High-Powered Cat Fight: Survival of the Fastest

Six catamarans boil the water in Powerboat magazine roundup.

15th March 2002.
By Matt Trulio

Pictured above is the Hustler 377 Talon, which rocketed to 108.6 mph. Photos below are arranged from left to right in alphabetical order. (All photos by Tom Newby)

Pictured above is the Hustler 377 Talon, which rocketed to 108.6 mph. Photos below are arranged from left to right in alphabetical order. (All photos by Tom Newby)

You’re about to read profiles on six fast catamarans—the slowest lumbered along at a paltry 97.5 mph—from American Offshore, Awesome, Carrera, Dave’s Custom, Eliminator and Hustler. On a good day, the Powerboat test team and photo crew could knock out six cats by 3 p.m. and have a couple of hours to return e-mail and phone calls before the evening photo shoot.

But we didn’t have a good day during this catamaran roundup, which was held on Biscayne Bay in Miami and on the Colorado River in Parker, Ariz. Truth be told, we had two-and-a-half really bad days, the kind where Murphy’s law rules without mercy.

The American Offshore 2600 NSX delivers a solid and sure ride at more than 100 mph.

The American Offshore 2600 NSX delivers a solid and sure ride at more than 100 mph.

We had a series of mechanical failures. In less-stilted terms, lots of stuff broke. It took two Bravo One drives to get the American Offshore 2600 NSX tested and photographed. And only a clever fix—a left-hand prop to keep the cat moving for photos when the second drive blew out the forward gear—by lead test driver Bob Teague made that possible.

Between the morning photo shoot and afternoon testing session on the Colorado River, Dave’s Custom Boats had to replace a fried drive on his sizzling Mach 26. DCB was lucky. By day’s end, the Eliminator would need some engine work.

Despite the mechanical headaches, these six high-quality cats delivered the kind of performance worth waiting—and stockpiling spare parts—for.

Sudden Comfort

The American Offshore 2600 NSX delivers thrills—without unnecessary chills.

Some boats drive “bigger” than they are. Take the American Offshore 2600 NSX. At 26′ long, 8’6″-wide, the catamaran is hardly large in today’s cat world, where 40-plus-footers are common. And yet the 2600 NSX delivers a solid and sure ride at more than 100 mph, and dances across rough water without pummeling—or terrifying—its occupants.

That’s what we found during speed runs in the 2600 NSX, priced at $98,901, in 1- to 3-foot chop on Miami’s Biscayne Bay. We liked the catamaran’s top speed of 102.1 mph at 5,200 rpm, courtesy of an American Offshore blown and intercooled 650-hp motor connected to a Bravo One drive (with a Simrek shower) spinning a lab-finished Bravo One 15 1/4″ x 32″ four-blade stainless-steel propeller through a 1.36:1 reduction. But what we liked even more was how solid the cat felt at that speed.

Put that much power into a 3,580-pound cat and you can rightly expect rocket-like results. After coming on plane in 3.5 seconds, the 2600 NSX reached 88 mph in 20 seconds. A model of explosive consistency in mid-range drills, the cat shot from 30 to 50 mph in 4.1 seconds, 40 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and from 40 to 70 mph in 6.4 seconds.

The time-proven bottom of the 2600 NSX included two single-step, single-strake sponsons and a center pod. That running surface, combined with an IMCO hydraulic steering system, provided predictable, stable and nimble handling manners. Leaning inward and exiting level, the cat carved its way through slalom and circle turns at low and midrange speeds. In gentle high-speed arcs, it never slipped or bobbled, and tracking was true at all speeds.

The boat’s acrylic windscreens did a great job of knocking down the on-rushing wind. However, they did create distortion and, at higher speeds, we found ourselves looking around them to get a true read of the water.

We found no significant flaws in the mold work and white gelcoat—accented with vinyl graphics—of the 2600 NSX. An extruded plastic rubrail provided protection, though it exhibited a few imperfections where it wrapped around the transom. In addition to the 25-mil gelcoat, the lamination schedule included 1 1/2-ounce mat, 2408 biaxial fiberglass and Baltek end-grain balsa.

The manufacturer did a clean and competent job with the engine-compartment rigging. The 540-cubic-inch motor was secured with L-angles through-bolted to the stringers and standard Mercury mounts.

For a 26′-long catamaran, the 2600 NSX was well equipped with hardware. Notable items included cat-eye-style nav lights, an assortment of Accon Pull-Up? cleats and various grab handles.

Best described as a large stowage area rather than a small cabin, the area beneath the deck of the 2600 NSX was carpeted. The cockpit boasted high-back bucket seats for the driver and co-pilot and lay-in carpet on the nonskid sole.

Lots of small catamarans boil the water. Few feel secure in the process. The American Offshore 2600 NSX behaves like a much bigger cat. And you can find comfort in that.—MT

Specifications and Performance

Centerline 26′
Beam 8’5″
Weight 3,580 pounds
Base price $59,995
Price as tested $98,901
Engine American Offshore 650
Top speed 102.1 mph at 5,200 rpm
Time to plane 3.5 seconds
Acceleration Zero to 15 seconds 78 mph
Midrange acceleration 40 to 60 mph 4.8 seconds

For More Information

American Offshore
5205 E. fm 517
Dickinson, TX 77539
(281) 534-1904
www.american-offshore.com.

Breathing Room

Measuring 40'2" long and 10'5" wide, the Awesome Powerboats 3800 Signature boasted an uncommonly large and comfortable berth.

Measuring 40'2" long and 10'5" wide, the Awesome Powerboats 3800 Signature boasted an uncommonly large and comfortable berth.

When it comes to high-speed comfort, the 3800 Signature from Awesome Powerboats is tough to beat.

If you’ve never had the experience of sleeping in the average catamaran’s cabin, you haven’t missed much. Just picture yourself as a torpedo in a torpedo tube. Words such as “cozy” and “intimate” come to mind, but they’re really polite euphemisms for “cramped” and “stuffy.” No such complaints will ever be lodged against the 3800 Signature from Awesome Powerboats. The 40’2″-long, 10’5″-wide model we tested on Biscayne Bay in Miami didn’t just have the largest berth we’ve seen in a catamaran, it had one of the largest berths we’d ever seen. Period.

Covering the entire belowdeck area between the sponsons, the rectangular berth measured roughly 12 feet long and 5 feet wide. Plenty of space remained for cabin amenities, and they included a sink and refrigerator, a TV/VCR, a stereo system and plenty of handcrafted cabinetry.

Nice and comfy, no doubt, but nobody buys a catamaran—especially one sporting a $296,088 as-tested sticker—with a pair Mercury Racing HP575SCi engines for its overnighting capabilities. The big draw, of course, is speed, and the 3800 Signature didn’t disappoint. With the twin 550-hp supercharged, fuel-injected big-block motors connected to Bravo XR drives (1.5:1) spinning Bravo One 15 1/4″ x 34″ four-blade stainless-steel propellers, the 9,000-pound cat ran a top speed of 97.5 mph at 5,400 rpm.

Time to plane was 5.6 seconds, and in 20 seconds the 3800 Signature cat reached 68 mph. In midrange drills, the cat ran from 30 to 50 mph in 5.8 seconds, 40 to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds and 40 to 70 mph in 11.8 seconds.

In agility tests, the 3800 Signature displayed typical catamaran handling manners. Riding on 24-degree transom-deadrise sponsons with four steps, it leaned to the outside, though not uncomfortably, in slalom and circle turns at lower speeds. Turns at the middle speeds were flatter, as were gentle arcing turns at high speeds. Our only gripe concerned the stiffness of the boat’s steering. At times, our lead test driver actually had to muscle the wheel. That was a real surprise given its Hynautic hydraulic steering system.

When it came to the 3800 Signature’s fit and finish, there were no unpleasant surprises. Mold work and gelcoat were impeccable, as were the cat’s PPG paint-applied graphics. The manufacturer didn’t provide a lamination schedule for the boat, but we could see that it was laid up by hand and that the hull and deck were bolted and tabbed together. Capping the joint was a brawny rubrail.

Hardware included an assortment of Accon Pop-Up? cleats, acrylic windscreens and an aluminum swim platform. Engine compartment rigging, which featured through-bolted cradle mounts for each motor, was up to the same high standards as the catamaran’s tooling.

So, too, was its cockpit, which boasted a McLeod interior. The bolsters for the co-pilot and driver proved uncommonly supportive and plush. All gauges at the helm were from Gaffrig, as were the throttles and shifters. Mechanical trim indicators were provided for the drives.

Awesome left nothing out of the 3800 Signature. It’s the kind of real-world catamaran you can live with—especially if you like to live life at speed.—MT

Specifications and Performance

Centerline 40’2″
Beam 10’5″
Weight 9,000 pounds
Base price $188,000
Price as tested $296,088
Engines (2) Mercury racing HP575SCi
Top speed 97.5 mph at 5,400 rpm
Time to plane 5.6 seconds
Acceleration Zero to 15 seconds 56 mph
Midrange acceleration 40 to 60 mph 8.8 seconds

For More Information

Awesome powerboats
7025 Marine City Highway
Marine City, MI 48039
(810) 765-8191
www.awesomepowerboats.net.

Last Man Standing

The Carrera 257 Effect hit a top speed of 104.1 mph—and it did it all day long.

The Carrera 257 Effect hit a top speed of 104.1 mph—and it did it all day long.

Carrera’s 257 Effect took a thorough flogging and stood ready for more.

At first light as we were handing out “hold-harmless” waivers to be signed by the participants in our roundup in Parker, Ariz., the owner Derek Peterson, who had brought Carrera’s 257 Effect for our testing regimen, looked at the paperwork and signed with trepidation.

“My boat’s putting out a lot of horsepower and it’s only got a Bravo drive in it,” Peterson said. “Try to be careful not to break it.”

We assured Peterson that if anything broke, it would break no matter who was at the wheel. To him, that news wasn’t as reassuring as we would have hoped. The reassuring part came some nine hours later after two photo shoots and a full regimen of testing: His Carrera 257 Effect soldiered through it all without so much as a backfire through the carburetor. The last man standing, if you will.

The carburetor not backfiring was a testament to the engine, provided by D & D Enterprises, a shop known for building jet-boat motors. In fact, the boat was set up like a jet boat, with the helm on the port side and low-slung bolsters.

From the deck accoutrements to the transom hardware to the instrumentation, this 257 Effect was a potpourri of custom marine companies’ products. For example, the Bravo One drive was fitted with the IMCO five-bolt cap and cooled by Eddie Marine’s shower. The IMCO nose cone added some punch and the Dana billet trim tabs were a fine addition to a genre of boat that doesn’t normally have them. A Bluewater mechanical indicator was bolted to the drive and the Rex Marine mechanical indicators were fitted to the tabs.

ATM swim platforms and assorted Dana goodies rounded out the deck hardware.

Under the hatch, the Gen V Bowtie 509 was decked out with Dart iron heads, a Mooney 8-71 blower, a Superchiller intercooler, a hydraulic roller cam, twin boost-referenced Holley 750 double pumpers and Lightning headers to expel the spent gases.

Where the fiberglass hits the water, Carrera used a modified tunnel with a center pod not quite as deep as the outer sponsons, which featured a deadrise of 10 degrees. Each sponson featured a small chine about 1 1/2 inches wide and a single strake centered between the keel and the chine. The outer sponsons also featured two breaker strips five and 10 feet forward of the transom.

With that engine and hull, the Carrera 257 Effect hit a top speed of 104.1 mph—and it did it all day long. In 10 seconds it scampered to 60 mph from a dead start and topped 90 mph in 20 seconds. Midrange drills produced a time of 4.4 seconds from 30 to 50 mph and 4 seconds to go from 40 to 60.

The 257 porpoised a bit in the midrange, but not obtrusively so. It also seemed to like left-hand turns better than right-handers. Lead tester Bob Teague thought the drive was mounted a little high, but it climbed on plane in 4.3 seconds anyway.

The next morning, the 257 fired right up as though it hadn’t been flogged to the nines the day before and Peterson put it on the trailer under its own power. Speed and reliability defined.—BB

Specifcations and Performance

Centerline 27′
Beam 8’4″
Weight 2,150 pounds
Base price $55,900
Price as tested $80,430
Engine D&D Enterprises 650 hp
Top speed 104.1 mph at 5,600 rpm
Time to plane 4.27 seconds
Acceleration Zero to 15 seconds 78 mph
Midrange acceleration 40 to 60 mph 4.05 seconds

For More Information

Carrera Boats
1802 W. Pomona Road
Corona, CA 92880
(909) 735-7000
www.carreraboats.com.

As Slick As It Gets

The Mach 26 from Dave's Custom Boats blazed to a 121.2-mph top speed on the radar gun.

The Mach 26 from Dave's Custom Boats blazed to a 121.2-mph top speed on the radar gun.

Dave’s Custom Boats’ Mach 26 doesn’t just talk the talk. It walks the walk.

When discussions around the office center on manufacturers with a high degree of build quality, Dave’s Custom Boats always comes up. When the subject of quick catamarans is broached, DCB again tops the list of boatbuilders. After testing the DCB Mach 26, the company now has earned a place in discussion of really quick catamarans.

The second-fastest cat in our roundup, the Mach 26 blazed to a 121.2-mph top speed on the radar gun, more than 10 mph faster than the third-fastest Hustler 377 Talon we tested in Miami. Timed acceleration tests were equally impressive, with the Mach 26 hitting 62 mph in 10 seconds and 101 mph in 20 seconds. On the way to those speeds, the Mach climbed on plane in 3.7 seconds. Testers lost sight of the horizon for a quick spell, but nothing unsafe or unacceptable.

In midrange acceleration drills, the 26 ran from 30 to 50 mph in 5.7 seconds, and from 40 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. Testers noticed a slight porpoising in the midrange, which is not uncommon in catamaran designs, and a trace of lean to one side during hard acceleration. Aside from that, the cat tracked straight and ran with a nice set at higher speeds.

A close inspection of the speed-at-rpm numbers revealed that the Mach was hitting its sweet spot at about 3,500 to 4,500 rpm where each 500 rpm increase netted at least 15-mph gains. Credit that to an efficient catamaran hull design and 1,000 ponies under the hatch.

That power came courtesy of a Teague Custom Marine Poker Run motor. Based on a Merlin Pro tall-deck block topped with Brodix heads, the monster motor featured Carrillo rods, stainless intake valves and inconel exhaust valves, which followed the lobes of a Crane hydraulic roller cam. Supercharging duties were handled by a Littlefield 14-71 blower cramming the charge through a PFM Superchiller and a BDS tall-deck intake manifold.

The engine was through-bolted to the stringers using Mercury’s iron feet and gusseted and back-plated L-angles. In further demonstration of DCB’s attention to detail, the stainless cushion clamps were evenly spaced to support all wiring and plumbing, which, of course, was braided stainless. Dana supplied the billet battery boxes and IMCO provided it’s fuel valve.

At the transom, DCB bolted a B-Max drive with a 1.3:1 gear set. The drive also featured a nose cone and a Mercury Bravo One lab-finished 15 1/4″ x 32″ propeller. Directional changes were handled with IMCO full-hydraulic dual-ram steering.

At the helm, DCB installed an In Control shifter lever and pedals, the right side for the throttle, the left, to adjust the trim. The dash came adorned with full Gaffrig instrumentation, including dials for boost, fuel pressure and oil temperature. Under-dash wiring was, to say the least, done with laudable craftsmanship. All nylon tie wraps and cushion clamps were evenly spaced and clipped, and retained wires as neatly as anything we’ve seen.

The DCB Mach 26 was about as trick as you’ll ever see, and that’s something we’ll be talking about for some time to come.—BB

Specifications and Performance

Centerline 25’8″
Beam 8’5″
Weight 3850 pounds
Base price $61950
Price as tested $127165
Engine Teague Custom Marine 1000
Top speed 121.2 mph at 5900 rpm
Time to plane 3.7 seconds
Acceleration Zero to 15 seconds 82 mph
Midrange acceleration 40 to 60 mph 4.15 seconds

For More Information

Dave’s Custom Boats
1468 N. Magnolia Ave.
El Cajon, CA 92020-1639
(619) 442-0300
www.dcbracing.com.

Booster Rocket

The Eliminator 25 Daytona’s explosive power leads the pack.

Thump on the flawless hullsides of the Eliminator 25 Daytona with the heel of your hand and the sound tells you this is a lightweight boat. About 4,000 pounds dry, actually. Open the hatch and eye the monstrous quad-rotor Whipple supercharged and built 540-cubic-inch motor, and you’d think you had stepped into one of Ed Roth’s Rat Fink illustrations.

Then you learn the boat is squeezing some 15 pounds of boost into the cylinders and cranking out about 1,200 horsepower. Do the math. This boat is faaaaast. How fast?

How about 127.4 mph on the radar gun, 127.1 on the GPS. But there’s more to the story than top speed. This is likely one of the quickest accelerating boats we’ve tested. For instance, it blasted from 30 to 50 mph in 2.9 seconds and scorched from 40 to 60 mph in 3 seconds. That’s faster than any boat we tested in Parker, Ariz., and at our 2001 Performance Trials.

“I’ll tell you what,” said lead tester Bob Teague. “There’s nothing quite like a 25 Daytona with a lot of power in it. It’s still in a way the standard of industry when it comes to performance single-engine cats in this size range. Everybody compares their boat to a 25 Daytona like connecting rod manufacturers compare their rods to Carrillo’s.”

There are few cats that could lay down a comparable time-to-plane of 2.9 seconds. Further, in timed acceleration tests, the 25 Daytona was going 43 mph in five seconds, 78 mph in 10 seconds and 100 mph in 15 seconds. And at 100 mph, the Daytona was just cruising, not breathing hard at all.

All that power came courtesy of an injected Whipple-built 540 cubic-inch standard-deck block. Dart aluminum heads topped the block and a Whipple low-profile intercooler chilled the boosted intake charge. According to Whipple, dyno tests at 10 pounds of boost produced 1,100 horsepower.

All that power was routed through a showered IMCO Xtreme Advantage Bravo Drive, which spun a lab-finished Mercury Bravo One 15 1/4″ x 34″ prop. Steering duties were handled with IMCO full-hydraulic dual-ram steering.

A bottom inspection revealed a slightly changed hull where the center sponson has been modified to protrude less at the stern than previous models. The center sponson also featured a breaker strip, which transitioned it from a shallow V to a flat pad about 6 feet forward of the transom.

With this setup, and only minimal dialing in, the 25 Daytona worked perfectly as a river hot rod. It steered and tracked well at top speeds. In fact, the faster we went, the less positive trim the boat needed. The only drawbacks with the boat were that the steering felt a little too light at top speeds and the engine hatch wanted to lift on the port side. Decreasing steering boost and adding a second screw jack to the port side would be easy fixes.

Come to think of it, there was another drawback to the 25 Daytona: We had to give it back.—BB

Specifications and Performance

Centerline 25′
Beam 8’6″
Weight 4,000 pounds
Base price $51,707
Price as tested $115,140
Engine 540 Whipple quad rotor 1200 hp
Top speed 127.4 mph at 6,200 rpm
Time to plane 2.9 seconds
Acceleration Zero to 15 seconds 100 mph
Midrange acceleration 40 to 60 mph 2.95 seconds

For More Information

Eliminator Boats
10795 San Sevaine
Mira Loma, CA 91752
(909) 681-1222
www.eliminatorboat.com

In The Zone

The 377 Talon from Hustler is an ace on all fronts.

“Now this is a nice boat,” hollered Bob Teague, Powerboat’s lead test driver, as he piloted the Hustler 377 Talon on Miami’s Biscayne Bay. “Really nice.”

It wasn’t what he said, but when he said it—running along at 105 mph in 1- to 2-foot wind chop—that made the comment so noteworthy. Teague rarely utters more than a grunt at serious speed. And 105 mph—on the way to a top end of 108.6 mph at 5,300 rpm—is serious speed.

In fact, the 37′-long, 10’4″-wide catamaran was serious in every aspect of performance, thanks to a pair of 550-hp Mercury Racing HP575SCi engines and 1.5 ratio Bravo XR drives. Stellings stand-off boxes and lab-finished Bravo One 15 1/4″ x 34″ props helped the catamaran hop on plane in 3.8 seconds. From a standing start, the cat reached 81 mph in 20 seconds.

The combination of the 377 Talon’s twin-sponson bottom, which included a center pod, and the fuel-injected big-block motors also proved potent in midrange acceleration drills. The catamaran shot from 30 to 50 mph in 4.7 seconds, 40 to 60 mph in 5 seconds and 40 to 70 in 8.5 seconds.

Buyers who need more speed can opt for bigger power, and the 377 Talon could certainly accommodate it thanks to the catamaran’s impeccable handling manners. The cat aced our slalom and circle-turn tests at all speeds. In fact, we’ve tested V-bottoms that displayed less inward lean. Tracking was precise, so precise that even at more than 100 mph, the steering wheel could be held with a light grip. (Credit, at least in part, the boat’s fully hydraulic steering system.)

Hustler’s reputation for outstanding construction quality was built on its line of high-performance V-bottoms. The people at the Calverton, N.Y., company had no trouble translating that superior level of workmanship to a catamaran. (The company purchased the molds for the 37-footer from Talon.)

Mold work, gelcoat and graphics for the 377 Talon were dazzling and devoid of flaws. The catamaran was handlaid with a variety of materials including carbon fiber, biaxial and triaxial fiberglass fabrics, which were cored with composite materials, vacuum-bagged and then bonded together at the deck line. Hardware, though minimal, was appropriately chosen.

Engine compartment rigging was impeccable. The motors were secured on racing mounts and L-angles through-bolted to the stringers. All wires, cables and hoses were neatly routed and primarily supported with cushion clamps.

Though not exactly roomy, the 377 Talon’s “aft-cabin,” between the cockpit and the engine compartment, presented an innovative and effective use of space. The cockpit layout included plush bolsters for the driver and co-pilot, and a four-person bolster-style bench. All grab handles were well placed. At the helm station, all the Gaffrig gauges were in clear view.

Another plus we discovered at speed in the cockpit? The wind faring actually deflected wind. Given the 377 Talon’s speed capabilities, that should come in handy.—MT

Centerline 37′
Beam 10’4″
Weight 3,500 pounds
Base price $280,021
Price as tested $329,346
Engines (2) Mercury racing Hp575SCi
Top speed 108.6 mph at 5,300 rpm
Time to plane 3.8 seconds
Acceleration Zero to 15 seconds 68 mph
Midrange acceleration 40 to 60 mph 5 seconds

For More Information

Hustler Powerboats
4062-74 Grumman Blvd.
Calverton, NY 11933
(631) 208-2933
www.hustlerpowerboats.com


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About the author:

Matt Trulio

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Matt Trulio is the co-publisher and editor in chief of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site with a weekly newsletter and a new bi-monthly digital magazine that covers the high-performance powerboating world. The former editor-in-chief of Sportboat magazine and editor at large of Powerboat magazine, Trulio has covered the go-fast powerboat world since 1995. Since joining boats.com in 2000, he has written more than 200 features and blogs.
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