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Aquila 44 – Lots to love

by John Curnow on 7 Jul 2016
Large, light and very roomy - Aquila 44 Multihull Central
As a craft, she is quite impressive. Even from the moment you approach her on the quay. There is something about the Aquila 44, her own je ne sais quoi, if you like. Proportionally she is just right, everything is in the correct place, and with a modern flair, yet one that is not going to date overnight. In all honesty, I think her presence is in her stance, which is kind of funny, given she is a cat.

Despite the slightly truncated bulbous bows (160mm off) and the flooded swim platform sections out aft, which have to be weirdest and quirkiest aspects of a vessel going into survey I have heard of, this is a craft you just want to get on. Now I was lucky enough to do just that recently, and it was the overall fit and finish of this Chinese-built craft that impressed me the most.

It’s a big call, because her voluminous accommodations is what had most of the other 13 guests raving, and you would probably want to listen to them. You see they were all potential buyers and the massive, full beam owner’s stateroom, large saloon and then two doubles with generous heads, big cockpit with direct galley access, and finally the truly gargantuan flying bridge all had them operating in different areas and waxing on about said space. One of them was coming out of an 85’ monohull and was drawing direct size references.

But back to F&F for a minute… You can always judge a craft by the bright work. The mandrel bends and welds are the best way to assess the care and consideration taken in the manufacturing process. Equally, if the gelcoat is straight and true, then not only are the moulds fair, but the GRP mat has been laid in properly. Humidity controlled laying up stations and resin-infusion have a lot to do with the latter. At the Aquila factory (Sino Eagle) in Hangzhou at least, the chopper gun is dead. Here. Here.

Now care means time, which is man-hours and dollars, and it can also mean mass. Our test craft was evidently hefty with both. Yet at AUD1.1 to 1.3, and over 18 metric tonnes dry and closer to 20 fully bunkered, and with the optional, two-tonne hard bimini, the test was always going to be in heading out to sea.

The first thing she revealed about herself was that just like an automatic gearbox from the 70’s, the Aquila 44 has just the three speeds. So do not go looking for overdrive or the other five ratios. She does do very well at all three, however.

Now the first is stationary. Whether it is at the marina or your favourite anchorage, there is so much room that you will always feel like you can have space and peace. From climbing the ladder to the bridge to going below to a Stateroom, around the pilothouse or onto the foredeck from the ingenious for’ard runway, it’s just plain easy.

Our boat was #21 and so early glitches had been removed ages ago. There were a few things one would look at, like taking the BBQ up top and converting the side tables around the aft lounge to self-draining ice buckets. Apparently, Aquila say some customisation is available, and then remember there is the old rule that there has never been a problem invented in yachting, that throwing lots of $ at has not fixed. So you’ll be right, just dig deep.

The next speed is about 8.5kts. Obviously still very much in displacement mode at this stage, she is quiet, serene and totally endearing to heading off into the wide blue yonder. It used to be said that if you had to ask, then you could not afford. These days that does not seem to apply anymore, for the other guests were busy checking out the consumption from the twin Volvo D4-300s running in V-Drive formation. In short it came out to 3 litres per nautical mile, combined! That’s pretty impressive, and we’ll come back to propulsion and fuel a little later.

Slipping in to top now, which is 16-17kts, the first thing you will work out is that you get there by going to full noise immediately, without any prejudice whatsoever, and then back off to about 3000rpm once the mark is attained. This is semi-displacement mode. There’s no winding her up and letting her pop out. In combination with the bulbous bows, which deliver a lot of lift, and a certain amount of aerodynamic assistance from the bimini, you will arrive there pretty smartly. Once there you’re effectively at 5l/nm.

You can go on to around 21 knots, depending on load, sea state, wind etc, but you will burn over 30l/h more and not deliver that much for it. It is about now that the powerplant/capacity/range/operating style/overall engine hours/re-sale value matrix needs to be reviewed. Everyone has his or her personal preference for brand. I am like the commercial world and appreciate the lower running costs, long service periods and high performance of the Yanmars, but each to their own.

Actually, as it turns out, one US client has put a pair of Yanmar’s truly stunning and brutally brilliant 370Hp donks on board and is able to get in excess of 25kts out of the Aquila 44. It’s also interesting to note that at the lower speeds they offer comparable consumption.

Irrespective of that, you’ll need to establish what speed you like to go at, how far you want to roam and how important it is to you to be able to get up and boogie. The Aquila can be fitted with smaller donks should you so choose. It is cheaper, but you’ll have to think about re-sale as well.

Yet at just 1100 litres of distillate, it is her standard capacity that really is the big question. In Australia, with its large distances, you have to seriously think that taking out the fresh water from the bow and putting in fuel is mandatory. With all these guests and three heads, 850l of fresh was never going to cut it! It is just like saying no hair dyers, because the inverter would max out. So go the watermaker option off the genset, a smaller cache of fresh, turn part of the huge cavern under the massive for’ard hatch into fuel, and be done with it. You’ll be glad you did from the very first cruise.

By way of reference, think of it like this. A 40’ Sportsfisherman can have 2400 litres on board fully bunkered and be 12 tonne dry. True she’ll have 1000Hp on tap from her 16 iron ladies and run through to 28/32 knots, but the real issue is the range, and that they troll at 8-10kts from like 0800 to 1700hrs, plus hurtle out and back to the shelf chewing over 150l/h combined, and then up to that a side if the Skipper wants to get serious!

It is these sorts of numbers that make you think hard about how the Aquila can best do the top end of Oz. Reason? We have nowhere near the number of marinas and facilities as does the Caribbean or continental East Coast USA, which is where Aquila’s primary design brief originated, as both a charter and private vessel.

Overall, the Aquila 44 is very sea kindly, cutting through 2m seas off the Gold Coast easily and turning in well when asked. Interior noise levels are quite low and the big feature, the outdoor pod, is definitely one of the places to be whilst underway.

Out on the Broadwater during our test, a 55-foot sport boat was going the other way at around 22kts, leaving a 1.3m wake. Our Skipper, Andrew McLeod, powered up to 18kts to go through it. Not only did she transition from 6 to 18 in the typical cat fashion of straight up on her skirts and away, but the lack of both pitch and roll was amazing. Spray over the large and very sociable bridge was limited to an Evian like mist, and the person sitting on one of the pulpit seats in the bow did not even get wet at all. Despite that, she was not entirely thrilled, however.

Some wanted a lower helm station. Personally I think if you’re in that you’ve missed your run and a set of three nice clears (zippered centre) will cover the for’ard section of the bridge nicely, then with fixed sides to reduce obstruction, should you so choose. I actually loved all the air and unobstructed vision that the standard format offered. It’s a tad old school, which is understandable having grown up with what the Americans call convertibles.

So then if there is a lot to love, is there anything that is wrong? Not really, except for some small things I am sure the yard could attend to for you. An awning over the aft pod would be great, as too converting the side tables into ice buckets, which means you won’t have access the port seat to get drinks out.

The side rails do extend out past the topsides, which is fine if you only ever moor at floating docks, but anyone who has been up against a pier with the barge boards out and a thumping sea will know the damage that can be caused to anything caught in between. I would also have the rail around the flying bridge a little higher, without the step down, for it will not impede vision and only aide safety.

Extending the rail from the for’ard steps to the anchor well falls into the same category. I also seem to think the positioning of the liferaft could be attended to, depending on the laws of your country, and ultimately may even be easier and quicker to access as well.

Hydrodynamically the commercial version does not like doing 13 knots at all, but then as we have pointed out, it does not need to in Australia where it will be governed to just 10 knots. Draining around one tonne of seawater out does take a little time... All in all they are pretty small things for a large boat that two will be able to operate easily.

Now there was one part of the test that I was not sure I would ever get to write. You see I had to go to the head as we came back into the Gold Coast’s Broadwater. At 17 knots we made a decent wake ourselves and then with everyone else doing 15 to 30, it was a bumpy session. Yet I can report in all honesty that the adventure to after starboard head was not only a relief, but also a dry one at that. Say no more.

Well actually I can. Save for this as it turns out. I would really like to drive one of the ‘recreational’ versions, for I am sure the extra buoyancy out aft and lift from the longer bulbs would only serve to add to the overall experience. A powercat designed from the keel up to be just that is a genuine winner. No sailing cat with the stick lopped off here. The Aquila has true V-hulls and a real desire to go cruising.

Whilst there are only two here in Australia so far, and they are on opposite sides of the country, it won’t be long before this particular stance becomes pretty recognisable. There will be another Aquila 44 on the East Coast of Australia by year’s end, should it not be sold at the Auckland Boat Show that runs from 29 September, 2016. Hull #27 will be a ‘recreational’ version and will also be doing sea trials after the show.

So if you want one, or the 38 and big sister 48, then you would kind of want to get in early. Seems the US market has first dibs, which is understandable when you understand MarineMax were behind it all to start with.

So see Andrew or Brent at Multihull Central to find a boat to fall in love with – or 1300 852 620

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