The new Innovision Explorer 606 cuts through the water like a GRP boat and performs like a skier on steroids. Mike Rose checks it out.
Ex US president Bill Clinton had a simple message for those who questioned his often unfathomably-high levels of popularity: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
After reviewing my second Innovision Explorer, I can’t do better than paraphrase the great communicator, especially when asked why someone should choose such an unconventionally-looking marque over one of the more established offerings: “It’s the ride, stupid!”
The driving force behind Innovision Boats is Simon Minoprio. A former top internationally-competitive sailor who also loves fishing and diving, Simon started his own aluminium boatbuilding business after being dismayed at what he saw as the poor quality of ride from traditional “tinnie” designs.
With help from renowned Kiwi yacht designer Brett Blakewell-White, Simon created a distinctive hull shape, using what he had learnt on the international sailing circuit.
In the spring of 2013, he launched the first of his new Innovision Explorer range, the Explorer 616, and then showcased it at the 2014 Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show. There, its unusual-looking plumb bow attracted a lot of attention and a surprising number of inquiries for models both a little smaller and substantially larger.
That original 616 has since been sold as a dive tender to a superyacht and is now happily working in the tropics. There is also an 8-metre version, built by its owner, in New Plymouth.
Simon’s latest model, the 606, was released in time for this year’s Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show, and is destined to be the smallest in a range that will likely include a new 6.5m version, a 7m, 7.5m and 8m. Simon says he is also close to finalising the sale of a diesel-powered 8.5m.
When I reviewed the 616 last year, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the softness of the ride, commenting that, in the rough, choppy, water it felt as though we were in a 7 metre boat. Simon, however, believed it was possible to improve that ride still further and the new 606 incorporates that thinking.
For a start, there is no outboard pod on the 606, creating an increase in hull length. Planing strakes have been added and have been positioned more “outboard” than would usually be the case. Perhaps most importantly, both the size and the angle of the chine have been refined to provide more lift and a better ride.
Simon is a firm believer in the importance of chine placement and design, adamant that these are just as important to the quality of the ride as is the hull shape.
He has also softened the shape of the hardtop to provide a more “classic” look, obviously figuring that the unusual-shaped bow will be enough for potential buyers to cope with, without challenging them with an innovative hardtop design, too.
After launching from the Bayswater boat ramp on Auckland’s North Shore and cruising through the slow speed zone to North Head, we encounter a typically choppy and slightly confused inner Hauraki Gulf chop. While not in any way overly challenging, the conditions are not what one would call pleasant.
Heading into the chop en route to Motuihe Island, my first impression is that this 606 has been built very sturdily. I am sure thick alloy plate must have been used and the trailerable weight must be considerable. This is not because the 606 seems sluggish in any way (it certainly does not) but because it sits so firmly in the water, performing more like a GRP boat than an aluminium one. Even when we come off a wave and encounter a strong gust, the 606 continues to track true with none of that blown-off-course feel one often gets on an alloy boat in blustery conditions.
It is with no small measure of surprise then that I find that the 606 is considerably lighter than it slighter bigger cousin, weighing in with a trailerable weight of just 1850kgs. (This is despite the alloy thicknesses being the same: 5mm on the bottom and 4mm on the topsides and superstructure.)
The rigidity I feel therefore comes not from any extra weight or thickness of alloy but rather from the four stringers per side Simon has used in the construction of his hull.
Once in the roughest part of the Motuihe Channel, we run across the waves, “downhill” and at all angles in between. In all cases, the judicial use of the trim tabs ensure we run smoothly and predictably, regardless of the angle of attack and, even when running straight at the waves at good speed, there is very little of the banging one would normally expect on an alloy boat of this size.
Another improvement I immediately notice is the new positioning of the trim tab control panel. This is now high on the right hand side of the helm station, meaning I can rest my arm on the dash’s outer ledge and easily manipulate the tab buttons with my thumb, much as we do now with our cellphones.
High standard of finish
To create a quiet environment in which to conduct our on board inspection, Simon runs the 606 onto Motuihe’s sandy beach and then hops over the side to ensure it stays put.
My first impression is that the Innovision’s interior is very impressively finished. In the cockpit, a combination of white painted alloy, grey anti-skid and black frontrunner means there is literally no bare aluminium to be seen. In the cabin, the frontrunner is two-tone with both black and grey areas offsetting the white bunk squabs and coral-coloured backrests. Simon has even gone to the trouble of using 15mm EVA behind the Frontunner to improve the finishing (especially the edging) and to further dampen any noise.
There is good open stowage in the areas behind the backrests and in a handy folio-style locker on the passenger side aft bulkhead. (On the driver’s side, the wiring and controls from back of the helm station are neatly hidden behind a white plastic hatch.)
The protected area of the cockpit under the hardtop features two adjustable, well padded pedestal seats, both with hinged backrests, meaning they can face forward when underway or back into the cockpit when fishing or relaxing. There is further stowage in a large locker recessed in into the passenger side bulkhead and, of course, in the near full length side lockers.
There is also wet stowage in a shallow underfloor locker than runs from in front of the 155-litre fuel tank to the base of the vee berth bunks in the cabin, and dry, protected space in between the two batteries in the raised transom locker.
The 606’s helm station is also better laid out than its predecessor. The twin Yamaha digital readouts flank a small inset Ritchie compass at the top of the dash. Below these are two Raymarine dummy screens, there primarily to show prospective buyers how their dash could look. The eventual buyer can choose virtually any brand to sit here and either, as now, two complementary screens, or a single larger MFD. The trim tab panel is to the right of the screens while the DC control panel sits on either side of the modern steering wheel.
On the starboard bulkhead, a Raymarine VHF and the control panel for the Maxwell RC6 windlass are tidily positioned under the stylish Yamaha throttle control.
The 606’s cockpit has been designed primarily for fishing and diving and it shows. The sole is treadplate, there is an island transom with access to the platform on either side and anti-skid on the access steps and on both the side and aft coamings. The dual batteries are safely out of harm’s way in the enclosed transom locker and a plumbed livebait tank (a standard feature not an added option) lives under the port step. Also standard are the low profile 7-rod rocket launcher (obviously an integral part of the design rather than an add-on); the three rod holders per side in the coamings and numerous hand rails strategically positioned around the boat.
Completing the picture is a centrally-positioned baitboard and the drop-down alloy boarding ladder.
Before we head back out into the Motuihe chop, Simon demonstrates another of the 606’s hidden attributes. He uses that newly-added outer strake as a step, making it far easier to swing himself on board.
There is no doubt that the new Innovision Explorer 606 is not a conventional 6m tinnie, either in looks or in the way it performs.
Kiwis being conservative, it is unlikely, therefore, to seriously challenge the dominance of the big players in the market any time soon. That said, there is an enormous amount to like about this design and all the thought and effort that has gone into both its performance and its finishing.
At this year’s boat show, Simon says he noticed a far greater understanding of what the boat was about than on its debut the year before. I suspect that the more understanding and interest that he can generate, the more successful he will be.
While the interior finish is superb, it is the Innovision’s performance that is the real star. While the performance figures below show an efficient and reasonably quick hull, what they can’t show is just how good is its handling. Not only does this hull have the feel of a GRP model in the way it sits so solidly in the water, it also runs into the wind at speed without banging and is completely unfazed by following or cross seas.
And then there is its sports bike like ability to turn and stop. Although the photos cannot show it, the 606 is capable of skidding to a stop out of a turn in the same way a really good skier can come in fast to a beach, quickly skid to a stop and leisurely step off onto the beach. While I am not sure how often one would use that particular attribute, it is one heck of a lot of fun to do and very impressive to watch.
- Make & Model: Explorer 606
- Manufacturer: Innovision Boats
- Priced from: $86,000
- Price as tested: $96,000
- Type: Aluminium monohull
- Construction: Alloy
- LOA: 6.25m
- Beam: 2.45m
- Deadrise: 20 degrees
- Height on trailer: 3.25m
- Trailerable Wgt: 1850kgs
- Test Power: Yamaha F150 4-stroke 150hp outboard
- Propeller: 17”
- Maximum RPM: 6000
- Top Speed: 38 knots
- Power Options: Outboard only
- HP Range: 130-200hp
- Fuel capacity: 155 litres or to suit
- Trailer: Hosking Trailers or Innovision custom trailer
Performance & Fuel