The Back Story
Campion is a boat builder in British Columbia, Canada that has been making sportboats and express boats for over 35 years. It is the largest boat builder in Canada with 50% of its production exported. If you live in the U.S. you might not have heard much about Campion as it has dealers in only 11 states, but world-wide it is well distributed with dealers in at least 33 countries. Campion builds 27 models in four lines going from 16’ to 30’, covering everything from wakeboard boats to sportboats, to fishing boats and small express cruisers. Before the advent of the Great Recession, Campion employed 180 people building about 25 boats a week which made it a player in the competitive North American market.Like any niche builder, Campion has to offer something different in order to compete with larger national or regional boat builders. It is also aware that each niche is divided into different kinds of boaters – the hot-shots, the family-boat buyers, fishermen, and wake dudes -- and it has a boat line for each of those segments. The Allante series, for example, is a more moderately-priced boat for family boating and the Chase line is for those folks who like to go fast and strut their stuff.
Breaking the Code
Before we get into the details of the 600 OB BR, let’s explain what Campion’s model numbering system is all about. The first two digits represent the length of the boat in meters. The company is trying to telegraph two concepts to the consumer at the same time with these numbers, which at first may seem confusing: 1) by having nomenclature that is like BMW, taking its inspiration from (approximately) the number of liters in the engine, Campion is saying that it is performance-oriented; and, 2) the Canadian builder is also letting the world know that it’s marine culture is different than the dozens of other sportboat builders in the market.All of the Chase line (“loaded” models with “sizzle”) end in “0”. So there is the 550, 600, 700, etc. All of the Allante models (“family” boats, remember) end in “5”. Thus: 545, 645, 705, etc. The Explorer line of fishing boats all end in “2.” So they have a 542, 622, 822, etc.
The Chase 600 OB BR
Campion is getting in front of a trend by building its Chase 20’ outboard runabout model. In addition to being outboard powered, the Chase 600 OB BR has a distinctive design shape. First, there is a slight hawk to the bow stem which will make its profile distinctive and let everyone know the boat is in the hunt. Second, it has artfully molded-in swim platforms that extend beyond the transom both port and starboard around the outboard engine and engine well. Third, there is a reverse transom, and the appearance of a slight bit of tumble home in the stern quarters.
As already noted, the Chase series of Campion boats is not for wall flowers. Rather, it is for the boater who wants a boss boat. Virtually no expense is spared in outfitting the 600 OB BR and it is loaded with features that are optional on the Allante series, as well as on many competing brands as well. Here are notable features we found on the Chase 600’s standard list—*Courtesy lighting*Premium snap-in carpet*Integrated halogen docking lights*4-step bow ladder*Sunbrella bow and cockpit cover*Pull-up cleats*Clarion AM/FM Stereo, CD, Sirius receiver, MP3*4 Clarion external speakers*In-dash depth sounder*SeaStar hydraulic steering*Razor ultra-suspension bucket seatsProbably the most exciting standard on the Chase 600 is the graphic design that is molded into the gel coat. Four different colors are available on the Chase models. We are told that on each hull it takes one person eight hours of painstaking work to tape the mold in order to gel coat in the graphics. Obviously, this is the best way to have graphics on the hull since they will not rub or scratch off.
The Chase 600 OB BR is rated to be powered with outboard motors from 150 to 300-hp. Most boats go out the door pre-rigged with engines from 200-hp to 250-hp. Campion gives buyers a choice of Suzuki, Mercury, Evinrude, or Yamaha outboard engines. Most people who buy the Chase 600 will be blasting around the lake looking for other boaters who might want to have a little friendly speed competition. The boat is also good for towing and skiing. The Chase 600 OB BR is what some people would call a “hybrid” boat, meaning that you can do many watersports from it and it is not purpose-built for any specific task. Casual wakeboarders can also use the Chase 600 OB BR and it is possible to fit aftermarket ballast bags in port and starboard compartments in the boat’s transom. In this way 500 lbs. can be added to the stern to create better wake. Wake dudes will also probably want to add the optional Roswell towing tower for an extra $2,763 US. But serious wake cowboys will want to look at Campion’s two Svfara purpose-built wakeboats.
Outboard vs. Stern Drive Power
Obviously a big fork in the buying decision road comes when deciding which way to go -- outboard or stern drive power? The outboard version has a USCG-rated capacity of 10 people, and the I/O version (both bowrider and cuddy) has a capacity of 7. The OB has 14” more length in the cockpit which allows for U-seating compared with bench seating in the I/O version. The I/O versions go out the door with either 5.0 L or 5.7 L blocks and the maximum rated horsepower is 320 for the stern drive versions, both bowrider and cuddy.We have not tested any Campions, much less the 600 series, so we cannot offer any guidance about performance.
Construction is Different
We normally do not get into the details of sportboat hull construction because essentially most boat builders use the same materials and methods. Campion is a standout exception. Follow us on this one, because we think it is a significant aspect of defining this brand—
Like all builders, gel coat is first sprayed into the mold. Then, chop strand is sprayed in, which is also more-or-less conventional, creating what builders call a “skin coat.” But then Campion deviates from the norm and applies what is called “SprayCore” made by the ITW corporation. Campion uses a low-shrink DCPD/vinylester laminating resin which is an impermeable boundary layer for water. Vinylester is much more expensive than the more commonly used polyester resin, and by stopping water osmosis gel coat blistering is also eliminated. SprayCore also prevents “pattern print-through,” the pattern being from the next layer of glass laid in the mold.Next, tri-axial fiberglass cloth is laid into the molds and saturated with polyester resin. Because tri-axial cloth has glass strands running three directions instead of two, it forms a stronger hull, with strength in six directions instead of four. (Think of glass strands in resin as you would rebar in concrete.) The material is also thicker and resin is more likely to fully saturate the glass material than it might in conventional woven roving. It also produces a higher glass-to-resin ratio than woven roving. Because tri-axial fiberglass is stronger and thicker, the hull lamination can have fewer layers which reduces the chance of a delamination.
The Kevlar Difference
Because Campion is located in British Columbia where a major industry is logging, company management is acutely aware of the possibility of one of its boats hitting a log or dead head. At high speed, such a collision could split or rupture a fiberglass hull. For that reason, Campion uses a 10’ strip of bullet-proof Kevlar in every hull it builds, no matter what series or size. The Kevlar strip is a 15” wide strip and extends from just below the towing pad eye on the stem a full ten feet aft in the keel of the boat. Only a couple of sportboat manufacturers use Kevlar in their hulls and none that we know of use it in this location. Brock Elliott, the president of Campion and second generation boat builder, says the Kevlar is what allows him to go to sleep each night and not have to worry about his boats.
Wiring is Critical
Wiring in the harsh marine environment of a boat is always vulnerable. In fact, failure in wiring is one of the leading causes of warranty claims, boat fires and even explosions. For that reason Campion uses only harnesses fabricated by Pacific Insight, a British Columbia firm that makes wiring harnesses and other electrical products for automotive, truck, tractor and marine applications.All wires on Campion boats are labeled every few inches on the wire sheathing itself as to what system it is for so that trouble-shooting is a snap. The wires themselves have heavy-duty cross-linked insulation, automated crimp/seal connectors, and plug-and-play connections designed for the marine environment.According to Elliott, since the Pacific Insight harnesses have been used the company’s warranty claims for electrical wiring have not exceeded $1,000 per year.
The differences in Campion boats do not end with hull laminating materials. Its hull shapes are also different than most sportboats designs. While many sportboat builders have put steps in its hulls to pick up a knot or two, Campion has taken another approach – it has designed in a “pad” on the centerline at the stern. Campion calls this its “Apex” hull design.There is nothing new about a “pad” – simply a flat section on the keel in the aftermost part of the boat – and many classes of boats use pads including large offshore sportfishermen, high-performance boats, bass boats, and even some center consoles. What is unusual, is the fact that there are very few sportboat builders using pads. A spokesman for Campion told us that that it had noticed that another runabout builder had recently added a pad to several of its models, so perhaps like the outboard engines on sportboats, Campion has led or anticipated another trend.The advantage of a pad is that it helps a small boat get up on plane, the boat can stay on plane at a lower speed, it can increase top speed, and most importantly it permits the boat to be more fuel-efficient at best cruise. Campion president Elliott says that the pad makes some of his models 8% more fuel efficient.
Campion Going Green
One of Campion’s goals is to be the greenest boat builder in the world. As a matter of public policy British Columbia is green, mirroring the attitudes of the people who live there. The polyester resin that Campion uses is Envirez made by Ashland. 25% of the resin is composed of soy and corn oils instead of petroleum oil. (Don’t ask how the corn and soy oil is made.) The foam that the builder uses inside the hull to create flotation is called Ecomate and has low-levels of toxicity, permitting its personnel to avoid having to suit up and use masks when applying it, as they would with conventional foam. The builder is now even using water-based solvents to eliminate toxic fumes when workers are cleaning parts.
Campion is a family-owned company and building boats is their only business. Most family-owned boat builders tenaciously guard the reputation of its brand name. Its good name is, in fact, the company – and the family’s – most important asset in most cases. Our experience is that family-owned companies are more apt to quickly respond to warranty claims and give better customer service. (Of course, there are always exceptions both ways.)The hull and deck on all Campion boats are warranted for 10 years. Everything else in the boat from stem-to-stern has a two-year factory warranty.
Campion is located on the shore of Lake Okanagan, a 100-mile long body of water that never freezes. That means that Campion techs can water test boats 12 months a year, something they tell us they do before shipping every cruiser, every boat with an 8.1 L engine, and any other boats that dealers special-request be tested. We have heard too many stories about basic problems right out of the box, and that’s why we think water testing in a lake or river is very important. Only a few companies do it. As we noted in the beginning, there are Campion dealers in only 11 U.S. states, but that may be changing soon. Currently Campion is setting up new dealers in both the U.S. and Australia according to a company spokesman. In addition to the intrinsic features of the boat lines, the builder is also able to offer dealer floor planning through Northstar Trade Finance Inc., a Canadian-based export lender. We’re told the rates are quite competitive.
Price and Summary
The MSRP price of the Chase 600 OB BR is $26,187 US, plus the cost of the outboard engine selected. The family-oriented Allante version, has an MSRP of $23,012 US. Clearly the main features of this boat that should enter into one’s decision in addition to price, are styling, construction, warranty and performance. Campion has a strong story and the only question marks in our mind revolve around performance, handling, and actual-use ergonomics.
Standard and Optional Features
|Carpet: Cockpit||Optional Snap-in|
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!
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