- This is a very exciting and yet easy boat to drive.
- It combines all the luxuries and practicalities of a family boat with blinding performance, good handling and quick steering.
- It is exceedingly tough externally, which is matched by the quality of its internal GRP mouldings and fittings.
The Husky R8s sets out to combine the luxuries and practicalities of family boating with performance and handling that will appeal to those looking for a more adventurous ride. Greg Copp takes to the helm to see whether these targets are met …
Aptly nicknamed ‘Husky on steroids’, the 350hp R8s is the latest Scandinavian invader from Finnmaster. In keeping with the Husky range, the R8s is externally constructed from aluminium, and complemented with GRP internal mouldings with Silvertex upholstery. It has less of a minimalistic feel to it than its smaller siblings, and like the rest of the fold it is designed as a sports boat first and a bowrider second. It is, nevertheless, just as practical as its sister boat, the R8, and can cope with the most heavy-handed petrolheads.
This test boat had the biggest engine option in the form of the 5.3L V8 Yamaha F350 – one of my favourite engines. Many will argue that 300hp is all this boat needs, which is a fair point, but having driven it on steroids I would not want it any other way. There is something reassuring about having 5300cc of understressed, naturally aspirated horsepower hanging on the transom. With such a power-to-weight ratio, this boat accelerates in a merciless yet deceptive manner. The F350 is a relatively quiet engine and one of the smoothest outboards built, so you need to keep an eye on the tachometer or the GPS. You will be past 40 knots before you realise it, and its top speed of just over 50 knots flashes up on the GPS moments later. Realistically this boat cruises between 35 and 40 knots if you are not in a hurry to empty the tank, as at this speed you can get around 2.5mpg. When we ran from the Needles to Old Harry at a steady 38 knots, both the F35-powered R8s and the F300-powered Finnmaster T8 photo boat were returning around 2.4mpg running into some mild swell.
Though this boat is designed to cater for family days out, it is also built to be seriously abused in a way that a fibreglass boat can’t be. The forefoot of the hull is sharp and flattens out to a 19-degree transom deadrise angle – technically medium-vee territory. However, the ride is reassuringly soft, as I found out when hitting the wake of two large flybridge boats at 45 knots. This is helped by the fact that the R8s does not like much leg trim at speed, so the forefoot is always kept low to cut a path. If you overtrim you will know about it, as she quickly starts to bounce her nose while losing a few knots in the process. This particular boat had a Mente Marine automatic trim tab system coupled to Bennett trim tabs, which had not yet been configured for the boat. This was a shame as they are a great bit of kit and a perfect complement for a lively sports boat, especially one that is likely to carry plenty of crew. Though they often can’t react quickly enough to spirited cornering, they are great for running into choppy head seas or with the weather on the beam.
Throwing the R8s into tight corners is great fun, as the boat digs in perfectly and doggedly sticks to its course. Having a reasonable amount of beam and a not overly sharp deadrise, she is pretty stable when thrown about and there is no hint of hull slide. The feedback from the steering is superbly precise, making light work of throwing a big outboard engine into full-lock turns – one-handed. The confused water we encountered off the Needles and Old Harry was easy for the Husky, and dry into the bargain. The forward section of the hull, though not excessively flared, is topped off with a prominent and extended rubbing strake that does a great job of keeping spray and unwanted greenies out. It is also helped by a slightly downturned chine.
Helm ergonomics are good with a glare-free carbon grey dash, fitted with a 12-inch plotter and engine display. The throttle is perfectly located and even has a padded armrest to complement it, which I found perfect when continually working the throttle. I would have preferred a seat with height adjustment as I stood for most of the time, and would have liked to have sat. I mention this because this boat has a serious set of shock-absorbing seats, which take a lot of the punishment off your rear end, but are only tall enough if you are happy to look through the windscreen. I like a higher view looking down over the bow, which is fine as you can flip back the seat bolsters and stand comfortably with your feet wedged on the footboard. However, sitting securely in the bucket seats would have been preferable, especially on a long choppy passage.
Being a bowrider, the Husky has a distinctly social side in the form of more seating than it realistically needs, and a 50L fridge. One thing it lacks is a transom gate, as you have to step over the rear bench seat from one of the bathing platforms that flank the engine. The upholstery is hard-wearing waterproof Silvertex, which, apart from looking better than vinyl, is much safer for wet slippery feet. The light grey decking is synthetic teak, and rightly so. Aside from the moral implications of consuming the planet’s teak for the sake of our feet, synthetic teak is easily colour-coded and maintenance-free.
Storage seems unlimited as all the seats hinge up to reveal chasms of space for stashing water sports kit. Each locker is beautifully internally lined, with the seat lids being held open with mini gas struts, so no excuse for trapped fingers when digging out the fenders. Just to keep things neat, each bathing platform houses a hidden locker for the warps, which, like the under-seat compartments, are self-draining. Should you need it, there is also a rail behind the transom bench seat for tying fenders so they can drain into the splash well. The battery cut-off master switches and circuit breakers are all housed behind a waterproof door under one of the seat bases. Being Scandinavian, it has bathing ladders fore and aft, with the bow ladder hidden beneath the synthetic teak decking of the pulpit gate.
The Husky R8s comes with a host of features that are extras on its cheaper R8 sibling. These include a bow thruster, synthetic teak, T-top, Fusion stereo, wrapped hull, power steering, ski bracket and more. The R8s is also internally strengthened at the stern to take the extra power and weight of the F350. The 5083 aluminium hull is 5mm thick along the bottom and the transom, with 8mm along the keel band for extra rigidity. It is reassuring to see this boat engineered to this level and offered with a sensible level of equipment, though one can’t help but expect it to eclipse the R8 as a result.
This is a very exciting and yet easy boat to drive. It combines all the luxuries and practicalities of a family boat with blinding performance, good handling and quick steering. It is exceedingly tough externally, which is matched by the quality of its internal GRP mouldings and fittings. Like all the boats from the Husky range, it has a selection of engines that give a healthy power-to-weight ratio – especially the F350. If you are not purely focused on the conventionally styled sports boat, or its RIB counterpart, then the big Husky is a very tempting alternative.
Fuel figures (Yamaha flow meter)
RPM Speed (knots) Fuel consumption (mpg)
2500 16.5 2.4
3000 25.4 2.9
3500 30.4 2.7
4000 34.9 2.6
4500 40.3 2.3
5000 44.8 2.0
5500 49.2 1.7
5600 (WOT) 51.1 1.6
Range: 120 miles with a 20% reserve at 25 knots
0–30 knots, 8.5 seconds (2-way average)
0–40 knots, 12.5 seconds (2-way average)
Test conditions: Crew 2, fuel 100%. Sea state mild F2, and all speeds are a 2-way average recorded at low-water neaps.
What we thought
- Fast responsive handling
- Blistering performance
- Very solid build quality
- Attention to detail
- A lot of internal cockpit space
- Some of the fittings on the canvas T-top cover start to loosen after an hour or more of fast driving.
- Realistically it needs a bigger fuel tank as 48 gallons doesn’t match this boat’s ability to eat up sea miles.
Transom deadrise angle: 19 degrees
Power options: 225hp, 250hp, 300hp and 350hp (all Yamaha)
Displacement: 1500kg (dry), no engine (Yamaha F350 weighs 346kg and F225/250/300 all weigh 255kg – all XL shaft forms)
RCD category: C for 9
Test engine: 350hp Yamaha F350
Fuel capacity: 217 litres
From: £88,646 (inc. VAT) (with Yamaha F225)
As tested: £102,946 (inc. VAT)
51.1 knots (2-way average at low-water neaps); sea conditions: mild wind F2, gusting F3, with 100% fuel and 2 crew