Text by Freddy Foote
The Barchetta 409 Runabout is the first of a new line of production family boats from Fairview Fibreglass, makers of the Stealth race/ski boat and the design house of Scott Robson. Freddy Foote went to check it out.
When I first heard the name Barchetta I wasn’t quite sure what to think. It is a word that has traditionally been linked with some of the most prestigious car manufacturers in the world – Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Fiat. But after a bit of research, Barchetta actually means ‘little boat’ in Italian.
The Barchetta 409 hull is based on the normal Scott Robson designed hull, and is a combination of good balance, soft riding and rough water handling. The boat comes in two forms, a runabout, and a cabin version. Our test boat was the runabout and the 3rd boat out of the mould. So far a total of seven boats have been made.
At first glance the boat seemed to be well designed, with a layout that is functional and usable. The seating layout was made up from twin king/queen seats and overall the seats were very good, giving a nice comfortable seating position, with the controls within easy reach.
While underway and sitting in the driver’s seat, I found that I was well protected from the wind, with the wraparound windscreen providing excellent protection and visibility.
A well-finished dash was fitted with analogue gauges from Mercury, and although it was a compact dash, there would have been room for the addition of a small echosounder.
The 409 comes with a walkthrough windscreen, which is a great way for getting on and off the boat from a jetty or wharf or on to a beach. Up front there was a deep anchor locker, equipped with an easily accessed rope/chain and anchor.
Storage space is also available up on the bow of the boat, with two access hatches available via the walkthrough.
Even though it is a small runabout, I found the 409 to be packed with storage space. There were sizeable side pockets, as well as an enormous under-floor storage compartment that pretty much ran the length of the cockpit, while both king/queens lifted up to provide plenty of storage space underneath.
A glove box was also situated in front of the front passenger seat.
The comfortable front passenger seat had a grabrail in front, while the rearward facing passenger seats both had side-mounted grabrails.
A sun canopy was also a great feature of the 409. When fitted, it attaches to the top of the windscreen and covers a large portion of the cockpit area. I really liked the canopy as I found that there was quite reasonable headroom, so that most adults could still stand somewhat when it was extended.
However I found the assembly and fitting of the canopy not quite right. It is secured onto a clamp on the handrails for the passenger seats. I would rather see it pinned onto a bracket on the top of the gunwales.
Fuel supply was in the form of two 25-litre tote tanks, which I am pretty sure would be plenty for most people. If the buyer wishes, an inboard fuel tank can be fitted, but then the massive under-floor storage area would be lost.
A single battery was fitted with an isolating switch, but found it a little odd that it was fitted down in the bilge. I would like to see it raised up a bit, perhaps on a shelf.
The rear of the boat features two self-draining tanks, mounted on the top of the transom. These could be utilised for keeping bait alive, but would be also great or keeping drinks cold.
Rod holders were also fitted, and I think that there would be adequate fishing room for mum, dad and the two kids.
Launching and retrieving of the boat was relatively easy, like almost all modern boat and trailer combinations. The Barchetta was sitting on a Watercraft multi-roller trailer.
We opted to test the boat on Auckland’s Orakei basin; the type of water conditions that Barchetta users would be utilising.
Fitted with a 90hp Mercury, the boat had excellent acceleration, and take off out of the hole. We also found that the nose of the boat quickly settled down once onto the plane.
I found the steering quite responsive and the boat agile and easy to manoeuvre. When I ran the Barchetta in some rougher water I must admit I had some preconceived idea that I wasn’t going to be too surprised. Having some knowledge of the handling and sea keeping of the Bonito boats designed by Scott Robson, I naturally felt that the Barchetta would be no different. Well I was not disappointed. For a boat of less than 5m it handles superbly and it’s fair to say that it’s probably one of the best riding boats of its size on the market. Still it pays not to forget that it’s still a small runabout and that’s got to be considered when you’re planning a trip. Big waves and big seas will make for an uncomfortable ride in any small boat, it’s that simple! The hull has a notched chine, in a similar manner to Robson’s race boats. In tight turns, the notch is immersed, and Robson claims that this enables more speed to be carried through a turn. It has no effect on top speed, though, as it’s completely out of the water.
Do the fancy steps on the hull make a difference in the rough water. Quite honestly I’m not sure, although I have my doubts they do much for a boat that isn’t really achieving high speeds. Whatever, it’s a talking point when your mates come around for a look at your new boat.
The beam to length ratio is high with a full 1900mm at the transom and this carries well forward before tapering away to the bow. There are three strakes per side, with 100mm wide downturned chines. Stability at rest is excellent and it seems to be a relatively dry boat in the choppy water.
In the flat conditions that we experienced the boat cruised comfortably at around 30 mph @ 4500 rpm. With the throttle wide open we managed to obtain a top speed of 42 mph @ 5800rpm. However, this motor had very few hours on it, and after talking to designer Scott Robson, he said that he had seen another similarly set up Barchetta do around 45mph with a 90hp Merc with more hours on the clock.
Recommended horsepower range is from 70hp to 140hp. Even though the 90hp Mercury was well suited to the 409, personally I would like to see a 115hp fitted, as I think it would provide a little bit of extra grunt out of the hole and would be better for the heavier skiers.
If I had one criticism of the boat it’s the lack of that last 10% of finish, which while being quite fixable, doesn’t help when your trying sell it against another well known brand. Barchetta? Never heard of it. Where are they made? All comments that were pitched at me by people that saw the 409. But equally was praise for the look and style of the boat and the volume for such a ‘small’ boat.
Most of the 409s produced so far have been sold to local buyers, and have been primarily used on the lakes around the Timaru area.
Available as both a runabout or cuddy cabin, the new Barchetta is designer Scott Robson’s latest foray into the production boat market. When Timaru boat builder Don Weir wanted a small runabout he had no hesitation in going to Robson. Having already drawn the successful Stealth 605 performance powercat, Weir and Robson knew what each other liked and the result is a pretty little boat that is pitched directly to the entry level buyer and someone that appreciates good looks, good layout and great handling result in a a great package. Put it all together at the right price and you could have a winner. The new Barchetta 409 is just such a boat.
- Model: Barchetta 409
- Price as Tested: $35,470
- Price Boat Only: $15,900
- Designer: Scott Robson
- Material: GRP
- LOA: 5.25 m
- LOH: 4.95 m
- Beam: 2.2 m
- Transom Deadrise: 21 degrees
- Hull Configuration: Deep V
- Trailerable Weight: 950 kg
- Height on Trailer: 1.72 m
- Engine Capacity: 70hp-140hp
- Power Options: outboard/sterndrive/sportjet
- Fuel Capacity: Twin tote tanks,
PERFORMANCE – MERCURY 90