Yamaha GP1800

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Yamaha GP1800

 It seems as if one day at lunchtime, the design team at Yamaha paused between pizza slices and asked, “what would happen if we put the biggest engine possible into the lightest WaveRunner we can, and let’s make it one with a race proven hull?” Well after the laughter settled, the imaginary room went silent in thought, and a chorus of “lets do this” erupted. And do it they did. The result is the quickest, fastest, most precise handling and ultra-performing WaveRunner Yamaha has produced… The Yamaha GP1800. Rated MA for mature audiences only.

If you’ve ever asked yourself what it would be like to have a machine that racers use to win trophies, then bring your cheque book on over to a Yamaha dealer and sign a contract for the GP1800 and find out. This is a WaveRunner with the largest engine Yamaha makes, put into the lightest production performance machine with a race inspired hull. In short, it’s an adrenaline thrill ride that is not for the faint of heart.

However, if you’re an experienced rider, interested in closed-course buoy racing in a high performance rocket, then stop and take a look at this. The GP1800 is built with you as the target audience.

The Power Plant

We’ve always said that there’s more to performance than a bigger engine but Yamaha didn’t get the memo. It took the biggest engine it makes and dropped it into this WaveRunner. So what we have here is the 1812cc supercharged and intercooled, 4-stroke, 4 cylinder, 16-valve Super Vortex High Output engine. That’s the top of the food chain… there is no higher.

The SVHO engine features a high-performance intercooler, increased supercharger air intake capacity and boost, and a modified fuel injection system for increased fuel flow.

Add to that the fact that it’s driving the 160mm, 3-blade, 16.4-degree pitch, stainless steel impeller through an 8-vane high pressure jet pump and you start to get a feel for what we’re talking about.

The Hull

The hull is designed around the most winning watercraft raced today, the Yamaha VXR. It’s a super lightweight hull made with Yamaha’s exclusive NanoXcel2 technology that is sheet molded under extreme pressure to produce, what is according to Yamaha, the strongest and lightest hull and deck available in the industry.

This race-proven hull design has well defined hull-strakes, soft bow chines, race infused keel shape and performance sponsons to both sides to provide the excellent stability and precise responsiveness demanded of an extreme watercraft of this caliber.

The Handling
For all the power and lightweight, this is a seriously exhilarating ride that doesn’t have to be pushed to its limits. Frankly, you’re not going to reach its limits, probably ever. It will, however reach yours.

This is a WaveRunner that schools you so that every time you ride it you get better. But with that said, it’s also a great ride for an intermediate rider to become a more experienced rider. It has a level of predictability and precision that keeps the rider from getting into too much trouble while stretching his or her ability at the same time. The trip on up through acceleration is a quick one so hang on when hitting full throttle. Certainly don’t ever do it when others are riding. That’s the time for a more docile acceleration curve.

Once underway, she begs to be hauled around for buoy racing so have at it. Lean into the turn on approach, start the slight roll so the sponsons start to carve, make the hard turn and accelerate into the turn. Straighten out early or you’ll over turn and have to adjust. Timed right you can come out of the turn and level off at the same time with minimal loss of speed and blast of for the next turn.

The Technology

Rather than just focus on speed and call it a day, Yamaha also added some much-appreciated features onto the GP1800. None more valued than the RiDE Technology. Back in the day, R.i.D.E. used to stand for Reverse with Intelligent Deceleration Electronics, but it has now evolved to much more than that, but the name stuck. It provides the following features…

Reversing. The throttle is still on the right side, and probably always will be. Now, however, we add a trigger to the left side of the handlebar for the RiDE technology. Squeeze it and the GP1800 shifts (actually the reverse bucket drops down, there’s no shifting in jet watercraft) into reverse. Now we can maneuver around the dock and even back off of the trailer or beach. Steering is reversed so when backing, we steer the bow, not the stern.

Neutral. Just a quick squeeze of the left trigger drops the GP1800 into neutral. This is pretty intuitive. If we think of pulling the trigger back to back down, it’s just as easy to think of pulling the trigger back briefly as a means of stopping the forward motion, but not causing reverse motion. Try it once and it clicks forever. Now again, there’s no shifting of gears going on here, the reverse bucket simply is dropping down just enough to deflect the thrust, that is always coming out when the engine is running, down instead of forward or back. That keeps us from moving but turning the wheel will still cause us to pivot, rather than turn.

Braking. This is the biggest benefit of the RiDE Technology. When cruising at speed, squeeze the left trigger and intelligent braking kicks in. We say intelligent because imagine cruising at full speed and hitting reverse. What would likely happen is the reverse bucket would drop down, the driver, and passengers would then be launched over the handlebars, as both the reverse thrust and plunging bow would contribute to the subsequent deceleration trauma.

Instead, when squeezing the RiDE trigger at full (or any) speed, the engine slows (regardless of how much we’re holding the throttle trigger) while simultaneously dropping the reverse bucket. Now we can stop the GP1800 in the shortest distance possible while still remaining onboard and in full control. We tried it over and over again and it worked flawlessly. Keep squeezing and the braking reverts to reversing.

Another great feature is the electronic trim. Located on the left handlebar, the thumb is used to make incremental changes to the trim angle of the jet exhaust to compensate for both prevailing conditions and uneven distribution of weight when additional riders are aboard. Best of all is that these adjustments can be done on the fly instead of having to scroll through a menu on an instrument panel.

Additional Features

The seat is race inspired and cradles the driver in a raised, and well padded, seatback. It’s narrow enough for using the legs to squeeze and hold on, but not too wide that we can’t remain stable. There’s room for two additional riders making this a true three-person watercraft, from a roominess, buoyancy and stability standpoint. The rear seat has a wrap around grab handle and it’s comfortable to use facing forward when cruising or aft when acting as observer for watersports.

The total onboard storage is 24.6 gallons (93 L) and it’s distributed in three separate compartments. The first, and largest, is at the front under the streamlined bow visor. it releases with a latch just ahead of the panel so it can still be opened from the seated position. Inside is cavernous storage that also houses the mount for the portable fire extinguisher. It’s also under this hatch that we see the fuel fill positioned to the left side making it easy to refuel from a land based gas station.

The second, and most convenient, storage space is just behind the handlebars and ahead of the driver. This includes two beverage holders and a center space for incidentals.

Lastly there’s a waterproof compartment under the rear section of the two-piece seat. With its fine threads and gasketed screw cap, this container is both watertight, and removable so we can put our valuables inside and bring the whole thing with us when we walk away from the GP1800.

Watersports Ready

The GP1800 may be built for speed and performance but nothing says that we can’t use the settings in between idle and flat out. The simple fact is, even a Ferrari can ride through the rural streets without pushing 180 mph.

The GP1800 is designed for up to three riders, which means that she can still convert to waters ports since we can still have someone on the towline while still carrying the legally required aft facing observer. There’s a tow ring at the back, just under the seat, and a huge rear deck finished in custom cut non-skid matting that repels both water and heat from the continual onslaught of the bright sun.

Further aft there’s a flip-down reboarding step making it even easier to reboard the GP1800. Dual mirrors not only give the driver better orientation of the surroundings, but also assist in keeping an eye on the end of towline. They also help the driver remain aware if a boat is about to pass, as rare an occurrence as that may be.


There’s no doubt that this is among the fastest and quickest we’ve ridden and that seems to be the point of this machine. Yes it has added features but that’s just frosting on the cake. This is a racing machine inside and out, so while it can be used for water sports, we’d opt for a completely different WaveRunner for the family. This is for the adrenaline rush that can only be quenched by addressing the need for speed. At Retail price: $26,999.00 inc GST it’s also a bargain for a performance machine.

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