If the old Bladerunner 35 was good enough for David Beckham, the new Bladerunner 45 should be good enough for anyone
The chances are that unless you’re a powerboat racer, a military adviser or a raving boat nut, you may never have heard of Ice Marine or the Bladerunner boats it builds.
On the other hand, I can pretty much guarantee you will have seen one before.
Cast your mind back to the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics and you may remember the iconic television footage of David Beckham powering down the Thames at night on a fancy-looking boat with the Olympic torch burning brightly in the bow on the final leg of its journey to the stadium. That boat was a Bladerunner RIB 35, and crouching under the centre console ready to take over the helm for the very public docking manoeuvre was Ice Marine’s founder and managing director Jeremy Watts.
I have another more personal reason to remember them by, involving a very close shave with a channel marker buoy. At 70 knots. In the dark.
I was reporting on the Bradstone Challenger team’s preparation for an attempt on the Round Britain speed record in a Bladerunner 51 and was one of the few people not wearing night vision goggles at the time. They managed to restart my heart and went on to break the record with hours to spare.
It’s fair to say then that Ice Marine have a pretty impressive track record both on and off the powerboat racing circuit.
However, like many marine businesses, when the recession hit, it temporarily pulled back from the leisure market and focused on its military side of the business, most of which remains below the radar. Literally.
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Now it has decided the time is right to reenter the market with a brand new boat that’s far better suited to the current breed of cash-rich, time-poor consumer than its previous generation of edgy, go-faster craft.
Powered by standard triple 370hp Volvo D6 engines on Volvo’s own low-drag duo-prop drives, the new BR45 is designed to be as simple to drive and as painless to own as any other production diesel sportscruiser. Only faster. Not scary fast like one of its 100-knot raceboats, but a solid 50 knots-plus flat out and all-day cruising at 40-45 knots without even breaking a sweat.
“We wanted to build a genuinely comfortable long-range tool that would give owners the freedom to go anywhere they wanted in a short space of time,” says Watts. “We could have made it faster by fitting big petrol engines or low-drag surface drives but that would have made it far less user friendly.”
In fact, the original Bladerunner 45 prototype was fitted with triple Cummins 550hp engines on Arneson surface drives and clocked up a top speed of over 70 knots, but as Watts so rightly says, “Those kind of speeds are only fun for 20 minutes, they’re not that much fun for three or four hours.”
Surface drives also went against Watts’ desire to create a boat that was as easy to drive as it was to own. They are slow to plane, tricky to trim and notoriously difficult to steer during low-speed berthing manoeuvres, whereas duo-prop sterndrives give rapid acceleration, are much less sensitive to trim and turn on a sixpence. And that’s before you consider the benefits of the Volvo network with a dealer in every port stocking off-the-shelf D6 parts.
Strong and stable
Like all Bladerunners, the BR45 uses a stabilised monohull designed by Adam Younger and Ice Marine.
The design gives the offshore seakeeping characteristics of a deep-vee monohull with the speed and stability of a multihull.
The early Bladerunner designs were all about maximising race performance with air entrapment tunnels designed to create aerodynamic lift at speed. They worked brilliantly, winning countless races, but as a leisure boat, the low internal volume of the BR34’s slender hull and its reluctance to run comfortably below 40 knots limited its appeal.
The BR45 has a third-generation hull with the focus on fast, comfortable cruising rather than outright performance. The beamier main hull creates more accommodation space below decks while a deeper forefoot with a sharper deadrise angle ensures it cuts more easily through the waves for a softer ride. Three steps rather than two gives a flatter, more efficient drive while slightly wider chines make it more tolerant of different fuel loadings. A 1400-litre fuel tank gives a theoretical range of 330nm at 40 knots and 400nm at 30.
The prototype was built using an all-carbon-fibre hull to maximise performance but the vinylester resin with localised carbon reinforcement used in the production version claims to give a softer, quieter ride than the light but noisy, unforgiving prototype. “A little bit of extra weight actually helps,” says Watts.
Four Ullman Echelon suspension seats add a final layer of defence against larger lumps and bumps.
Sporty but predictable handling with good low-speed manoeuvrability was also a major focus for the team. The stabilising sponsons generate enormous cornering grip and prevent it spinning out during high-speed turns (another vice some surface-drive boats are prone to), but reducing their size and depth has also allowed more lean into the turns for a natural, more progressive cornering feel.
It’s not all about hull tuning though. The BR45 also needs to deliver as an entertaining platform once you’ve reached your destination.
Electric drop-down side windows, independent air conditioning, a large sunpad at the stern and opposing benches with a clip-in table ensure the fun doesn’t stop when the engines do. The swim platform features a natty electric bathing ladder and a pull-out shower, while there’s storage for a couple of battery-powered folding GoCycle bikes in the engine room.
Down below is a small galley and separate heads compartment, a good-sized dinette and two double berths –
one in the bow and one tucked under the cockpit. And thanks to permanent foam fendering all around the hull, there’s no
need for bulky inflatable fenders.
This level of performance and sophistication doesn’t come cheap – around £1.2 million ex VAT – but then none of its key rivals offer the convenience and efficiency of diesel power with the pace and handling of a thoroughbred raceboat. The first one has already been delivered to the owner of a large superyacht with the second due to be finished any day now. After all, if the old BR35 was good enough for David Beckham, the new Bladerunner 45 should be good enough for anyone. ￼
Contact: For more information contact Ice Marine here
At a glance…
Length: 44ft 11in 13.7m
Beam: 13ft 9in 4.2m
Draft: 2ft 11in 0.9m
Weight: 9,500kg (lightship)
Fuel capacity: 1,400 litres
Water capacity: 250 litres
Engines: Triple 370hp
Max speed: 50 knots
Price: from £1.2m ex VAT