For a combination of utility and luxury, nothing compares to the power catamaran. It takes the ease and space of a traditional sailing catamaran and marries it with the power and reliability of a yacht. A relatively recent introduction in the world of sport and luxury boating, South African-based power catamaran company, Afri-Cat Marine, are distinguishing themselves world wide as experts in this emerging industry.
Afri-Cat has earned that distinction by gaining an expertise on power catamarans that is founded on a sincere passion for the crafts and an intimate working knowledge of the crafts. Having been in the business for eight years, Afri-Cat are respected producers of fine power catamarans and are the first company of its kind to be approved by Volvo for its IPS engines.
The company was born in the imagination and backyard of Jeff Niemann, CEO of Afri-Cat. At the time, Niemann had built a successful surveying company which afforded him the freedom and resources to pursue his first love; boating. Niemann, who grew up in a sailing family and has experience building and maintaining boats all his life, found himself with the opportunity build his own customized boat. He bought the shell of a 45 foot sailing catamaran on which he completed. “I did the interior the woodwork, electrical, plumbing basically all the outfitting. I did it all personally myself. 18 months later, Niemann and his wife found themselves the owners of a beautiful Catamaran used in a chartering company run out of the British Virgin Islands.
Before Niemann could complete his second “cat”, another chartering company had already put in a bid to purchase it. The same thing happened with his third. Spotting the trend, Niemann and his brother realized there was a desire for their products and set out to start the company.
After partnering with renowned naval architect Angelo Lavranos, the team started to build complete boats from scratch, building a mould from a boat originally built from wood and has been building customized and tailored power cats non-stop ever since. Today, Afri-Cat has grown the company to hold 180 employees, and is putting a boat out on average every four weeks, US$700,000 to $1 million depending on the specification.
No two boats are the same
Although, Niemann agrees, there is a market for people looking for factory or stock design, Afri-Cat has gained a reputation for accommodating the individual’s needs by way of customisation. Afri-Cat, , creates the buyers’ dream boat, specifying every detail to the customer’s tastes and needs, whether it be for weeks out on the water or a day-trip for fishing. “No two boats are the same,” says Niemann. “So many different options that one can put into our boats.
Afri-Cat drew the attention of global powerhouse, Volvo, who have partnered with the company to install the Volvo Inboard Performance System, or IPS, engine—a combined engine and propulsion system, sold as a package in the same way that an outdrive can be. The pairing, say s Niemann, has been “very successful”. Customers have been introduced to the Afri-Cat cats at international boat shows in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Sydney, Dubai, Durban and Johannesburg and, more frequently, on the waters. The Afri-Cat 420 is the company’s first trademark model. Initially built for charter work (harkening back to the days in Neimann’s backyard) the 42 foot model is compact enough to be handled by a skipper and one other person. The 420 has changed slightly in the seven years, turning four cabins into three larger ones, with more square footage for living and washing areas for senior couples or customers who will be living on the boats for months at a time.
The Afri-Cat 420 has a large beam and a high load carrying capacity which offers all the comforts and amenities, deck space and interior volume of a much larger monohull, and with the Volvo IPS engine, has as much a twice the fuel efficiency as traditional monohulls. The beam/length/center of gravity relationship on the Afri-Cat make it one of the safest cruising cats on the market, having more than proven its sea worthiness in extreme conditions off the coast of Durban, South Africa.
The Afri-Cat 380 was launched in 2008, propelled by a surge of interest in a boat that was suited for the cruising family or couple, designed by Lavranos for agility, slightly smaller docking space and the same high quality Afri-Cat is known for, durability and highest quality marine equipment.
And on the other end of the spectrum is the company’s newest flagship model, the Afri-Cat 455. This model is a bigger boat, bigger cabins and can take bigger horsepower engines. Interestingly, Niemann says that despite the slower economy, the Afri-Cat’s bigger models are the company’s biggest draw, if you will.