By: JEFF STRANG, Photography by: ELLEN DEWAR

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The modern and minimalistic VanDutch 40 has a swatch of colours and the fine cut of a tailored suit to deliver the ultimate in 21st century speedboat haute couture

VanDutch 40: straight out of a James Bond film no doubt,

Previously described in this magazine as pure powerboating hedonism the VanDutch 40 is not shy of the limelight. Odds are if you conducted a survey of Australian boat show attendees in 2012 nine out of 10 would recall Coco Noir before any other single vessel on display. And the remaining 10 per cent? Well they'd be the gents too fixated on fishing to make it out of the bargain tents so their votes don't count.

The Netherlands-based parent company Vanguard Design refer to the VanDutch's look as avant-garde, which means innovative or fashion-forward for those like me who need to look it up. Rest assured any suggestion that designer Frank Mulder (also Dutch) found inspiration for this slick café racer from iconic symbols of his homeland like windmills or clogs would be a long way off the mark. Although I have seen pictures of a lipstick-red version, so one could arguably think of a field of tulips - harvested and shot out of a cannon.

Actually the visual imagery produced by a blizzard of red tulip petals wafting in the breeze over this jet-black and rich cream chick magnet could be right on the money (should have thought of that before the photoshoot). Whatever its muse, the VanDutch 40 sure knows how to 'wow' a crowd - especially of the fairer sex. Of course, this ability to turn the heads of the high heeled and well-heeled is no accident and would certainly have been a cornerstone design consideration on the drawing board. Several marketing stunts since its launch in 2010 - the most newsworthy of which would be when a fleet of VD 40s were utilised as VIP tenders for Team Red Bull at the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix - have leveraged off this "feature". More power to them, I say.

Clearly the "Book of Dreams" cannot ignore such a boat and thus Ellen and I found ourselves winging our way to Sydney's Spit for an afternoon rendezvous with this Dutch seductress.

Upon arrival on a picture-perfect afternoon, we were delighted to discover Dennis Van Damme of VanDutch Australia (yes, he looks the part as well), had spared no effort in his preparation for the shoot - the jet-black hull spit-polished to a mirror finish, the faux teak decks flawless. The colour is referred to as jet-black by the company website, but to my eye there is actually the slightest hint of ultra-dark chocolate in the finish making the showboat's name <I>Coco Noir</I> more apt, especially with the double cream finished interior. Stepping aboard and immersing oneself into these rich tones is an almost gastronomic experience.

Clearly the Van Dutch 40 sits in a very different class to the many fine vessels we get to review. Seldom do we see a genuine Euro-styled café racer on our Down Under shoreline - the American built Chris-Craft range would be the closest match in Australia. In a country where so much kudos is given to the vessel that can be all things to all people the VanDutch 40 makes no such claim. I think I can confidently say this boat would never sully herself with uncouth bolt-on appendages like rodholders. As the photos hereabouts show <I>Coco Noir</I> is about looking sexy and going very fast. As a package she turns the heads of most and in particular a very 'specific' cliental.

It is in the lack of accessories that the VanDutch vessel differs most from her American competitors. The European designers have long understood that in many cases less is more - think Coco Chanel next to Kim Kardashian - simplistic, sheer, chic. The VanDutch's lines are clean in the extreme, saying everything and revealing nothing. A near vertical bowline rises like a blade from the water to its apex, where the topsides sweep quickly away with perfect symmetry to an equally understated stern.

That is not to say the vessel lacks features. On the contrary, all that is needed falls easily to hand it's just that you have to look closely to notice any of the boat's compromises to functionality. The anchoring system is an excellent example. A casual observer could easily be forgiven for assuming the boat either only provides a manual system or no option to at all, when in fact a fully automatic windless lives completely hidden on a clever pivot system below decks. All the cleats are fully recessed only popping up proud when required, even the navigation lights disappear flush with the deck when not in use. Basically if a tool is required for boating or entertaining purposes it will be available, it's probably just hidden.

If the designers have been minimalistic with their pens then they have been abundantly generous when allowing space for partygoers. By my count there is comfortable seating space on the main deck for 14 (it's surveyed for 16 passengers in Cat C) and that includes space for three sunworshippers in the aft lounger.

Because the boat is for all intents and purposes completely exposed to the elements (bar an optional sunshade) and purposely designed as an entertainer - an activity that in terms of wear and tear runs a close second to fishing - much thought has been invested to ensure the VanDutch 40 looks the part as long as possible. Ultra hard wearing yet attractive Silver-tech upholstery covers all the soft furnishings and all the hard surfaces can easily be wiped clean and hit with an extra coat of wax. Cleverly, instead of using the more traditional genuine teak material on the floor and gunwales an imitation product called Esthec has been employed, which is much easier to clean and, if worst comes to worst, can be repaired and patched.

As expected VanDutch has covered all the bases when it comes to late-night entertaining. Once the party has wound down and it's time for some blissful slumber afloat, the host couple can retreat below to a very comfortable cabin complete with en suite and some basic cooking facilities.

Although I am not sure the gleaming white interior of <I>Coco Noir</I> would be my choice of colours for practical purposes (it's probably an option anyway) I was reasonably impressed with presentation of this space below. In daytime mode sumptuous seating surrounds a central dining table for four and converts to an oversized bed as the sun sets, and a huge mirror that takes up the entire forward bulkhead magically turns into a flatscreen TV. I really must get one of those put in at home - I can only imagine Toni's surprise when, while enjoying a quiet time in the bathroom, I flick the footy on - but I digress.

If I have any criticisms of the VanDutch 40 it would be with the quality of the fittings down below and in the en suite, many are not in keeping with the quality of the rest of the vessel. In fact I did note that I found the mixture of very good fittings (such as the twin hatch and gas ram components) with the pretty average (cupboard catches and like) somewhat curious. To be fair an upgrade of these items should be a reasonably inexpensive undertaking if desired and I am sure the builders will be looking into it.

Of course no review of such a vessel could be complete without a decent shakedown behind the helm and I have to admit I was more enthusiastic than usual to have my turn.

Power to the VanDutch 40 is delivered by twin Yanmar 6LY3-ETP common rail diesels delivering up to 480hp each through V-drives and out conventional shafts. I was surprised to see Yanmars rather than one of the European brands sitting pride of place in this easily accessed engineroom, but I do think they are a good choice, as although they may be slightly short on technology their reliability verges on industry leading.

In keeping with the low-profile design ethos the pilot's seat is minimalistic yet racer styled. A quality leather bench seat built for two (if you are going to thrill her, keep her near) sits behind a sleek dash complete with a Raymarine C120W nav system and supporting electronics (autopilot and data display), twin fingertip controls for the side thrusters, and electronic gearboxes and rev controllers. The custom wheel particularly impressed. It feels heavy in the hand and gives the impression you are about to take control of an entity of significant power.

And that power is delivered in no uncertain terms. As I dropped the hammer on <I>Coco Noir</I> she literally roared out of the hole. This is what a raceboat is about. Effortless and unbridled acceleration at your fingertips in a manner that forces a double take and a spontaneous grin. If the uncontrolled giggling coming from our fairer passengers was anything to go by I wasn't the only one struggling to contain my enthusiasm. To my ear those sound effects were the perfect complement to the throaty roar of the twin Yanmars, when we were going fast enough to hear them over the Alpine stereo system. It's a different experience that's for sure.

Although I found the trim setup slightly tricky at first the VanDutch 40 performs like it looks. The superfine bow slices through the chop like a knife, while stability through the turns is provided in spades by the vessel's wide and relatively flat stern section. The hulls attitude stays true from a standing start right through to wide-open throttle at more than 40kts. Frankly, I doubt this hull needs trim tabs at all. Just push the throttle down and hang on, the intelligent hull design will do the rest.

The VanDutch 40 is exactly what it seems to be. A chic, highly powered thrill machine designed to turn heads and weaken knees. Yet if it has supercar looks and performance it doesn't really have a comparative price tag and I saw enough on the day to suggest the VanDutch 40 would be relatively economical to own.

If nothing makes you happier than a crowd of very good-looking people vying for attention at the dock, this is without doubt the boat for you.

Specifications: VANDUTCH 40


MATERIAL: Vacuum-bagged sandwich construction with painted hull
TYPE: Warped plane monohull with prop pockets
BEAM: 3.5m
DRAFT: 0.82m
WEIGHT: Approx 7500kg (loaded)

FUEL: 600lt
WATER: 115lt
REC. MAX HP: 960
REC. MIN HP: 520

MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Yanmar 6LY3-ETP
TYPE: Six-cylinder common rail turbo-diesel
RATED HP: 480 (each) at 3300rpm
DISPLACEMENT: 5.83lt (each)
WEIGHT: 640kg (dry)
DRIVES: Shaftdrives with prop pockets

VanDutch Australia,
4407/4 Daydream Street,
Warriewood, NSW, 2102
Phone: (02) 99860138
Fax: (02) 99860139

From Trade-a-Boat Issue 430, Aug-Sept 2012. Story: Jeff Strang Photos: Ellen Dewar.

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