Author : Barry Thompson
Touching Your Senses
The new Larson 206 Senza is the largest model in the Senza group. It is available in a bowrider configuration only and features VEC technology. Barry Thompson spent a few hours on Auckland Harbour checking out Larsonʼs latest.
Larson Boats is a legend in boatbuilding, dating back to 1913 when Paul Larson built his first wooden fishing boat. Since that time, Larson has survived the test of time by adapting new technologies to continue producing some of the most popular, affordable and dependable family boats on the US market.
Some years ago the company became part of the Genmar group of boat companies, under whose umbrella Larson introduced the world to an innovative technology – Virtual Engineered Composites (VEC) technology. This is the most significant achievement ever in fibreglass boat building. The closed-mould VEC process significantly cuts production time, from one full day to as little as 70 minutes, and is better for the environment because 90% less styrene is released during the laminating process.
Virtual Engineered Composites, or VEC, is a patented fibreglass moulding process used in manufacturing all Larson runabouts below 8m with efficiency and precision unobtainable with traditional open-mould fibreglass techniques.
The VEC process is a computer-monitored, closed-mould system that produces complex fibreglass parts of defined thickness and strength. There is less than a 1% variation in hull weight among the first 10,000 hulls built by Larson.
Unfortunately due to the exorbitant capital cost of setting up a VEC system it is only viable if a manufacturer is building well in excess of 500 of one model annually. The chances of seeing a VEC system in this part of the world is therefore quite remote.
This is the second Larson I have tested and like the first, the finish and quality is exceptional. Wave scan equipment and gloss meters monitor surface finishes to automotive standards. Robotic routers drill precision holes to a location tolerance of plus or minus 0.025mm. There is therefore virtually no variation in the placement of the hardware or the composition and thickness of the hull. There is also no wood in a Larson and the company offers a transferable lifetime limited warranty.
First impression of the Senza 206 was one of a sleek bowrider that is typical of most mass produced US bowriders. Lots of glitz and sophistication without any concession for the Kiwi fisho. You got it in one! This isnʼt a fishing boat and there is no room for rods, rod holders or live bait tanks. This is a boat that you want to be seen cruising in, with an ideal layout for open air entertainment. It looks good and itʼs got sex appeal. Towing water toys, wakeboarders or skiers or parked up in a quiet bay enjoying lunch around the aft table, the Senza 206 is hot!
The Senza 206 has bold, edgy lines that give the boat a modern, ʻstealthyʼ look. The layout features a large aft lounger with an optional drop-in table. There is seating for three and when you swing the forward bucket seats back youʼve got a mini ʻdiningʼ area for five. There is storage under the side seats as well as provision for a 24-litre Igloo cool box under the central squab. With an infill cushion the lounge can be converted to a massive stern sunpad.
The huge sunpad covering the engine bay is another great place to soak up some sun. There is space either side of the engine for extra storage, such as provision for the removable cockpit table and snorkelling gear. The integrated swim platform is skid resistant and a three-step boarding ladder is located on the starboard side for easy passenger pick-up. A central ski hook is standard as are the pop-up cleats.
A Clarion stereo with CD player located in the lockable passenger console is just one highlight of the standard features included on the Senza. This is also an ideal space for the cellphone and keys. The moulded exterior lines of the deck integrate with the standard glass side wings of the windshield to create a sleek look from every angle.
The bucket seats are well padded, comfortable and mounted on solid alloy pedestals that provide swivel and slide adjustment for people of all sizes.
The helm is simplified with a gauge cluster and switch panel all in one pod just above the tilt steering wheel. A sport wheel offers a good grip and control of the power-assisted steering. Unfortunately there isnʼt room for a flush-mounted fishfinder/GPS, although I am sure that a small bracket-mounted unit could be fitted somewhere handy to the driver.
Typical of nearly all American bowriders is the lack of any anchoring facilities. While you will have to use the central bow stowage area for the anchor tackle, local Larson dealers will arrange for a custom fairlead and bollard to be fitted.
Bow seating features wraparound loungers with removable cushions. Under the cushions are three stowage areas that are fully moulded and gel coated to provide effortless clean-up. Of course, grab handles and drink holders are up front too, along with pop-up cleats for snag-free outings.
On The Water
Our test day was a typical early winter morning on Auckland harbour with a light breeze and a short harbour chop with a gentle swell that made the ride interesting. Extra wide flat chines deflect spray and deliver a dry ride and exceptional stability at rest. If this was a fishing boat you would have no weight distribution problems fishing three from one side!
These chines are 140mm wide at the transom and remain that until about a metre from the bow where they start to taper into the hull. There are two strakes per side and the bottom is radiused along the centreline rather than being a straight deep V.
The hull is very quick to accelerate onto the plane and reaches maximum speed rapidly, obviously ably assisted by the wide chines. The MerCruiser 260 was good for just a snatch over 52 mph, but if you really want to boogie then go for the 320hp Volvo which will give you a 57mph top end. Thatʼs more than the boat needs, but it can certainly handle it.
In the choppy waters off Gulf Harbour I found the Senza 206, with its rather bluff bow, didnʼt exactly slice through the water into a head sea. In a following sea the bow shape of the Senza 206 comes into its own and you would find it very hard to broach. The foam-filled stringer system also did a lot to reduce vibration and noise by providing a dampening effect.
The Senza didnʼt take kindly to a quartering sea that came up under the exceptionally wide chines. This tended to give the boat a rolling effect and in a much bigger sea I feel it would not be comfortable at the speed we were travelling. Slow down and youʼre fine.
When you are driving, the drooping bow profile gives you a false impression that the hull is running flat, whilst in effect it has plenty of lift and in the calm water at speed I had the boat sitting on the last metre of hull. Calm water driving is fine when seated and with the ability to slide the seat back I found it comfortable to stand and drive in the rougher water.
The Senza 206 is a thoroughbred American bowrider built by one of the longest established boat builders in the USA. If you are keen on your family cruising, towing water toys and genuinely having fun on the water, then the Senza 206 could well suit your needs.
Bowriders provide maximum use of space in the given parameters of the hull and the Larson Senza 206 is no exception. This isnʼt the sort of boat you would venture very far offshore in, but overall it handles and performs well enough for inshore conditions.
Built in the VEC system, you can be assured of as near a perfect hull as is possible. Each Senza model features a full one-piece fibreglass deck and liner. To date more than 23000 boats have been built using the VEC system and there have been virtually no warranty claims.
Changes have been made to the VEC system for 2006 that will not only speed production, but also enhance the structural integrity of the hull. The interior grid system and the flotation will be fitted into the hull when it is made and when the boat comes out of the mould it will be 95% cured in 43 minutes.
The Larson 206 Senza I tested was the first of four to be imported to New Zealand and was owned by Genmarʼs NZ representative, Peter Rachtman. This boat has since been sold and can now be found around the Rotorua lakes.
- Model: Larson 206 I/O
- Price As Tested: $65,000
- Designer: Larson Boats
- Type: Bowrider
- LOA: 6.25m
- Beam :2.5 m
- Height On Trailer: 2.1 m
- Deadrise: 21 degrees
- Engine Capacity: 190hp – 320hp
- Power Options: Sterndrive Only
- Fuel Capacity : 132.5 litres