BOAT TEST BENETEAU BARRACUDA 9
A boat for all seasons, the Barracuda 9 should ensure the French builder’s new concept appeals to a wider variety of boaters, reports KEVIN GREEN
Beneteau's latest powerboat concept, the Barracuda 9, is a 29-footer with broad appeal. The centre cockpit layout is aimed at cruisers, occasional anglers or those seeking an economical and fast offshore runabout. The French boating giant is flexing its muscles in several new market segments - with its luxury Flyer GT49 and now the sports-runabout area - which should worry a few niche builders if this Barracuda is anything to go by. Available in flybridge or wheelhouse versions, and with various outboard engine options, entry-level pricing is sharp, just like the bow of this all-rounder.
On deck the Barracuda is well laid out - maximising cockpit space both fore and aft. The transom area could easily accommodate several anglers (with four rodholders), while the flip-up table has weather protection from the wheelhouse overhang, and enough room leftover for a barby on the back. Other options I've seen on American versions include small sink-wetbar and sun shade. Cleats are fixed under the topsides via hawsepipes, which rather complicates tying up, but in the bow are better placed - on the gunwales.
The self-draining cockpit base hides three lockable hatches on gas struts. At anchor the twin swimplatforms (with starboardside ladder) and cockpit shower should keep all the family happy, with hot water an option as well.
Moving around the centre console wheelhouse is safe thanks to the deep (75cm) bulwarks, wide decks and numerous stainless steel handrails. Up front, a two-person sunpad is integrated into the wheelhouse, while two moulded seats create a social area here as well. The review boat came with the optional Lewmar 700 W vertical windlass, with chain locker portside and fender locker beside it.
The wheelhouse is dominated by the (overly) large console seats finished in PVC - perhaps the passenger one could be replaced by a leaning post to give some usable floor space - while headroom is good at 1.97m. Onboard console smarts include the 10in Lowrance MFD (HDS10), Maxpower thruster buttons and twin digital engine rev readouts. One slight niggle is that the rev counters are rather far apart on the console - and another is the wheelhouse door handles can trap unwary hands against the bulkhead when closing.
All-round vision is available from the starboardside helm and the rear window opens, while curtains give privacy (and sun protection). The opening skylight (with Ocean Air blinds) adds ventilation as well.
At the rear of the wheelhouse, twin drop-down tables (with fiddles) and a wide bench seat, with foot-level 42lt Waeco fridge, creates a useful dinette area. For cooking, a portable single-burner stove is supplied, but a barbecue on the outside rail would be a good option.
Power choices are somewhat limited with the outboards, but Beneteau tell me they are constantly being asked to fit generators into smaller boats, so watch this space on that score. There is a 12V 110amp/h service battery in the cockpit locker plus 220V circuit and 25amp/h charger.
Moving down below, by flipping up the chart table, the Barracuda's vee-berth with PVC mattress is basic but sufficient for a long weekend away. The adjoining toilet again is fine and only marred by an inch lacking in headroom. However, the manual toilet, opening hatch and tap/shower head are well thought out and the moulded cubicle is easy to clean.
The overall joinery (Alpi wood) and finish reflects the state-of-the-art CNC machining, so all the veneered plywood fits precisely and is practical as well as economical.
The two-person flybridge is reached by a portside ladder and has a footwell deep enough to feel secure - even when banked into tight high-speed turns. The console ergonomics are good with clear instrumentation (twin engine-rpm counters, electronic throttles with integrated engine trim buttons, and daylight-readable Lowrance 7in multifunction display). Other controls included the electric trim tab buttons, joystick for the Maxpower thruster and behind the seat, a strut for the optional radar. For the Australian market the optional bimini would be recommended option.
Plenty of flare and hard chines with pronounced vee gives the Barracuda an offshore-style underwater profile for the polyester-laid hull. Living up to its predatory fish name, a steeply raked bow combined with the trawler-style wheelhouse and flares give an aggressive silhouette that also manages to maximise volume.
Inside, sea-level decks ensure the Barracuda has plenty of stability, while Beneteau's patented Air Step hull sucks in air via indentations and distributes it below the flat aft section. This is intended to induce early planing and provide a smoother ride. Stability is also greatly helped with the twin 200hp Mercury Varados - the maximum rated for this hull - but there are several more economical options available. These range from a single-engined 225hp Yamaha, twin Suzukis, smaller Mercurys and for the wheelhouse-only model, cable throttled twin 200hp Hondas. The decision will vary of course according to your kind of fun - with perhaps waterskiers on one end of the spectrum and fuel-efficient cruising sailors at the other.
Putting to sea in the Barracuda 9 went without dramas in the tight marina, thanks to its compact size, Maxpower thuster and light steering. Jumping onto the wheel of this boat from the Flyer GT44 also wasn't a letdown and in fact, much more fun than its bigger, heavier sibling. Okay, we felt the chop more and the hull bounced a bit in acceleration, but once on the plane the ride felt secure and high-speed turns assured thanks to the chines digging in and the powerful 200hp Mercs driving us through (rather than sliding over) the turns.
I raced through figure of eights with aplomb - aided greatly by unimpeded views from the flybridge - while the sharp bow cut through our wake without wetting the cameraman on the sidedecks once. Tight turns, approximately 75m diameter, were also done without fuss.
Inside the sealed wheelhouse I chatted to the Beneteau representative without raising my voice - for the record our sound meter showed 75dB at cruising speed while at top speed it only increased to 79dB. Also, crashing through some larger chop brought negligible rattles from inside the hull, so all good there as well.
During our speed test done in small chop, a dab on the motor-tilt buttons (integrated on the electronic throttle controls) added a knot to the 37kts top speed (5800rpm) we attained. At this speed, fuel consumption nearly trebled to 168lt/h for the twin 200s (from an economical 62lt/h at the 20-knot cruising speed with 4000rpm showing).
Also worth noting is acceleration - with four of us onboard I reached top speed in approximately 18 seconds without using the electric trim tabs. In fact, the tabs weren't needed during our outing because once the hull was on the plane (at about 20kts) the trim flattened out nicely allowing clear views from the wheelhouse console. But you can bring along plenty mates for that weekend fishing trip as the hull is licensed to carry 10.
Changing the pace and the tempo to slow manoeuvring, another plus was minimal lag from the electronic throttles when a dab of power was needed - not up to cable controls, but pretty good.
'A boat for all seasons' is one way to sum-up the Barracuda 9, so its appeal should be wide thanks to useable inside space, a well thought-out deck and enough options to satisfy many budgets.
The Barracuda 9 is a great all-round runabout with many big pluses, including family-friendly decks, spacious hull, secure wheelhouse and at an entry-level price (thanks to outboards rather than an inboard engine) that makes it very affordable. Only downside is fuel consumption for the big outboards, which may deter buyers seeking a more economical cruising lifestyle.
BENETEAU BARRACUDA 9
PRICE AS TESTED
<B>$180,712</B> (inc. GST) w/ twin 200hp Mercurys, flybridge, Elegance pack, and electronic pack)
Lowrance Marine Pack ( 7in HDS multifunction display on flybridge and 10in MFD inside), Lewmar 700 W Vertical electrical windlass, 42lt fridge, bowthruster and 25lt water heater.
<B>$137,751</B> (inc. GST) w/ single 250hp Suzuki
TYPE: Hard-chine modified-vee
LENGTH OVERALL: 8.81m
DRAFT: 0.56m to 0.62m
PEOPLE (NIGHT): Two
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Mercury Verado
TYPE: Supercharged four-cylinder four-stroke outboard
RATED HP: 200
WEIGHT: 231kg (each)
Jones Bay Wharf,
19-21 Lower Deck, Suite 90,
26-32 Pirrama Road,
Pyrmont, NSW, 2009
Phone: (02) 9518 6977
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 426, Apr-May, 2012. Photos & images by Kevin Green; Beneteau.
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