We tested the Yamaha Waverunner FX SVHO: intuitive, easy to handle, it holds a course well and does over 50 knots. Easy sailing has come to the world of jetskis as well
by Niccolò Volpati
The first time that I sailed on a cabin cruiser was with Aldo Ariis. I was eighteen years old and Aldo offered trips on his sloop that sailed out of Grado. He was always looking for crew because his wife and son hated leaving dry land. In exchange for some company, Aldo shared some of his enormous knowledge of sailing with me.
It was with him that I learnt how to stay on my feet over the boom when the spinnaker was raised and nicely filled, and to manoeuvre in harbour using the sails because the axle box had loosened and you couldn’t get the engine into gear, to drink grappa at breakfast and, above all, he taught me not to greet people in motor boats. If when you are sailing you come across another sailing boat, then it was fine to wave enthusiastically, but in case of motor boats, then your arms had to stay alongside your body. You had to stay indifferent, even though they might try to attract your attention in every way possible.
I thought about Aldo Ariis while I was on the floating dock at Nazaré, in Portugal. Not just because in recent years I have travelled in motor boats much more than sailing boats, but what would he think of me, given that I am about to get on a jet ski? But the Yamaha technician distracted me from this crisis of conscience and existential doubt, and asked me to get on. What, just like that? Without any kind of explanation? Every time I get on a jet ski I think I am going to make a complete fool of myself. The other journalists who are there are certainly much more experienced than I am. You can see from what they are wearing. They have GoPro cameras on their helmets, and you can see that they are in their element, with wetsuits and lifesaving jackets.
Whereas I feel like somebody who has been forced into a medieval suit of armour. For better or worse, before they give me a lance and tell me that I have to set out for the Crusades, I decide that it is best to get onto the seat.
Starting it up is easy. Ok, good first take. Now I ought to be moving forward fast to catch up with the others who are heading towards the mouth of the harbour. But first off I have to reverse, given that I am moored at the bow. That is also easy, because Yamaha has introduced a “shell” reverse system for its jet skis. What happens is that a kind of metal shell blocks the water jet that comes out of the engine and so gets the reverse going because the push is in the opposite direction. The really intuitive thing is that one handlebar has the throttle for the forward gears, and on the other, the left-hand one, there is the gas for the reverse gears.It is so easy to manoeuvre that it is similar to the effect that Volvo’s IPS stern drives had in the yachting world, which until then had been wholly dominated by in-line transmissions.
I catch up with the group that is going slowly to the harbour mouth. Amongst the other medieval knights in their armour, I recognise Julian of Val Nautika, who tells me that we are lucky today because the waves that are waiting for us outside the harbour walls are not more than three metres high. “And you don’t think that’s a lot?” I ask him, dismayed. He smiles and explains that around there they can get up to thirty metres high. Then he revs up and leaves me there.
What should I do? It’s my turn. And so I too accelerated. It’s a Yamaha FX SVHO jet ski with a supercharged 1812 engine. And you can tell. If there had been a backrest, I would already have been pinned to it. There really is a lot of thrust. If you suddenly let go of the accelerator it has a recoil effect and you are in danger of leaving your teeth on the handlebars. What surprises me, in a positive way, is how easy it is to handle. Every other time that I have found myself on a jet ski, I got the feeling that it was the machine that was deciding where to go. I tried turning, but with the hull often being out of the water, the jet ski continued straight on. But it’s not like that with this one. It is easy, it turns just as you expect it to.
It is manoeuvrable, but also holds a course stably. On shore later, I had the chance to talk to the Japanese engineer who designs them, and he explained that this new generation actually has a different hull, which has been specially designed to handle more easily when under way. And indeed, I had got the same feeling when I was at the lowest speed.
Being manoeuvrable is important because after a few minutes you feel like an expert. You can do the tight turns around the buoys, as well as those skid marks that you used to do with your moped as a teenager to impress the girls. As well as power, it is its light weight that makes it easy to handle. That is the result of the material it is made from. It is called NanoXcel2 and it is just as resistant as NanoXcel1, but it weighs less
The percentage of carbon fibre has increased for this new version. The water lines of the hull can also be appreciated on the waves. They are long waves, as is normal in the ocean, but to make things complicated, there is the wind that creates a bit of breaking at the tops. So basically, even though this is practically dead calm by Nazaré standards, as far as I am concerned there is enough to consider them difficult wave conditions. But the hull performs extraordinarily well. The jet ski is never at the mercy of the bow waves of the others moving around.
And then there are details, like the digital display. I thought it was perfect, because it has all the information required, but the most important ones are written in much bigger lettering. That way, you can read them even as you are jumping across waves at fifty knots. The way that water is emptied from the footrests is also excellent. It is a self-emptying system, similar to those in boat cockpits that mean you don’t have your feet being constantly soaked.
And finally, there are customisations, in that you can add three speed limits, for example 55, 70 and 90 km/h. That way the speed is restricted according to who is using the jet ski. You put in a PIN number when you get on board, and that means that the jet ski can recognise the rider. Even the acceleration levels can be customised. One is more extreme, the other rather softer. That way a newcomer to it, or a teenager, won’t be in danger of doing themselves (too much) harm.
(Yamaha Waverunner, a plesant surprise – Barchemagazine.com – Marzo 2019)