If a motor racing legend asks you to build him the ultimate performance cruising cat, you pull out all the stops. Australian shipwright Julian Griffiths tells us how he’s satisfying Tony Longhurst’s need for speed with Kator, the first-of-its-kind G-Force 2000 Speciale – built with a little help from WEST SYSTEM® epoxy products.
“When Tony first called me a few years ago, it clicked right away who he was – I’d always admired him as a kid,” says Julian, owner of Noosa Marine on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. “So we had a chat about how the process goes, talked about a few designs and narrowed it down to one. Then I priced it all out and he nearly fell off his chair!” he laughs.
Three-time winner of Australia’s Bathurst 1000 touring race and a former waterskiing speed record holder, Tony Longhurst has always lived life in the fast lane. He first commissioned Julian to build his performance cruising catamaran Kato and, in May 2014, this luxurious but practical twin-hulled cat was launched on Noosa River. Built over a period of 14 months, she is a customised version of the Schionning Designs G-Force 1800. Sleek and stylish, the 18m custom-built catamaran reaches an impressive top speed of 25 knots.
Tony and his wife spent the next 10 months cruising the north-east coast of Australia. However, a need for speed and the pursuit of perfection meant it wasn’t long before Tony started looking to build something bigger, better and – not surprisingly – faster.
Good thing, then, that Julian is responsible for some of the most impressive boats on the water. After learning his craft at Brisbane’s Norman Wright and Sons, he honed his skills at various boatyards before building his first cruising cat aged just 27. “I went on to build another five in that design,” says Julian. From there, things snowballed and, in 2008, his Noosa Marine business was born.
“Kator promises to be one of the fastest and lightest cruising multihulls on the water.”
“Kato set the benchmark,” says Julian. “Now we needed to top that.” So he and Tony worked with Kato’s original Schionning Designs designer to create a new and improved model: the first-of-its-kind G-Force 2000 Speciale. With a 19.5om waterline length, ‘Kator’ (with the added ‘r’ for ‘racing’) is the largest G-Force design ever to begin construction and, according to Schionning Designs, promises to be ‘one of the fastest and lightest cruising multihulls on the water’.
State of the art but not over the top
Clean, crisp and efficient, Kator is a refined version of Kato. The ‘floating apartment’ provides comfortable accommodation, while keeping the focus on performance. There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms, with two full walk-in showers. The living area boasts luxurious leather sofas, plus there’s a fridge and freezer, air conditioning and all other mod cons you might expect. “This is state-of-the-art technology being put into something that’s not over the top,” says Julian.
However, cruising comfort is only half of the story. “She’s also built for speed, which all comes down to efficient design,” explains Tony. “We’re hoping she’ll weigh in at about 11 tons – that’s an impressive 7 or 8 tons lighter than our competitors.” To that end, a 15kW electric motor plus lithium batteries eliminate the need for a diesel engine, saving a vast amount of weight and providing a much ‘cleaner’ craft. What’s more, she is one of the first Schionning Designs to use panels pre-skinned with carbon fibre. “The carbon skin not only makes her lightweight – and therefore faster – but gives you the superior stiffness you need in a multihull,” explains Julian.
Of course, using carbon laminate panels is not for the frugal. Yet money is no object when you’re building the ultimate performance cat. “This certainly isn’t for your average ma and pa,” says Julian. “It’s not often you get to build a boat for a ‘speed freak’ like Tony Longhurst! No holds barred; we’re giving him the best.”
If it ain’t broke…
Julian and his team got to work in January 2016. First, they strip-planked the two curved hulls over temporary frames. Then they hand laminated these on the outside, before flipping them over and hand laminating them on the inside to form a composite sandwich.
Next, the CNC-cut bulkhead panels were put into position, forming the deck and cabin shape. From here on, it was a case of working from the bottom up. “Think of it like a human being,” says Julian. “You’ve got your skeleton, then your skin on the outside gives you your shape and keeps the water out. In a boat’s case, that skin is the epoxy resin.”
For Julian, WEST SYSTEM® epoxy is the epoxy system of choice. “With WEST SYSTEM® epoxy products, I know exactly what I’m getting every time I order them,” he says. “They’re easy to use and have a simple mixing ratio of 5:1. When you’ve got a lot of different guys on the job mixing big batches, that’s an easy ratio to remember.”
“With WEST SYSTEM® epoxy products, I know exactly what I’m getting.”
The team uses WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin® with WEST SYSTEM 205 Fast Hardener®. This is thickened with WEST SYSTEM 409 Microsphere Blend® and WEST SYSTEM 403 Microsphere Blend® epoxy fillers for all coving and filling, and WEST SYSTEM 410 Microlight® low-density filler for hand fairing. “This makes a very lightweight fairing powder that’s very easy to sand,” says Julian.
There’s actually not a lot of fairing involved, which helps to keep Kator’s weight right down. “Because we get our frames CNC cut and we strip plank them, we know the planks are fair. In reality, there shouldn’t be more than 2-2.5mm thickness of bog over the whole skin of the boat,” says Julian.
The strength of WEST SYSTEM® epoxy products is also ‘helping massively’ with weight saving, says Julian. “It’s just such a strong product. We can use a much lighter laminate like carbon because the resin itself is so strong.”
The great escape
At time of writing, the team was on track for an early March 2018 launch. So how is Tony intending to use Kator? “To escape the world!” laughs Julian. “Tony’s a keen kite-boarder. So he wants to take her kite boarding and get away from life’s stresses and strains.”
“When you’re on to a good thing, why change it?”
Meanwhile, there’s no time for Noosa Marine to rest on their laurels. “We’ve got a couple of boats lined up which should keep us busy for the next four years,” says Julian. So will he be using WEST SYSTEM® epoxy products? “Of course! When you’re on to a good thing, why change it?”
To chart Kator’s build progress, visit the Noosa Marine website.
Or explore the full range of WEST SYSTEM epoxy products on the West System International website.