Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-)
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Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-)
Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-)
Yesteryear is what Chris-Craft is all about. For the last 10 years or so the company has been creating boats that hark back to the glamour, good taste, and romance of a by-gone era. An era before bow riders were invented. Now, Chris-Craft has expertly melded 1920s marine styling with 2010 functionality and the result is the new Launch 20 BR. If you appreciate elegant styling, plush upholstery, a nice turn of speed and a provocative twist in the transom – and a bowrider, too.

Key Features

  • Stylish deck that contains the famous Chris-Craft flair
  • Curved windshield with a center walk-through to a large bowrider area
  • Custom Chris-Craft roll pleated cockpit upholstery
  • Full length ski locker storage
  • Deep-V hull with flared bow
  • Custom Stainless steel windshield frame
  • Perforated dash with custom Chris-Craft gauges
  • Self-draining cockpit
  • Stainless steel thru-hull fittings
  • Integral swim platform with 3-step swim ladder

Specifications

Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-) Specifications
Length Overall 20' 2''
6.15 m
Dry Weight 2,913 lbs.
1,321 kg
Beam 7' 11''
2.41 m
Tested Weight N/A
Draft 34''
86.4 cm
Fuel Cap 34 gal.
129 L
Deadrise/Transom 20 deg. Water Cap none
Max Headroom open Bridge Clearance 46.5''
1.18 m
Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.

Engine Options

Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-) Engine options
Std. Power Not Available
Tested Power Currently no test numbers
Opt. Power 1 x 260-hp Mercury 5.0 DTS

Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-) Captain's Report

Report by Mike Smith (No relation)---

Chris Craft 20 Launch

The new Chris-Craft Launch 20 mixes French Riviera styling with American functionality. All that’s missing is a starlet riding in the bow.

Chris-Craft Launch 20 floor plan

Chris-Craft Launch 20 floor plan.

The Launch 20 is one of three models this size from Chris-Craft and maybe – bite our tongues – the most practical, because of the open bow. (The other two, the Lancer 20 and limited-edition Silver Bullet 20, are traditional runabouts.) After an endorphin-pumping ride across the bay – top speed with a 5.0L MerCruiser is more than 54 mph, according to Chris-Craft (we haven’t tested the boat) – the bow is an ideal place to unwind with your partner. Forget about it as a kid’s playpen: This bowrider is adults only. Kids would get it dirty. (Nor would they appreciate the sheer beauty and design sophistication of this boat.)

Chris Craft Launch 20

No kids allowed forward of the windshield – it’s too nice up there for tykes. You wouldn’t take your kids for a ride in the Porsche Boxster, would you? Note the extreme bow flare, which goes well stylistically with the tumblehome transom, as well as to keep the boat dry.

The Back Story

Chris-Craft is arguably the world’s most famous boatbuilder, or at least the one with the most famous name. But that’s all today’s company shares with the one founded by Christopher Columbus Smith around the turn of the 20th century.

Chris Craft Launch 20

Inward curvature from the waterline up is called “tumblehome.” In the days of sail, warships had such curving sides; when two of them were lashed together in battle, sailors could fall between the ships – “tumble home” -- and be crushed. For some unexplained reason, yachtsmen have loved the look of tumblehome ever since, and today it is found on everything from 250’ superyachts down to, well, Chris-Craft Launch 20.

Smith and Wood Make Hay

Chris Smith built his first boat, a skiff for duck hunting, in Algonac, Michigan, in 1874. By the early 1920’s, racing legend Gar Wood had won a half-dozen Gold Cups in Smith’s boats, called Chris-Crafts; the two men were famous enough that regular folks wanted to buy a Chris-Craft, too. To meet the demand, Smith developed “standardized” models, built en masse at the factory and sold as complete vessels. Rather than waiting months after placing their order, customers now could lay down cash and drive away the same day. Was Chris-Craft the first production boatbuilder? If not, it was certainly one of the first, and definitely the most successful.

Chris Craft Launch 20

Structurally wood-free, the Launch looks stunning with a touch of teak here and there, like on the swim platform. But it’s a $5,000 option. The engine hatch sunpad is optional, too.

Most Famous Boatbuilder

The boating public responded by buying millions of dollars worth of Chris-Crafts. By 1930, the line-up included boats from 22 to 48 feet; today, refurbished 34- and 38-foot Commuters from this era are favorites with classic-boat aficionados. When Christopher Columbus Smith died in 1939, Chris-Craft was the world’s most famous boatbuilder, with several factories and even its own railroad to haul finished hulls from the Algonac plant to Detroit for delivery worldwide.

Chris Craft Launch 20

That’s a ski- and wakeboard-stowage locker between the seats; it would also be handy for fenders and docklines. Note grab handles for the passengers on the bench seat, and the stainless rails along the top of the swivel helm and companion seats. Both seats have flip-up bolsters. No expense has been spared.

Chris-Craft At War

During World War II, Chris-Craft built more than 12,000 vessels for the government; legend says a Chris-Craft was the first landing craft to hit the beach on D-Day, although we suspect it was a Higgins. (Can any WWII vets help on this one?) Chances are that many of the men who bought Chris-Crafts in the postwar years were introduced to the company while in uniform. By 1959, when company chairman Harsen Smith appeared on the cover of Time magazine, illustrating an article on “The New Boom in Boating,” the Chris-Craft line encompassed 72 models, from 17 to 52 feet, some built out of wood, others out of steel. Experiments with a newfangled material called fiberglass hadn’t worked out, though.

Chris Craft Launch 20

This is Chris-Craft’s custom roll pleated upholstery, done by the same craftsmen who upholster Indian motorcycles. It’s a sister company to C-C. Note the teak trim around the stainless drinkholder – unnecessary, but very elegant. There’s a stowage locker under the cushion.

So Long, Smiths

In 1960 the Smith family decided to sell. A conglomerate bought the company and in the next decade added more boats, expanded manufacturing to more plants, continued building in wood and steel while adding aluminum and, finally, fiberglass. Yes, at one time the company was building boats in all four materials; the only one missing was ferrocement. And if you remember ferrocement, you are too old for this boat. But you might want to buy our Woodstock poster.

Cris Craft Launch 20

The outdrive protrudes beyond the end of the platform. This is a place where styling has trumped functionality and safety. On the other hand, you probably won’t swim from this boat, anyway; you’ll sit on the platform at sunset, sipping from flutes of champagne.

The first all-glass Chris-Craft was the 38 Commander in 1964, and the last wooden boat was a 1972 57 Constellation. To cover all bases the company developed a line of sailboats, and even a couple of houseboats. By 1970, whether you wanted sail or power, to fish or to cruise, or to putter around on a houseboat, there was a Chris-Craft just for you.

Chris Craft Launch 20

Custom Chris-Craft gauges and a mahogany-trimmed tilt wheel make this a helm to remember. The custom perforated dash is a nice touch, too. An LCD depth finder is standard, but there’s not much room for other electronics. And who cares? This is a day boat for nice weather. Carry a GPS in your pocket in case the fog sets in.

End of the Line -- Almost

In 1981 self-made West Virginia coal millionaire G. Dale Murray bought the company and renamed it Murray Chris-Craft. He cut many models, and added three Stinger high-performance boats to entice the go-fast crowd; they were some of the flimsiest high-performance boats ever built. Lots of ink was dedicated to proclaiming a new era of Chris-Craft. But early success was short-lived, due to poor management and growing competition in the go-fast market. In addition, widely publicized quality-control problems (that’s a euphemism for “the boats were junk”) made Chris-Crafts a hard sell. In December 1988 the company declared bankruptcy and was purchased by OMC – that was like leaving the Titanic to board the Lusitania.

Chris Craft Launch 20

One option we recommend is a canvas cover to keep the upholstery from sun damage. There are stereo speakers in the bow – no heavy metal, please – and a pair of grab rails. Folks shouldn’t be riding up here when it’s rough, though. It’s a place for anchor and calm water only. Note the stainless steel pop-up bow cleats, a first-class touch.

No OMCs, Please

OMC’s share of the engine market, at one time inviolable, was in jeopardy in 1988, both from super-reliable Japanese outboards and MerCruiser inboards and stern drives. To combat this, OMC bought several boat companies, intending to create a captive market for its motors. Unfortunately, nobody asked the buying public, who continued to prefer MerCruisers and Japanese outboards.

OMC sold few boats, and more than a few of them had engine problems. In 2000 the company wagered everything on a new outboard technology called FICHT, which promised to improve fuel efficiency and reduce exhaust emissions. But early FICHT motors were disappointing. In December 2000 it filed for bankruptcy. Genmar Industries bought OMC’s boat companies and subsequently sold Chris-Craft to Stephen Julius. He brought along his friend from Harvard Business School, Stephen Heese, as company president.

Chris Craft Launch 20

Standard power is a 220-hp MerCruiser 4.3L MPI, but you’ll probably want something stronger. We’d pick the MerCruiser 5.0L MPI (260-hp) with a Bravo drive. The company says top speed is 54.5 mph, a best cruise of 29.1 mph with that power. There are also Volvo Penta options, including a 200-hp diesel D3 Duoprop.

The Man From Riva

Stephen Julius wasn’t a typical starry-eyed romantic hoping to make a killing in the boatbuilding business. Before buying Chris-Craft, he spent two years in Italy resurrecting Riva, at one time builders of the world’s finest mahogany runabouts, bar none. The world’s most opulent megayachts carried Riva tenders, and in the 1950s and ‘60s, any starlet who wasn’t photographed riding around the harbor at Cannes on a Riva wasn’t worth her bikini top. They were also mind-numbingly expensive – the Rivas, not the starlets; their prices varied.

Julius, who is still chairman of Chris-Craft, sold Riva after a couple of years, but you can see the influence of those boats on today’s Chris-Crafts. The new owner’s vision was to recapture the glory days of Chris-Craft and up-date those classic lines ever so slightly with the curves and sex appeal coming off design boards in Northern Italy’s lake country.

Like the Launch 20, the entire line of Julius’ boats exhibits sleek Euro-influenced styling, take-no-prisoners details and an elegant attitude that would be equally at home in Nice, Bellagio or Nantucket.

Base price of the Chris-Craft Launch 20 is $47,882, but a typical boat with options will run you about $55,000. Expensive for a 20-footer? Yes, but it’s a real nice boat, one that will make people sit up and notice you. There aren’t many built each year, so the Joneses can take a powder. These boats are a collector’s item almost from the moment they leave the dealer’s showroom floor. So comb your hair.

Chris Craft Launch 20



Standard and Optional Equipment

Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-) Standard and Optional Equipment
Systems
CD Stereo Standard
Power Steering Standard
Exterior Features
Carpet: Cockpit Standard
Outlet: 12-Volt Acc Standard
Swim Ladder Standard
Swim Platform Standard
Canvas
Cockpit Cover Optional

Standard = Standard Optional = Optional

Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-) Warranty

Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-) Warranty Information
Warranties change from time to time. While BoatTEST.com has tried to ensure the most up-to-date warranty offered by each builder, it does not guarantee the accuracies of the information presented below. Please check with the boat builder or your local dealer before you buy any boat.
Certifications
NMMA Certification Yes

Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-) Price

Chris-Craft Launch 20 (2011-) Price
Pricing Range $47,882.00
Prices, features, designs, and equipment are subject to change. Please see your local dealer or visit the builder's website for the latest information available on this boat model.


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