BOAT takes the wheel of J Craft's 12.8 metre Torpedo RS chase boat - a traditional beauty with cutting edge tech under the bonnet.
J Craft understands the meaning of exclusivity. Its first delivery in 1999 was an 11.5-metre Cabrio Cruiser for the King of Sweden. Since then, only 26 more hulls have been built, including 19 from the 12.8-metre Torpedo series, with each runabout thoroughly customised for its owner. Home is the island of Gotland in Sweden, where J Craft builds its boats, and where it is moving to a new 2,300 square metre facility.
“We will continue to be located on Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea; the relocation is mainly to be able to grow,” says Johan Hallen, master builder and chief technology officer, who has worked with J Craft since its inception in 1999. “The new location is in the main town of Visby, where J Craft originally was born so we are basically going back to our roots.”
No fewer than 8,000 hours are necessary to build a new Torpedo. “Currently we are eight skilled artisans,” says Hallen, “but in a year we aim to be 14.” Designed in-house, the lines have evolved slightly since the beginning – notably when the series gained two extra metres in 2009 – but radical aesthetic alterations aren’t desirable while maintaining a classic look. The technical side of these boats, however, is constantly developing. The best example is the very latest Torpedo, the RS version. “The RS stands for Racing Supercharged and is our most powerful engine alternative,” says Hallen.
Called Acheron, this hull is the 19th in the Torpedo series, delivered at the end of 2020. Replacing the 600, it is fitted with the latest generation of Volvo Penta IPS 650 engines, offering an extra 40 horsepower per engine with the same size and weight. This modification, combined with new and larger propellers, allows a new top speed of 47 knots and a lower fuel consumption at cruising speed. C*A*B, which is the 18th hull of the Swedish Torpedo series doesn’t include this muscular addition, but it does feature another technical bonus. “This Torpedo 42R is very special because she is the only one fitted with a Seakeeper stabiliser,” says Roberto Andreata, a longtime captain at J Craft.
Like all recent Torpedo models, it’s also fitted as standard with Zipwake, an efficient dynamic trim control system made in Sweden, which optimises comfort, performance and fuel consumption. In the waters of Saint-Tropez, by the Mediterranean office of J Craft at Sportmer, I have a chance to take the updated tech of the 18th hull for a ride. Leaving the harbour for Pampelonne we quickly and smoothly reach 20 knots at 2,000rpm, the robust windshield proving efficiently protective. Even up at 30 knots and 2,600rpm you feel secure and comfortable as the hull by naval architects Södergren Yachts cuts through the waves without effort.
“At this cruising speed the consumption is 85 litres per hour,” says Andreata. Thanks to a fuel capacity of 800 litres, this means a range of 282nm – enough to reach Corsica, Sardinia or the Balearic Islands easily. But it’s not all about long-range plans. The Seakeeper improves comfort at anchor and coupled with the IPS joystick, it also offers precise and easy manoeuvrability within harbours. “This option is even more efficient when you use the Torpedo as a chase boat,” says Andreata after an impressive demo along the pier near the Café Sénéquier. Indeed, by improving stability the Seakeeper reduces the difference in movement between the tender and the yacht. If you never poked around on board, however, you’d be unlikely to guess she packed on this kind of tech. A balance of varnished mahogany, leather and stainless steel, her curved lines are reminiscent of glorious classic series built in the ’50s or ’60s, with their air of la dolce vita. It is no surprise to find a giant sunbed aft, connected to the sea via a well-proportioned bathing platform.
A large lounge space in the middle can be converted into an additional sunbed or a dining area thanks to a pop-up hydraulic table. Handcrafted mahogany storage here contains everything necessary for a comfortable cruise, from glasses and dishes to a fridge. This part of the cockpit can be protected by a folding bimini – which is easy to deploy and can remain open up to 25 knots – and the yard has also conceived of optional winter protection with a heating system. At the elegant helm station, modern technical equipment is hidden or covered in leather, but the real star of this area is the wooden steering wheel handmade by Nardi, a replica of the Ferrari 250 GTO’s.
J Craft actually spends more time and money on hiding tech than the tech itself. For example, the design and build of the mechanism that the plotter is attached to costs more than the plotter itself. Inside, an air-conditioned lounge forward can be converted into a cabin with a double bed and a day head to port (which can be converted into a shower) while another double bed lies below the cockpit. Panels of varnished mahogany are complemented with fabrics by Loro Piana, Hermès, Alcantara and Ralph Lauren.
Twelve years after its debut at the Monaco Yacht Show 2009, the Torpedo series is still constantly adapting to the wishes of her owners, constantly incorporating the latest technologies. “We follow everything that happens in the marine industry with a big interest – but we prefer evolution to revolution,” says Hallen.
Fuel capacity: 800 litres
Water capacity: 200 litres
Engines: 2 x Volvo Penta IPS 600
Top speed: 44 knots
Cruising speed: 30 knots
Price: From €1.285m