The great thing about the Shootout is all the variety: from pontoons to catamarans, PWCs to V-Hulls, everybody comes with a “run what you brung” attitude and they leave it all on the water. But when it comes to the debate about the best and the fastest, two types divide powerboaters: catamarans and V-Hulls.
Some people just can’t help themselves: they’re Cat lovers. And for good cause: Cats have risen to the top, in the world of high performance boat racing. As a matter of fact, the 2015 LOTO Shootout Top Gun American Ethanol was a 51’ Mystic Cat driven by Myrick Coil and John Cosker.
Another Cat, perhaps the fastest Cat in the world, holds the all-time top LOTO Shootout speed record. In 2014, the 50-foot Mystic Powerboats catamaran Al Adaa’am 96 driven by owner/driver Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani of Qatar and British throttleman Steve Curtis set down a jaw-dropping 244 mph run that awed fans up and down the Shootout race course.
And—sorry V-Hull fans, we’ll get to you—the LOTO Shootout top speed record before the Sheikh’s was held by a Cat. Bill Tomlinson and Ken Kehoe set the former record of 224 mph in “My Way,” a 50 ft. Mystic Powerboats Cat in 2013. The top three fastest LOTO Shootout boats have all been Cats. Other fast and famous Cats include Recycler 3, Performance Boat Center, Bacardi Silver, Bud Light, Gone Again, 2nd Amendment, and Budweiser.
But is a Cat better than a V-Hull? It depends on who you are talking to and what they want out of a boat.
Cat lovers have a saying, “If it isn’t a Cat… then it’s a dog.” Cats are built with serious go-fast hardware and can go 40 to 50 mph faster with the same set up as a V-Hull. They are also said to be more stable at high speeds. Cat lovers contend the boat is built lighter, with two parallel hulls of equal size and a wide stabilizing beam. That makes for less hydrodynamic resistance than a V-Hull, meaning less propulsion power is required.
V-Hulls, on the other hand, are shaped… well, like a V… the pointy end is the bow and the open end is the stern. But there are two different types of V-Hulls: stepped and conventional. Stepped V-Hulls are faster and feature a running surface with up to five different plane surfaces, or steps, made by breaks that run across the bottom. As the boat picks up speed it rides farther and farther on the back planes, thus reducing drag and increasing power and speed. Conventional hulls have no running surface elevation changes.
Cat lovers prefer their dual-hulls because the tunnel in between them packs air, which reduces the boat’s weight in the water. Lighter = faster. As a Cat picks up speed, it becomes more efficient because the boat is essentially lifted out of the water and rides on a pillow of air, making it less hydrodynamic and more aerodynamic. The boat is still riding on water, but very little water. Is that safe? “Any time you go fast, safety is questionable, but you have a lot of control in a Cat and you can always slow down,” World Champion Power Boat Racer Myrick Coil said. “I feel like I have a lot of control in a Cat because I am dealing with aerodynamics and not hydrodynamics.”
“The Sterling Performance Turbo did 195 mph at a LOTO Shootout and it is one of the hardest pulling boats I have ever driven,” Coil remembered.
But Coil also commends the V-Hull because it has more usable area, so there can be a below-deck cabin. Most Cats don’t have that much space: a 40 ft. Cat can hold five people whereas a 40 ft. V-Hull center console can hold upwards of 18 people.
But praise for V-Hulls need not be relegated to the realm of utility. There are some well known V-Hulls that can flat-out soar. Famous ones include Performance Boat Center’s 52 ft. Outerlimits, Cigarette’s 42X, The Nth Degree, BioKleen and Roger Neighbor’s 42’ Poker Run Fountain.
One huge advantage V-Hulls have over cats is their stability in rough conditions. “V-bottoms are known for cutting through rough waves caused by big wind,” Coil explained. “Wind does not affect a V-bottom as severely as a Cat because the Cat is up on top of the water and a V-Hull can dissipate the water better. Instead of hitting it hard, it cuts through the water.” Though maybe not a dealbreaker, another advantage of V-Hulls is their comparative ease of transport. Cats are high maintenance when traveling. Their owners have to get a permit to legally haul it, and the boats will only fit on a tilt trailer.
In both categories, three main manufacturers are neck-and-neck in vying for the hearts (and dollars) of powerboaters, as well as the first-place prize in races. For Cats, it’s MTI, Douglas Marine Skater and Mystic Powerboats. For V-Hulls, it comes down to Cigarette, Outerlimits and Fountain. Mike Janssen’s Snowy Mountain Brewery, a 29’ Outerlimits V-Hull, won the 2015 Shootout Top Gun Bravo V class with driver Maddie Janssen hitting 104 mph. “A V-Hull has a much smoother ride and they navigate through the water better than a Cat,” Mike Janssen said. “It’s the same as comparing driving a car to driving a motorcycle.”
“If you want to go really fast, a Cat is better,” racer John Tomlinson once said. But a V-Hull that does 145 mph is not exactly slow: Dennis Parvey hit that in his 43’ GT Black Thunder V-Hull, taking the Top Gun Non-Professional V category in the 2015 Shootout. Parvey has never seen how fast his Black Thunder can go. His reason: “Going 150 mph in a V-Hull is not very relaxing.”
Comparing the two boat types, Parvey said, “There is more room under the deck, a V-Hull is easier to insure, and they are easier to trailer.” He can also shower and sleep four comfortably on his boat. But, he added, “For everything else, a Cat is better.”
And the debate rages on.