Safehaven Marine builds some of the toughest boats in the world, but attempting to set a new record circumnavigating Ireland and Rockall proves a real test
Video credit Safehaven Marine
Regular readers of MBY may remember our infamous test of Safehaven Marine’s Barracuda SV11 back in 2016.
Billed as the toughest boat test ever, we took it into the teeth of a gale outside Cork Harbour in search of the biggest waves we could find. The SV11 won the battle but not without losing its radar dome, which was ripped from its mountings by a 20ft wall of green water.
So when Safehaven Marine’s founder Frank Kowalski decided to build an even bigger, faster version of the Barracuda, the XSV 17, he needed to find a fresh challenge that would leave a lasting impression on the military bigwigs and commercial hard nuts who make up his customer base.
Being an Irish boatbuilder, a non-stop circumnavigation of Ireland was the obvious choice, but even this seemed a little too tame for such a hardcore machine.
Instead, he decided to try and set a new record for circumnavigating Ireland via Rockall, a barren rock 270nm north-west of Ireland. Not only would this push the total mileage past 1,000nm but it included a 540nm open-water stretch into the heart of the North Atlantic, taking in some of the roughest and most notorious seas on the planet.
This would test every aspect of the new boat’s performance, including its range, reliability, speed and above all, its ability to maintain a fast cruising pace for hours on end, whatever the sea state. If he and his team could pull it off, it’d satisfy even the most demanding customers.
With their mission decided, the team set about prepping the boat. The Barracuda XSV 17 is a high-speed 58ft craft designed for search and rescue missions or as a naval interceptor.
Powered by a pair of 1,000hp Caterpillar C12.9 diesel engines on surface drives, it’s capable of 54 knots flat out. But its real strength is its rough-weather seakeeping.
Built from lightweight FRP cored composites, the unique deep-vee hull form allows it to operate in two distinct modes, fully planing and wave piercing.
The constant 24° deadrise hull incorporates twin chines to promote efficient planing but narrows towards the bow into a super slender stem. This is designed to run clear of the water at speed but when conditions dictate, can be trimmed right down into head seas so it slices through waves for a more comfortable ride.
A pair of small adjustable bow fins provide additional buoyancy control in following seas while shock-mitigating seats add a final layer of defence for the crew.
Long-range fuel tanks with a capacity of more than 5,000 litres allow it to cover 750nm between fills at a cruising speed of 40 knots, while FLIR night vision cameras ensure the crew don’t need to stop when the sun goes down.
Read the full story of the team’s record attempt in the November 2017 issue of the magazine.