened out to reduce resistance and maximize top speed. Concave channels left and right of center keep the hull glued into turns, and multiple strakes, hooks and varied angle chines come into play as the craft is leaned over further. Spray deflectors, molded into the outermost chines, meet at the bow and do an outstanding job of keeping riders dry.
On the top side, the deck has a broad, bulging appearance that one test rider described as "a WaveBlaster on steroids". The double-padded seat sits higher above the footwells than other runabouts and rises sharply up front to a rounded stowage box resembling the gas tank of a sport motorcycle. It's raised in the rear as well, providing a sharp lip that locks solo operators in place while they're lying forward in an aggressive riding position. Passengers will also relish the raised rear seat section for its added comfort.
The forward deck stretches from the bow up to the helm in a smooth, flowing arch. It houses a stowage locker and a sleek gauge console with digital instrumentation. Gauges are limited to a fuel level indicator and warning lights for low oil, fuel and high temperature. A speedometer would be a welcome feature, given this craft's towering power, and will definitely be missed by some enthusiasts.
Propelling the WaveBlaster II is Yamaha's new 754 cc, 90 horsepower engine that also powers the WaveRaider 760. It features reed valve induction (technology borrowed from the awesome Raider 1100 engine), digital ignition, and a pair of 44mm Mikuni carburetors.
To get 90 horses treading water right off the line, Yamaha fitted the midsize WaveBlaster II with the huge 155mm pump found on their much larger, three-passenger WaveVenture 1100 model. The pump, housing a three-blade, stainless-steel impeller, delivers stomping throttle response and heaps of low-end pull. In the Venture, it has proven its metal, effortlessly yanking skiers to their feet, and will serve equally-important duty rocketing the Blaster II off the line and out of turns. "Acceleration is very important in buoy-course competitions," Lawlor commented. "The racer who gets off the line first often wins the race."
In exchange for explosive acceleration and uncanny maneuverability, the WaveBlaster II gives up just two to three miles per hour maximum velocity compared to the identically-powered WaveRaider 760 that maxes out in the mid 50's. "Fast boats go fast because they ride out of the water," Lawlor explains. "The Blaster II is a totally wet hull. It only weighs 380 pounds, but you're pushing the whole thing through the water." For those interested in more speed, Lawlor says three mph or more can be gained by simply switching to an aftermarket ride plate and nozzle designed to bring the bow up.
The top-end boost may be just the ticket for drag racing, but the Blaster II hardly needs any favors on the slolam course. It absolutely destroyed the much harder-to-handle HX when both models were piloted around a slolam course by intermediate riders, and ran neck-and-neck when pros ran the pair. Wait until you hear how it fared against other runabouts in its class — like the 110 horsepower XP, Polaris 900 and the world-champion Kawasaki Xi. We just completed a test of these top-carving runabouts; look for full coverage of this head-to-head showdown in a future issue.
Perhaps the original Blaster was so named because it's such a blast to ride. Consider this: each year, Yamaha gathers watercraft journalists to test ride their latest and greatest along with the other models in their fleet. In a few hours, with obligatory rides of the new machines behind us, our sentiments are typically "That was great, now can we ride the Blasters?" While they're not the fastest, those of us who ride often realize the "oohs" and "aahs" that come from shifting g-forces on a machine with exquisite handling continue to soothe long after the raw thrill of straight-line speed has become boring. It's the same principle that leads sports car enthusiasts to plunk down mega bucks for exotic cars often having less horsepower and slower top speeds than a stock Chevy Camaro.
The II continues this tradition of driving excitement synonymous with the Blaster name, but takes it to the next level and opens the floodgates for all to enjoy. In sharp contrast to the original, it's a steady platform to board from water, easy to balance with a passenger, and doesn't require a specialized riding style to keep from spinning out. Precise turns are possible with the rider standing, crouching or sitting. At slow- to mid-throttle, it behaves closest to the original, prodigiously carving tight corners with a steep lean. As velocity increases though, it assumes a slightly more vertical turning position that's remarkably immune to inside weight shifts. Without risk of sliding out, the rider can lean heavily and utilize G-forces to effortlessly bond with the craft, rather than fight against it — and this is where the Blaster II is unique.
Most runabouts track flat through high-speed turns and rely heavily on the rider's strength and will to hang on. The problem is, banging razor-sharp turns in a vertical position at 50 mph can feel like slamming the high side wall at the Indianapolis 500. Conversely, the Blaster II offers the same radical carving ability (if not better) without the workout. The motorcycle-type riding position is comfortable and promotes a natural feel, as if the operator and machine were one and the same. The most aggressive riding style involves stretching out in a heavily-angled (almost lying forward) position with the buttocks locked against the rear seat lip and feet planted back on the rear tray step like a runner on a starting block. Aside from being comfortable and secure, this is also a highly-desirable aerodynamic position for racing. At each turn buoy, the rider simply slides off the saddle, wrenches the helm and goes with the flow. Unlike the Polaris Hurricane, SeaDoo HX and original Blaster, the II leans only marginally while g-forces stick the rider to the motorbox and seat like Spider Man on a building.
As our testing session came to a close, a late afternoon breeze kicked up a small chop, but didn't seem to impede the new Blaster's performance, or it's ability to deliver a dry ride, my attraction to the machine. While the sun sank into the horizon, I found myself banging left and right buttonhooks trying to reproduce a maneuver I stumbled on that submerged the entire craft. The playful lure of the machine had me hooked &38212; and perhaps that's the secret to watercraft of the future. It's quite possible the advent of the WaveBlaster II could redirect the industry away from the horsepower race to compete in an arena where fun-to-ride, multi-dimensional craft are king. In the WaveBlaster II, Yamaha has perfected the formula for an exhilarating, two-passenger, inside-leaning runabout that many thought impossible. It corners like a Porsche, accelerates like a cannon blast, and delights riders of all sizes, shapes and types.
WaveBlaster II: Specifications
|Compression Ratio:||7.0:1 (Front) 6.7:1 (Rear)|
|Carburetion:||2 Mikuni BN 44|
|Fuel Capacity:||10.6 gallons|