• The Chaparral H2O is great fun to drive, quick off the mark, forgiving if you overcook it and reassuringly well made.
  • Given what the alternatives are in its 30k price region, this boat is not a hard choice to make.
  • Looking behind the scenes reveals a high standard of construction.

Chaparral H2O

This 19ft bowrider is the smallest in the H2O range of bowrider/ski boats from Chaparral, but like its bigger siblings, it packs in some sensible features without compromise at a price that makes you look twice, as Greg Copp reports…

Chaparral are far from budget boatbuilders. They may not flag up eye-watering European price tags, but this US company has been hand-laying up its boats in-house for 50 years, and has a string of awards to its name. Like many US boatbuilders, sports boats are their bread and butter, and with Chaparral, bowriders are something they are particularly good at.

The 19ft H2O uses Chaparral’s US award-winning extended V hull. The concept of this is pretty simple, but like many simple things, especially with boats, it actually works. The extended V hull effectively stretches two sections of the hull aft beyond the transom, flanking the sterndrive. These sections have a similar effect to two big trim tabs insomuch as they hugely reduce bow climb when punching out of the hole. I will confess to being sceptical until Neville, from Ideal Boats, told me to nail the throttle and watch the bow. There is very little bow climb, which was even more surprising considering I was driving out into a head sea that was more than a handful for a 19-footer. Backing off, we were able to hold planing speed down to around 12 knots, which is good news if you have a full family on board and want to cruise home without complaint on a rough day.

What makes this boat relaxing to drive at lower speeds, as well as a true adrenaline overdose, is the 200hp 4.5L MerCruiser V6. Launched two years ago, this is the first purpose-built marine sterndrive engine, insofar as it is not based on a marinised automotive block. Such an engine was long overdue, as the mechanical ergonomics and power delivery – like those of an outboard engine – are tailored specifically for a boat. Consequently it has a broad responsive spread of power, punching the boat up onto the plane from 2000rpm. Its predecessor, the 220hp MerCruiser 4.3L V6, would have had to spin up to around 2500–3000 rpm before it got its act together. Apart from the white-knuckle factor, having such usable low-down power is ideal in a boat that can plane at low speeds, and just perfect for pulling skiers up.

This engine is a lot smoother than its MerCruiser 5L V8 and 4.3L V6 predecessors, and revs relentlessly to its 5200rpm redline. For the H2O, this equates to just over 45 knots. The hull is medium V, non-stepped, with a transom deadrise of 18 degrees. This is a sensible combination for a sports boat that requires little draught, and offers both stability and easy drivability. One thing that is apparent about the Chaparral is that she is an easy point and shoot boat that requires little experience to drive fast, yet she is equally satisfying for an experienced helmsman. She shows no tendency to lose the back end in tight turns, aided by the fact that she has no hull step. If you forget to trim the leg in on a tight turn, she does not cavitate if you pile on the power hard driving out. She appears to maintain naturally good fore and aft trim at all speeds, to the point that she only requires a moderate amount of ‘leg out’ at wide open throttle. Running with the weather, the inherent buoyancy of carrying plenty of beam into the forward section pays dividends, as this boat shows no tendency to stuff her nose. Some craft require the outboard/sterndrive leg substantially trimmed out in a following sea to prevent this happening, but the H2O is pretty forgiving in this area. There are, of course, limitations to driving a 19ft beamy boat in rough weather, and with the H2O this is not surprisingly felt to some degree in a strong head sea. But what is also felt is the stability in a beam sea and confused water, where her girth is an advantage.

Looking behind the scenes reveals a high standard of construction, especially for a 35k boat. This fits with this craft’s sold feel out in a seaway. Opening the various storage compartments located around the boat reveals no substandard finishing – even the bow section seat bases are laminates. The long cockpit floor locker has a neatly finished internal tray that drains away to the bilge, so your skis and wetsuits can dry in a world of their own. The navigator’s dash has a small lockable compartment housing a Bluetooth hi-fi, and both the helm and navigator’s seats can be adjusted for legroom as well as being reversible. The bow section has sacrificed space for the sake of two storage lockers under the dash areas, which is a sensible trade-off. The seats do not have any adjustment for height, but the flip-up bolsters work well, as I found they gave a good view over the bow. With such little bow climb I had no problems sitting with the bolster down, especially as the choppy weather was having a good go at rinsing what little hair I have.

The aft section of the boat is no less innovative. Engine access is a super-quick affair as you simply lift the central strut-assisted section of the sun pad, to be faced with the top of the engine. Mechanical ergonomics are such that everything is easily accessed at the top forward section of the engine. If you need to go further, say to the battery, then there are side hatches. The sun pad itself can also convert to a sunlounger as sections on either side can be raised to make a backrest.

This particular boat, as tested, had the ‘Deluxe Package’ without tower. This includes items like a depth gauge, ultra-comfort flip-up bolster seats, bimini top, snap-in carpets and a full set of covers. For an extra £2,000 it is certainly worth it, though I would like the option of synthetic teak flooring given that it is going to have wet people on board. There is a wakeboard tower option along with an extension to the bathing platform should you need it.


The Chaparral H2O is great fun to drive, quick off the mark, forgiving if you overcook it and reassuringly well made. It is keenly priced, especially as it is solidly built, and does not need the most powerful engine option to release its potential. Unusually it does not have an extensive extras list to hoist up the price. Given what the alternatives are in its 30k price region, this boat is not a hard choice to make.

  • Specifications
  • LOA: 5.89m
  • Beam: 2.29m
  • Transom deadrise angle: 18 degrees
  • Displacement: 1152kg (dry with 200hp MerCruiser 4.5L with Alpha sterndrive)
  • Power options: 200hp to 250hp
  • Fuel capacity: 135 litres
  • RCD category: C for 9
  • Test engine: 200hp MerCruiser 4.5L


  • 45.8 knots


  • From: £34,995 (inc. VAT)
  • As tested: £37,230 (inc. VAT)


Ideal Boat Ltd

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Photo credits: Greg Copp

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