If you follow the high-performance sport catamaran segment, meaning go-fast cats 36 feet long and less, you know that outboard engines—led by Mercury Racing’s world-beating Verado 400R—have become the dominant the power choice. But dominant doesn’t mean exclusive, as DCB Performance Boats of El Cajon, California, proved in mid-December with an M31 Widebody series catamaran powered by twin Mercury Racing 860 engines released at the 2017 Miami International Boat Show.
The build is notable on a few fronts. It wasn’t just DCB’s first 31-foot catamaran with the 860 HP engines—it was the first catamaran to be set up with pair of the engines, period. To date, only a couple of go-fast V-bottom builders have completed boats with the 860s. Those engines aren’t just the least powerful offerings in Mercury Racing QC4v family that extends all the way up to a 1,750 HP beast, they are its only naturally aspirated engines. All the rest are turbocharged.
Built for Canadian performance boater Terry Everson, who owned a DCB M29 with twin Mercury 565 engines, the striking M31 Widebody featuring a pearl-enhanced orange and charcoal gray gelcoat sparkled under the lens of photographer Tom Leigh and shined bright during initial performance tests for DCB’s Tony Chiaramonte and Mercury Racing’s Mike Griffiths.
“We’ve been playing with propellers and drive setup for the last couple of days and we’ve made some great strides,” Chiaramonte said. “Mercury has gone above and beyond the call of duty—they always do. Mike (Griffiths, Mercury Racing’s product manager), Johnny (Bauer, lead tech calibrator/engineer) and Nick (Nida, product integration electrical engineer) were here checking everything out and using their computers to go over every little detail.”
In initial test, Chiaramonte ran the 31-foot cat to 142 MPH with the engine turning 6,800 rpm and the boat “light on fuel.”
“There’s more in it for sure,” he said. “We’re going to try a few other things with some different gear setups and propellers after the New Year and see if we can reach the boat’s ideal setup. I believe it is capable of running 145 mph or more without sacrificing hole-shot and midrange acceleration.”
For purposes of comparison, an M31 powered by now-discontinued Mercury Racing 700 SCi engines (the 860 replaces them in the engine builder’s line) typically topped out in the 130 MPH range, according to Chiaramonte. DCB has three more boats on order with 860 engines—two M31s and an M35 Widebody, all of which are expected to hit the water this year.
Said Mercury Racing’s Griffiths, “This is the first 860-powered boat I’ve supported and it went a little better than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, we put a lot of work into the setup and still don’t have it just right but the progress is there and the boat shows a lot of promise. It handles amazing and the engines respond nicely when you give them some throttle. It feels like a definite step up from the 700SCi platform.”