Formula 270 BR

Takes you away to a better day.

Push open the split windshield aboard Formula's 270 BR and a spring-loaded latch automatically secures it in place. Pull open a hatch and you'll find the lids are finished on both sides and swing on full-length, through-bolted piano hinges. Step into the head and you'll spot a porthole for ventilation. Hop a wake and the Bimini top's ball-and-socket frame doesn't rattle. Remove the bow filler cushions ($600) and stow them in dedicated racks within the helm console. Reach into under-seat stowage and you'll discover drains and padded gratings that will keep your gear dry and safe. Kneel inside the helm console -- I fit in there easily without pulling out the stowed cushions -- flip on the light, and pull off the access panel behind the helm when it's time to work on gauge wiring. Reach in the anchor locker and see that it's a slick, gel coated tub to which stinky muck won't stick (but be aware that it holds only a small anchor and about 50' of 3⁄8" rode).

These highlights are what make the 270 Bowrider so pleasurable to own. Formula doesn't create a budget and then build a boat to fit it. Instead, it envisions a boat and builds it. Then it figures what to charge for it -- which is usually a lot. You can buy two Rinker 276 Captivas ($68,000, powered like my tester) for the price of one 270 Bowrider. What's more, the Rinker is a larger boat and comes with more standard equipment. But do you get what you pay for? Let's find out.

Flam-Buoyant

The 270 Bowrider strikes a unique profile, largely thanks to its race-bred hullform. The stem shape, in particular, plays a large role in this boat's looks, performance, and mission. Curved outward, the spoon bow gives the 270 Bowrider a more purposeful look than other bowriders that have concave stems, such as the Rinker 276 Captiva or Sea Ray's 270 Select ($97,703 with a 375-hp MerCruiser 496 MAG Bravo Three). One exception: The Cobalt 272 ($96,461 powered like my test boat) also has a convex stem.

Understand that stem shape isn't arbitrary. You don't just 'put it on.' It's the place where all other lines of the boat must meet fluidly, and so it's determined by the overall shape of the hull. This stem shape is a key to unlocking the code of what you can expect from a hull. Seeing the 270 Bowrider for the first time, I expected a roomy bow, not just across the gunwales, but lower, at the cockpit sole level, with more knee room between the lounges and deeper, wider stowage beneath those lounges than boats with concave stems. A spoon-shaped stem results when a boat's topsides are convex as well. This outward bulge, called flam, is the opposite of flare, a more commonly understood feature. Flam provides more width below the sheerline, room where you can use it.

Flam also makes the bow more buoyant, a great attribute in a boat intended to carry its load forward. Pile your crew up front and the 270 Bowrider doesn't trim down by the bow as much as it would were it to have more flare. This adds up to a boat that doesn't bow steer. Plus, that extra buoyancy helps it rise to waves faster, so it pitches and plunges less than a boat with more concavity forward.

The downside of a flam stem? It doesn't knock down spray as well as flared ones do. But because its flam helps the 270 Bowrider resist plunging, less water gets thrown in the air. And there are other spray deflectors in a designer's bag of tricks. Inspect the 270 Bowrider's running strakes. These run proud and protuberant all the way to the bow. The strakes of most boats fade to nothing by the time they get to the stem. Look more closely and you see the under surfaces of these strakes are turned down, or reversed. So as water tries to climb the hullside, the strakes knock it away, a fact I proved while running the 270 Bowrider across the wind. Of course, with 22 degrees of transom deadrise, this boat can zoom while passengers stay comfortable. I ran the 270 Bowrider at 40 mph in a 1' to 2' chop and skipped gleefully along. This ability to run quick and soft means any spray that makes it past the deflectors is usually behind you before it can blow into the boat. The 270 Bowrider topped out at 50 mph -- not as fast as the 54 mph you can expect from the lighter Cobalt 272.

In The Lap

The 270 Bowrider's ride comfort is at least equaled by the amenities on deck. Removable bow lounge sections allow two to sit facing forward and two facing aft, an arrangement that encourages socializing around the cockpit table, something you can also do aboard the Cobalt 272. The 270 Bowrider also boasts armrests that flip down from the backrests.

Helm seating comprises a pair of swiveling buckets, thickly upholstered, each fitted with flip bolsters and armrests. Abaft the skipper's chair, an oversize jump seat is standard. Opt for the wetbar ($2,385) and you lose the jumper, but you gain a sink in the head and a shower on the transom. The other boats offer fixed deck plans: The Rinker and Sea Ray have wetbars, the Cobalt doesn't. Behind the companion seat is the fore-and-aft portion of the L-lounge.

Note the special hinge that allows this seat cushion to flip up and stay in place. Also note the vents/drains on the underside. Even though Formula uses foam that doesn't absorb water, these drains prevent water from being trapped against the cushion's backer. Did I mention that the foam is also laminated in layers of differing densities? As such, you get a body-conforming lounge upon which you won't bottom out. Kneel on it and see.

The aft section of the L-lounge is itself part of the transom seat that, in turn, is a convertible sunpad. Pull one cushion, push another, and the backrest drops, allowing two to lay out. In the up position, the backrest lets crew in the cockpit face forward and those on the platform face aft. This is just one more example of how you get more for your money when you spend more money and buy a Formula 270 Bowrider.