New breed of orca takes to the water
A New Zealand designer is making waves with a jetboat-hybrid that steers like a plane - but leaps out of the water and breaches like a whale.
The Seabreacher is already being operated as a tourist activity in Queenstown, has been approved by maritime authorities here and Australia and is beginning to take bites in the market elsewhere.
The machine could be described as a fast-planing raceboat, or alternately as a fully sealed jet-ski-engined sea missile that can plunge two people under the water at 60km/h and then hurl them into the sky.
Liveried as a killer whale or in newer iterations as a metallic hammerhead or great white shark, it's a recreational showstopper that not only defies description, but also gravity and basic nautical conventions.
New Zealand-born, United States-based designer Rob Innes describes the Seabreacher as a "custom-designed hot rod for the water".
To prove his point, he hauls himself into the killer whale-liveried "Y" model - dubbed Orca - with its 260 horsepower (194kW) supercharged engine, roars away, executes a dive, and leaps so high that for a majestic moment, no part of the 5.2-metre, 658kg craft is touching the lake.
Mr Innes and business partner Dan Piazza are keenly involved in hot rods and performance boat racing. The hand-crafted Seabreachers are made in their Northern Californian headquarters, Innespace productions, and show the meticulous attention to detail and performance capability characteristic of hot rods.
Each Seabreacher, custom-sculpted in fibreglass and Kevlar and fitted with a pneumatically sealed fighter jet-style polycarbonate canopy, takes three months to build and costs upwards of US$65,000 (NZ$77.800).
It has three axes of control, like a plane. Yaw is controlled by the driver's legs, roll determined by hand levers, and pitch set by pointing or flexing feet held into bindings on the pedals.
The Seabreacher is legally categorised as an inboard powerboat. It draws air for its three-cylinder, 1500cc four-stroke Rotax jet-ski engine - and for its occupants - via a snorkel mounted behind the dorsal fin.
Positive buoyancy means no matter how you dive, roll or land - and Mr Innes says he's done all that and more in testing - it will end upright.
Currently, Queenstown's Hydroattack claims to be the only place in the world to offer commercial tours of the vehicle, launched by locals David Lynott, Lee Excell and Oliver O'Neill with Mr Innes' support last year.
Hydroattack is also the official distributor for Seabreacher in New Zealand. It is certified by Maritime New Zealand and Maritime Australia as a recreational watercraft
Pricing is expected to be around the $100,000 mark for Australian customers, depending on customisation required. Fairfax
The Dominion Post