- … it drives so well, to the point that you start donning your sports boat head…
- … it is genuinely innovative and exceedingly well built.
- It is a jack of all trades, but also a master of many – the perfect pocket cruiser that will always get the family home if things blow up.
- The fit and finish are typically Scandinavian – marginally minimalistic, but extremely well constructed.
Finnmaster Pilot 8
Greg Copp undertakes the eighth in a series of tests of outboard-powered wheelhouse boats, and reports that the Finnmaster Pilot 8 emerges at the top of the pile.
Though the Finnmaster Pilot 8 is a perfect first choice for first-time family boating, it is anything but a compromise – in fact, it is the complete opposite. Having recently tested the Pilot 7, I genuinely wanted to drive the Pilot 8. Sitting on the hard at Swanwick Marina, its lean lines and sharp transom deadrise, topped by twin 150hp outboards, said it all. It does mimic the likes of Botnia Targa and Sargo with its overhung windscreen, but its tall bulwark-enclosed side deck and hard-core stainless work hint that this boat’s credentials go more than skin-deep.
I was keen to see how it performed. Having just tested the Jeanneau Merry Fisher 895 Offshore fitted with twin 200hp Yamaha F200s, which had outperformed its standard counterpart (in terms of both performance and efficiency) fitted with a single Yamaha F300, I wanted to see how the Pilot 8 stacked up. The Finnmaster has 100hp less to play with than the Jeanneau, and it still has the drag of two outboard legs to contend with. It is around 200kg lighter, is 0.5m shorter in length and has a sharper deadrise angle by 2 degrees.
It is a very different drive to the Merry Fisher, though to be totally fair, I drove the Jeanneau in poor conditions, while most, though not all, of my time spent in the Pilot 8 was in idyllic weather. That said, what immediately strikes you about the Pilot 8 is the response from the twin 150hp outboards. This boat hits 30 knots in around 10 seconds, and this was with a full 410-litre load of fuel (300kg). With the legs trimmed in she will plane down to 16 knots quite easily. At 25 knots she sits nicely at her lower sweet spot just under 4000rpm, with around 25% leg trim. Finding what swell I could south of the Needles, it was evident that at this speed the Pilot 8 can soak up quite a bit of weather in her stride. The only truly choppy conditions were found inside the Solent, where, off Hurst Castle, the boat ran through the confused water at wide open throttle with indifference.
Past 30 knots I tried trimming the engines out a touch further, which she simply does not need. If you trim it too far, like many boats in this situation, the Pilot 8 will porpoise. What is evident at 30 knots is that the boat is at her upper sweet spot, and getting her second wind. When you are expecting to have to squeeze out those last few knots she clearly has more in reserve. At what I thought was the Pilot 8’s flat-out speed, just shy of 38 knots, I was told by the photo boat that one of the engines was trimmed out further than the other. Looking over my shoulder I could see that one motor was sitting proud of the other. Clearly the controls had not been configured to run off one trim switch when the boat was commissioned, and I had inadvertently been trimming the port engine on its own.
Powering the rogue engine back into line by eye produced a change in character. Both engines were now at 25% trim, with a slight reduction in tone and an instant 2-knot gain taking us just shy of 40 knots. The boat was also running with less attitude and she clearly liked it, as things were just that little bit softer. It was now a case of point and shoot, as with the legs left in this position I could throw her about like a 2-tonne sports boat. Her deep-vee hull and the topside weight of her wheelhouse produce manic-like angles of lean, but she holds a tight and steady course in doing so. I don’t think Finnmaster had this in mind when they designed the Pilot 8, but she is very capable of turning her hand to being a white-knuckle sports boat.
I have always been a fan of going for the biggest engine option, but in this case twin F150s genuinely make this boat tick – in a way I did not think they would. I was expecting to squeeze this boat tight to get 35 knots from her, but I was wrong. It does not really add up, but the truth is that this boat, rigged with twin 150hp Yamaha outboards, flies. The question is, would I opt for twin 200hp Yamahas over the twin 150hp option? On the basis that the Yamaha F200 weighs much the same as the F150, and the fact that I am an unashamed petrolhead, yes – but you probably won’t need that extra power. One thing is evident, and that is that the hull and weight distribution of the boat produce an efficient ride, as the Pilot 8 at 30–34 knots returns a respectable
2.0–2.1 mpg. She is offered with trim tabs, which I found no reason to use on the day. However, with a strong beam sea they would prove their worth.
The fit and finish are typically Scandinavian – marginally minimalistic, but extremely well constructed. The decking is Flexiteek, which is a £3.5k option but certainly worth having. Under the cockpit floor is a neatly tailored locker for the cockpit table, and every fender has a home in a bespoke alcove within the starboard cockpit coaming. All the deck hardware is typically hard-core, with the windlass located under the anchor locker hatch, and you can have a stern windlass if you want to be truly Baltic. Movement on deck is a breeze thanks to the wide bulwark-enclosed starboard side deck, which I found, with the wheelhouse side door, makes being single-crewed a lot easier. One aspect I particularly like is the roof hatches. Extra light aside, they have a seriously positive latch bar set-up, which is easy to operate with one hand, and leaves you in no doubt that they are well and truly shut.
The wheelhouse has the typical four-seater dinette arrangement, which converts with an infill to a slim double berth. The forward bench seat converts quickly into a navigator’s seat, which surprisingly has a full-size chart table to complement it. The helm works well as you can either sit or, with the bolster up, stand securely, as I did. The throttle and wheel are positioned easily within reach, but I will say that visibility can be slightly limited looking forward due to the height of the windscreen. When turning hard to port, visibility is also reduced, as with the boat heeling heavily the coachroof gets in your line of sight. If you want to throw a wheelhouse boat around, you have got to be disciplined, and take a good look before you turn the wheel.
Below decks, good use has been made of the space and height. The heads has full standing headroom, although, not that surprisingly in an 8m boat, there is no separate shower arrangement. The mid cabin has a longitudinal double berth that benefits greatly from an unusually large porthole, but storage is limited to one hanging locker in the doorway – the only place where there is any standing headroom. The master cabin is designed around an offset berth, which is the only option given the space available, but it works well. The four long rectangular portholes light up the cabin in a way that ordinary lighting can’t, and you get the impression that the forecabin is bigger than it really is. The galley is a typical compact wheelhouse kitchen, which, not unrealistically, focuses on the core needs of a small crew. The fridge rightly has a 50-litre capacity, and cupboard storage will be adequate for family weekend jaunts. Strangely, the test boat was not fitted with the optional hob, which is always likely to be needed, especially as brews and bacon butties tend to be the principal food on this size of boat.
As is often the case, this boat has a long list of optional extras, though there is no extra charge for delivery to the UK. Bar the lack of a galley hob, as tested, this boat is realistically specified.
In the last year I have tested seven outboard-powered wheelhouse boats in the 7m to 9m bracket, and the Pilot 8 comes out on top. This is not just because it drives so well, to the point that you start donning your sports boat head, but because it is genuinely innovative and exceedingly well built. It is a jack of all trades, but also a master of many – the perfect pocket cruiser that will always get the family home if things blow up.
Fuel Consumption (both engines – Yamaha fuel flow meter)
Engine speed GPH Knots MPG
2000rpm 3.5 8.7 2.5
2500rpm 5.7 10.0 1.8
3000rpm 8.0 12.7 1.6
3500rpm 11.0 19.0 1.7
4000rpm 12.8 25.3 2.0
4500rpm 14.2 29.5 2.1
5000rpm 17.0 34.1 2.0
5500rpm 21.7 36.5 1.7
5800rpm (wot) 25.7 39.7 1.5
- LOA: 8.40m
- Beam: 3.00m
- Transom deadrise angle: 20 degrees
- Displacement: 3450kg (dry with twin Yamaha F150AETXs)
- Power options: Single 200hp to twin 200hp outboards (all Yamaha)
- Fuel capacity: 410 litres
- Water capacity: 65 litres
- RCD category: C for 10
- Test engines: Twin 150hp Yamaha F150AETX outboards
From: £95,470 (inc. VAT) with a single 225hp Yamaha F225 outboard
As tested: £134,000 (inc. VAT)
39.7 knots (2-way average), sea conditions mild, wind F2 gusting F3
Ideal Boat Ltd
The Power Boat Centre