Offshore sport boating drew its first breath of salt air on the gulf coast; the region’s abundance of navigable water, and its prevailing passion for performance have conspired to popularize the custom-built, open-water pleasure boat in its waters.
There are any number of Florida-based builders only too eager to oblige the call to the recreational, offshore wild, and the roll of builders specializing in swell-creasing, performance vee-bottoms has reached epic proportions. However, only a relative handful of these hulls are immune to the prospect of fading into the fiberglass scenery, or being swallowed whole by the mainstream.
Powerplay proved worthy of that distinction long ago, and our periodic tests of their 24-degree, straight-vee platform have confirmed a consistent excellence that supercedes every geographical boundary or regional trend. Point of fact: Powerplay is, purely and simply, the builder of one of the finest, custom-built boats on either coast, if not the planet.
Our most recent rendesvouz with Powerplay’s impressive handiwork was a joyous bout aboard an outboard-powered version of their 33’ Sportdeck, an identical hull to one that drew raves, under the influence of twin 502s, in a Hot Boat test last summer. The more time we spend aboard this standout platform, the more convinced we become that it is among the best-kept secrets in high performance powerboating today.
While provoking a collective response from our inspection team that bordered on raw awe, the twin, Mercury Pro Max 300 setup also put together a tidy performance resume. It ran 73.9 miles an hour, powdered rough-water surf into submission, and was one of the quickest-accelerating vee-bottoms at this year’s test. The performance driving continent of our team found the Powerplay’s brutish acceleration most impressive, given the big outboards’ natural tendency toward slip.
Nothing looks quite like a Powerplay. Its lines are indicative of its eastern breeding, and there’s some influence from the race course in the gene pool as well; still, this is a hull that would be perfectly suited as a large, western-based lake boat. Just as we assure that It won’t be confused with the recent influx of west coast customs in this size range, we’re also fairly confident that there would be no more envied choice of transportation should conditions turn truly nasty on your favorite big lake.
There’s a sudden, rakish rise to the foredeck that creates a natural, fiberglass wind fairing and a broad expanse of a dash, on its backside. Its deck is moderately sized for a 33-footer, a characteristic that lends the look of a runabout, and succeeds in expanding the cockpit to extravagant lengths. “It has the room of a small dance floor,” wrote one of our evaluators, in noting a full five feet of space between the backs of the forward bolster seats, and the base of the rear bench.
The hull’s clean, classic offshore styling is accentuated by Powerplay’s array of gorgeous stainless steel hardware, all of it through-bolted, and back-sided with Nylocs. Side by side, low-profile railing runs down the center of the deck, where a matched set of easy-opening, translucent 12x12" hatches provided abundant illumination and effective ventilation to the cabin below. Large-sized, popup cleats (one forward, two midship, two at the stern) lay flush to the glass).
At the transom, a stout, welded Armstrong aluminum bracket (standard in the outboard version) was a muscleboater’s work of art, and did double duty as a rear boarding platform. It combined intricately-detailed workmanship with pure strength, and provided fluid positioning of the big Mercs, which stand off the the transom about two feet. Hynautic dash-to-stern steering was periodically stiff, and gave the driver a workout at times. The sensible, reality-based, pin-clean rigging on this entire setup was nothing short of outstanding.
The Powerplay elicited repeated praise for its gorgeous fiberglass, and outstanding finish work, inside and out. Every Powerplay customer designs his own exterior graphics, with factory guidance; our test boat showed off a smooth combination of purples and silvers, sprayed over a gleaming white gelcoat base. The paint work ($8,000) worked in cool concert with the hull’s eastern heritage, and projected the cool, breezy style of the Florida-based sport boat ruling class. The setup was set off by gleaming white exterior trim, installed wih stainless steels screws whose inside finish left no threads visible.
It was he Powerplay’s cosmetics and exquisite, detailed finish work that drew our team into its fold, but it was the hull’s evident, rugged durability in rough water that sent us over the edge of utter fandom. We banged the 33’ through rough, blustery surf, and marvelled at its handling in mixed seas, as well as the stout, solid feel passed on to its passengers. Among the choice, post-test comments logged by our driving team: “extremely strong with no flexibility…no vibration, and absolutely bullet-proof…combines a light feel with a very heavy, reassuring nature…” and so they went.
Powerplay builds its owner interior, which is fitted like a glove to the full, nonskid fiberglass cockpit and cabin inner-liner. On board, the company’s skilled tooling, glass work, and savvy engineering came quickly and sharply into focus. A removable fiberglass panel is built into the rear section of the cockpit liner; only a small percentage of Powerplay customers ever require access, but the few who need to address maintenance issues with sending units or fuel tanks or will benefit from, and appreciate the forethought, by now having to hack up their flooring for access. The bench seat splits, and hinges upward, to expose a large, convenient storage area aft. Foot support braces are arced right into the the lower dash/bulkhead area.
The Powerplay’s cockpit is large and open, and it’s made even roomier with the selection of outboard power. The additional room left by the vacant interior well was turned to rear passenger space, and finished, secure storage, beneath a manually-raised compartment. Every seat has abundant leg and stretch room, and each offers the same deep, secure feel, regardless of the dangle angle of the Gaffrig needle.
The interior is built and designed in the spirit of a true, rough-water, high-performance ocean train. Manual, drop-through bolsters, with pin-styled release, are standard; those on our test boat provided superior back support, and wrapped our front passengers in absolute comfort, and consummate style. Stainless steel grab handles are anchored within reach of all aboard, and fiberglass foot supports, melded into the liner, provided maximum security while throttling from a race position. Actually, both driving positions were comfortable, a claim that more often than not, we cannot make.
The Powerplay’s helm and dash design and styling are traditional, and functional. A large, raised, flat vertical panel makes a prominent, legible display of the myriad Gaffrig dials, which were flamed in matching, flat bezels, directly into the dash. Tab indicators are also placed on this upper level, though we found almost no need for their use. A depth gauge, Ritchie compass, and a uniquely styled set of switch panels and push-button switches showed forethought that was typical in the boat’s rigging and execution. A fuel gauge and clock were plotted on the passenger’s side.
A large, padded arm panel is positioned perfectly to maintain complete control over the twin set of throttle and shifter sticks, all Gaffrigs. Push-button trim was loaded in the handle, and rocker switches tuned the Kiekhaefer tabs. Drivers reported a convenient, comfortable symbiosis between seat position, instrument layout, and control placement.
A locking acrylic door framed in solid aluminum granted access to a beautifully-finished cabin area that elicit maximum potential from its available displacement. “The inner-liner gets an A-plus,” wrote one inspector. “This is the cleanest tooling we’ve seen this year.”
Structural bulkheads are covered in the same, elegant, padded upholstery that dressed the driver’s arm support. The horseshoe seating area, covered in top quality vinyl, provided comfortable and beautifully finished seating for seven adults. Primary seating space is laid out beneath the raised surface of the deck, and there’s great head room there. Fiberglass cabinets house plenty of storage space, which is also carved into the base of the sleeper area. There’s far more storage below than in the cockpit. Standard amenities include a portable head, and cabin upgrades included a remote CD player with an amp and six speakers ($1,006).
Turn The Key
Powerplay has significant experience setting their hull up to run hard on outboard power,
and our test boat reflected a level of total dial-in achieved only with the prerequisite water time invested. The efficiency of the combined, 600-horsepower outboard setup was reflected in a strong, all-around performance profile that backed a mid-70s top speed with a very impressive series of acceleration passes. The outboards hooked up immediately and, their 23” Mirage 3-blades suffered no trace a trace of the cavitation or blowout that sometimes plagues this type of a setup on takeoff. Instead, the Powerplay planed with a smooth, flat surge characteristic of smaller high-performance craft. Only three of 14 boats tested at Florida hit a 50 mile an hour cruise more quickly than the Powerplay; two of those boats ran twin HP500s, and one ran stereo blower motors.
Off the line, the Powerplay felt extremely maneuverable, and showed immediate, dramatic lift with the introduction of throttle. It launched straight every time, and re-entry over cresting rough-water followed the same, true path. The feel of the boat remains tightly controlled, whether cutting through traffic in the marina, or bumping the Mercs’ rev limiters, at around 6,400. One of the great appeals of this boat is that it is, truly, a high-performance muscleboat, but it has a universal driveability that doesn’t require a high-performance pedigree.
Moving into the midrange, the Sportdeck showed off more of the same polished, completely predictable handling. It carried a nice, high bow attitude that combined with the hull’s considerable freeboard to create an utterly dry, very secure onboard experience. As we guided the Powerplay into high-speed mode, we noted that the excursion from standing idle to wide open throttle was made without lapsing into any porpoising or other missteps. As we wound out the 300s, we sensed that we weren’t anywhere close to exploring the full performance potential of this hull, and a little research proved us right: last summer’s test of a 1270-horse version yielded a 95 mile an hour top speed, and the same, obedient, predictable ride.
The Powerplay is nothing less than exquisite in every regard from 40 to 70 miles an hour, the range at which it is destined to be used the most. At speed, we knifed the 24-degree vee through building swells, and our passengers weren’t even aware that conditions had gone to muck. And at wide open, we enjoyed the same manner of smooth, controlled handling that has become a Powerplay character trait.
As equipped with hydraulic, Hynautic dash-to-stern steering, the dual-outboard setup generated a moderate amount of wheel torque, and it took some real muscling to keep the wheel in check and to guide the bow through hard, cutting maneuvers at high rpm.You won’t notice it under sustained, high-speed runs at the horizon, but when you thread the needle at any significant rpm, you can expect some resistance from the steering wheel.
The Bottom Line
Powerplay may be one of the best-kept secrets in high-performance boating today. They build only about 40 boats a year, but designs like their 33’ Sportdeck make every one of them count.
Test conditions: Moderate to rough
Centerline length: 32'7"
Bottom: 24-degree vee
Engines/drives: Twin Mercury outboards
Horsepower @ prop: 300 ea.
Props: 23" Mirage 3-blades
Overall weight: 5,800 lbs.
Base retail price (incl. trailer): $131,409
Standard features: Anodized switch panel, race battery boxes, chart light, cabin lighting, compass, deck hatches, stainless railing, three color graphics, stainless cleats.
Options on test boat: Gaffrig gauges ($1,392), anodized bezels ($796), rear bench w/cooler ($200), extra bow railing ($1,400), trim in throttle ($275), fresh water shower ($888), popup cleats ($370), liquid filled speedometer ($81), graphic upgrade ($2,500), GPS ($1,500), remote CD/speakers ($1006).
Price as tested: $141,817
Top speed, radar: 73.9 mph
Builder’s estimated speed in optimum conditions: 70-plus
Maximum rpm: 5,350
0-30: 5.92 seconds
0-40: 8.31 seconds
0-50: 12.02 seconds
0-60: 21.67 seconds
Speed at 2,000 rpm: 8.5 mph
Speed at 3,000 rpm: 26.2 mph
Speed at 4,000 rpm: 40.6 mph
2740 NW 29th Terrace
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311