World’s coolest boats: Why Red Jet 7 is the next best thing to Red Arrow

Each month we pick out an iconic boat that can lay claim to the title of world’s coolest boat. This month, we take a closer look at Red Jet 7…

We often talk about what makes a boat cool. Often it’s simply the way it looks, or perhaps a storied history or an appearance in a notable movie or TV show.

But sometimes it’s simply what it can do, and how it does it. For example, the ability to deliver over 250 people from point to point at over 35 knots in surprising style and comfort.

If you’ve ever boated in the Southampton area you’ll almost certainly have seen the Red Jet ferries thundering down Southampton Water and across the Solent to Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Three fast ferries combine to give a 19-hour-a-day schedule. Operated by Red Funnel, which also runs somewhat more sedate car ferries, the company has been bridging the gap between the mainland and the island since the mid 1800s, when paddle steamers plied their trade.

Journey times took a significant cut when the first fast ferries were introduced in 1969. Carrying 54 passengers, the Italian-designed Shearwater and Shearwater 2 sported hydrofoils that lifted the hulls clear of the water at speed.

Larger hydrofoil boats followed, running for over two decades before the first fast catamarans entered service in 1991, Red Jet 1 and Red Jet 2.

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The latest boat to join the fleet is Red Jet 7. Built by Wight Shipyard in East Cowes and measuring 134ft 10in by 35ft 9in, it carries 260 foot passengers, two wheelchairs and includes a bike rack for two-wheeled commuters.

Each hull packs a pair of MTU 2000 Series diesel engines, all four of which combine to provide almost 5,000hp to four water jets.

Interestingly, previous Red Jet ferries had one MTU 4,000 Series engine per hull. Changing to two per side gives a better power to weight ratio, greater efficiency and the ability to continue a reduced speed service in the event of a single engine failure.


The Hamilton water jets offer incredible manoeuvrability (it’s possible to dock the entire ship using a single joystick in a similar way to an IPS joystick), low draft (4ft 3in) and the useful side effect of being able to crash stop by simply dropping the reverse thrust buckets at high speed, effectively going from full ahead to full astern so quickly that the ferry will stop within its own length, a factor that’s both extremely cool and reassuring given the amount of traffic in the Solent.

We’d certainly like to see it but would rather not experience it!

Red Jet 7 specifications

Year: 2018
LOA: 134ft 10in (41.1m)
Beam: 35ft 9in (10.9m)
Power: 4 x MTU 10V 2000 M72 1,200hp diesel engines
Speed: 40 knots
Price when launched: £7 million

First published in the November 2023 issue of MBY.

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