Define your very own escape capsule, with this latest explorer-style ILIAD 62, that can be customised to your adventure needs, reports Kevin Green.
Escaping the madding crowd requires self-sufficiency and an efficient vessel, which is something Australian-owned ILIAD Catamarans knew from the very beginning of the conception of this range of powered catamarans.
Lifestyle is the main driver for the surge in demand for these vessels and their inherent features, such as frugality and shallow draft, mean they are also ideal explorer boats. The first 50 arrived in Australia in 2019, joined in 2020 by a 70 model in a line-up that includes 53, 62 and 74 models.
The ILIAD 62 premiered at the 2022 Sydney Boat Show, where I boarded it after the event. For 2023, the major milestones are the upcoming ILIAD 53S, which a sedan model that made its Australian debut at the 2023 Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, followed by the ILIAD 53F flybridge at the 2023 Sydney Show in August.
These semi-displacement yachts can achieve double digit cruising speeds and long ranges. The key to these capabilities is a wide array of engine choices, all shaft driven, tailored to a customer’s needs. The popularity of explorer-style yachts continues to grow as people seek to escape the crowds and embrace technologies that liberate them from onshore services. For motor yachts, fuel efficiency is a key feature, and this is where catamarans with their low-drag hulls are very attractive. Wanting something special but finding nothing suitable on the market, ILIAD Catamarans boss Mark Elkington formed a consortium that included designer Riccardo Bulgarelli, who worked with Azimut before establishing his own design office, and a leading South Asia shipyard. Along with Australian expertise from well-known marine expert and Chief Operating Officer Michael Crook with his !nance and administration team. The result is ILIAD Catamarans.
The 62 made a real splash at the 2022 Sydney Boat Show as shown by the number of visitors that thronged its three levels of living space. One couple from America, Bob and Dolores, flew in and actually bought it during the show. Thankfully, they allowed me to take it for a sea trial afterwards, which showed me the increased level of refinement from the previous hulls. “Our management team at the ILIAD’s shipyard continues to strive for perfection, no matter how much customisation an owner wants,” explained Mark Elkington. That in fact, is a key market differentiator, he said: the semi-custom build and exceptionally high level of detailed finish.
Another selling point is offering fully optioned base boats, rather than creating add-ons afterwards which has been successfully proven by quality builders such as Nautor-Swan. Three levels of living starts at the top with a huge flybridge that extends right to the aft of the ILIAD 62. Climbing up here via the inboard steps from the cockpit reveals a semi-covered area with U-shaped lounge midships that seats 10; opposite this is a bar with stools that includes an electric plate and bar fridge.
Offset to port at the front is the steering console that complements another (optional) one in the saloon. This elevated position is ideal for steering in shoal waters and good for tight marina manoeuvres as well because of the views all round. Looking aft on the flybridge, across the swath of thick Flexiteak flooring, is an open area for lounging or housing a dinghy; with reinforced base in place for a davit. However, being a custom boat, this area could have sunbeds or even a jacuzzi perhaps. “Just let us know what you want,” advised Elkington.
Overhead, the fibreglass roof supports communications equipment and clear plastics were fitted on the review boat to weatherproof the forward sections. “Alternatively, you could have a fully enclosed wheelhouse with an internal staircase leading up here,” said Elkington. The steering console was dominated by Raymarine Hybrid Touch chart screen, autopilot and electronic throttles for the upgraded Volvo D6-600HP motors.
Among the features of catamarans are their two engines located far apart (unlike a monohull) so this gives them incredible manoeuvrability, allowing the hulls to be pivoted, which generally offsets the need for a bow thruster; however thrusters were fitted. Their vast bulk does create windage (and increased fuel consumption) so powerful engines like these 600HPs are ideal for this size of vessel, especially if semi-displacement mode is desired.
On the main deck, the aft part will be a strong selling point for prospective buyers, especially for those coming from the narrower beam of a monohull because the ILIAD 62 has a vast area of unimpeded relaxing space that only a catamaran can offer.
A wet bar and table for eight means the aft deck is an alfresco extension of the saloon, especially as the galley is just inside. The entire area is shaded by the flybridge extension which is strongly supported by large diameter stainless struts and seamlessly flows into the saloon while being protected by sturdy sliding doors.
Inside, the open plan saloon the galley is to port, dinette conveniently placed opposite and lounge on the forward port quarter.
New to the ILIAD brand is the bow access from the front of the saloon, which allows guests to enjoy the forward cockpit or crew to quickly check on the rode when anchoring. Inside is the second steering console (which is optional) and double electronically controlled Besenzoni helm.
It has a full array of Raymarine screens including autopilot and twin large navigation screens plus engine ones and anchor controls. The other key control is the main power board which is near the galley. It had neatly laid out 12V and 24V switches and all essential controls including the anti-fire system for the engine room. As the forepart of the saloon is elevated by a step, this creates clear views from the steering console and given the low-slung styling of the American Oak joinery – a medium coloured wood that nicely matches the immaculate two-pack cream painted bulkheads and cupboards. Underfoot is carpet over laid wood.
Views for the skipper are superb in all directions, greatly aided by the generous use of toughened glass throughout – all made in New Zealand by Glass Shape. Just behind the steering console is the navigation table, so ideally placed for the skipper to place pilot books and charts. This area also has a wet bar so it is multipurpose. Vertical side bulkheads throughout give lots of volume and natural light, while a sensibly large front window allows airflow at anchor. In the galley, a U-shaped arrangement supports the cook when rolling in a seaway but if more access is required, an island bench can be specified instead.
Appliances installed are comprehensive and include a four plate electric hob with separate oven and a dishwasher, while an incredible array of six drawer fridges-freezers ensure the perishables remain cool or frozen. Other white goods include a washing machine installed in the owner’s hull. There’s also spacious Himacs composite worktops and two deep stainless sinks. Large cupboards overhead and under the worktops are ideal for victualling long term, plus there’s watertight storage in the nacelle – ideal for maintaining the temperature of your wine. An improvement on previous models is clever use of fiddles that double as handholds on the workbench, illustrating my earlier comments about the improved level of refinement.
Remarkable is the level of detailing and quality of finish, illustrated in the large dining table top with inlays that is moveable to accommodate more guests around it. The joinery is hand-finished in most places and includes rounded ends, curved cocktail table tops and immaculate stitching in the Ultraleather couches. The review boat, a stock vessel, had been displayed for only a day before the American couple bought it – they’d been keen on a purely custom built catamaran but changed their minds when they saw the level of detailing on the ILIAD 62.
Moving down into the port hull, from steps just in front of the dinette-galley area, brings me to the owner’s suite. Closed-off by a sliding door, the entire hull is dedicated to the owner, with a large island bed in the stern where the motion is kindest at sea, and ablutions in the bow with vanity/desk midships. Cleverly, a walk-in closet aft (which could be ablutions), acts as sound buffer from the adjoining engine room.
The athwartships queen bed, faces the small rectangular portlights (that have been increased in size in later hulls) and sumptuous American Oak panelling gives a cosy feel throughout. The attention to detail again is subtle with quality metal door/cupboard fittings, petite chairs and a sumptuously padded couch along with strategically placed handrails. In the bathroom, the tall topsides ensure volume is good and opening portlights give that essential airflow for the tropics to reduce the reliance on the fitted air conditioning unit.
Comfortable Flexiteak underfoot and a quality electric fresh water head finish off the area nicely. Forward of this is the washroom with washer/ dryer, sink, fridge, cupboards and a good safety feature – a ladder leading to a large escape hatch onto the deck.
Over in the starboard hull the two double berths with ensuite bathrooms are equally well appointed, including memory foam mattresses and surrounding bookshelves with tasteful mood-lights. The forward berth leads to another cabin with bunks. The ablutions include spacious shower units. The large expanses of white bulkheads may be glaring but are easily wiped clean. Also good throughout is natural aeration from skylights and portlights.
Usable deck space is important for tropical voyaging, and is generous on the ILIAD 62, thanks to large fore and aft cockpits. The aft cockpit houses a large wetbar and electric grill, toilet cubicle and generous dining space under the flybridge wing. Wide side-decks with deep bulwarks and tall safety rails guide you to the bows. Here, twin sunbeds (in quality Sunbrella fabric) elevate and lockers between them house the essential anchor arrangement. The rode (80kg Ultra anchor) runs under the nacelle, safely away from bare feet and is controlled by a Quick 3000W vertical windlass, which I’d prefer to be larger given the 50 ton loaded hull. Ideally, a second roller should be fitted (and is available on new builds) but good points included double sets of oversize cleats and large fairleads that also allow water displacement.
The review boat had the optional capstans fitted on the transom. Moving back aft, each hull has moulded steps into the water and the hydraulic swim platform can house a tender (or the on flybridge). Here, also are the hatches to each engine. The standard fitting is for 440 HP Volvo shaft-drives but several engine brand choices are available. For example, emission levels can vary and certain jurisdictions (like the USA are more stringent) so owners should plan accordingly. “Our slogan is Power of Choice, which includes most of the systems, such as engines and electronics, which the buyer can prefer and we are happy to advise of course,” said Elkington.
Given that they must all be shafts, in keeping with the explorer ethos, power choices range up to 725 HP. All Benefit from being housed in a hull that can dry-out as it protects their shafts with moulded skegs. Looking inside the engine room revealed a spacious and well organised area with electrics and AGM batteries elevated above the Volvo D6-600HPs. Interestingly, their exhausts now run through the transom to reduce fumes (as opposed to the side on earlier models).
Only leading industry-standard components are used such as Racor filters, Victron inverters and a Sea Fire automatic fire suppression system. Service access to the oilways and belts is also adequate, as is the quadrant and steering linkages. Other key systems here include the 17KW Cummins Onan generator and hot water system. This is all housed in a sturdily built CE A category hull that has a solid fibreglass base and mini keels to allow a grounding (or hull scrub on a tidal beach).
Yet another feature is the key figure of 1.15 metres bridgedeck clearance; an impressive height that minimises wave impact on the nacelle. Watertight bulkheads are used throughout – in the engine room, the central hull and in case of collision on the bows.
“It’s a full vinylester hull, not just below the waterline but above as well with monolithic or solid glass around the keel line and key parts,” said Elkington. Elsewhere PVC closed-cell infusion has been used by the experienced ILIAD shipyard, who were subject to visits by independent European CE inspectors at key stages of the build.
Sydney Sea Trial
Nudging our way from the marina at Sydney’s Birkenhead Point required little effort from skipper Michael ‘Nod’ Crook. Just a nudge of the bow thruster to clear the pontoon before he eased the electronic throttles to power us away. Most catamarans respond to judicious use of the throttles – in a fore and aft movement to spin the hulls, but given the windage from the flybridge a thruster on each hull is welcome for the amateur skipper.
At sea and safely away from the ferry traffic I took control of the ILIAD 62. Leaning against the bolster seat on the flybridge with steering wheel at waist height the views were superb. Steering was instantaneous because of the electric/hydraulic steering system and twin rudders, wide apart.
Pushing down the electronic throttles brought a faint roar from the twin 600HPs and a tweak of the Interceptor tabs aided our planning. Before that we’d been in trawler mode at 10 knots which is the long-range speed that showed 10 knots, giving a superb range of 2,000 miles but slowing a knot increases this to an incredible 3,294 nm. Increasing speed – to outrun a tropical storm for example, reduces this range significantly but the speed (maximum 21 knots reached on test) is there if you need it.
Offshore beyond Sydney Heads the rolling swell didn’t upset the ILIAD 62, with no groans from any parts as we broached a few rollers. Below in the saloon console the steering experience was equally comfortable but less thrilling. The open plan layout allowed clear views aft; always essential of Sydney Harbour. And the comfortable double seat supported me well as we glided back home to end an enjoyable outing on what is undoubtedly a superb power catamaran; that will take you those distant horizons without worrying about your next fuel stop.