One of the most popular trends in building inboard ski boats in recent years has been to create a more well-rounded package, something that pulls skiers as well as it does wakeboarders. As part of the package, that same boat must provide room for a group of friends and all the gear they bring along. Supra's entry into this category is the Sunsport, a new direct-drive inboard based on the hull of the popular Santera V-drive introduced last year.
As tested, the Sunsport came to our Captiva Island, Fla., round of Trials priced at $38,555, with an optional stainless-steel towing tower, aluminum wheels on its standard disc-brake-equipped tandem-axle trailer and canvas covers for the cockpit and the bow playpen. Deleting those options on the 23'8" craft would drop that price a bit, to $35,995.
When our ski-test team turned in the notebook and tapes, their findings backed up what Supra representative Jim Jackson said: The Sunsport skis well and puts out a good wake for 'boarding. Even without a ballast system to deepen the boat's footprint in the water, the Sunsport provided wakes that our wakeboarding tester called, "the smoothest and most predictable launch ramps I've been on in a long time."
Part of the boat's wakeboarding prowess was due to its—get this—stainless-steel towing tower. Unlike the brushed- and powder-coated aluminum towers of, as far as we know, every other tow boat made, the Sunsport's stainless tower marked a refreshing change. It also rose high enough above the cockpit sole to provide good lift for those in tow. The tower attached to the deck at three points on each side, through-bolted, of course. And, to keep the front tower legs from obscuring the driver's line of sight, Supra aligned them with the aluminum spars in the windshield.
Driver visibility also was enhanced by a slick starboard seat that rose higher on its adjuster as it slid forward. Testers gave the Supra's mirror the highest marks of any tow boat from this year's Trials, and gave equally high marks to the boat's tracking ability, as well as it's throttle-lever placement and ease of use.
With a skier in tow, the Supra scored high marks again, especially for its wakes and its tracking. Our lead ski tester noted that there was no bothersome turbulence in the "table," even at shorter line lengths, and deemed it a "real clean wake."
At the end of the day, when all the gear was stashed for the ride back to the dock, the Supra again delivered more than the test team expected.
First, the Supra's swim platform was fitted with a stainless-steel rail around its perimeter, which made water egress easier. And unlike boats with maintenance-intensive teak platforms, the Sunsport came with a mold-finished gelcoat affair that had nonskid rubber mats bonded to its surface.
Second, the Sunsport had stowage areas all over the place. The rear-opening trunk was big enough to swallow about six slalom skis or perhaps three wakeboards. More importantly, fitting the boat with the optional ballast system wouldn't take away any room from the trunk. In addition, the stowage area behind the observer's seat was part of the large compartment under the bow and walk-through area. In other words, if you put a ski in behind the observer's seat, you could pull it out from under the bow cushion.
The bottom of the Sunsport featured a sharp entry, which softened aft of the two tracking fins underneath. Four strakes ran from bow to stern, the inside pair terminating about a foot from the transom. Outside strakes ran full length about a foot inside of the neutral chine, which measured about 3 inches wide.
Power came from a proprietary Indmar 320-hp 5.7-liter V-8 engine, which channeled its energy through a Hurth 1:1 gear box to a 13" x 13" four-blade stainless-steel propeller.
With that combination, the Supra shot on plane in 2.35 seconds on its way to a top speed of 44 mph at 4,700 rpm, which took 15 seconds to reach. Midrange acceleration tests from 20 to 40 mph took 5.39 seconds.
Like the ski team, performance testers doled out high marks to the Supra for its tracking and its slalom prowess at 20, 30 and 40 mph, and at full throttle. About the only detractions were a slight deceleration reaction, high-effort steering and a few rattles from the tower in rough water.
Supra starts with 22 mils of gelcoat, followed by alternating layers of chopped mat, ceramic core and biaxial cloth, and woven roving in its 100 percent fiberglass hull and stringer system. This unibody construction bonds the entire floor and stringer system together into a one-piece unit, which Supra said dampens vibration and maximizes hull strength.
Close inspection of the boat revealed a high-gloss gelcoat and only a few detectable waves in the mold work. Four-inch Accon Pull-Up cleats came mounted just in front of the windshield and at the transom. Supra also installed stainless bilge vents and a horn grille forward of the windshield.
The stainless tower hinged forward with the removal of two Allen bolts to fold so that it was no higher than the windshield, a big plus for towing and storage. Continuing the stainless theme was a rubrail—better than what you usually see on a ski boat—which featured a gray plastic extrusion with a—you guessed it—stainless-steel insert.
In addition to the aforementioned stowage compartment beneath the observer's and bow seats, the Supra also came with a couple of innovative features. For starters, the padded walk-through to the playpen lifted up and allowed access to the stowage beneath. Atop it were two flip-up backrests, one for bow passengers and the other serving to widen the observer's seat, creating room for two rear-facing passengers.
The upholstered engine box was a double-clamshell affair, the top of which lifted for access to minor services such as checking engine oil. The bottom of the "doghouse" also lifted to allow access to other grimier services.
The entire cockpit was lined with 40-ounce marine carpeting, upgraded from the material Supra used in years past. Jackson said the new material costs a little more, but the extended wear it yields was more than worth the extra expense.
Supra has the uncanny ability to produce ski boats that not only perform on par with some of the costliest models on the market, but also to do it for less money. The Sunsport is a perfect example.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||11 degrees|
|Hull weight||3,250 pounds|
|Engine||Indmar Assault 320|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1:1|
|Propeller||Cutter 13" x 13"|
|Price as tested||$3,555|
AM/FM CD stereo with six speakers, depthfinder, twin electronic speedometers, tilt wheel, fire extinguisher, swivel-head ski pylon, 40-ounce carpeting, stainless rubrail, stainless platform rail, "double-up" observer seat, 12-volt power outlet, twin tracking fins, tandem-axle trailer with disc brakes, chrome wheels and stainless fenders, auto lock, heavy-duty marine battery.
Options on Test Boat
Upgrade to stainless-steel tower ($1,495), acrylic cockpit cover ($550), aluminum trailer wheels ($340), acrylic tonneau cover ($175).
|3 seconds||23 mph|
|5 seconds||32 mph|
|10 seconds||42 mph|
|15 seconds||44 mph|
Rpm v. Mph
|Speedometer||44 mph at 4700 rpm|
|Radar||44 mph at 4700 rpm|
|Nordskog Performance Products GPS||42.5 mph at 4700 rpm|
|Time to plane||2.4 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||15 mph|
|At 25 mph||3.8 mpg|
|At 35 mph||2.7 mpg|
|At WOT||1.6 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||28 gallons|
5820 U.S. Highway 411 South
Maryville, TN 37801