The very first turn of the very first race in the prestigious 2018 UIM XCAT Powerboating World Championship proved disastrous for Maritimo’s racing team. Capable of speeds north of 110 knots, the fully enclosed catamaran powered by twin 400-hp ROS Mercury competition outboards endured a crash that left team member Ross Willaton unconscious and underwater. Divers were able to rescue him, and after a five-day stay in the ICU he made a full recovery. But Maritimo’s dreams of glory that year were dashed. Not that the Aussies were even a little bit discouraged, however.
“With Ross being OK, it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us,” says Tom Barry-Cotter, Maritimo’s director of design and, along with Willaton, the racing team’s pilot. “The boat had to come home [to Maritimo’s Queensland, Australia factory where it builds both raceboats and motoryachts], and we sat the rest of the season out. But we had a concept boat half-designed, and we were able to focus on that design and have a new boat ready for the 2019 season.”
For Maritimo, those designs are not just good for the pursuit of racing glory. They help the company’s designers and craftsmen gain an intimate knowledge of what peak performance in boating actually looks like, and that wisdom filters down to the company’s line of sporty motoryachts which range from 50 to 70 feet.
Maritimo’s race team started with Tom Barry-Cotter’s father, the legendary Bill Barry-Cotter. In the 1980s the senior Barry-Cotter was contracted by Brisbane hair salon mogul Stefan Ackerie to build a 38-foot monohull for racing. Barry-Cotter got hooked on the sport and worked with American yacht designer Michael Peters to design a number of boats before officially founding Maritimo Racing in 2003. The team has two boats — the XCAT and another 40-foot catamaran that competes in the Australian Offshore Superboat Championship — and has won 16 Australian championships to date.
“There’s not another business model like this in the industry,” says Tom Barry-Cotter. “Whereas it’s somewhat commonplace in the automotive world, boatbuilders have not been as big a part of the promotion of racing. But for us, we feel it separates our company from the rest. We see huge benefits from our passion for the sport, because the culture is well-ingrained here. In racing, you absolutely have to try to be better every single day, and we do that throughout our product line.
“We have such a strong internal focus; we’re not focused on the competition because winners focus on themselves. Just keep making yourself better, that’s the key. And that brings a really strong technical aspect to our boats. We have a passion for performance, durability, reliability, and our engineering and technical excellence.”
The Maritimo racing team effectively forms a test bed for the more mainstream Maritimo products, which benefit from having such a high-tech and battle-tested
prototype from which to draw. On the micro level, that plays out in a few ways regarding construction methodology.
Integrated fuel tanks are one of the key features of Maritimo’s leisure line that draws from racing research. “The fuel tanks at Maritimo are all integral,” says Barry-Cotter. “They’re laminated into the internal structure of the boat, exactly as we have done on our raceboats for a number of years. It’s the safest and strongest method. They last a good, long time, and they make the boat stronger. It’s the best way of doing it.”
Hydraulic power steering is another place where the yachts mimic the speedy catamarans. Maritimos are known for their steering, with wheels that spin only once from lock to lock — the result being unrivaled control over the rudder, and an undeniably sporty and confidence-inspiring feel at the helm. It should be no surprise that that feature comes from racing.
Powerboat courses are short and comprise many turns, so precision steering is a must. “Hydraulic power steering is necessary for raceboats because it’s so
dynamic,” says Barry-Cotter. “Imagine driving an F1 car and having to turn the wheel seven times to get around one turn. It wouldn’t work out so well. With the hydraulic power steering, you get more feedback with less turns, and we do a similar thing with our motoryachts. They don’t feel like buses when you drive them; they’re super-responsive, and that translates to safety in a seaway and more fun at the wheel, as well.
“Another thing we want our motoryachts to do, that our racing boats do, is to heel into a corner rather than heeling out. As you can imagine, that’s a big deal on a racecourse with tight turns,” Barry-Cotter continues. “Again, that’s for safety and feel at the wheel, and it comes from things like rudder geometry and propellers. These are all things we’ve been able to tweak during Covid with slight modifications, putting our own touch on things and taking as much as possible from what we’ve learned on the racecourse.”
Prop setups in particular catch Barry-Cotter’s fancy. He refers to them as the “dark arts” and finds them fascinating for the amount of work that goes into perfecting them, as well as for the concrete effect they have on a boat’s speed and handling.
“There’s like 20 different variables that go into them,” he says, “There’s so much geometry with running gear and steering gear, and that all affects handling. On the racecourse, we don’t necessarily need the fastest top speed; we need the fastest speed over an average in order to win the race. So you end up tweaking your props to have the fastest, most efficient cruise speed. Our props have minimal cavitation and operate at quieter decibel levels, as well. Obviously, this is all great for leisure boaters, too.”
Last but not least, Barry-Cotter points out another aspect of raceboat construction that translates well to recreational boating, and that is center of gravity. “There are a few things we deal with involving weight distribution, but center of gravity is the big one,” he says. “We get so used to keeping the COG as low as possible in the raceboats that by the time we build the motoryachts, it’s just second nature. It creates a better riding, more stable boat. Neutral weight distribution is key, as well. A lot of builders keep moving weight back to get the bow to ride high, but our boats, having a more neutral weight distribution, they won’t bob around like a cork in a sea. It’s much safer and a much more comfortable ride.”
All of this to say, there are myriad direct and ancillary benefits that trickle down to Maritimo’s products from its racing program. No other major builder can say the same. And as for the Maritimo XCAT racing team? The one that had that catastrophic crash in 2018? In a nod to fabled Aussie perseverance, they came back in 2019 and won the whole thing.
This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue.