As 2014 spools down and the financial reports trickle in, the news is unilaterally good: sales of new personal watercraft are up and by a significant margin. According to a recent report by Powersports Business, that number is upwards to 30 percent. With a swathe of new products, improved powertrains and new accessories and features, 2014 was a fantastic year for new PWC. But what ever happened to the ski that started it all, the standup jet ski?
Currently, Yamaha is the lone survivor producing a minimum 500 SuperJets a year. The solitary ski still employs Yamaha’s 701cc two-cylinder, two-stroke and is available for purchase only after a customer produces a racer’s registration card (or IJSBA number). The once Hydrospace has traded hands again from Benelli to Belassi, and despite a full lineup of skis and full-sized runabouts, none are available for commercial purchase in the United States.
A veritable vacuum of suitable production standup jet skis has sparked aftermarket hull makers to step up and fill the hole in the marketplace. Companies like Bullett, Trinity, RRP, Krash Industries and others have taken up the baton and ran with it. But many don’t offer complete, ready-to-ride skis, and those that do are priced well over $20,000 for a single unit. Of course, accounting for the level of technology, CNC’ed billet components, carbon fiber, Kevlar and other expensive materials, such a hefty asking price begins to make sense.
This leaves a significant gap for an affordable and accessible standup remaining wide open. And that is where Ligier Sport comes in frame. The new ski stand up built in collaboration with Ligier Automobiles (a brand of Driveplanet Group, a leader in European light and heavy quadricycle vehicles) and developed by Francois-Noel Boulliau, the Ligier JS900 is what might be needed to get people standing back up on the water.
Built in Vichy, France, the JS 900 is designed drawing from the best of each OE brand and the leading race-bred aftermarket ski, with a heavy emphasis on meeting and exceeding the expectation of the consumer. After conducting considerable research and analysis of the market, Ligier Sport greenlit the prototype with some necessary attributes in mind, namely is had to be both fun for the novice to ride, and competitive for the hardcore racer.
To accomplish this, the Ligier JS900 rides on a polyester fiber parabolic hull (88.2-inches long, 29.5-inches wide, tapering to 25.9-inches at the rear) helping drop the weight without losing strength. Powering the ski is Rotax’s widely-praised dual-overhead camshaft, three-cylinder, ACE 900cc four-stroke. Yes, that’s the very same plant found in the Sea-Doo Spark.
Wringing out at a max RPM of 8,870, the ACE comes already reprogrammed to the tune of an impressive 110-horsepower, exceeding the Spark’s available 60- or 90-horsepower output options. Unlike the Spark, the JS900 uses an “open circuit” engine cooling loop. Out back is a 144mm diameter Solas Pro pump housing a stainless steel, three-blade impeller. Using this and the compact-yet-potent ACE engine, helps the JS900 weigh in just under 300-pounds (297-pounds dry).
A five-gallon tank and lightweight aftermarket RRP handlepole, bars and steering (used on this prototype shown) assists in making the JS900 a worthy candidate for the buoy course curves and tight turns. Likewise, the low weight assists in the JS900’s high acceleration, while the combination of the Solas pump and three-cylinder Rotax ACE 900cc four-stroke provides the Ligier ski with an easy-to-use temperament. The hull has been reviewed as being both stable and effective in the waves and rough water.
The Watercraft Journal spoke with spokesman Julien Bastien who explained, “The potential of the Ligier JS is huge, it’s economical for recreational using, but also is very promising for a competition development. Today, the production of the Ligier JS is possible for small amounts and we are discussing our ability for mass production.”
Bastien continued, “Some of the best ski stand-up riders in the [world] like Kevin Reiterer, Morgan Poret, Raphael Maurin, Axel Courtois tested this model during the final round of the 2014 Freegun Jetcross Tour in Vichy last August, and everyone was very satisfied and surprised with the potential of the Ligier JS.”
Currently, the standup market in Europe is edging out American interest (according to conversations with aftermarket hull designers, engine builders and riders). If the Ligier JS is well received overseas, the likelihood of it coming to domestic shores is very possible. Unfortunately, like Belassi, qualifying for commercial sales requires meeting certain safety specifications, which are both costly and time consuming. Were the JS900 to be sold in a limited sphere similar to the SuperJet, we might see the Rotax-powered ski sooner than later.