Nick Burnham puts the gorgeous Chris-Craft Launch 36 through the ringer in moody Italian conditions
To fully understand the Chris-Craft Launch 36 it is worth a quick recap of the manufacturer’s history. In the late nineties Chris-Craft was a mere spoke in the multi billion dollar wheel of the OMC Corporation, producing distinctly ordinary ‘me too’ mass market mid-range sportscruisers that aped Glastron, Bayliner and Maxum of the era when it finally slipped into bankruptcy shortly before the turn of the century.
It was a very different story to its heyday when Elvis Presley and Katherine Hepburn cruised on beautiful mahogany Chris-Craft motor boats the equal of Riva. It seemed a heritage squandered – certainly that was the view of Stephen Julius when he bought the business in 2001.
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Realising the potential of the brand, he created ‘heritage boats’, timelessly styled runabouts from 20 to 36 feet in four distinct model lines.
Latest and largest of the ‘Launch’ (bowrider) line is this Launch 36. It emphatically ticks that beautiful elegant styling box from its reverse transom to its almost erotically flared bow. This boat has ‘want one’ stamped all over it.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all that form is at the expense of function though. This is a boat designed for life afloat. Two curved sofas occupy the rear of the cockpit, easily catered for by the large galley unit just aft of the helm whilst a folding table rises electrically from the cockpit sole at the touch of a button. Three diamond quilted helm seats embossed with a stitched Chris-Craft logo face the helm.
But you need to head forward again to really appreciate the functionality of the deck layout. Inset side decks over 20cm wide lead past a huge sunbed securely sunken into the deck head whilst right at the front a neat bow seat turns this area into a terrific intimate social area.
Or lift the sunpad on its twin gas struts and fold out a padded infill to link the two into one massively indulgent sundeck. Sunbeds on the foredeck of a mid-thirty foot boat are nothing new of course, it’s those side decks that are key, along with the sunken nature of the pad itself.
It transforms this area into a zone that you’ll happily let your kids wander up and down unaided at anchor. That’s if you can get them away from the inflatable water toys stored in various locations around the decks.
Twin Volvo Penta D6 400 sterndrive diesels provide the go to match the show, with instant effortless thrust all the way to nearly 40 knots through the distinctly challenging conditions of our test day.
The boat feels absolutely planted, revelling in the conditions irrespective of the course I plot across the rolling range of hills and valleys. This is serious fun! But the most impressive part is just how incredibly dry the boat is. With that flared bow sending the spray out low and wide, not one drop of spray hits the screen. Remarkable.
It sounds like the perfect day boat but it is so much more than that. Would you believe we’ve got sleeping for five on board too? Well over six feet of headroom in the centre portion of the cabin and an open plan layout with a big double berth forward and a pair of berths (one single, one double) back beneath the cockpit sole.
There’s even a separate head and shower. As the interior of a sports boat rather than a cruiser, this cabin is a master-stroke.
Complementing the genre perfectly it offers practical family accommodation yet without becoming the defining element of the boat or, crucially, compromising the styling.
Words Nick Burnham
If you're the type of buyer that dives straight into the cabin at boat shows and begins comparing fridge sizes, or the type who uses a spreadsheet and a calculator in the purchasing process, then this boat probably isn't for you. But if you prioritise head turning style, high performance, superb deck functionality and terrific quality and detailing then you really do need to take a long hard look at the Chris-Craft Launch 36.