Let’s get this out of the way right now: Simply being able to afford one of the fast high-performance catamarans or V-bottoms in this article isn’t a good enough reason to buy one. A boat traveling at a 150 MPH—not an uncommon speed for cats these days—covers 220 feet per second, just 80 feet shy of a football field. It is for all intents and purposes an aquatic ballistic missile that comes with inherent risk and a massive amount of responsibility. The folks who own and run today’s fastest pleasure boats took years building up to them. There’s no substitute for experience in this realm.
And none of it comes cheap. The boats you’ll read about in this article start at close to $400,000 and top out at more than $1 million. Costs of ownership include maintenance of high-performance marine engines from the likes of Mercury Racing, fuel and insurance from companies such as Wozencraft Insurance Agency. Speed on the water definitely is not for the faint of wallet, much less heart.
And now that we have all the disclaimers out of the way, there’s nothing like rocketing across the water at high speed. It’s a blast, a unique rush in one of the last frontiers where going as fast as you can isn’t—for the most part with notable exceptions—illegal. Perhaps the best way to look at what’s out there isn’t by boat model. Maybe the best question really is: How fast do you want to go within the parameters of skill and experience emphasized above?
With that in mind, here’s a basic guide on some of the fastest pleasure boats in the world.
100 to 120 MPH
With outboard-powered sport catamarans sales white-hot for the past few years, buyers in this speed range will be best served by staying within this market segment. So if you want a sport cat, you’ll probably be looking at a DCB Performance Boats M28R, an MTI 340X, a Skater Powerboats 318 or a Wright Performance 360 as your highest-quality options. All these models will be powered by twin Mercury Racing Verado 400R outboard engines, and any knowledgeable performance-boat enthusiast would be delighted to own any one of them.
120 to 150 MPH
In this speed range, buyers still have both V-bottom and catamaran options. On the V-bottom side, Cigarette Racing Team offers three models—the 39 Top Gun, the 42 Tiger and the 50 Marauder—that can fill the bill if powered by Mercury Racing 1550/1350 power-adjustable engines, or Mercury Racing 1350 engines. Though Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats also offers a host of sit-down and stand-up cockpit V-bottoms, the company’s SV 43 is a stunner that can walk the 120- to 140-MPH walk with a pair of Mercury Racing 1350 engines. Now, if you’re looking at a V-bottom that reach 150 MPH and beyond, you’re most viable option is an Outerlimits SV 50 with Mercury Racing 1550/1350 engines.
150 to 170 MPH
While a few V-bottom pleasure boats have exceeded 150 MPH, they haven’t exceeded it by much. Yes, a 51-foot canopied Outerlimits with 4,000 HP under the hatch and a 43-foot open-cockpit Black Thunder tied for a top speed of 161 MPH at this summer’s Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri, but those are exceptions, not rules. If you want to go faster than 150 MPH, you’re looking at a catamaran.
DCB Performance Boats’ M35, M41 and M44 will answer that call if powered with Mercury Racing 1550/1350 engines. With Mercury Racing 1650 engines, 48- and 52-foot open-cockpit and pleasure catamarans from MTI also will approach the upper end of this speed range, as will a Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran with Mercury Racing 1550/1350 or (for those who don’t need the last few miles per hour) 1350s.
Mystic Powerboats also offers a couple of outrageous catamarans, the C5000 and C4400, that easily meet the 150- to 170-MPH speed criteria with Mercury Racing 1550/1350 and 1350 power. But to be fair, they’ll be harder to come by as the company’s focus now is building its 42- and 38-foot luxury center consoles. Would-be Mystic catamaran buyers have to be willing to wait.
Every boat on this list is a big-ticket item, but as noted earlier that comes with the territory. You can find “bargain” catamarans and V-bottoms at lower prices, but you probably don’t want one. Handling speed on the water is a big enough responsibility. The last thing you want to worry about is having hull design or build that isn’t up to the task.
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