The Front-Runner: Radical new personal boating concept

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June 22, 2007 Although it looks like there should be a Jedi Knight at the controls, these pics of the innovative Front-Runner were not taken on a film set. The full-size hydrofoil watercraft employs twin 215 horsepower forward-mounted jet-drive motors and an airplane-like steering system to create what's been described as an off-roading experience on water. The steering system allows changes in heading, pitch and bank, and its ability to navigate shallow waters means the 11 foot long Front-Runner can reach previously inaccessible places. One of the most outstanding water going craft we've encountered, the concept is not far from reality according to designer Joey Ruiter, with the productions costs and price tag expected to be comparable to a typical twin-engine jet boat. Having completed a working prototype the focus is now on finding a manufacturer to take the project into the production phase.

Described as more “aircraft than boat”, the Front-Runner concept was unveiled by Joey Ruiter, design principal of JRuiter Studio, at the 62nd Annual Grand Rapids Boat Show in the U.S.

We've encountered hydrofoil craft in all shapes and sizes - surfboards, yachts and even a sports car - but never before in this configuration. The uniqueness is down to the use of twin forward-mounted motors combined with the suspension system enable the Front-Runner to pierce the water and carve in and out of turns. The rear hydrofoil lifts the boat body out of the water so the driver can control different aspects of the ride. This design changes the rider’s experience – having the motor in front of the bow produces more of a “pulling” sensation compared to the “pushing” feel of a traditional boat and the twin supercharged 215 horsepower motors provide ample power for a small craft.

“The advantage is this boat can do more, with more control and function, and go so many more places," comments Ruiter, an award-winning industrial designer. "This boat will go where most boats can't because it will run in extremely shallow water, and it's got a tremendous range."

Ruiter has designed boats, motors, and interiors for the boating industry before, but this concept boat brings a whole new attitude to small boating – and to top it all off, it’s made of entirely recyclable materials. "Large scale boats get most of the attention in this industry” says Ruiter. “Smaller boats for the average weekend boater are often ignored when it comes to new and innovative approaches. I wanted to challenge the thinking about small boats. The Front-Runner takes advantage of new technology, and creates a new boating experience. There isn't another small boat out there like this." Ruiter brought in Spectrum Sand Sports – builders of long-travel sand cars for west coast style Baja racing - to help construct the unique tubular frame and interior roll-cage for the prototype. Ruiter would like to see a manufacturer put the Front-Runner into production. “This design isn't that far from reality. It's a new way of thinking about small boats. From a production standpoint, I've reorganized and repositioned semi-standard components in new ways," says Ruiter.

In addition to the forward-mounted jet-drive motors, the Front-Runner features:

  • -Modified four-link suspension and steering for aircraft-like control and feel

    -Hydrofoil on four-bar linkage to control boat elevation and ride

    -Environmentally sustainable design

    -An all-aluminum frame and skin that resists rust, dents, and dings

    -Materials are easily separated, and recyclable

    -Retractable California style top

    -Ergonomic crew chairs for all-day cruising comfort

    -Spacious cargo area (approx. 30 sq. ft. of deck space) with
integrated lash cleats
    -Tambour rear door that allows for easy loading and unloading

    -Overall dimensions: 18'2" L x 8'6" W x 5'2" H

    FRONT-RUNNER - SPECS

    Dimensions

    Length: 18’ 2”

    Width: 8’ 6”

    Height: 5’ 2”

    Weight (dry): 1020 lbs

    Rider Capacity: 4

    Fuel Capacity (incl. reserve): 31.8 Gals

    Draft: Resting / 9", Cruising / 3”

    Storage Capacity: 120 cubic ft.

Engine

    Engine: (2) engine options may vary depending on requirements, Engine body and drive units will accept two, 215 hp Supercharged Intercooled Rotax® 4-TEC engines

    Drive Units

    Propulsion System: Direct Drive

    Jet Pump: Aluminum axial flow, single stage, large hub with 10-vane stator

    Transmission: Direct drive with forward / neutral / reverse

    Impeller: Stainless steel

    Steering System

    Steering: Triangluted four bar system, gear driven

    Suspension: 19” King coil over with remote reservior

    Hull

    Hull: Flat bottom, aluminum

    Equipment: LCD, GPS, digital gauges, feedback control
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