Video: Flight testing the Seabreacher X – the 300 horsepower bionic shark
The Seabreacher X is biomimicry at its finest. It takes the shape of man's most feared predator, gives it more horsepower than a MotoGP bike, and makes it so light that it has the power-to-weight ratio of a Bugatti Veyron – that's the Seabreacher X. Its semi-pressurized hull enables it to tickle your adrenalin glands both above and below the waves, and it rates as the most outrageous boy's toy I have ever sampled.
The Seabreacher X is the highest performance model in the Seabreacher range, which also has models that are shaped like a dolphin and a killer whale.
The dolphin was the first shape that Seabreacher fashioned for its sea-creature-inspired range at its Northern Californian headquarters, and the Killer Whale was the most recent, but the Orcinus orca replica turned out to be slightly more of a Grand Touring model than the bare-bones sportscar of the shark.
Not surprisingly, the shape that has evolved into the best balanced and best handling stunt machine of the Seabreacher range is the X – the shark. Sharks existed before land vertebrates (they're twice as old as the dinosaurs), first appearing in the oceans somewhere between 450 and 420 million years ago, so nature has had quite some time to refine its top-of-the-food-chain model.
Although all Seabreachers turn quickly and maneuver at the speed of thought, the X model has the most sensitive controls, and the most outrageous aquabatic capabilities – both the Dolphin and Shark lookalikes are capable of barrel rolls, but the shark turns quicker and responds better in expert hands.
EVERY Seabreacher is different. With a price tag that begins at US$80,000, they are the exclusive domain of the very wealthy. Hence it is not surprising that every one is hand-built to the buyer's exact specifications.
Accordingly, the Seabreacher is a VERY personal Personal Watercraft. Each buyer wants his or her own highly personalized toy as some of the paint schemes in the image gallery reflect.
With just on 100 of these hand-crafted creatures in existence, the team at Seabreacher has created a sports car for the water that is equally as exclusive as a Koenigsegg (the 100th Koenigsegg was recently built) is on land.
So in having your Seabreacher tailored, you choose the paint job, the sportscar-like seats, the GPS, sound system, and finally where and how many video cameras you want on board. Most Seabreachers are optioned to well into six figures.
The original versions of the Seabreacher, built almost a decade ago, sported high powered Wankel engines and even V8s, but over time, the most usable power-to-weight ratio and balance has been found from fitting the engines from Personal Watercraft.
Most of the Seabreachers to date have been fitted with the 255 and 260 horsepower supercharged Rotax powerplant fitted to top-of-the range Sea-Doo models, but because no-one spends six figures to have less grunt, the most commonly used power units of recent times have been the current horsepower king – the 300-bhp Kawasaki from the Ultra 300X jet ski.
Both the Sea-Doo and Kawasaki motors use forced induction and displace 1500 cc.
Another interesting option emerged recently when one of Seabreacher's wealthy clients specified the 1800-cc supercharged powerplant from the Yamaha FX SHO Waverunner, mainly to simplify servicing on his boy's toy collection which also included several Yamaha FX SHO Waverunners using the same motor.
"It produced a machine that accelerated harder and had a higher top speed than anything else we've built," says Seabreacher's Rob Innes, "but the additional weight robbed it slightly of turning and handling. It produced more of a Grand Tourer than a sports car."
The advantages of using a PWC motor are many, not the least of which is their robust nature. Though the Yamaha and Kawasaki motors are closely related to the respective motorcycle engines of those companies, the PWC versions are beefed up considerably by comparison.
A motorcycle is rarely held at maximum power for very long, because you can't do 300 km/h anywhere for more than 30 seconds, at least not legally. Airstrips aren't long enough, autobahns with no speed restrictions only exist in Germany, and racetracks have a corner at the end of every straight bit.
PWCs though, are often held "flat out" for very long periods of time on lakes, rivers and oceans where there are no speed limits and an endless expanse of flat water. PWCs are hence constructed so they can withstand considerable abuse – which makes them perfect for the Seabreacher. It is a toy that screams for more and the peace-of-mind of knowing the engine is pretty much bulletproof means that your adrenalin sessions will be largely carefree.
Though Seabreacher's creator Rob Innes has been inviting me to Northern California for nine years to try out the Seabreacher, circumstances have so far conspired to prevent me from getting there and I was beginning to think I'd actually reach a full decade of anticipating the experience.The recent appointment of Geminai Watercraft as the Asian distributor for Seabreacher though, meant that Rob was able to arrange for me to finally take the Seabreacher for a spin a few weeks ago in Thailand. Geminai has plans to marry several outrageous boy's toys together and offer a range of experiences at seaside resorts across Asia.
The ONE we got to try was fitted with a 255-horsepower Rotax engine from a Sea-Doo RXP-X.
Now, to really put the Seabreacher in perspective, let's first look at its performance relative to some things you might know.
The essence of really usable performance is not how much horsepower a vehicle has, but how much weight each horsepower has to push around – it's simple Newtonian physics.
Newton's Second Law of Motion states that force = mass multiplied by acceleration (F = M x A).
So acceleration equates to force divided by mass, which is why performance enthusiasts prize a high power-to-weight ratio, because it is essentially an indication of a vehicle's acceleration potential.
The table below gives you an idea of some of the hardest-accelerating road-going vehicles in existence, and how they compare with the best racing machinery from the world's premier car and motorcycle race series:
The same laws apply to turning and stopping a vehicle. A lighter object requires less force to change direction or to stop, and hence a lightweight performance vehicle stops faster, accelerates harder and handles better.
As the world is slowly (and painfully) beginning to appreciate, weight is the enemy of both performance and economy because excess mass needs to be accelerated and decelerated for the life of the vehicle, and it costs lots of energy and fuel to move weight.
What's more, because heavy objects need more robust structures and sophisticated heavy duty suspension and brakes, weight begets weight, and excess weight needlessly wears out engines, brakes, suspension and tires and simply consumes horsepower that could be better used having fun.
That's why performance vehicle manufacturers now use computer aided design to pare off any unnecessary weight, then employ exotic lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, Tegris, magnesium and titanium to ensure that their vehicles are as light as possible, and that's why the best-performing boy's toys cost so much.
True sporting performance for a motor vehicle begins around 150 bhp per metric tonne (1,000 kg) with the area between 150 and 300 bhp per tonne populated by an interesting mix of lightweight vehicles with very powerful engines and big cars with massive, ridiculously powerful V8, V10 and V12 engines. Getting over 150 bhp per tonne requires a lot of power and not much weight, or awesome power. The only alternative is extreme light weight, such as in a middleweight motorcycle.
Some examples of the former include the Mini Cooper S, Golf GTi, Alfa 147 GTA, Subaru Impreza Sti and Ford Focus RS500, which almost all began life as lightweight compact commuter cars but had forced-induction and high performance engines added to give them quite astonishing performance.
At the other end of this scale, there are some very large cars with good power-to-weight ratios with huge turbocharged 8-, 10-, 12- and even 16-cylinder engines such as Bentley's Mulsanne and Flying Spur, the Mercedes Benz S65 AMG, BMW 760Li, Chevrolet Corvette C6 Z06 and Aston Martin V12 Vanquish.
You can see from the highly respected brand names and massive price tags that we've entered an exclusive domain already, and any car having an even higher power-to-weight ratio than this is definitely designed specifically for the task of accelerating very hard indeed.
Achieving better than 300 horsepower per metric tonne is very difficult, as the design, powertrain and materials science costs become enormous and cars beyond this stratospheric point become more and more expensive and exclusive.
Cars which exceed 300 horsepower per metric tonne include Nissan's GT-R, the hand-made aluminum-bodied Aston Martin V12 Zagato, Lamborghini's Reventon and Gallardo, the Ferrari 599, Mercedes SLR McLaren, Caterham Superlight, Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series, Porsche Carrera GT, McLaren MP4-12C, Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari F12berlinetta, Aston Martin One-77, Ferrari Enzo, Ariel Atom and Pagani Zonda F.
If you jump into a car like this without prior experience, you suddenly feel distinctly inadequate. Apart from the car accelerating faster than you can think, everything happens so much quicker than with a more pedestrian vehicle (250 bhp per tonne or less). These vehicles are light, with extraordinary brakes, and if you start braking where you think you should, you will invariably need to get on the gas again before the corner.
Initial cornering attempts, you later realize, were feeble compared with the capabilities of the vehicle. There's a period of time where you repeatedly attempt to sharpen your reflexes and keep coming up with less than the car demands.
Put simply, this level of vehicle is not something you can jump in for the first time and drive fast. It is a level of power-to-weight that the average person will find overwhelming.
Then we get to the Seabreacher. In rough figures, the fastest Seabreacher represents 300 horsepower pushing 600 kilograms and to equates to a power-to-weight ratio of 500 horsepower per metric tonne.
That's better than all the aforementioned cars and just a smidgen less than legendary cars such as the Bugatti Veyron, McLaren F1, Lamborghini Veneno and the Pagani Huayra, all with price tags north of a million euro – an order of magnitude more than the base model Seabreacher.
That it is this cheap is amazing, but the power-to-weight ratio only gives you an idea of the essence of the Seabreacher because all those cars have four really big sticky tires to transmit their horsepower and change direction and the Seabreacher has a jet and fins and no brakes, and it is a credit to the way nature has shaped the sea's best known predator that it handles like it does with 300 bhp driving it.
Interestingly, apart from skipping across the water at 80 km/h (50 mph), it also turns tighter than any other watercraft known to man, because you can dig in a fin, and turn on a dime.
Grab the trigger in your right hand and it unleashes 300 horsepower immediately – the trigger to unleash all those horses is very similar to a slot car controller and very sensitive in that it moves less than an inch and squeezing it gently begins accelerating the Seabreacher's 600 kilograms at an astounding rate.
It planes instantaneously and then begins skipping across the top of the water like a skimming stone – it's a quite different experience to that of a personal watercraft.
Thanks to its shape and semi-pressurized hull, the Seabreacher has a few tricks which none of it testosterone and adrenalin boy's toy competitors can match. You can slip under the water a meter or two, then haul back on the controls and breach the water like a killer whale.
It's a sensation you can't get quite anywhere else and it's a load of fun rocketing out of the water. Though it must be said that water is very unforgiving when you land hard, and it's quite different to launching yourself off a wave on a personal watercraft because when you land a PWC your legs become your suspension, whereas the full race harness and wrap-around sportscar seats of the Seabreacher mean you are anchored to the hull and when it hits, the jolt going straight up your spine. Despite this, when you've got hold of the controls you can still feel and see when the landing is coming and you brace yourself for it.
That's about as dangerous as it gets though. As Seabreacher's creator Rob Innes said to me by phone the evening after I tried his creation, "even when you royally screw something up, it's never really life-threatening so you can have all the fun of teaching yourself to fly without the downside of maybe killing yourself."
It doesn't take long to learn. I struggled because I got into it blind, with no written information and the only person who knew how to drive it didn't speak English and I don't speak Thai, so I spent most of my time behind the controls working out what did what.
That's me trying to work out how to fly the Seabreacher. Sermsak didn't speak any English, and I speak just enough Thai to order a beer and ... we worked it out, though I did manage to get it upside down with him in the back. I hope Geminai have him insured for post-traumatic stress disorder.
In Sermsak's hands though, the Seabreacher could do complete barrel rolls, skip along on its side, turn with g-forces that make your head feel like a kettle weight, and just generally frolic with the carefree nature of a dolphin, or the menacing intent of a shark closing in on its prey.
It's a lot harder in the back, because the X can be flipped from one guiding fin to the other side in the blink of an eye and unlike being in the passenger seat of a sportscar, where you can see which way the track is going and prepare for the g-forces you're about to experience, open flat water offers a blank canvas for the driver's creativity and insanity and directional changes in the Seabreacher are so immediate, being in the rear tandem seat can be a bit like riding a roller coaster with a blindfold.
It also tends to get a bit warm and stuffy if you're the passenger. While it is intoxicating to have this blank canvas of water in front of you and a sensitive jet fighter's controls in your hand when you are driving, you tend to neglect the growing warmth from the sun through the canopy. In the rear though, you get pounded and subjected to all the g-forces without knowing what's coming next, and with the enclosed bodywork covering you in the rear, it becames claustrophobic very quickly.
Getting a break from the claustrophobia in the back, or simply getting a lung full of fresh air is incredibly easy – let go of the trigger for a moment, hit the depressurize button, undo the locks on either side of the canopy, and this creature that was spitting fire and brimstone a few moments ago becomes a child's toy and putters around like a carnival boat. You sit inside the Seabreacher with most of your body below the waterline, so performing the above exercise is like going from beserker warrior to meditating monk inside a few seconds.
Sitting so low in the water, and having been underneath the surface not long before, there's a feeling that the water will suddenly pour in and sink the Seabreacher when the canopy pops up and back. But no, it's a docile domestic class boat as well as kick-arse submersible, and the word powerboat doesn't seem potent enough to describe the feeling when you squeeze that trigger.
It's turning the Seabreacher where I found the most contrast with the PWC which is its closest cousin and heart transplant donor.
A personal watercraft (PWC – "Jet Ski" is registered to Kawasaki) such as the 260-hp Sea-Doo and 300-hp Kawasaki Ultra are another league above the Seabreacher in power-to-weight but you sit on those creatures and you wrestle them. You do have suspension, albeit in the form of your thighs, to counter the constant battering of the hull, and your center of gravity and balance is 18 inches above the water.
A PWC uses the same engine and weighs around one third less, which makes for much greater acceleration. But that difference in your center of gravity of some 18 inches at speed and three feet at lower speeds, makes for a stark contrast – just the same way a go-kart feels like it is doing a gazillion miles an hour because your butt is just a few inches above the tarmac, the difference between carving turns on my Kawasaki Ultra jet ski from two feet above the water, and carving turns in the Seabreacher with your head at water level is … well, world's apart. There's even a motorcycle-like element in that you lean into a turn much more than on a PWC.
There's another analogy with cars. The likes of the Caterham Superlight, Ariel Atom and KTM X-Bow are bare bones sport cars – there's no cigarette lighter and no heater. Indeed, you're lucky if you have doors and a windscreen or even bodywork to keep the elements out. Even more than that, if you think suspension is there to keep you comfortable in one of these cars, you're dead wrong.
The suspension in such cars is designed solely to keep the wheels firmly planted on the tarmac so you can get more of the power on the asphalt and steer with more precision.
Just as an Ariel Atom might loosen the fillings in your teeth in the name of fun, the Seabreacher is a no compromise machine of exactly the same ilk.
The Seabreacher is not built for transport. They're built entirely to have fun and to go very fast. In fact, they feel like they're going even faster than anything else because the rate at which the water is hitting the canopy and the timing between bouncing off the top of the waves and pounding your butt into the seat gets progressively longer and harder as speed increases. You know you are inside a projectile due to the extreme forces you are being subjected to.
It's a no-compromises machine, rejoicing in the absolute ridiculous, performing tricks and subjecting your body to the type of g-forces you might get leaping a motocross bike, cornering a go-kart, or bungee jumping.
Motorcycles give you much more bang per buck but you need years of riding to get anywhere near getting the most from a motorcycle, and the consequences of making a mistake can be personally catastrophic.
The big thing about the Seabreacher is that as long as you have a support boat and don't run into anything, there's not much risk of the life-threatening kind.
The semi-pressure hull means the Seabreacher can do its thing underwater with impunity, and the fun factor is a thousand times greater when you have the controls rather than spectating from within the craft.
Air circulation is supplied by a fan under the dashboard but there's no aircon fitted, and you wouldn't want to take on the additional weight and horsepower drag of air conditioning anyway. So if you need to impress anyone by taking them for a ride, my suggestion is to inquire about their propensity for projectile vomiting first – as mentioned, it gets claustrophobic and uncomfortable very quickly in the rear.
As you can probably tell from my rave, I was mightily impressed with the beastie which has elements of so many other motorized toys. There are recognizable elements of a spartan barebones sportscar, a jet fighter aircraft, a top-of-the-range personal watercraft, a go-kart, a motorcycle … and maybe a bionic shark.
Don't have six figures?
Seabreacher organized my opportunity to pilot the Seabreacher via its Asian Distributor, Geminai Watercraft in Thailand, and Geminai is about to embark on an endeavor which will make the Seabreacher accessible to a lot more people who don't have a disposable six figure sum to throw at recreational vehicles.Geminai Watercraft distributes the Seabreacher throughout Asia and has plans for a Geminai Club, where overseas visitors can fly into Thailand (and eventually other Asian destinations), stay at a Geminai Club affiliated waterside hotel and have a range of toys on hand to give them an adventure holiday to remember.
Hotels are currently being signed up in exotic locations such as Phuket, Hua Hin, Ko Samui and Pattaya and with the Chinese market within the company's domain, the Seabreacher might soon move from being a toy exclusively for the mega-wealthy, to something within the reach of anyone with a holiday budget.
It's an experience the likes of which you will never forget.
Product page: Innespace Seabreacher