Tested by Erwin Bursik
“”A NEW nine-metre mono is about to be launched by Mallards,” one of the tap roots of the ski-boating grapevine whispered in my ear. Not long afterwards, Mike Barnes, Mallards Boating’s MD, phoned and invited me to their New Germany factory to see the nine metre deep-vee craft which was in the final stages of completion.
Nothing in the boating world turns me on more than seeing the finely-chiselled bow of a large monohull clearing the water at high speed, so while I was viewing the Citation 900 I stopped in front of her prow and drooled. Her lines, shape and styling are exquisite. I could just imagine how her bow and shoulders would take to the ocean, cutting the water with that fine entry, and using her shoulders to stabilise her lateral ride as she got onto the plane.
A few months later, after she had been unveiled to the world at the Durban and Johannesburg boat shows, I was allowed to take her for an extended review off Durban. It was then — when I eventually took command of the Citation 900 — that I could match my mental image with the reality of her thundering up behind the photography boat and, when I eventually took command of her, the feel of her cleaving the water. Truly splendid!
Geoff Barnes and I go back at least 40 years, and neither of us can pull the wool over the other’s eyes. The best thing about Geoff is that he never tries. Geoff told me that Mallards’ decision to produce this nine-metre monohull was because of the phenomenal success they’ve had with their nine-metre Cobra Cat. They have sold over 40 of that model since the original Hotline was launched in 2001. “Not all people like cats. Many still love the monohull, like you do, so we want to extend our range in this direction,” explained Geoff.
The Citation 900 is the result. My bond with her was cemented when I stepped aboard at her moorings in the Durban Marina. The first thing that struck me was that her high gunnels and false transom surround a very substantial fishing cockpit. This craft was designed to be a fishing machine and thereafter can be customised for whatever a future owner requires of her for social activities.
As she was presented to me with a strong fighting chair mounted on her fish deck, rigged outriggers and the necessary rod holders for 80- and 130 lb rigs, there was no doubt that Geoff and Mike Barnes want her to go marlin fishing.
During the photo session, one specific aspect of her performance became very clear and that is the prone stance that this hull adopts throughout her cruising and high speed performances. The Citation 900’s hull is designed to have a long and, at high speed, narrow wetted area, a fact that was clearly visible in the photographs. This allows her to maximise the thrust of her motors and not have the forward thrust dissipated by trying to alter the craft’s attack stance through trimming. In fact, as Geoff mentioned to me at the start of the review, she does not react a great deal to motor trim.
Another factor Geoff mentioned was that they had purposely not installed hydraulic after-planers as they wanted to spend a lot of time on the water getting to know the boat in all conditions before they did so. After-planers, for those cat lovers who don’t appreciate their worth, are almost essential on a high-speed deep-vee monohull. In simple terms, they ensure the craft’s lateral stability at the transom, thereby preventing the mono’s fine entry in rough water from transferring any lateral movement to her designed ride. They also provide a big, lengthy craft with a bow-up or bow-down stance, as sea conditions demand, without the skipper having to use outboard motor trim which, in most instances, saps power.
Having owned a deep-vee mono for over 20 years, I can honestly say this style of craft is like a racehorse compared to a carthorse. My 21ft Robcraft, Sea Lord, was a nightmare without after-planers, but once effectively trimmed she raced in any sea with few that could match her.
I would definitely install after-planers on the Citation 900, but while saying that, her performance without them staggered me. As an example, we tracked back to Vetch’s from deep off the Umgeni in a reasonably rough easterly sea with many holes and a fair swell. Setting her throttles to give us an SOG of 44km/h at 4 200rpm on a course that had the sea and swell largely on her port aft quarter, I took my hands off the steering and sat back on the comfortable skipper’s “couch”. She covered the five or six kilometres without my assistance on the helm, pulling herself out of minor deviations caused by the sea. The ride had me spellbound.
If she rides so well, why would I fit after-planers? Simply because I would like to have them available in extremely rough seas to provide lateral stability and, especially in a very big following sea, to allow me to lift her bow a lot, while still having the motors providing full thrust deep in the water. If the motors were used to achieve this bow lift, I feel a lot of cavitation would result because the big, powerful units would have to be excessively trimmed out.
Enough theory — on to the practical test. During the first 30 minutes or so after I had the Citation 900 firmly under my command, I tested her response under moderate motor power at every conceivable trim setting — good and bad. I wanted to establish just how I would like her ride in prevailing conditions, and also to see what would happen if an inexperienced skipper got hold of this thoroughbred and, through ignorance or lack of monohull experience, put her into a situation the skipper could not handle and subsequently blamed the craft.
Due to this craft’s overall length and wide beam, I doubt the above scenario would occur — unlike on my own 21ft deep-vee mono. The Citation was extremely user-friendly, and although I definitely found her sweet spot, I could not get her to react adversely in the sea on which I had to review her, even when she was completely incorrectly trimmed.
Some armchair boffins apparently told Geoff he should fit bigger motors. The Citation was powered by twin Verado 200hp four-stroke motors swinging 15” pitch stainless-steel propellers. She revved at well over 6 000rpm, providing a top speed of 67km/h at sea in roughish conditions. In the harbour I believe she topped out at 6 600rpm and 72km/h. The power these Mercury motors provided throughout my review of the Citation 900 was awesome, and I would hesitate to increase the motor size.
Even in simulated surf conditions she had more than sufficient out-of-the-hole get-up-and-go, and even at speeds of 40-45km/h she had reserve power that made her jump when applied via the electronic throttles. Running on one motor she planed and achieved 30km/h on a straight run with the sea.
Once I had her feel, I headed up north with the wind and sea on her forward starboard quarter, as if I were heading for the fishing grounds off Umdloti Beach. Sitting at just over 4 000rpm we were making a comfortable 36km/h (±20 knots) SOG, her hull clearing a sea full of holes resulting from a strong north-easterly the previous day. At this speed she gave us an extremely soft ride as only monohulls can do. Beautiful!
From way past Umgeni, I swung her helm to take the north-easterly that was already blowing at 15 knots straight on the nose. The electronic throttles were tweaked back a tad, reducing her speed to 30km/h which we were able to comfortably sustain for running out deep. On occasion I pushed up her speed to over 40km/h, and although this speed could be held if necessary, coming over a crest and into a hole was not comfortable for Geoff and I — the old balies — so with experience and lack of bravado, we settled on a much more comfortable speed of about 25km/h (±15 knots).
The reason I have changed from my habitual nautical terms of knots and nautical miles to metric was that neither Geoff nor I were prepared to push buttons on the fancy and, I must say, exciting, top-of-the-range Garmin navigator. It was set in metric, so we left it there, not wanting to be left navigation-less if we pushed the wrong buttons. If you want to convert km/h to knots, divide by 1.852.
I have already mentioned the superb ride home with the following sea, so now I need to discuss her performance while trolling as this is what she will be doing for the majority of her time at sea while marlin fishing.
Two aspects that are important in this regard are stability and the wake produced. From stability, especially laterally, comes angler comfort during those long hours while hunting big billfish. Continuous rocking, rolling and bow thumping does not make for a pleasant day’s marlin fishing. The Citation settles well in the water at all troll speeds, thereby offering good stability even in the moderately rough sea we experienced. As far as the wake pattern is concerned, with the close positioning of the twin 200hp Verados, the wake is very tight up to 9 knots, making her ideal for pulling big lures. In addition, her SOW is constant, even into a head sea.
Her props are close together at the centre of the transom, and one disadvantage of this is that one can’t use the forward/reverse system while backing up. She backed up quickly, but I found I had to use the helm to control these backward manoeuvres.
Finally, I needed to test the Citation’s performance in tight turns as one might require in a surf-launching situation. She goes into a turn — both to port and starboard — very quickly, banking like one expects from a motorbike. By using some fancy throttle “footwork”, she pulled out of a turn faster than I expected.
Geoff warned me that he felt the motors needed to be dropped a tad — one hole — on the transom to obviate cavitation that was apparent if the throttles were not carefully deployed. This situation can also be caused by electronic throttles as one tends to over-throttle in the heat of the movement. The lightning-fast response at the motors produces more than the desired power and, with the sudden burst of torque, forces the props to burn a hole in the aerated water.
Aesthetically, the Citation offers a great deal for the serious fisherman. Apart from the high gunnels and large fish deck, she has a large helm station/saloon area that is well protected from the elements. It is furnished with comfortable longitudinal couches to allow the deck crew to relax in comfort while watching the spread. When the action starts, access out of the saloon onto the fish deck is quick with nothing impending one’s rush to the rods.
The helm station is large and well positioned, providing the skipper with an unhindered space in which to command both the craft’s performance as well as all the electronic equipment he has at his disposal. On the craft I reviewed, a full complement of electronics was provided. My only trouble was my inability to use it all to its maximum capabilities. I didn’t have time to read the manual!
Weighing up the options for the layout and size of the foredeck cabin, and taking into consideration the preferences of the many clients who have purchased their nine-metre Cobra Cats, Mallards opted for a moderately sized cabin. It is set up forward and substantially lower than the saloon level, made possible by the depth of the forward vee hull.
The cabin is accessed from the port side of the saloon via very nicely designed stainless- steel steps with wooden treads. They’re very practical, and it’s easy to get in and out at speed, if necessary. This cabin has side seating following the curve of the bow, plus a central table that can be dropped to form the base of a double bed if the forward cabin is to be converted into a sleeping berth.
More importantly, the bathroom/toilet situated downstairs is large with room not only to use the toilet in comfort, but also to shower if you so choose. The entire cabin area is tastefully decorated with high-quality fittings and accessories.
I really enjoyed the hours I spent with Geoff on the Citation 900, and I can well imagine what she would be like fishing aboard her for the long duration of a marlin competition off Richards Bay or even Sodwana. Indeed, she is an extremely worthy addition at the very pinnacle of Mallards’ fleet of craft on offer to the offshore boating fraternity, both in South Africa and abroad. •