More horsepower always means more speed, right? Well, not so fast!
Looking at any high-performance powerboat, from center console to V-bottom to catamaran, the burning question isn’t which is the most powerful model you can buy—it’s “What is the most power that the model you’re looking at was designed to handle?”
Three-thousand horsepower is not out the question for a heavier monohull, but for a lightweight catamaran, far less power can run much faster.
For example you can’t buy a 31-foot DCB Performance Marine catamaran with 1,650-hp Mercury Racing stern-drive engines—the most powerful mills that Mercury offers—because it’s too much power for the boat. The Phoenix-based builder won’t even let you order that cat with 1650s.
But the company will sell its 31-footer with stern-drive Mercury Racing 1100s because the hull can handle the power. That doesn’t mean you can’t still find trouble with that setup, but the hull isn’t automatically “overpowered” with those engines. All high-performance boats need to be handled with the utmost respect and a decidedly conservative approach to top speed.
Also worth noting? No matter how powerful and fast your boat is, you need to work your way up to its top speed. That holds true for even the most experienced operators, not just novices or those with minimal experience in a performance boat.
Caution advisories duly applied, here are five offerings that can handle the big stuff.
Cigarette 52 Thunder Center Console: 3000 hp, 83 mph
More than a year in the making, the 52 Thunder center console from South Florida-based Cigarette Racing Team is the company’s newest model. Hull No. 1 was equipped with six Mercury Racing 500R outboard engines, the most powerful models in the high-performance marine propulsion leader’s outboard arsenal. With those outboards running wide open, the boat tops out at 83 mph—not bad for a center console that weighs 28,000 pounds dry. But most owners won’t spend much time with the throttle open that wide, and the 52-footer, with its 800-gallon fuel capacity, can cruise easily at 60 mph for hours. That, plus a cabin suitable for overnight trips, makes it a fine choice for adventures such as island-hopping in the Bahamas.
Cigarette 52 Thunder Center Console. Photo credit: Cigarette Racing Team photo
DCB M37R Catamaran: 1000 hp, 125 mph
The outboard-engine-powered sport-catamaran segment, which includes models from 34 to 40 feet, has blown up in the last few years, and Mercury Racing has kept pace with its V-10 400-hp and V-8 450- and 500-hp outboards. With the exception of the V-10s, which are a bit too heavy for a sport-cat application but ideal for big center consoles, those powerplants are ideal for the DCB Performance Marine M37R catamaran. The Phoenix-based company’s 37-footer runs in the mid-120-mph range and is available with an eight-seat cockpit configuration. DCB introduced the M37R in 2020, and its performance and build quality—a staple of the DCB brand—quickly made it the most successful new-model introduction in the builder’s 30-plus-year history.
DCB M37R Catamaran. Photo credit: Jeff Helmkamp/Helmkamp Photos
Marine Technology, Inc., 48 Catamaran: 2200+ hp, 160 mph
Headquartered in Wentzville, Mo., MTI builds an array of go-fast catamarans and center consoles. But the company made much of its formidable reputation with a 48-foot cat that can handle anything from Mercury Racing 1100s to dual-calibration 1350/1100s and 1550/1100s. (Dual-calibration engines have a manufacturer-supplied key fob that changes engine timing and switches to a higher-octane fuel for higher power output when desired.) Depending on the buyer’s power choice, the 48-footer can run in the 150-mph range—and well beyond. MTI currently is in the process of reintroducing the cat with a lower-profile deck and a different windshield. But its hull will remain mostly unchanged, which is great news for potential buyers who want to go big with power.
Marine Technology, Inc., 48 Catamaran. Photo credit: Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
Nor-Tech 450 and 500 Sport Center Console: 2000 hp, 85 mph
With four Mercury Racing 450R outboards, the Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats 390 Sport center console—the Fort Myers, Fla., company’s biggest seller—runs 90-plus mph. That’s plenty fast for any center console, so triple 500R propulsion packages likely will be the best option for the 39-footer. But the company’s 45- and 50-foot center consoles are tailor-made for quad 500-hp V-8 outboards. With that much power set up on the transom, the 450 and 500 Sport models will run well into 80-plus mph range.
Nor-Tech 450 Sport Center Console. Photo credit: Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
Outerlimits SV 43 V-bottom: 2700 hp, 140 mph
The industry leader in high-performance custom V-bottom sportboats is Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats of Bristol, R.I., which offers its monohull beauties with stand-up SL (Super Leggera) and sit-down SV (Super Veloce) cockpit configurations. Both can handle everything in Mercury Racing’s quad-cam-four-valve stern-drive engine series, but the current power package of choice is twin dual-calibration 1350/1100 mills. And no Outerlimits model is better suited to them than the SV 43. In fact, an SV 43 with a set of 2,000-hp engines holds the current kilometer speed record of 180.464 mph. (That’s the average speed for running a one-kilometer course in both directions.) Of course, that is the extreme, and the mark was established by a professional driver. But with a pair of Mercury Racing 1350s under the hatch, for example, and an experienced driver behind the wheel, the SV 43 is a 130- to 140-plus-mph sportboat.
Outerlimits SV 43 V-bottom. Photo credit: Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix
For more info from these five top brands, visit their websites:
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