Tested by Erwin Bursik (July/August 2010)
SMOOTH … VERY SMOOTH
LYING on the beach at Guinjata, ready to be pushed into the water to face the reasonably high surf was a mighty big, mighty beautiful cat. Pierre Barnard, who was on the beach with me, told me this was the Josephs’ new World Cat. Memories flooded back to the craft that were so stunningly displayed at the Miami Boat Show I attended a few years back. Despite the hundreds of craft that were on display in Miami, she stood out as something special.
However, apart from viewing her on the beach and hearing numerous comments about her appearance, her quality ride and performance at sea from the many fundis that attended the Guinjata comp, I did not really get up close and personal with that World Cat.
My chance to get a closer look came not long ago when Dave Hoets, Managing Director of Honda Knysna, phoned to inform me that the first World Cat he and Tony Geldenhuys of the Power Cat group had imported from Tarboro, North Carolina, USA, for Mike Griffiths was up and running beautifully. He invited me to visit him at Knysna and experience what he said was “a magnificent craft”.
That’s all it took for me to reschedule my diary and catch the next flight out of Durban to George.
Walking onto the marina at Knysna’s waterfront and seeing the World Cat 270TE (Tournament Express), she sure looked impressive, but not nearly as impressive and beautiful as she did when I saw her a short while later when passing the craft I was on at high speed.
As the World Cat is a semi-displacement hull, she lies fairly deep in the water when she’s alongside her finger moorings. However, she really came into her own once we’d taken her away from the surrounding bigger boats and her full 27ft was powering across the mirror-calm waters of Knysna lagoon with Derek Meintjies at her helm.
Her light-cream-coloured hull and top deck, enhanced by a powder-blue longitudinal panel, running the length of the craft below her high gunnels, highlighted by the watery morning sunlight during late autumn made for one of those “Wow!” moments that would captivate any true boater. What’s more, those magical looks got even better as one got closer and climbed aboard for an up-close and personal inspection.
I used the word “smooth” in the headline for a very specific purpose. World Cat, who manufacture this craft, have over 85 000 cats out on the water worldwide — all of them emanating from their Tarboro factory. They believe they have turned the art of boat building into a science.
This continuous and standardised work flow has been labelled as smooth, a principle they have captured as a corporate philosophy. Indeed, smooth applies to every aspect of the boat and her parent company — smooth in design, smooth in performance, smooth in consistency and smooth in composition — all of this to ensure the smooth transformation from a drum of resin to, in this case, the World Cat 270TE that was delivered halfway around the world.
The only thing not smooth about the sea trials of the World Cat 270TE when I had her controls in my hands was the condition of the sea. It was being pushed by a big southwesterly swell that was trying to force a huge volume of water through the mouth and between the Heads of Knysna’s lagoon. The white water rolled from Head to Head as the outgoing spring tide forced its way out of the lagoon to undercut the incoming swell.
“There’s no way we can go out now,” said the very experienced local skipper Derek Meintjies. “We’ll have to wait until the tide turns and there’s a lull in the tumultuous forces at play between the Heads.”
We thus spent the morning playing with this craft and another of Honda Knysna’s boats, a new Offshore 21, in the “interesting” water which prevailed in the estuary mouth area, until condition calmed sufficiently to allow us to venture from the lagoon and head out to sea.
As I had not exited this lagoon for many years, I got Derek to do the honours and get us safely out to deep water. For those who don’t know Knysna’s Heads, it is a two-tier exit. Firstly, with a port beam sea you have to nip into the semi-protection of a large promontory called Duiker Rock on the western Head, then wait for a break in the swell to duck out to sea and safety.
I have always advocated a reasonably slow speed when exiting though the surf, but Derek, who skippered boats out of Sodwana for many years, virtually idled out to sea, using the reverse current on the west side to get us out past the blinder, and using the surge to create saddles in the shoulders of the oncoming crests. It was one of the neatest displays of skippering I have ever witnessed.
Out at sea the World Cat 270TE became my baby, and after having set her trims to zero, I headed off on a course to the east, which in that area is virtually parallel to the coastline. I gradually increased speed, heading into the chopped-up sea and moderate easterly wind — not a nice sea at all, but great conditions in which to run the World Cat to see if she was as smooth as everyone said she was.
Being a semi-displacement hull, unlike most cats of that size which are planing hulls, she slices through the water’s surface rather than bouncing along the top. Even at high speed, as the craft rises above her low speed draft, she almost never actually planes.
Her manufacturers say that both her carrying capacity and smooth ride are determined by the Vectorflo system they have patented. This system takes the fluid dynamics and uses the unique aerated water created by the hull design to provide a water-cushioned suspension to support the craft at speed.
I admit I was sceptical, but the only way to find out for sure was to test her, so I increased speed and trimmed her so that her bow rose fractionally to provide the craft with a flat trajectory at higher speeds. At about 14/15 knots SOG I was beginning to have reservations, but after reaching 20 knots at just over 3 000rpm she was becoming more and more comfortable. Up I went to 24.5 knots, and then I became a convert — she virtually glided over the ugly, choppy sea. I was very impressed.
During this time I had tweaked her trim to a position I believed maximised her ride and SOG, and I persisted as we rode a good few nautical miles up the coast. On occasions I played with the trim, dramatically trying bow-up or bow-down to get her to ride badly, but at that speed her inherent hull design seemed to control her forward momentum, forcing her to ride at her designed attack stance.
A turn of the wheel had her bow facing into the south and therefore straight out to sea, with the wind and chop on her port bow, but running along the top of the persistent swell. It was a very, very smooth and comfortable ride that needed only marginal lateral aft trimming.
By the time we stopped out in the deep, the sea was big — ideal conditions to see how this craft drifted and slow trolled without the dynamics of water flow being brought into play by SOW (speed over water).
While drifting, this craft settles quite deeply into the water, which immediately has the effect of stabilising her — a fact I noticed strongly persisting throughout the trolling trails.
As an aside, a displacement or semi-displacement hull is designed like all ships and most yachts to push forward through the water, unlike the majority of the ski-boat designs we are used to which, from the first push of the throttles, try to climb out of the water to plane across its surface.
During the period we were drifting, all three of us aboard tried everything we could to get her to start feeling unsafe, including moving in unison around this craft that was being buffeted by some serious chop. Not a chance — she was holding her stance by riding deep in the water. Yes, when the swell and chop happened to coincide there was a degree of lateral instability, but far far less than one would have expected in the prevailing conditions.
Throughout trolling trials, from just over one knot on one motor at idle, to 7.5 knots used to troll konas for billfish — and through a series of large 360° turns over this not-so-nice sea — I was totally satisfied. Not only was she comfortable, but she was also dry, and even though she did not throw the tightest wake at the higher troll speeds, she was still very fishable.
A craft with this design can never turn as quickly as other ski-boats, because she has to drive her 27ft sponsors laterally through the water. But turn she does, using the twin 225hp Hondas she had powering her through this desired manoeuvre. To top that, in the surf through the heads that day she performed more than adequately, thereby proving her ability with regard to running the surf.
Dave Hoets is Honda-obsessed, and during much of the time we were reviewing the World Cat 270TE we were also extracting every ounce of power from the twin Honda VTEC motors. VTEC (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control) motors produce strong torque at low rpm and, at high rpm, maximum horsepower. The low-down torque was apparent the moment I pushed the throttles to generate forward momentum — no jumping out the hole, just speed through the water.
At high speed — just over 3 000 rpm on this craft — one can feel the VTEC come into play as the high-speed cam kicks in hydraulically, and then she flies right through to maximum throttle. Across the lagoon’s flat water we achieved speeds of just over 40 knots SOG. From the perspective of performance, she was really great.
Now, in the limited space available, I will try to describe her incredible beauty and finishes.
The World Cat 270TE has, very obviously, been designed and built with the benefit of a vast amount of on-water experience and small craft manufacturing experience. As a result, the craft itself is a gold mine of attributes ready for the likes of me to nose around and discover. I left the best till last …
While playing with her at sea I got a feel for her overall layout and the helm station, had a good look at the easy-to-read Raymarine instrumentation, and enjoyed the protection provided by this centre console’s solid and practical T-top. But then came the time to inspect the many, many extras that come standard on the World Cat 270TE.
Amongst these, was the independent fuel electrical and steering system and the battery management system for each motor, as well as the power anchor retrieval system with very big anchor rope and chain stowage.
Then there are large fish hatches and livebait wells — all double-insulated — and the fish hatch doubles up as lock-away rod storage when at moorings.
The bilge pump has a macerator placed inline to ensure any debris in the fish hatch being pumped out does not clog up the bilge pump. Twin wash-down facilities provide fresh- and saltwater, while the Gemlux electro-polished stainless-steel hardware, with all flush-mounted lockable hatch openers, finish her off beautifully.
There are also substantial over-sized drainage holes in the self-bailing cockpit, plus built-in non-corrosive polyethylene fuel tanks holding 120 gallons each. The enclosed marine head has easy and practical access and a lockable door.
When it comes to fishing accessories, the World Cat 270TE has telescopic Rupp Top Gun outriggers that are either 15ft or 18ft and can be deployed from under the canopy structure. These are but some of the accessories on this craft and need to be physically seen and inspected to be fully appreciated.
Apart from all this, what really impressed me was the way all these extras were designed into the overall craft mouldings and were fitted with maximum care to ensure the final result was simply superb.
The craft under review has been designed for light tackle offshore gamefishing, as well as cruising and entertaining. With her high internal gunnels, the World Cat 270TE would also be great for stand-up billfishing, and I have no doubt that a fighting chair could be fitted, if required, for heavy tackle marlin fishing.
In overall layout terms this craft has a very substantial aft cockpit area surrounded by a high gunnel which has recessed rod rack stowage. The full transom incorporates large livebait wells and a clever and practical transom door leading to the dive platform and boarding ladder between the motors.
Helm stations on centre console craft are notoriously difficult to design, because you obviously have to provide walkways past it to the foredeck area. This craft, with its 8’6” (2.6m) beam, allows for all these requirements, resulting in a great helm station for the skipper. Further, it allows for two crew members to stand alongside him under the shade of the canopy while travelling.
The area up front, while still practical for fishing, has a strong emphasis on lounging, with a lounge bed and well upholstered seating.
This craft really needs to be inspected up close to be properly appreciated. Words alone cannot possibly convey all that the World Cat 270TE has to offer.
A luxury craft such as the World Cat 270TE is targeted at the top-end of the open offshore fishing and leisure boat market, and as such has to be very special to satisfy the discerning owners of craft like these. I firmly believe that the World Cat 270TE is such a boat: she has everything I have mentioned — and more — and, above all, is both safe and durable.