Tested by Erwin Bursik (September/October 2007)
AT A GLANCE
Length: 6.7m (21ft 6in)
Draught: ±300mm, motors trimmed up
Construction: GRP with marine ply stiffened deck and transom
Flotation: 2 400 litre foam-filled bunkheads
Hull dry weight: 750kg
Fuel capacity: Primary – 6×25 litre jerry cans; secondary – 20×25 litre jerry cans
Rated max hp: 2 x F150hp
Power as tested: 2 x F100hp fuel-injected Yamahas
Price as tested: Base price R400 000 + R80 000 extras
EVER since he started his business, Frans Haasbrook of Striker Boats in Pretoria has wanted to build and market his own range of offshore fishing craft.
Back in 2000 Frans designed the top-deck layout for the Striker 180 and commissioned one of the premier boat-builders in South Africa to build these craft. He successfully marketed the Striker 180 for many years, but his dream was to have his own craft, from keel to T-top, manufactured under his control. He wanted a boat that he could promote to serious anglers within the offshore community of South Africa, and so the Striker 66, a centre console 22ft sportfishing catamaran, was born.
Although I first saw Frans’s new craft at the Guinjata Bay Species Bonanza, I delayed scrutinising her until the scheduled boat test. On the due date, and before the appointed hour, Frans had towed the Striker 66 down onto the beach at Vetch’s, to park her in front of the Durban Ski-Boat Club, ready for launching.
Allicat, as she has been named by her new owner, looked very impressive taking centre stage alone, not surrounded by all the other craft as she was at Guinjata.
Her lines, especially in the prow area, are somewhat different from other similar-size boats and accentuate the boldness of her shoulders, to give her strong visual appeal both on the trailer and at sea.
I am very keen to see the forward console model that will be Frans’s next model to be launched. From what I’ve already seen and experienced, I’m sure that craft will really impress.
CONDITIONS FOR TEST
Vetch’s was postcard-perfect — blue water that hardly rippled onto the beach with the outgoing tide, with soft, early morning sunlight shining on the bay which was protected from the strong north-westerly (land breeze) that was blowing down the Umgeni Valley, causing a choppy sea out deep.
It was a nice change from the very big cold front that had wrapped most of South Africa with a blanket of snow just three days before.
At sea the westerly swell was still evident, and with the land breeze pushing up a good chop, I had the best of both worlds in which to test the Striker 66 — flat water along the Durban beachfront, and sufficient chop and swell to see how she handled these conditions way out at sea.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
A Tomcat trailer manufactured on the Reef had been selected for the Striker 66. This trailer had just carried the craft to Guinjata and back across terrible roads, and then, just two weeks later, had driven to Durban for this test. If it can handle all that, I would say it’s proof enough that this trailer really works. With the aid of Durban Ski-Boat Club’s tractor, the craft was royally deposited into the sea where Frans and I turned her around very easily in the knee-deep water in which she was floating.
A slightly wrong angle of trailer-to-boat initially complicated the reloading of the craft on our return, but once she was correctly positioned, the Striker 66 slid easily up onto the trailer in only a few minutes, with the aid of Frans’s 4 litre 4×4 and a Warn Winch. This exercise was in keeping with the way the craft was loaded and unloaded at Guinjata under more difficult conditions.
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
With Frans being a Yamaha dealer in Centurion Park, Pretoria, it is not surprising that a pair of F100hp 4-stroke fuel-injected motors had been bolted to the transom of the Striker 66.
As we prepared the craft for launching, Frans fired up the motors which had not been run since their flushdown and service after Guinjata. One click of the key and the motors fired up instantaneously — very impressive and proof that motors have come a long, long way over the last few decades. I can still remember the days when we had to coax outboards to start before the batteries went flat. Swinging 17 pitch props, these two Yamahas produced more than sufficient power throughout the range of tests I did to assess the craft’s performance at sea.
What still surprises me, though, is that Yamaha has not yet come up with a beaching kit to avoid the skipper having to hang over the transom to manually unscrew the hydraulic release system.
For me the most interesting part of doing boat tests is the first few minutes aboard a new model craft. In those few minutes, I’m trying to get to know the controls and other instrumentation, and trying to grasp the numerous facets of hull-over-water idiosyncrasies, to put together in my mind an idea of what I can expect during the specific on-water trials I am about to undertake.
My initial time aboard the Striker 66 was no different. An easy launch and motors with which I am familiar allowed me to concentrate on the craft herself — and fully assess my initial perceptions — as I spun her around Vetch’s basin while waiting for the photo boat to be launched. Based on these initial perceptions and what I subsequently witnessed during the photo-shoot, I was really looking forward to spending a lot more time on the Striker 66.
That time finally came: Frans and I were soon heading out of the protected water to where the south-westerly swell and 15 knot land breeze were kicking up a fair sea.
Before launching I had noticed the boat’s interesting hull design which incorporates fairly broad planing strakes. While these strakes would undoubtedly help her to get up onto the plane quickly, I was keen to see whether they would make the craft’s ride any harder. Once out in the deep I was able to quickly answer that question: this craft rides extremely softly, and in the seas we experienced, regardless of speed, I experienced no pounding at all.
What I did establish early on in my handling of the craft was that, for a craft of this size, she reacts very quickly to motor trim. I found that in tight turns, both to port and starboard, I got far better performance and very minimal cavitation — as well as quicker out-the-hole performance — when I had the motor’s trimmed right in. However, as soon as I got her up and running, she liked to have her bow raised quite a lot to maximise both her ride forward as well as lateral stability.
Having twin 100hp motors on a 22ft craft is certainly not excessive. In fact, I would normally have considered her marginally underpowered, especially with 4-stroke motors. However, throughout the test I never felt that I was in need of extra power.
The twin Yamahas performed beautifully, with power coming in as quickly as I demanded it, especially during out-the-hole trials, having come through exceedingly tight turns as one could experience during a surf launch. I believe the propellers that were selected for Allicat were the right ones, and questioned any need for Frans to further experiment with props.
Throughout the trials I did — from slow troll right up to the 8.5 knots generally accepted for kona trolling — I found her ride to be most comfortable and dry.
At fairly fast speeds directly into the chop, even with opposing directions of swell, she tracked a very even course and with a surprisingly soft ride. Running with the swell with her bow elevated is great, although I must add that I had no steep faces to the swell as one finds with a really big sea.
Settling onto a drift she sits well on the water with her high sides offering a lot of protection and stability to the crew. Her extended transom prevents all but the odd exceptional wave from coming onto the deck via the transom gate.
The Striker 66 rides and performs exceptionally well in the conditions in which I tried her out, and provides a good fishing platform for the serious offshore gamefisherman.
Making a centre console craft comfortably fishable, while at the same time ensuring the craft is aesthetically pleasing, is not an easy design task. Frans has done well by incorporating a lot of flair in the console itself, as well as streamlining and adding flair to the inside of the gunnel facings.
On this 22ft craft he has also moved the console a good way forward, thus ensuring that there’s plenty of fishing deck space aft of the helm station.
On the boat I tested, an above-deck moveable coffin hatch was positioned in this fishdeck area. There was ample space to walk around it, and it supplied the seating and storage so necessary during a long day at sea. This hatch can be removed completely to either provide a big open deck or, alternatively, to fit a fighting chair.
The captain’s seat, normally a bum-rest-style version for use while launching, quickly converts into a comfortable normal seat with a backrest for comfort after the excitement of the launch and during the normally long run to the fishing grounds. Incorporated in the stylish centre console is not only ample space for all the gauges and instrumentation, but also a fair amount of storage, including a bank of tackle drawers. I found that this helm-station was very comfortable for the skipper — both physically and practically for viewing all the gauges, sounder and GPS.
With six big stainless-steel bolts, the T-top — made of marine-grade aluminium — can be raised before launching or lowered for towing. It took just five minutes with Frans himself doing all the bolting up. The end result is an extremely rigid T-top, definitely worth the short time spent rigging it up.
In the transom area he has fitted two Luna Tubes in the port side, a washbasin on the starboard side and a livebait well in the centre as part of the boarding platform. Finally, flush-deck fuel-, fish- and insulated cold hatches are provided in each sponson. With the fuel hatch able to hold six fuel cans, this gives one many miles at sea on the two F100hp Yamaha 4-strokes.
Frans is well known for the novel ideas he builds into his craft, and the Striker 66 is no different. He has implemented many on this boat — far too many to cover in this article — but more importantly, he has endeavoured to maintain a high standard of finish throughout, at the same time incorporating a great many good quality features to augment the hardware.
A lot of effort had been put into ensuring the craft I tested was immaculate, with every detail well and solidly made. Above all, everything worked. Be it a hatch-cover or a pump to fill the Luna Tubes, everything I examined or used did what it was supposed to — a welcome change for a new craft.
The Striker 66 is not a small craft, but she has been designed so that she can be towed without much stress to long-distance destinations such as Guinjata with a reasonably powerful 4×4. She fulfils all the requirements of the serious sportfisherman more than adequately with regards to fishability, and is a stylish craft to boot.
With the Striker 66 now well and truly blooded after competing in a major competition and having survived my stringent testing of her, I can only wish her new owner a great deal of happiness with his new boat, an excellent purchase indeed.
All I now need to see is Frans’s forward console model of the Striker 66. I am convinced that she too will have all the makings of a great offshore fishing craft.