SA boat builders riding high

11 January 2006

The latest product of South Africa’s vibrant boat-building industry – a first-of-its-kind high-speed luxury catamaran that sold off the drawing board to an American buyer for R7.5-million – was launched in Cape Town recently ahead of its debut at the 2007 Miami Boatshow.

The Stealth 540 – dubbed the Flying Gurnard – is the most advanced power catamaran yet built in South Africa. The hydrofoil-assisted craft is equipped with “hysucat” technology developed by Professor Karl-Gunter Hoppe from the University of Stellenbosch.

‘Q-speed’ propulsion system
According to Stealth Yachts, this combines the power of twin Man 800 horsepower diesel engines with the revolutionary “Q-speed” propulsion system – which means the propellors are surface piercing and never fully in the water – to give extraordinary speed and fuel efficiency.

The Flying Gurnard is expected to achieve a maximum speed of 45 knots, but will cruise for up to 1 000 miles at 28 to 30 knots using only 55 litres of diesel per hour – compared to about 150 litres per hour for a similar power boat moving at only 22 knots.

The Stealth 540 will debut at the Miami Boatshow in February before heading to the Americas Cup in Valencia, Spain – where South Africa’s Team Shosholoza will be participating – in May.

One-third of global catamaran sales
South Africa’s boat-building industry is drawing increasing global interest. Almost every week now a new luxury catamaran is launched at Cape Town’s Waterfront harbour before setting sail for its new owners, a large number of whom are based in America and Europe.

Reporting on the Stealth 540 launch in December, Reuters correspondent Wendell Roelf said it was one of a record 290 luxury boats expected to be launched from South Africa in 2006, with most local boat builders now averaging around four yachts a year compared to around one a year 12 years ago.

“A few years ago SA held only 0.5% of the sailing catamaran market,” Roelf writes. “Today it accounts for 30% of global sales, says International Boating Industry magazine.”

Besides sailing catamarans, Roelf reports, SA has also established a global presence in four other markets: power catamarans, large mono-hulled yachts, inflatable boats and ocean-going kayaks.

Bruce Tedder, chairman of the Cape Town Boatbuilding Initiative (CTBi), said the industry was now worth about R1.5-billion and employed about 3 500 people in the Western Cape, where most of the country’s boat-builders are located.

Referring to Stealth Yachts’ second high-speed luxury catamaran – the first was also sold to an American – Tedder said that while SA enjoyed a fair amount of respect globally when it came to boat-building, the industry had never been renowned for building high-speed luxury powerboats.

“We are, however, consistently raising the bar”.

The Stealth 540, he said, was “a new style of boat and this is the first one of its kind in the world and a great vote of confidence.” reporter

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