With the recent unveiling of its MAX5 propellers during the street party at the Desert Storm Street Party in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., Mercury Racing continued its trend of taking new-product introductions to the street—so to speak. Last November, the Fond du Lac, Wis.-based high-performance marine engine and accessories builder unveiled its ROS (Race Offshore) outboard engine—the official power for the canopied catamarans of the XCAT World Series—at the Florida Powerboat Club’s Poker Run Village in Key West, Fla.
The ROS outboard and the MAX5 propellers have something else in common beyond their go-fast boating event unveilings. The ROS is the offshore “racing only” (at least for now) version of the Verado 400R outboard engine, which has been among the most successful engine introductions in the history of Mercury Racing. The MAX5 props were also developed for the 400R and its Sport Master gearcase, but they have a much broader application. While they surely will make their way onto to sport catamarans and maybe even a few offshore racing cats, they are designed primarily for triple- and quad-400R-powered performance-oriented center consoles.
Before they even had an official name, prototype MAX5 props helped a Nor-Tech 390 Sport Center Console make history as the first outboard-powered center-console to break the 100-mph barrier in February. A few center consoles, most notably another 39-foot Nor-Tech, had run in the mid-to-high-90-mph range, but propeller slip was a major hurdle preventing them from eclipsing the century mark.
Even the largest-pitch, four-blade Mercury Bravo propellers were overmatched by the 400-hp outboard’s horsepower and torque. Five-blade Maximus props have fared better in the application, but the prop slip percentage still prevented center-consoles from getting the most out the Verado 400R and its Sport Master gearcase.
In the MAX5 series, Mercury Racing created what one boatbuilder described as “a five-blade propeller with a four-blade Bravo propeller profile.” According to Mercury Racing press materials, the MAX5 props provide up to a 12-percent reduction in propeller slip, and they can be used in single or multiple Verado 400R applications.
In the case of the record-setting Nor-Tech, that translated to 1,600 hp worth of 400R outboards on the transom of the 39-footer. Ordered by Raymond and Peter Roberts of Double-R Performance, Nor-Tech’s dealer in Toronto, Canada, for a longtime customer, the Sport 390 CC was hull No. 100 for the model. That gave the Roberts brothers a marketing idea.
“When [Nor-Tech founder and co-owner] Trond Schou call me about hull No. 100, I said, ‘Yes, it would be cool to have that, we’ll take it,' and then I immediately called my brother,” said Peter Roberts. “He said, ‘We can make hull No. 100 go 100 mph. I have a few ideas.’ And that’s how it came about.”
Among those notions was mounting the outboards on hydraulic jack plates to raise the drive height. But that made managing—and minimizing—propeller slip even more critical. And that’s where the still-then-unnamed MAX5 wheels played a significant role. Just one week before the 2016 Miami International Boat Show, Schou and Raymond Roberts ran the boat, which was fully equipped with a full T-top, a stereo system, an additional row of bolsters, a sliding cooler/seat, and a host of other amenities, to a top speed of 101 mph.
“It was not a ‘flash’ of 100 mph,” said Peter Roberts. “It was a long pull with the GPS reading 100, 99, 101, 100 and so on. It hung there throughout the run. With five people on board we got 98 mph in the run before that, so we were pretty sure we’d get it."
“The neatest part about the boat is I could take any 390 CC they ever built and duplicate this performance—this is a factory production hull, not a ‘speed run’ boat," he continued. "There’s nothing 'lightened up' about it. The engines are right out of the crates. It is completely itemized with everything the customer wanted. There’s nothing special about it other than a great hull and some really good setup work. It’s something we could reproduce for any client without having to give up the luxury the boat is known for.”
“During my whole career, I have watched guys chase speed numbers,” said Peter Roberts. “They are the guys you don’t hear from for a while until they post a number. Then you see them at the first half of a poker run—and you don’t see them again. Now we can give our customers a product that is exciting and starts every time you turn the key and puts the fun back into boating. We’ve never had this before in boating, and it’s really exciting, to tell the truth.”
Jean-Luc Sigouin and Cedric and Etienne Derosiers, who have opened a boat-sales division of Sig-nature in Laval, Quebec, share the Roberts brothers’ excitement. Longtime Double R Performance/Nor-Tech customers, Sigouin and the Derosiers bought the 101-mph center console as a demo boat, and Roberts said he sees “plenty of opportunity” for the duo to sell Nor-Tech center consoles in the Quebec area.
To enable Verado 400R-powered center console owners to fine-tune performance, Mercury Racing is offering the stainless steel, 15-inch-diameter MAX5 propellers in pitches from 23 to 33-1/2 inches in half-inch pitch increments. All MAX5 props are lab-finished at Mercury Racing, and they’re already creating buzz in the performance boatbuilding community. Sunsation Boats, for example, currently is working with MAX5 wheels on the setup of 32-foot center console powered by triple Verado 400Rs.
As for what Verado 400R-inspired product will come next from Mercury Racing, only the folks inside the company know for sure. But there’s a good chance that it will be unveiled—once again—on the street.