In 1989, following the consumer success of the WaveRunner line, and as the Yamaha brand captivated a whole new audience on the water, Yamaha engineers began to explore the feasibility of creating even more exciting and memorable experiences for our customers on the water through new, innovative product offerings.
The success of jet drive systems in WaveRunners drove Yamaha engineers to explore the possibility of a larger product, a boat, around that same technology.
Three engineers in Japan started work on the first prototype boat models. This included Hirofumi Imaeda, who had experience designing outboard engines, Tomoyoshi Koyanagi, who had deep experience designing WaveRunners, and Yoshiyuki Kaneko, who created prototypes of four passenger WaveRunner models.
At that time, 50 horsepower was the most powerful Yamaha engine that could be used in a boat application but it was not powerful enough for a 20-foot jet boat. It was then that Yamaha began to envision its boats with twin engines.
Initial tests of the twin boats proven successful in Japan, and in February of 1991, Yamaha released its first jet boat, known as the RJP, as a concept boat at the Tokyo and Osaka Boat Shows.
Showcasing at these shows attracted the attention of the larger global marine community, and the positive reception prompted Yamaha to continue to explore its feasibility as a mass marketed consumer boat, sold through Yamaha dealers.
Interestingly enough, one of the American boat builders who took note of these early prototypes at the boat shows, expressed serious interest selling the boats in the US. After a short exploratory and research phase, it was decided that the US market was indeed ripe for such a product, and in 1995 a handful of the Japanese team working on the project moved to the US to continue development.
Yamaha Motor Corporation USA purchased a boat building facility in Vonore, Tennessee and made the decision to produce jet boats there. It was here that Yamaha’s US based product team joined in the development including Scott “Hollywood” Watkins, the IJSBA Hall of Fame freerider who birthed the WaveRunner boom in the US.
The team expanded the original design of the RJP and created a radical new, family friendly design that would become the staple of Yamaha Boats from that point on.
The new design provided more space than any other bowrider in the industry thanks to the compact nature of the engines and jet pumps units. Even though these boats used the 110-horsepower engines popularized with the WaveRunner line, they were able to be mounted inside the hull in what became a true engine-less layout.
Next up was the hull design and Yamaha experimented with several prototypes, utilizing a wide range of different shapes and molds. When matched with the twin engine power plant, it became clear rather quickly that this boat could offer a level of performance and exhilaration unlike anything else on the water today.
In May of 1995, Yamaha debuted its first jet boat called “Exciter” and it was an instant hit in the market. Soon after, development continued and Yamaha introduced new boats including the “LS-2000” and “SR-230,” each of which grew the market and acceptance of jet drive boats. And the momentum has never slowed.
Today, Yamaha jet boats have become the gold standard for all open bow family fun runabout boats, outselling all other boats in their classes.
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