(SKI-BOAT September/October 2003)
Flotation: 1 litre bottles
Hull weight: 950kg
Weight on trailer: 2 200kg
Rated min & max hp: 2 x 75hp /2 x 135hp
Power as tested: 2 x 115hp Mercury (2-stroke & 4-stroke EFI on different boats)
Basic retail price: R87 450,00
OVER the years Mallards and Cobra have become synonymous with top-of-the-range ski-boats. Despite this status, Mallards have not rested on their laurels and have continuously taken the Cobra design closer to perfection and step-by-step are building up this range of craft.
The 525 was launched in 2000 and has, over the intervening years, proved to be a highly successful boat. Geoff and Mike Barnes then took the next step by designing a Cobra that was longer and bigger in all respects, to create a model between the 525 and 625 Cobras. They wanted a model that would suit the serious big game and competition ski-boater, and yet could be surf launched and retrieved with a biggish 4×4 without having to go the very big 4×4 or tractor route. A 19-footer has been a standard in ski-boating for decades, and so the Cobra 585 was conceived.
This model that I was testing is now already established and an 8 metre craft (26 footer) is on the way, with the plug already having been water tested.
The Barnes team never fails to keep me informed about their latest design ideas, and it’s always exciting for me to see a new design going through the conception stage and finally being built. The upside-down hull in its raw stage always leaves a marked impression — after all, it is this aspect of the craft that will be the make or break of her after she is turned over and put on the water.
It is therefore not surprising that when the first finished craft leaves the factory, I am as excited as the manufacturers and new owners when she gets to the water for testing. The Cobra 585 was no different — except perhaps that I was testing Ivanhoe belonging to Dick Pratt, a friend and fishing companion of nigh on 30 years.
CONDITIONS FOR TEST
It was the sort of day one dreams about and the sort of day one needs to go boating — if not fishing. A light south-westerly was blowing, which turned a bit to the south during the test, and there was a small chop over a light swell. Fortunately, in Hell Acre at the end of the Bluff, off Cave Rock, Durban, sufficient roughish water and reasonably sized waves into the beach allowed me to get a good feel of the Cobra 585.
LAUNCHING AND TRAILERING
As Ivanhoe had been launched and water-tested before I arrived at Vetch’s, I didn’t see her being launched, but I did assist Mike in launching Mallards Cobra 585 Demonstrator.
For a craft of that size, the exercise was extremely simple. The trailer worked perfectly, but the shorebreak was minimal — like launching in a dam.
Swift trailers are manufactured in-house by Mallards, and these trailers have the huge advantage for a new owner in that he can be assured they work and work well. Mallards have, over the years, perfected their trailers to withstand the rigours of surf launching and long distance towing, yet are simple to operate.
Mike also taught me a new trick while loading Dick’s boat after the test — don’t pull the boat fully onto the trailer. He left the bow approximately 60cm from the bow chocks. According to Mike this makes it much simpler to jack up the jockey wheel to turn the truck around. Brilliant — why didn’t I think of that years ago?
MOTORS AND CONTROLS
I got lucky — not only did I experience the 115hp Mercury conventional 2-stroke engines Dick has chosen to power Ivanhoe, but was also able to compare the performance of the 115hp Mercury 4-stroke EFI motors Mike had fitted to the Cobra 585 Demonstrator.
While initial torque and feel comparison is natural, I fully realise there is a lot more to deciding what motors to use on a craft than what I could discern in the short time I spent on both boats.
The Mercury 4-strokes were superb, and through the binnacle-style mounted throttle levers the torque achieved was quite pronounced.
It was, however, the twin Mercury 115 conventional 2-strokes that I was testing on Ivanhoe, and throughout the trial they performed beautifully. Not only did they give superb thrust, but they also reacted very smoothly to small changes in throttle settings.
Being motors with less than an hour’s running, I didn’t push them to their limit, especially as she was swinging 19-pitch props. However, as tight as the motors were, they still made the Cobra 585 feel alive while keeping a lot of energy in reserve.
The hydraulic steering system developed and fitted by Mallards worked very effectively during tight turns when under substantial load, yet was still sensitive enough during long runs.
Before continuing I need to mention that the performance of the Cobra 585 Demonstrator, with its radar arch and canvas T-top with clip-on clear plastic shields, was more than interesting as the added wind resistance had no noticeable effect on the craft’s ride. What it did do, however, was provide an enormous amount of protection for the skipper and crew. I really liked the concept.
After that it was onto Ivanhoe with the standard configuration of dash and windscreen. Initially, of course, one does notice a difference in feel of the craft, especially at fast speeds with the wind in one’s face and the sound of the hull over water.
In the prevailing sea — or lack of it — I did some fairly fast runs in an endeavour to determine the most efficient trim setting and consequently maximise her speed and revs at a standard throttle setting. As the Mercury trims have a fast adjustment I had to achieve this with a series of quick touches to the trim button situated in the throttle lever handle.
At 3 200 revs she was achieving a steady 20 knots with the trim indicator just touching the quarter trim-up position. With the trims set right down, both revs and speed dropped quite dramatically, indicating that the craft was having its bow thrust firmly into the water, thereby drastically increasing her wetted area.
After setting her up, we headed out to sea and into the southerly wind that had picked up to about 8 knots. Using speed over chop as an indication of performance, and adding exaggerated trim to this, I could largely determine the effect a bigger sea would have on this hull.
She loves a flatish trajectory, and I re-established the ideal trim mentioned earlier, and with this I was confident in and delighted with her performance. During these runs and the extensive runs we undertook while photographing both craft, I noticed that the spray generated is deflected low and aft, as a result giving the impression that she is very dry.
I well remember the ride of the Cobra 525 and how much I liked that boat. Her big sister, the Cobra 585, has an incredibly similar style ride. In fact, the similarity in ride is uncanny, and I therefore believe that in a big sea she will display the same excellent ride as the Cobra 525.
As an aside, during the recent Guinjata Bay competition I watched very carefully as one of the first 585 Cobras — Rolly Labuschagne’s new Maverick — launched, and I saw how well she handled the often very rough conditions.
Back in Durban, after throwing the craft around in a series of light manoeuvres to prove to myself that nothing would fail when I entered the surf zone at Cave Rock, I took her in and out a few times. She not only rides the swell well, but also comes about very quickly and takes off with alacrity. During these runs I trimmed her bow down as I would do if I was surf launching her. During beaching, however, I would leave her bow slightly trimmed up.
A long run with the sea showed no adverse tendencies, and even at high speed she reacted positively, showing no tendency to drop a sponson. She also tracks very well in broken water.
Trolling both at low speeds and at 6/7 knots she gave an extremely comfortable ride, no matter what direction we trolled in. Due to the lack of big seas, I was unable to determine how much spray she would throw when trolling directly into the wind, but word from those who have tried the Cobra 585 in these conditions is that I would be more than happy with this aspect of her performance.
On the drift the Cobra 585 is very stable, floats with a level deck and, above all, takes no water through the back scuppers, even when drifting with the stern into the chop.
Mallards have, over the years, developed a style of deck layout that works. It’s simple, extremely neat and, above all, practical. Therefore, unless specifically changed by a client, the fishdeck and console areas are pretty standard. When aboard a Cobra Cat, you know it’s just that — a Cobra. In saying that, Dick did change the walkthrough deck configuration of his Cobra 585 because he says he has never anchored and doesn’t intend starting now. In this respect Ivanhoe and the Cobra Demonstrator were different.
The Cobra 585 styling involves maximising the deck/cockpit area, thereby giving the impression of being a much bigger craft. The aft fuel hatch carries three tanks a side, and ahead of these are large fish hatches. A centre coffin hatch with upholstered seat top is optional. Dick has a centre coffin hatch that bolts down, using the fighting chair base to do this. It’s neat but not excessively large, and therefore leaves plenty of area around it to walk and fish.
Under-carpet high-density foam has been incorporated within the cockpit area, affording an extremely soft underfoot standing area — a boon during a long day at sea.
The positioning of the windscreen, the steering and controls was ideal for a person my height. Dick had the standard windscreen slightly lowered to give his wife, Jackie, that same comfort.
Mike’s Demonstrator also has the radar arch on which he had just installed the collapsible T-top and “clears” which form the fully enclosed cockpit area. It’s very practical while at sea, and also while towing, because the T-top and the radar arch pivots both collapse backwards.
As an accessory the clears are really worth having because they undoubtedly afford the skipper and crew a lot more protection and are practical. In the heat of summer all one has to do is unclip the clear plastic sheets, and as a bonus they don’t affect the craft’s ride.
Mallards finish is and always has been very, very good, and the two Cobra 585s I played with were no exception. I felt very much like the schoolmaster, desperately searching for reasons not to give full marks for an outstanding project. The Mallards Cobra 585s that I looked at with more than an eagle eye were outstanding.
When I look at a craft in this context, it is not just the visual/cosmetic niceties. It’s the whole package — the strength of construction, especially accessories, the smoothness and blemish-free mouldings of both hull and top deck, plus the thought and execution of the finishing work of the entire boat from design and manufacture of bow roller to transom moulding of the motors.
A few decades ago, in ski-boat terms, owning a 19ft craft was the epitome of having “made it” in the boating world. This was because a 19ft craft seemed to sail over the seas better than any other size craft, and at the time was the most practical size boat that could be beach launched.
It also allowed competitive anglers to fish hard yet comfortably in adverse sea conditions, and with the introduction of billfishing was the right size craft to target the biggest marlin off our coast. Most of these factors still hold true today. Sure, there are bigger craft available, but in my opinion the 19 footer is still the ideal sized ski-boat.
The Cobra 585 is just that — an ideal ski-boat in many, many respects, for most applications, from bottomfishing to gamefishing. She will certainly bring an enormous amount of pleasure and pride to those who become the owner of a new Cobra 585.