The 233 Formula is a blue-water brumby with panache. The Captain takes a ride in the hull that has become a cult hero on the fishing grounds.
There is no boat more majestic than a Formula 233 thundering to the fishing grounds. Behind the wall of white water bounds a fibre-glass hull honoured by time and respected by seamen. The 233 hull enjoys a cult-like following among serious fishos, with big dollars spent restoring old 233 hulls, and new manufacturers reproducing modern variations for fishermen who prefer spending time mixing it with the big fish, rather than mixing resin.
The origins of the 23 foot 3 inch hull lie in American power-boat racing. In the early ’60s, Don Aronow, a charismatic, 34-year-old property developer, turned his attention to boat building under the name Formula. Power-boat racing was Don’s hobby, and during the 1960s, speed was the order of the day. He engaged a team of gun designers including Jim Wynne, a race boat driver, naval architect and inventor of the stern-drive, and his partner Waltman Walters, among others. The first boat under the Formula name was a 233 – named Cigarette after a famous rum-running boat from New York. The boat (and hull) went on a winning streak, launching many successful boating interests guided by Don, including Magnum, Donzi and Cigarette (not to be confused with name of the original Formula). Aronow had successfully popularised a new breed of high-performance speedster, building boats for presidents, kings, sheiks and motor-racing drivers. Shockingly, he was murdered in 1987 after a bad business deal, adding mystique to a hull that already attracts much speculation.
More than 50 years since the 233 was launched in America, the Formula legacy lives on in Australian waters, in restored beauties typically badged as original Formulas, or under the Haines name (John Haines bought the licence to produce the 233 in Australia in the mid ‘70s). There’s also a handful of current Aussie manufacturers who have reproduced the hull, with an unflinching commitment to offshore performance that Don would be proud of. Some of them include Edencraft and Bass Strait Boats, among others. Today, we’re riding in an Edencraft Formula 233.
BIG PERFORMANCE IN BIG SEAS
The secret to the Formula 233’s offshore capability is a sharp entry point, variable dead-rise and rounded V-shape that extends all the way to the transom. From fore to aft, the 233 has a subtle banana-like shape, which helps the hull roll into the sea. The wide chines give the 233 lift while channeling water down rather than upwards over the hull. This reduces the ‘wetted surface’ on the boat, which creates drag. Think of it like the Drag Reduction System on an F1 car; less resistance and more lift. The flared bow adds buoyancy, preventing the nose from burying into the wave in a trailing sea, while also sending water downward. Planing strakes give the boat directional stability – and lift – when under load; as the hull dips further into the water, pressure on the strakes right the boat, reducing the rolling effect. The hull even has trim tabs built into its hull shape. This little-known Formula 233 feature creates downward pressure on the water at the rear, keeping the nose down and improving stability at speed. The hull works brilliantly, with a smooth entry into a head sea and soft landing coming off a wave. In between the peaks and troughs the hull sits laterally, giving predictable steerage in any kind of sea. Heading to the continental shelf on a reasonable day is no more arduous than heading to the local servo for some milk.
A MODERN TAKE ON A CLASSIC
Australian company, Edencraft, has been reproducing the hull that echoes the legendary Cigarette design for longer than anyone else in Australia. The company started in 80s and is now based in Newtown, an hour south-west of Melbourne. While the design of the 233 hasn’t changed much, the structural integrity has. The original Formula’s were built for speed, with in-board stern-drives, however today’s owners demand more deck space and twin engines on pods. Edencraft boats are also popular with commercial operators, demanding storage for big payloads and marine survey standards.
The hull lay-up features eight individual layers of composite glass, overlaid at the keel and sides. Fibreglass box stringers are fixed into the hull while in the mould using a combination of hand-laid fibreglass, biaxial cloth and woven roving – creating a matrix system. The whole hull uses vinylester resin; the best money can buy. Cavities are filled with fire-retardant closed-cell foam, creating strength, flotation and sound-deadening properties. A 12mm marine-ply floor is glassed top and bottom, then glassed onto the matrix system creating a solid, watertight hull structure. Every boat is built to commercial survey standard, supplied with a MSV number, positive flotation, separate fuel and battery lines, shut-off fuel valves and fire-retardant hoses.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE POD
In 2004, Alan Ball (now Edencraft Director) rebuilt a written-off Formula 233 hull and fitted it with new four-strokes. The rear sat too heavy in the water, so Alan redesigned a pod from scratch. The performance was spectacular. The abalone divers got wind of it, and it wasn’t long before Alan was selling pods to Edencraft, which he eventually bought in 2009.
The pod gives the hull a bigger footprint on the water and more flotation aft. The boat we tested carried twin DF300AP Suzuki motors, each weighing 274 kg – and sitting on a pod. Despite half a tonne of grunt, plus four burly anglers around the bait board, the rear sat comfortably and safely in the water. Alan also offers a transom-mounted engine option, without a pod. Other updates to the Edencraft hull include a new top-side with wider gunnels and one-piece helm capable of holding a 16-inch screen. Windscreen options include a solid wave-breaker and options of a three- or five-piece window. Carbon-fibre is the latest addition, available on the hull or the windscreen. Alan’s recently built carbon-fibre 233 was a hit at the 2015 Melbourne Boat Show, with a striking black woven finish, reminiscent of a Formula 1 car. The skills to create the wow factor can be traced back to Alan’s days working on Olympic-class rowing hulls. It adds $7000 to the hull price – but it doesn’t just look good. Alan says that one layer of carbon-fibre has six times the tensile strength of fibreglass.
600 HORSEPOWER HERO
Legend has it that you need 300 horsepower to get a Formula 233 hull going. Alan doesn’t do things by halves. In this case, he doubled them. The 600HP comes in the form of twin DF300AP Suzuki four-strokes. Alan is a big fan of twins on the Formula 233, reckoning they offer more stability and agility in turns, not to mention the safety benefits. The Suzukis are a perfect fit for the hull, which can be sensitive to the height of cavitation plates. Alan explains, “It’s easy to screw-up the fit-up on a Formula 233 hull – and much harder to get right. But the ‘Suzi’ engines just work. They’re also narrower than other makes, so fitting to the Edencraft’s 26-inch ‘centres’ is a breeze”. Alan doesn’t spend a lot of time watching petrol gauges, but he has noticed the efficiency. On a recent trip to Apollo Bay, where he bagged a 105kg tuna, he used a litre per kilometre, doing 65km/h.
THEY BROKE THE MOULD
Yes, they really did. When Edencraft director Alan Ball bought the rights to manufacture the Formula 233 in 2009, he made sure the moulds were included as his intellectual property. So it came as a surprise when he heard rumours a competitor had an original Haines Formula 233 mould tucked away in their factory. A few anxious phonecalls and legal letters later, the 233 mould was returned to Alan’s driveway. He lay awake at night contemplating what to do, until he realised he had to destroy it. Edencraft had already developed a new and improved mould, so its value to Alan was merely sentimental. In the wrong hands, however, Alan’s new investment would be compromised. When The Captain asked Alan about the merits of the story, he verified it was an original Haines Formula 233 mould, but that wasn’t the full story. As Alan explains, “The original Haines mould was never perfect. The hull it was flopped from was slightly damaged due to a boating accident. So every boat that came from that mould has a slight warp just below the capping on the starboard side at midships”. Subsequent Edencraft moulds ‘bred out’ the imperfection.
Price as tested: $180,000
Options fitted: Livebait tank with window and lights, killtank, bunk-well, lift-out dive door, seat boxes with Raeline helm seats, 32mm bowrail, game rod holders, full bimini top with clears, double rod holders on the rocket launchers, baitboard, snapper racks, Reelax outriggers and shotgun, Reelax tuna tubes, Lenco trim tabs with custom trim tabs, 12-inch Garmin 8000 series, GSD 25 sounder with 1kW Chirp, squid lights, Easytow 4 tonne rated trailer with twin spares and 15 inch Landcruiser hubs, Garmin VHF radio with AIS tracking, Garmin 350 stereo that connects to the plotter, LED rear worklights, deckwash, 3700gph bilge with auto float switch, Maxi Stress Free electric winch, Seastar twin-cylinder with tie-bar and power assist, three X Optima dry-cell batteries, fast and slow USB chargers.
SPECIFICATIONS: EDENCRAFT 233 FORMULA
Type: Deep-vee monohull
Material: Fibreglass/composite carbonfibre
Length (overall): 7.1m
Towing weight: Approx. 3700kg
Dry hull weight: 1850kg
Fuel: 370 litres
Rec. min HP: 2 x 150 or 1 x 300
Rec. max HP: 2 x 300
Make/model: 2 x Suzuki DF300AP
Type: 4 stroke, V6 Multi Point Sequential Electronic Fuel Injection with Lean Burn and Oxygen Sensor
Rated HP: 2 x 300HP
Gearbox ratio: 2.08:1
Propeller: 16 x 21.5in
53 Riversdale Road,
Newtown, Geelong, Victoria 3220
Phone: (03) 5221 0444