Boating: Do the Hustle

The Spirit de Soleil, Hustler Powerboats’ new 50-foot go-fast, awaits us at the dock on Peconic Bay, close to Hustler’s Long Island plant in Calverton, N.Y. The area has a history of speed—the famed F-14 Tomcat was conceived, built, and tested at Grumman’s Long Island factory—and the missile-shaped Hustler, which appears barely restrained at the dock, is the newest addition to the region’s speed-demon legacy. Hustler, a division of Global Marine Power, is a 25-year-old company that has a line of eight V-hull go-fasts and a 37-foot catamaran.

At rest, the Spirit de Soleil brings to mind a Thoroughbred at the gate, muscular but graceful, coiled for the starting bell. The quad diesels rumble to life on the first crank, and the Spirit de Soleil enters chomping-at-the-bit mode, begging to be unmoored so that it can sprint at sea. It is a relatively gray morning and the wind is negligible, but there is a three-foot swell as we motor into the bay. Robins Island is dead ahead with Shelter Island and the open Atlantic beyond, but as the four throttles thrust forward, the distinction between dead ahead and beyond becomes blurred.

My initial reaction to our speed is that it cannot possibly be as fast as it seems. I check the GPS unit, though, and confirm that we are turning 78 mph at 3,400 rpm—that is, 3,400 rpm for each of the four 440-hp Yanmar diesels. With its total horsepower of 1,760, accelerating in the Soleil is like driving the quarter mile in a funny car. You will get g-loaded, you will praise the plush-but-serious McLeod wraparound bucket seats, and you will give thanks to Hustler’s design principle that failure is not an option.

“We wanted to build a boat with a no-break policy,” says Hustler owner Joe Logiudice, whose company plans to build five custom-designed Spirits a year. “There are too many boat owners who think that things breaking on boats is normal. That’s not the way we look at it. You couldn’t get away with unreliability in a car, and there’s no reason why you should in a boat.”

We slow down to a cruising speed of 44 mph, allowing me to stand comfortably between the helm and navigator seats without having to clutch any of the handholds. We make some hard 360-degree turns to create a wake, and the boat plows through the waves effortlessly. The race-style windshield directs air up and over the cockpit, making the four-person aft seat functional instead of subjecting passengers to the stretched-face syndrome from which some go-fasts suffer.

Belowdecks, there is headroom for six-and-a-half-footers, and the boat features a full galley, complete with a stove and a microwave, while the forward berth contains a flat-screen TV, DVD and CD players, and plush seating.

As Fast Eddie said in The Hustler, “It’s not enough that you just have talent. You gotta have character, too.” Mr. Felson was talking about pool players, but he could have been referring to a different kind of Hustler: the Spirit de Soleil.

Hustler Powerboats, 631.208.2933, www.hustlerpowerboats.com

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