Higher Level

 

Powerboat

January 2004

Keep an eye on Commander Boats because Sy Singhal, owner of the Perris, Calif. Company has big ambitions. Singhal and his crew believe they can compete with any boat builder in the West Coast custom market, and that kind of drive and ambition can lead to great things.
To prove it, they sent their 2800 Cat with supercharges 800-hp engine from Teague Custom Marine to our Performance Trials in Parker, Ariz. And though the folks at Commander always will have their work cut out for them in the ultra-competitive West Coast market, their easy-to-drive, well-built 28’ catamaran proved they’re not suffering from delusions of grandeur.

Performance
Introduced in 1998, the 2800 Cat rides on a modified tunnel hull with a notched center pod and inline strakes in its two sponsons. Commander outfitted the boat with the previously notes, 509-cubic-inch blown motor and a TCM Platinum XR drive with a 1.5:1 gear reduction. It’s worth nothing that the TCM engine-and-drive combo was responsible for $47,000 of the catamaran’s $120,900 asking price.


The propulsion setup, which included a lab-finished Mercury Bravo One 15 ¼” x 32” four-blade stainless-steel propeller, pushed the boat to a top speed of 101.1 mph. that made the 2800 Cat the fastest Commander we’ve ever tested.


It also was, far and way, the quickest. With its Dana LT-500 Trim tabs down, it came on plane in 4.8 seconds, and in 20 seconds it reached 78 mph. (With the tabs down, the cat also stayed in plane at a lower speed than it did with them in neutral or up.) delivering knockout punches in midrange acceleration test, the boat darted from 30 to 50 mph in 3.6 seconds, 20 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and 40 to 70 in 7.1 seconds.


Before our tests, Singhal told us the 2800 Cat was easy to drive, “even for beginners.” He wasn’t exaggerating, although any boat with 800 hp should be approached with serious respect by all drivers, regardless of experience. The catamaran, which was equipped with fully hydraulic steering from IMCO, leaned into turns and exhibited no slop throughout them, and it didn’t bite or catch on exit. Its handling manners were genteel and forgiving.
“This boat never hops or skips, and it really is easy to drive,” said our lead test driver. “It goes through bumps pretty well, too. We went across a few boat wakes at 85 mph and it didn’t even bobble.”

Workmanship
Handlaid with multiple layers of quad-directional fiberglass and vinylester resin, and cored with balsa, the 2800 Cat exhibited strong mold work and the best in-gelcoat graphics we’ve seen from Commander. Colors were vibrant and the delineation between them, except in the case if intentional fades, was sharp. The boat’s black plastic rubrail with a rubber insert was carefully installed and appeared up to the job of hullside protection.
A Dana step plate in the nose was a functional not to the time-honored Colorado River custom of bow-in beaching. In a nod to the equally classic river custom know as floating, where drivers shut down their motors and simply drift with the current for hours, the port-side integrated swim platform was equipped with a ladder. The catamaran also had more standard hardware fare including stainless-steel handrails and Accon Pop-Up cleats. Like the handrails, the cleats were mounted to in powder-painted bezels.
Hydraulic hinges from Dana raises the engine hatch. The big-block power plant was held snugly in place with L-angles through-bolted to the stringers. Diamond plate was installed in each side of the engine and access to minor services was excellent. Rigging, which included perfectly supported parallel wire looms, was top-shelf.

Interior
The seating layout for 2800 Cat consisted of a three-person bench seat and two bucket seats with removable bottom cushions in the cockpit, and two forward-facing lounges in the open bow. Welted snap-in carpet covered the catamaran’s sole.
Under the bottom cushions for the bench, which were held in place by nylon hook-and-loop fasteners, there was a carpeted stowage compartment. Gunwale tray, too, in the cockpit were carpeted, and the trays were impressively deep and wide. A lid in the sole revealed a draining cooler. Still another stowage compartment, the largest one in the boat, was behind a vinyl snap drape under the co-pilot’s console to port.
Relatively well supplied with amenities, the co-pilot’s station featured a contoured grab handle, two recessed cup holders and a map pocket in the port gunwale, all within easy reach from the bucket seat. A Pioneer CD stereo was mounted in the dash.
None of the Gaffrig by Livorsi gauges, including a GPS speedometer with a tattletale function, was obscured by the non-tilting steering wheel. Lighting when activated, accessory switches were to the right of the wheel. Farther to the right on the starboard gunwale were a Gaffrig shifter and throttle, as well as mechanical indicators for the tabs and drive.
Additional access to the locker in the co-pilot’s console was provided by a snap drape in the walk-through to the open bow. Although the bow playpen was relatively compact, the builder did a good job of providing depth for the lounges, as well as the sole. Bottom cushions for the lounges were removable for access to stowage areas. Also worth noting in the bow was the thick padding on the gunwales.

Overall
Talk with Singhal for a few minutes and you’ll know he believes deeply in his company. Though he respects the competition, he’s confident in his own products. The foundation for that confidence can be found in the 2800 Cat, the strongest offering we’ve seen from Commander.

 


 

 

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