By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
This 27-foot model from one of the most respected powerboat builders in the country offers excellent styling, high-quality construction, very responsive performance and first-rate accommodations. So, is there a down side?
Formula boats first gained national recognition in 1962 with their 233 model which earned several victories on the offshore powerboat racing circuit and Formula boats have long been known for the "go-fast" persona established by these early models. However, for over 20 years, Thunderbird Products, the parent corporation of Formula Boats, has also built performance cruisers. The 27 PC (Performance Cruiser) was introduced in 1994; it remains in production and is currently the smallest and most popular of the company's "cruiser series" of boats which includes models up to 41 feet. The overall length of the 27 PC is actually 28' 3'" including the molded swim platform.
The design is in the genre of what has become known as mid-cabin sport cruisers, characterized by an open cockpit, slightly raised steering bridgedeck and accommodations below.
Although not as extreme as some boats, the hull is still in the "deep-V" category and the 18 degrees of deadrise is a very good compromise for power and performance in this style of vessel. Displacement of the 27 PC is specified as 9,500 lbs. and, compared to five similar boats, is a whopping 33% heavier. Because manufacturers seldom specify under what load condition their displacement is measured, it is difficult to fully evaluate this weight difference but it certainly suggests a vessel more substantially constructed than the average.
Photo by Tod Martens
The 27 PC's hull and decks are constructed of a composite of hand-laminated fiberglass materials. A modified epoxy resin is used in the first two layers of construction in order to improve the appearance of the finish coat and provides greater resistance to osmotic blistering. Formula uses structural reinforcements, which includes a matrix of stringers and frames similar to other manufacturers and also adds supports into the hull bottom for added strength in areas below fuel tanks and engines. Empty cavities are filled with polyurethane foam for stiffness and sound reduction.
The foredeck, side decks and entire cockpit is molded as one component to avoid joints that can fail. Formula provides a five-year transferable warrantee to back up their product.
Normally, owners of this type of boat spen than below, but addid more time on deckng comfort or utility to the cockpit detracts from usable space below. The PC 27's designers reached a reasonable compromise. The cockpit is about half the overall length, and with a doublewide helm seat, single lounge seat and L-shaped seating aft, provides comfortable seating for up to seven adults.
At the port aft corner, there is a gate for easy access to the swim platform and a retractable stainless steel ladder allows swimmers to easily get in and out of the water. To the port side of the cockpit there is a wet bar with storage below. The radar arch over the cockpit not only adds a touch of style, but a convenient attachment point for canvas enclosures.
One drawback to this style boat is the lack of any side decks for convenient access forward for anchoring, docking or simply sunbathing. Guests and crew are expected to negotiate passage through a center opening in the windscreen, and although steps are provided, this can be tricky at rest and downright dangerous while underway. The foredeck hatch is an alternative way forward. For security there are welded stainless steel rails around the foredeck, although, with boats of this style, passengers should not be allowed forward of the windscreen while the boat is underway.
With the limited space available, it is hard to be very inventive but the 27 PC manages to provide reasonable overnight accommodations for four adults, a decent sized head and minimal galley. Forward in the cabin there is a U-shaped dinette that seats four. The area converts to a double berth by removing the dinette table and adding filler cushions. The galley is along the port side and includes a counter top single burner stove and round stainless steel sink.
Since 1999, only twin-engine installations have been available although earlier models offered single engine options. Current choices range from standard twin 210 hp engines to twin 320 hp engines, which add about $12,000 to the base price of a new boat (calculated in 2003). With standard power and a normal load, the 27 PC cruises at about 25 miles per hour at 3,000 RPM and consumes a reasonable 14 gallons of fuel per hour. At 35 mph fuel consumption jumps to over 20 gallons per hour, and at full throttle, 4,400 rpm, speed approaches a very respectable 45 mph. With optional twin 320 hp engines top speeds will exceed 50 mph but expect to fill up the 100-gallon fuel tank about every two hours.
The 27 PC's weight, hull configuration and solid construction combine to produce a very dry, quiet and comfortable ride. The boat handles very well and is easily controlled even at high speed.
There is no doubt that the price of the Formula 27 PC, whether new or used, can be higher than some comparable models but the quality of construction, attention to detail and materials used are seldom exceeded by any production boat manufacturer. When you get right down to it, it's hard to get around that old adage: You get what you pay for.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.