Multihull Mover – Trade Only Today
In early December, Aquila added the 28 Molokai and 28 Molokai Cuddy to the brand’s power catamaran offerings, creating the Offshore line of models in addition to the Sport and Yacht lines that go up to 70ft. A new product announcement may seem standard, but it represents another step in an evolution that has taken years to bring power catamarans to the consumer boating market.
While power catamarans were once an anomaly even in bareboat charter fleets, Aquila is now among the brands sold by heavyweight dealership MarineMax, alongside Azimut, Boston Whaler, Ocean Alexander and other leading brands of monohulls. And the fact that the new Aquila Cats measure 28 feet in total demonstrates the belief that the motorized cat design is gaining popularity not only among long-time boaters, but also among customers entering the market for the first time.
“The 28- and 32-foot cats tend to appeal to a younger demographic, with many customers new to boating,” says Alain Raas, Aquila Brand Manager. “The larger 54ft and 70ft boats are attracting older, more experienced boaters, many of whom are looking to retire from the larger boats. Our price segmentation sets up sequencing; When our customers are looking for a bigger or smaller boat, they easily find one without sacrificing performance or quality.
How the Aquila brand got there is a story that begins in the late 1960s in South Africa, where Alain Raas’ father, Lex Raas, built his first boat. “My dad was very fond of sailing and racing,” says Lex Raas, who spoke with Trade surveys only from his home in Hawaii. “So boats have always been part of my life. I built my first trimaran when I was 15 and have been involved with the business ever since. Many people lacked confidence in multihulls. People believed that bi-hulls and tri-hulls were not capable of big seas or rough conditions. There was a general feeling that they weren’t safe, but that’s not true.
Lex Raas has always believed that multihulls, when
designed properly, could offer a superior ride in all kinds of conditions. “In a way, I imagine that I dedicated my life to designing and building multihulls that would change the opinion of the nautical community,” he says. “Multihull sales have increased over the past decades, and many people have come to experience what I have known for so long. With that shift in attitude came a business opportunity, and I was excited to use my experience to serve it.
He adapted his experience from sailing multihulls to power catamarans in the early 2000s while managing fleet purchasing at The Moorings, which mainly offered monohulls for charter. “Their heavy use revealed reliability issues, mostly involving props and shafts,” he says. “One day we had a group of non-sailing customers who wanted to rent a boat. The only boat left was a sailboat, but they couldn’t sail. I suggested they rent the boat, leave the sails folded and just drive. They did, and they were so excited when they got back that they rebooked.
Further repeat bookings convinced him there was a market for luxury power catamarans – so came the Leopard power catamarans in 2005. At the end of 2010 Raas left The Moorings and in 2012 Aquila Power Catamarans joined was founded as a partnership between Sino Eagle Group and MarineMax, with Lex Raas joining the MarineMax team to oversee the development of the Power Cat range.
“MarineMax has more than 100 locations worldwide, including 77 retail outlets, including 31 marinas or storage operations,” says Lex Raas. “I could never have done what I did without [former MarineMax CEO] Bill McGill, who supported me even when there was a lot of opposition in the industry. That’s why I’m here at MarineMax, leading development at Aquila and maintaining a strong relationship with Sino Eagle.
Aquila boats are built at Sino Eagle’s facilities in Hangzhou, China. “We built a million square foot factory and designed it to be not only safe for our employees, but also safe for the environment,” says Les Raas, adding that all parts FRP are resin infused to nearly eliminate common styrene emissions. with traditional hand lamination. The plant, which is completely covered in solar panels, also uses what it calls the industry’s best filtration system for cutting and deburring FRP parts.
“I’ve worked in factories all over the world and I’m happy to say that our factory is one of the most environmentally and employee friendly factories and production lines I’ve seen,” says Lex Raas.
The focus on leadership through innovation also applies to Aquila’s boats, says Alain Raas. “Our innovations include clean designs with lots of living space,” he says. “Our ships feature wide and spacious cabins with lots of windows, and passengers feel like they’re in a luxury suite with the best view of the ocean. They benefit from amenity-rich features and styling, such as open kitchens and state-of-the-art technology.
An example of this technology can be found on the Aquila 36 Sport, whose foils are said to create a 40% reduction in fuel consumption and a 35% increase in top speed. “A dihedral V-shape in the main foil allows for a smooth and predictable ride,” says Alain Raas. “Transition foils allow boats underway to rise and fall depending on speed.”
On the Aquila 70, the company uses carbon fiber bulkheads to add strength and stiffness. A bulbous bow improves maneuverability on the high seas.
Thanks to MarineMax’s focus on after-sales follow-up, the Aquila brand now has valuable customer feedback to help refine its motorized cat designs in the future. As with all kinds of boats, owners’ expectations differ. It’s even true for Lex and Alain Raas, and what they want to see on the water.
For Lex, “a power cat has to offer more than a monohull power boat,” he says. “I expect every Aquila to perform in both massive seas and choppy waters, and sail just as well in calm conditions.”
And Alan? “I’m on the water with my family, so space and habitability are important. We need enough square footage in our boat for comfort, while enjoying great performance,” he says.
Although Aquila hasn’t provided annual build counts at the time of this writing, sales outside of the United States have been robust. “Our strength with Aquila is international sales,” said MarineMax CEO Brett McGill. Trade surveys only Last year. “We have set up nearly 20 resellers around the world who sell the Aquila product. It’s not [the biggest] part of our business, but it’s impressive how much we sell internationally.
Simpson Marine – which has multiple offices across Asia and is Aquila’s exclusive dealer in the region – reported a strong start to 2022, saying it sold a 70 flagship to an owner seasoned long-distance cruiser with his family. Additionally, he moved a 54 Yacht to Thailand, three hulls of the 36 Sport, a 44 footer and a 28 Molokai to Malaysia, all in the first month of the year.
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue.