This big American import, with its 600 horsepower on the transom, makes a very bold statement. If the buyer wants a no-compromise fibreglass craft with a top quality finish, every conceivable fishing appointment and absolute practicality in their application, plus sizzling performance to match a ride that is simply in a class of its own, then look no further. The Sea Fox 286 Commander has it all.
At 8.75m in length, a 2.9m beam, and a hull weight of 2267kg, the Sea Fox 286 Commander is a purpose-built offshore craft, yet there’s a whole lot more to it than merely being a big, fast boat.
Interestingly, the 286 Commander is a centre console style craft and Sea Fox have obviously done their utmost to fit out the console/helm area, along with the rest of the craft, with ample features to provide both comfort and enjoyment for those aboard.
Thanks to a very impressive layout and list of appointments, the 286 Commander with its twin 300 E-tecs proved to be 1 of the most enjoyable craft I have ever driven — true testimony to what can be achieved when really good hull design meets modern engine technology. This saw the new second generation (G2) 300 E-Tecs linked to a hull design with a 21 degree aft deadrise, massive strakes, and huge amounts of freeboard all coming together as 1 of the softest riding rigs I’ve enjoyed time aboard. The ride, handling, and appointment levels are certainly a great tribute to this US manufacturer of some 2 decades’ experience in the ultra competitive US ’glass market.
Stepping aboard the big Commander, I was immediately impressed with the overall finish and fitout: exemplary might describe the standard. And that’s from the stainless steel work down to the grippy non-skid floor. Given the sheer size of the craft, everything was, well, massive. Even the console unit with its marine toilet, hand basin and storage area within had over 2m of headroom! Up front, ahead of the console, I saw room for at least 4 folk to sit in comfort in the bow rider area, with its plush cushioning and rebated bow rails. Two more well shaped seats adorned the front of the console, so all hands up front could easily have a chat or enjoy the wind in their hair. Ample drained storage space (hatches with struts) was both under the front floor as well as below all front seats. Note that restraint backrests up here were easily removed when necessary. Moreover, there’d be no need to climb up front to lift the pick as a windlass came standard.
Naturally, the rear face of the sleekly moulded centre console was set up with the 286 Commander’s dash and I noted some protection from the weather via both a windscreen and a solid T-top, which was somewhat more than just good shade thanks to sound system speakers, mist system for hot days, LED lighting for night fishing comfort, plus rocket launcher rod holders aft.
Paired Simrads — 12 and 16” — dominated the dash, with arrays of switches and trim tabs lower, the Evinrude Icon helm unit linked to 300 E-Tecs punching out the ponies aft of the Commander’s full height transom. In the usual US manner, the wheel was set to port, with a very neat Evinrude Icon engine control system allowing wire-less control of both throttles, or the option of simply using 1 small lever to effortlessly control both of the powerful V6s astern.
Seating at the console for skipper and mate was again pure luxury, with very comfortable wraparound slide adjustable buckets also offering a handy bolster option with the bottom section tucked out of the way. Paired footrests were par for the course, as were drink holders. The helm module also had a rear extension that contributed to the 286 Commander’s fishing attributes, with a set of rod holders, massive 160l live well, tackle trays, sink, plus both deck wash and freshwater hose and an icebox for bait or tucker tucked to port.
Most importantly in my view, was a very neat bit of high tech equipment; the Simrad OP40 unit set up atop the rear module. With its user-friendly keypad, the OP40 effectively transferred many major controls from the dash area — from the radio to the craft’s cruise control system, to complete control of both Simrad units — astern to where fishing action was taking place. In short, there was no need for anyone to move back to the helm area to address course or sounder function as it could be done via the OP40.
Innovation was overhead as well. A set of Taco outrigger poles that could be lowered and positioned via a hand control system set into the underside of the hardtop were also installed on the reviewed craft. Again, smart technology.
Cockpit comfort complimented innovation in spades. The 286 Commander’s waist-high cockpit featured plenty of side coaming to facilitate serious work on big fish. Within both of the self-draining cockpit’s sides were flush mounted rod racks (with rod tips protected), while handy off-floor toe rails were designed to make life easy for the hard working angler.
Cockpit flooring sported a pair of mackerel/wahoo-sized macerator-equipped, gas strut-accessed kill tanks. Filled with ice and drinks on the way out and nice fresh fish on return to base, those kill tanks were very businesslike indeed.
Completing cockpit features were very wide gunwale tops set up with rod and drink holders, side seating each aft quarter, and a drop down 2-3 person central lounge ahead of another huge live well. Note that the paired quarter seats featured backrests that could be lowered to make welcoming a big billfish aboard an easy matter. Aft of the transom, twin boarding platforms sat each side of the compact 300s
The Gen2 E-Tec 300s were as much a joy as the incredible hull performance I experienced aboard the massive Sea Fox. Redesigned completely, the new Evinrudes with their upright stance and fully integrated digital controls oozed innovation. Gone was the familiar steering hardware (tiller arm and ram) that’s been synonymous with many outboards, replaced by an extremely compact rigging tube atop each motor bracket that contained both steering and tilt electric/hydraulic systems. Neat’s the word.
There’s a whole article in the innovations BRP have installed within their Gen 2 E-Tecs, but suffice to say that the 3.44l V6 300s packed every bit of 2 stroke punch I might have expected of these direct injection outboards, complete with total lack of smoke and remarkably little noise.
Engine response was instant, yet fingertip easy thanks to the Commander’s Evinrude Icon helm system, which among an array of options provided for single lever gearshift and power control of both engines. The Icon’s slick auto trim system also interfaced trim with RPM, with driver over-ride effective immediately trim controls were touched. In essence, the Icon system was so effective there was instant response from a single-finger effort on my part.
The Sea Fox 286 Commander really was outstanding in both performance and handling, even exciting to be truthful. The top powered 300s made the massive 2.2 tonne hull seem like it just wanted to go hard forever. With power applied gently, the Commander’s 21-degree Vee hull lifted up and planed at 2000 rpm for a recorded 10.9kts. 3000rpm saw 26kts, 4000rpm 41kts, 5000rpm 49kts, and 5800rpm 56kts. Fast enough? You bet; but the best was to come.
Cruising at 27kts, my host for the day, Jeff McNiven from JSW Powersports, spied an oncoming 50’ game rig planing towards us with a wash coming off the bow like an aircraft carrier. “Watch this,” says Jeff as he lined up the curling bow wave around 20m from the craft. “Watch nothing,” I thought aloud, “Here goes my back!” Not so; even with a good metre and a half or more of air under us, the massive Commander landed like a cat jumping off a rubbish bin. No bump, no bash, just a graduated feeling of launch and return to water.
With a totally flat offshore swell on the day, that was as good as we saw to test the hull, but there’s no doubt that jumping big offshore swells would be just as easy. It’s that sort of boat. Incidentally, cruising at 31.5kts at 3250rpm saw a combined fuel consumption of a modest 52l/hr.
If you can afford this craft, you will not — as in not ever — buy a better centre console with such high end fishing cred’. The impeccable standards of finish and feature levels throughout are matched only by ride and the best handling in the business. A trailer is available, with a LandCruiser or similar unit required for towing. As the rig, at 2.9m beam, is over-sized in Queensland, signs and other equipment would be par for the course when on the road.
With twin 200s on the transom, the rig would cost $200,686. With upgrades to twin 300 E-Tecs, $229.000 would be a starting price. JSW Powersports can be contacted via www.jswpowersports.com.au or on phone at (0755) 292 616, fax (0755) 292332.
Deadrise: 21 degrees
Hull weight: 2267kg
Engine ratings: 400-600hp outboards
Engines fitted: Twin 300 Evinrude E-Tec
Towing: Large vehicle, LandCruiser, F TruckReads: 1148