The 196 comes standard with speed control and a 275-horsepower 5.0-liter engine from Pleasurecraft Marine.

The 196 comes standard with speed control and a 275-horsepower 5.0-liter engine from Pleasurecraft Marine.

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Ever since wakeboarding took the tow-boat market by storm back in the mid-1990s, direct-drive inboard sales have plateaued. But all the major manufacturers—at least those that want the cache that comes from supplying boats to pro ski tournaments—still make at least one model aimed slalom jocks.

Correct Craft has long been what could be considered the standard by which all other tournament ski boats are judged, and its 196 model is perhaps the best example of an old-school, closed-bow three-event boat. It also offers the 206, an open-bow model.

For starters it leaves behind flat, buttery soft wakes that are easy to knife through on a ski edge, but also creates little spray, which becomes important at shorter line lengths and when trying to see your way through a slalom course.

The 196 comes standard with speed control and a 275-horsepower 5.0-liter engine from Pleasurecraft Marine. The engine is good for a top speed of around 50 mph, which is faster than a lot of ski boats will go, and it might be handy for outrunning afternoon storms that always seem to move in so quickly. It's also probably a good idea to stick with the base engine, what with $4-a-gallon gasoline.

The boat's layout is simple and classic. The observer's seat flips on a hinge and is supported on twin gas struts to reveal a cavernous stowage area. Because it's a closed-bow model, you can actually fit a few skis inside. There also is stowage behind the rear bench seat. The twin sunpads atop the "trunk," which are wide enough for lounging, flip up and out on hinges and are supported by gas struts. The compartment is nice and wide and deeper than you might expect. The best part is that because of the way the sunpads are hinged, you can access the compartment from the cockpit or from the swim platform. The swim platform itself is huge, a gelcoated fiberglass piece with nonskid rubber matting.

The 196, of course, has grab handles above the swim platform and for rear bench passengers, a tow-eye for pulling the kids on tubes, lots of thick padding on the gunwales and engine cover and plush marine-grade carpeting covering the sole. For added convenience, the boat has fuel fills on both sides, so you don't have to jockey at the gas station to fill the truck then the boat.

You can get the 196 in three trim levels: standard, limited and team packages. The limited and team packages include a larger, 5.7-liter engine with 343 horsepower, and you can even get a 6.0-liter with 390 horsepower if you're that way inclined. These kinds of horsepower figures in a ski boat were virtually unheard of just a few years ago.

Correct Craft doesn't publish MSRP pricing, so if you want pricing information, see your local Correct Craft dealer. The company Web site also has a cool feature that lets you build the boat exactly as you want it, with all the color and graphics options for the gelcoat and upholstery. For more information, visit www.correctcraft.com.

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