TESTED: SAILFISH REEF MASTER

By: ANGELO SAN GIORGIO, Photography by: JACK MURPHY


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Are two hulls really better than one? Angelo San Giorgio caught up with the newly single Sailfish Reef Master to find out first hand.

TESTED: SAILFISH REEF MASTER
The Sailfish Reef Master. Powered catamarans are all the rage right now.

Cats are all the rage at the moment. In fact, the internet is full of the little fur balls doing all manner of weird things they shouldn’t: talking, singing, dancing. I even saw one that was toilet trained, for Pete’s sake. Unnatural!

So when Gavan Daly from Webbe Marine in NSW offered TrailerBoat the opportunity to put his latest rig to the test, I was intrigued.

Twenty years in the making, the Reef Master by Sailfish is a first for the multi-hull specialist that has built a thriving business selling Hondas two at a time on the back of its sharp-looking alloy cats. This cat has only one engine, for Pete’s sake. Unnatural!

I’ve been labelled a mono-hull man in the past when I palmed off reviews to other testers who I felt were more at home with the species. The Sailfish intrigued me, though, and Gavan questioned my manhood, so I had a point to prove. And if I did fluff it up, I’m sure the cat-astrophe — c’mon, you knew that was coming — would be entertaining.



HIGH ON THE GOLD COAST

Now, I’m the first to admit my personal experience with powered catamarans is relatively limited, but what the heck, I’m game. And in any case, the people I work for are well insured.

And so it came to pass that on the Monday following its appearance at the Sanctuary Cove Boat show, we met the 5.7m Reef Master and its big brother, the Canyon Master, for a blast out through the sea into open ocean.

Conditions were perfect for a thorough workout, for both boats and crew. The rolling 3m swell was solid and clean with only the occasional green one to keep us on our toes. Hardly ideal to fish in, but perfect for the shenanigans we had in mind.

We hit the first few gently, then threw caution to the wind and did what two blokes tend to do in a boat when the cameras are rolling: talk s@#t and drive like maniacs. And the Reef Master accommodated our misbehaviour in its stride.

I’ve included a gratuitous sequence shot in an arty film strip thingy to illustrate what I meant (see next page). If you look at the launch attitude and gentle yet thrilling landing, you’ll notice the entire process seems natural. And that’s exactly how we felt when my chaperone, Sailfish Boats owner Darren Foster, and I repeated the process several times for fun once the camera ran out of memory.



TWO FOR ONE

Loads of effort has gone into the engineering of this rig and it shows everywhere. Welds are seamless and paint and fit are spot on. The pod that protrudes from the hull and sits in front of the Honda’s gearbox looks like it was borrowed from a Boeing.

Handling is neutral, not requiring any hocus pocus to keep it tracking true. Tight — and I mean tight — turns at low to middling speeds were executed without fuss and made me smile. The peculiar lean-out-on-a-turn effect I have experienced with an older fibreglass cat was not evident.

In fact, apart from the odd occasion when I got my timing wrong and surfed a bit of quartering swell, the handling was rather benign, familiar and kind of like a mono-hull, but with less effort because it always tracked straight. There was none of that side-to-side low-speed wander you often get with a single-rigged deep-vee mono.

There was no tendency to broach in a following sea, particularly if we kept our stern perpendicular to the waves. I found by prodding the throttle and turning back into a roller we simply slid up and over it.

The more I drove the Reef Master the more comfortable I felt. Now and again I let one sponson dig in more than the other and tried to power my way out of it. I quickly discovered this was folly when all of a sudden the other sponson bit home.

In creating this fine-edged hull, some of the forward buoyancy evident on the larger Sailfish was removed. The additional bouyancy gives the sponsons a faster rebound, but wasn’t conducive to the smaller hull. This is not a flaw, but merely a characteristic of the new architecture. And the benefits are worth the gentle learning curve.



MANY HAPPY RETURNS

Cats have a reputation for being blessed with a soft ride. I’ll that after admit to spending time in another popular single-engine alloy cat I would’ve challenged that claim. However, my experience with the Reef Master and its Hydroflow Gen2 hull restored my faith. We came off the back of some serious swell and landed softly in the troughs while still maintaining enough speed to climb out.

The Reef Master also planed easily, with no need or desire to employ the Honda 135’s BLAST feature (Boosted Low Speed Torque, but more on that later). The engine setup was spot on for this hull and, to be honest, I would have been disappointed if that wasn’t the case since Webbe Marine is a Honda agent and has perfected its Sailfish fitouts.

However, it’s when we pulled out of gear and sat in the slop at rest with both of us the same side that the Reef Master illustrated the fundamental advantage it has over most mono-hulls — stability.

The boat didn’t move, causing me to remark that I’d actually have to employ a net on the squid grounds since the water was almost a metre from the gunwale and I’m blessed with T-Rex-like arms. Think about it.



DOWN TO BUSINESS

The Reef Master makes no bones about its intent. It’s a big bay, offshore and reef fishing boat. Go figure.

Internally, the layout has been optimised to focus on the main game. There is no cabin; not even a tiny squint-and-you-can-see-it one. Instead, there are large storage voids in each hull which give you a peek at the inner structure of the twin hulls.

The dash layout is simple and functional and I loved the large flat expanse forward of the passenger seat. It would make a great location for a secondary sounder so your fishing buddies can engage in the action.

The generous 2.35m beam is exaggerated by the tall, flat sides and the cockpit would comfortably fish four. I loved the flooring, which utilises compressed fibreglass chips for grip. Any water that makes it onto the covered decks is funnelled to scuppers and self-drains overboard.

Stability in this boat is excellent even in rolling swell and it would make a great platform to cube for yellowfin off the shelf. A transom-mounted fold-down bench is a nice touch, as is the baitwell and under-floor kill tank.

All in all, this is a well-considered and functional fisho’s friend.



REV MY ENGINE

The Honda BF135 and I are old friends. In another life, when I masqueraded as a boat salesman, I actually specialised in the Japanese brand and I make no apology for having a soft spot for them. They’re a good thing and I’ve spent hundreds of trouble-free hours on the throttle of several over the years.

Webbe Marine feels the same way and rigs every one of its boats with a Honda. No exceptions.

The current-series BF135 features BLAST, introduced in this model around two years ago. BLAST works by advancing the ignition timing and optimising the fuel / air ratio to deliver a boost in torque and horsepower when getting out of the hole and onto plane. The trick is to move the throttle sharply once engaged in order to tell the computer to wake up and do its stuff. Think of it like kicking down to overtake in an automatic car.

Unfortunately, the building 3m slop outside the Gold Coast seaway was not the place to engage BLAST, particularly when the smallest Sailfish responded so eagerly to the slightest throttle input. While the hull is rated to a maximum of 150hp, the 135 is more than ample and wound out to around 32kts (59kmh) when we gave it a quick squirt inside the Broadwater.



THE WRAP

The Sailfish Reef Master is a ripper, and while cats aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’d go so far as saying it might just be the best thing yet conceived to tempt the serious mono crowd.

At $79,870 on a custom alloy trailer it isn’t the cheapest sub-6m boat out there, but there would be few in its size class that would offer the fishing room, stability and rough-water pedigree for similar value.

It would be a great transition boat for those that want to dip their toe in the catamaran pool and is well worth the price of admission.



ON THE PLANE...

  • Great fishing platform
  • Confident handling
  • Loads of fishing space
  • Soft and dry ride
  • Economical offshore rig

 

DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

  • Not the cheapest boat around
  • Takes a little getting used to
  • No cabin might be a problem for some

 

SPECIFICATIONS: SAILFISH REEF MASTER

HOW MUCH?

Priced as tested: $79,870

Options fitted: Folding rocket launcher and bimini with clears; hydraulic steering; dual battery system with emergency parallel switch; Garmin 750S / touchscreen combo; VHF radio; navigation lights; live bait tank; under-floor kill tank; bait board; self-draining floor and rear transom step with ladder; stainless steel propeller; non-skid flooring; six rod holders; rear folding and removable lounge

Priced from: $76,395



GENERAL

Type: Alloy catamaran

Material: Aluminium

Length: 5.7m

Beam: 2.35m

Weight: 1500kg (BMT)

 

CAPACITIES

People: 6

Max. HP: 150

Fuel: 130L



ENGINE

Make/model: 135HP

Type: BF135

Weight: 220kg

Displacement: 2354cc

Gear ratio: 2.14:1

Propeller: Stainless 14.25x17in



SUPPLIED AND DISTRIBUTED BY

Webbe Marine

17 Yalgar Road

Kirrawee

NSW 2232

Tel: (02) 95217944

Web: www.webbemarine.com.au

Originally published in TrailerBoat #296, June 2013

Find Sailfish boats for sale.

 


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