Formula calls it a dayboat. But I'd call it a cruiser. No, it sure doesn't look like a bloated bleach bottle, an NBA player couldn't stand upright belowdecks, and it couldn't accommodate your local Cub Scout Pack. Instead, Formula's 350 Sun Sport is sleek and low-slung, a delight on the eyes. Its design prioritizes ride quality, superb handling, and enjoyment both on deck and in the water. Yet it boasts a full galley, a generous head, a large forward berth, and Art Deco decor, all of which ensures weekend luxury for two. The 350 Sun Sport is a boat for those who have learned to appreciate quality. It's also a good fit if you like to cruise with others-as long as they have their boats and won't be staying aboard yours. Interested? This test tells all.
Sure, the 350 Sun Sport could be called eye candy, but its sleek, low-windage profile is practical. It prevents the boat from blowing around like a leaf on a pond, which makes docking easier. Underway, it has a light feel thanks to power-assisted steering, plenty of horsepower, and refined planing surfaces. Lever the throttles and you'll feel it, too. My tester had twin 420-hp MerCruiser 496 MAG HO Sea Core DTS Bravo Three stern drives, delivering a horsepower-to-weight ratio of 15 to 1-any number under 20 is fast in my book. I wrung a thrilling 58.4 mph out the 350 Sun Sport. That's the kind of performance I'd expect from the Regal 3350 Sport Cruiser, which hit 51 mph with smaller twin 320-hp stern drives. Power the 3350 Sport Cruiser with twin 420-hp Volvo Penta 8.1 GXi DuoProp stern drives ($202,493) and it boasts a 13:1 power-to-weight ratio, and I'd expect a top end in the high 50s, despite it being 7" wider than the 350 Sun Sport.
The 350 Sun Sport's ride and handling are exhilarating. At 35 mph, we gleefully creased short, steep Gulf of Mexico 3-footers. Never content without trying to induce a rattle, I accelerated to 46 mph. At this speed, in that sea, crew had to sit down or hold on. But the boat remained surefooted. Trying for top speed in such a nasty chop would be destructive, so I spun around, headed 25 degrees shy of directly downsea, and put the throttles in the corner. The 350 Sun Sport ran that quartering course, carrying its bow proudly and its beam level while requiring little attention. My book states that any boat that tracks straight and stays dry while quartering downsea is a good ride.
You control the ride and power from a double helm bench. Each section flips up to form a bolster for the captain and mate. The seat is adjustable and has a footrest. Sliding out from behind the wheel is a snap, regardless of the seat position or angle of the tilt wheel. I have permanent bruises on my thighs from banging against steering wheels, caused by boats without the helm ergonomics to provide a range of comfortable sitting or leaning positions as well as easy access to controls.
The helm is a nonglare console styled in minimalist cool. There's gobs of room for electronics, which brings me to the compass. Instead of a top-mounted model with a flat card, Formula uses a small-diameter front-reading compass, surface-mounted flush in the gauge cluster. This saves space, but any boat needs a good compass. And large-diameter, flat-card compasses are more stable and easier to read than front-reading ones.
Ahh the Life
I'm often asked why a boat is so expensive. Were you to ask me about the 350 Sun Sport's retail price, higher than the Regal's or Cobalt's 323 ($261,858 with twin 420-hp MerCruiser 496 MAG HO Bravo Three XR stern drives), I could point to any number of reasons. Standard Imron hull graphics, which won't lose adhesion or droop in hot weather, is one. My test boat's Mercury Sea Core engines, with their enhanced ability to endure saltwater service, are another. Formula's upholstery, a combination of Pre-Fixx vinyl wrapping Dri-Fast Foam and Starlite XL Marine Panel that makes the seats as rot- and stain-free as possible, is another. Then add in the racing-style external drive tiebar, which provides increased safety and control.
But before you even consider those benefits, look in the stowage lockers in the head. The hatches are just 12"-by-15", yet they're secured by full-length stainless-steel hinges, requiring 16 screws each. Sixteen. Many boats can't boast that kind of fastening scheduled for structurally critical stuff. Yet the 350 Sun Sport has a pair of hatches secured better than most boats' hull-to-deck joints. Labor-intensive detail is why expensive boats are expensive.
Accommodations are bred for fun and driven by ease. The cockpit lounge seats eight, and its aft section converts to a recliner for two. There's stowage beneath, although it needs a drain. Formula says it'll look into it. Integral dive tank stowage is below the port lounge. The wetbar includes a sink, cooler, and trash bin. A 12-volt receptacle is at the transom. On the bow, the windlass serves an all-chain rode, providing quicker holding and fewer tangles compared to a rope/chain rode. Two pairs of spring cleats grace the topsides, enhancing fendering and mooring.
The companionway features a bug screen. Slide it open and head down the cherry steps. Use the aft berth as a playpen or for mass stowage. Kick back on the Ultraleather salon sofa. The forward berth seats six and offers comfy sleeping for a couple. This berth's two large cushions are upholstered to resemble the separate cushions on a home sofa. It's a fresh look, complementing the copious use of mirrors, polished chrome, and matte silver trim, all of which gives the 350 Sun Sport a decidedly non-boaty feel.
The galley offers a sink and a single-burner, covered stove with automatic shutoff. There's a microwave and plenty of stowage for consumables and utensils. The stainless-steel drawer refrigerator is beneath the entertainment center, a good use of space. Call me crazy, but even with more headroom, a larger aft berth, and a two-burner stove, I wouldn't cruise a 35-footer with more than two adults. Two for the weekend, a bunch for the day. That's the 350 Sun Sport's mission.
EXTRA POINT: Check the swim ladder's hinge: A custom spacer keeps the ladder's rail tops below the edge of the platform, preventing toe scrapes.