Unless you’re connected—and I mean really connected—to the offshore powerboat-racing scene, chances are good that you’ve never heard of Doug Wright. And even if the name rings a bell, odds are you don’t know why.
Wright builds slippery-fast 32-foot canopied catamarans that are a perennial force, at least with veteran offshore racer Gary Ballough on the throttles, in the X-Cat Class on the Union International Motonautique circuit. But the soft-spoken, South Florida-based builder likes to fly below the radar. He takes a page from the book of Peter Hledin, the famed Skater catamaran builder, and lets his products do the talking.
That’s Wright’s style, refreshing in the go-fast boat world, and it’s not likely to change. But what will change, at least if John Caparell has anything to say about it, is Wright’s name recognition in the recreational high-performance powerboat world. A lifelong go-fast boat enthusiast, the San Diego-based Caparell has worked for more than two years with Wright and others to create the first new pleasure version of his 32-footer.
Powered by a pair of Mercury Racing 300XS OptiMax outboard engines, the new model is called the 32’ Doug Wright Poker Run Edition. The slinky 32-footer made its public debut at the Desert Storm Street, one of several happenings during the weeklong event in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., in late April. And even though the sexy cat was displayed at the “quiet” end of McCulloch Boulevard, no one seemed to be able to a walk by it without stopping and running a hand on one of its hull sides.
“Coming to Desert Storm and displaying at the Street Party wasn’t about taking orders, it was about debuting the boat,” says Caparell, who created Doug Wright West to become Wright’s official West Coast dealer. “Not a lot of people know that Doug Wright exists, much less that he makes a pleasure version of his 32-foot racing cat. The whole purpose of coming to Desert Storm was to debut the boat, put it out there and let people know about it.”
For Caparell, developing the five-seat 32-foot pleasure cat with Wright was a mission involving a specific set of goals on which he would not compromise.
“He spent a lot of time making sure everything was done correctly,” says Wright. “He has a lot of patience, that’s for sure. I’m used to offshore racers who don’t care so much about how it looks, but how it runs. John is a perfectionist.”
Caparell agrees. “I was looking for a dual-sport kind of hull, one that can handle anything from a big lakes to offshore water, and the 32’ Doug Wright can do both. The boat had to run over 105 mph—that was imperative. It had to be usable --most ‘poker run’ cats have no storage space for fenders or coolers or anything else. And it had to be as comfortable to the people in the back of the cockpit as it was for the people in the front of the cockpit. It had to be towable with a half-ton or three-quarter-ton pickup truck—you can tow it with a Ford F-150. And it had to have great fuel economy. Gas prices are going to continue to rise, and I didn’t want people to have to mortgage their houses to fill the tank.
“That’s a lot to ask from one model, but I think we fulfilled all those criteria—and then some,” he adds.
With an asking price of $320,000—the base price of the cat is $250,000—the first 32’ Doug Wright Poker Run Edition is by no means cheap. But according to Caparell, the fuel savings created by the outboards in tandem with the cat’s efficient hull make it an economical choice when compared to a like-sized, like-built cat powered by inboard supercharged big-block engines with stern drives.
With the 300-hp direct-fuel-injected two-stroke outboards on its transom, the 32-footer reportedly reached 110 mph. According to Caparell, that makes it the fastest and most efficient cat in it class with such power.
“You can cruise at 100 mph at less than 6,000 rpm and use one quarter of the fuel you’d be using with a pair of big-blocks at the same speed,” says Caparell. “Outboards are hard to beat for fuel efficiency. And they make insurance very reasonable, too. Your insurance company can’t ratchet you up into the ‘big power’ category if you’re running a pair of 300-hp outboards.”
While Wright built the hull and deck to Caparell’s exacting specifications, that was the extent of his direct involvement in the pleasure version of his racing cat. Caparell served as the general contractor on the project, and to that end he tapped Visual Imaginations to handle the vibrant graphics, Quality Performance Marine to take on the immaculate rigging, and Eddie Martinez to create the boat’s plush interior. The results, right down to the unobtrusive nonskid surfacing on the cat’s reverse transom, are stunning.
“The construction quality is as good as it gets,” says Caparell. “A lot of people don’t understand how difficult it is to construct a foam-cored epoxy boat. It is very labor-intensive—you don’t just build a hull and deck and slap them together. The 32’ Doug Wright Poker Run Edition basically has a race boat lay-up.”
Now that the 32-footer has had its coming-out party, Caparell said he is ready to start taking orders—and he already has plenty of interest. “I’ve already talked to several people who are interested and want to see the boat run. I think they’ll be pretty impressed.
“I had a vision of what I wanted,” he adds. “I’m very happy with how it turned out.”
- Matt Trulio