By Powerboat Test Team
Dave’s Custom Boats Mach F-29: Powerboat magazine Performance Report
Dave's Custom Boats Mach F-29: Custom catamaran quality at the highest possible level.
Having tested three Mach F-29 catamarans from Dave’s Custom Boats in the last few years, we were sure the latest incarnation, decked out in painted graphics from the renowned The Art of Design shop, would be built with a level of detail that bordered on maniacal. We were also sure that the sport cat would handle with sweet precision. What we didn’t know was how it would take to the pair of 625-hp Ilmor V-10 engines under its hatch. We’ve tested the Ilmor powerhouses in several applications, but this was our first go-round with them in a cat with which we were extremely familiar.
The bottom line on the pairing? It was a home run. The warranted big-block engines found a perfect home in the 29-footer, and they delivered everything from 120-plus-mph top-end to snappy acceleration in the middle range. In turn, the refined cat retained its impeccable handling manners.
To handle the combined 1,250 hp produced by the Ilmor engines, the DCB crew went with 1.35:1 reduction IMCO Xtreme Advantage SC drives. Putting the juice to good use were a pair of variable diameter (15″ and 15 1/4″) 32″-pitch six-blade Hering propellers.
With the engines turning 5,700 rpm, top speed for the Mach F-29 was 121.2 mph. Given the relatively tame power involved, it’s safe to say we were more than pleased with that number. And though they were running at the peak of their operating range, the Ilmor engines showed no signs, or sounds, of stress or strain.
From a standing start, the 29-footer did take a little long to come over—7.3 seconds to be exact—but bow rise was not excessive. The catamaran was propped for top-end, and for this reason it reached only 65 mph in 20 seconds from dead in the water. However, midrange acceleration was healthy and consistent. The cat ran from 30 to 50 mph in 5.6 seconds, 40 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and 40 to 70 mph in 9.6 seconds.
Though the Mach F-29 earned good scores in low- and middle-speed slalom and circle turns, it strutted its best stuff in high-speed maneuvers. The cat always leaned into higher-speed turns, stayed connected to the water in the most reassuring manner and released gently. Tracking, even when the boat was trimmed up for maximum speed, was perfect. The F-29 didn’t just walk over boat wakes and chop—it danced over them.
Fine craftsmanship has become axiomatic to Dave’s Custom Boats—it’s a defining attribute that cannot be separated from the company. True, when a 29-foot sport cat boasts a $300,000-plus sticker, that’s exactly as it should be, but the builder still has to execute. Once again, DCB has proven it can.
At $27,000, The Art of Design paint job was what we’ve come to expect from the Elkhart, Ind., company. It was precise and spectacular, and in no small measure that was due to the flawless blank canvas provided by DCB. Tooling was simply spotless, and the capping of the hull and deck joint to create a seamless, rubrail-free sheerline was as good as it gets. Lay-up materials included vinylester resin and multidirectional knitted fiberglass.
To maintain the cat’s clean, slinky lines, the builder minimized hardware. The only obvious piece was a billet swim platform, with a pull-down ladder, between the drives. Pushpin fenders and lines connected to the boat through discreet receptacles that didn’t spoil its lines. LED navigation lights were flush-mounted to the hull. The distortion-free, F-16-style quarter canopies fit cleanly into recesses in the deck.
Though the engines were naturally aspirated, the fiberglass engine hatch was outfitted with scoops for better ventilation. Two screw jacks raised the hatch for access to the color-matched engines, which were installed on custom-fabricated mounts from DCB. Wires were strongly supported and gathered in parallel looms. The entire installation was sanitary.
Twin high-back bucket seats and a straight-back four-person bench comprised the seating accommodations in the Mach F-29′s carpeted cockpit. Even though the bench wasn’t a bolster-style, a welcome feature we’ve seen in a lot of catamarans of late, it was uncommonly deep. That, plus grab handles and well-padded gunwales, should give bench passengers a feeling of security.
Still, the best seats in the house were the buckets. First, each provided great support and comfort. Second, the quarter canopies were incredibly effective at protecting the driver and co-pilot from onrushing wind. In fact, they were so effective in keeping off the breeze that DCB installed forced-air cooling vents, as it always does, at each station.
The co-pilot’s station to port had its share of goodies including a 140-mph speedometer from Livorsi Marine, anodized grab handles and an Alpine CD stereo system.
The starboard-side command center was, per the DCB breed, completely decked out with top-flight elements. Gauges around the tilt steering wheel were from Livorsi Marine. Throttles and shifters were from Latham Marine. Rubber-booted toggle switches for the accessories were mounted in function-etched panels. The station looked more like the cockpit of an aircraft than the helm of a performance boat.
Despite the Mach F-29′s low deck, the builder managed to create a useable cabin with rear-facing love seats and coolers in dedicated vinyl-finished retainers. The entire area was carpeted and trimmed in vinyl where appropriate.
There’s no real secret to the success of DCB—the people there care about all the details. The same applies to Ilmor, at least in our experience. We’ve seen nothing but consistency and reliability from its engines during our tests. The marriage of DCB’s Mach F-29 with Ilmor’s 625-hp V-10s isn’t just a good one. It’s one of the best matches we’ve seen in a long time.
Manufacturer Contact Information
Dave’s Custom Boats