Owned by former offshore powerboat racer Matt Rice, a new Skater 368 catamaran is the first pleasure boat in the United States—make that the world—to be outfitted with Mercury Racing’s 400 HP Verado ROS (Race Offshore) outboard engines. That’s because the engine, which is derived from the Mercury Racing Verado 400R outboard that’s been wildly popular with sport catamaran and performance center console buyers, was developed for the X Cat World Series of powerboat racing, which features canopied 32- to 34-foot catamarans, in the Middle East. Until now, Verado ROS outboards have only been hung on X Cat raceboats.
So in a way, it makes perfect sense that the first pair of ROS units are now—thanks to rigger extraordinaire Grant Bruggemann and his crew at the famed Grant’s Signature Racing shop in Bradenton, Fla.— on a new pleasure-oriented sport catamaran owned by a former offshore racer. Rice had his 32-foot Skater pleasure cat, built in 2009, retrofitted by Grant’s Signature Racing with twin Mercury Racing Verado 400R engines last year, and the new power package reignited his passion for the boat. So he stepped up to Verado ROS outboards with his larger 36-footer. It was a logical progression. The boat reached 116 MPH in its first sea trial last month and may top 120 MPH by time it’s completely dialed in, according to Bruggemann.
At present, Rice hasn’t decided which race he’ll run. In fact, he’s yet to even drive his stunning 36-footer. That should happen this month. Before then, Bruggemann said he plans to put the cat through more sea trials.
To maximize the performance of the Verado ROS engines, the boat was built with a unique low-profile deck. While the final weight of the boat has not yet been released, Skater Powerboats nationally sales manager Tony Cutsuries described the cat as “incredibly light but still plenty strong enough” for its intended use and power.
“We cut down the hull so far it’s unbelievable—it’s really low,” said Cutsuries. “We cut it down four times, which we could do because the race motors have 15-inch mid-sections. Matt [Rice] wanted something really low profile—we even cut down the backs for the bucket seats. Cutting down the hull also takes out a lot of weight.”
Attention to weight savings was particularly crucial on the engine installation and rigging side, where things can get heavy in a hurry. The 400 HP outboards were installed on noted powerboat racer Shaun Torrente’s STR X-ACT Outboard Brackets, but even those key parts were custom-made to be “super light,” according to Kellie Lee, who works alongside Bruggemann, her finance, at the shop. Bruggemann even had a custom lighter-weight Chromoly tie bar built for the cat.
“Everything about this project is custom because they’re paying so much attention to the weight of the boat,” said Lee. “Every nut, bolt, and washer was specifically chosen. He used titanium nuts and bolts just to try to keep everything as light as possible.”
Bruggemann said that while he is working with Mercury Racing applications manager Mike Griffiths to find a propeller to deliver “the big top-speed number,” he’ll prop the Skater 368 with something that makes sense for everyday use. As he does with his 32-footer Skater on weekends, Rice plans to fill his 36-footer with family and friends. He needs an all-around setup, not one strictly targeted at top end.
“We’ll put on the bigger wheel, get the number, and then go to something that makes sense for the kind of boating Matt does,” said Bruggemann. “The last thing he wants is something that can’t get on plane because the prop is too big when he loads the cat with six people and all their stuff. This is, after all, a pleasure boat, not a raceboat.”