ILIAD 53S: Epic Adventurer


The first thing that impresses me when I step aboard a powercat is the volume compared to a monohull. This starts with an expansive cockpit and outdoor spaces, to the saloon that utilises the extra wide beam that a powercat gives. The ILIAD 53S is no exception, and with a 7m beam, there is an outstanding interior living space, including a huge forward lounge, helm station and dining for 6-8 people. The cockpit is close to 4m long, and the saloon, including the helm and galley, is close to 30sqm overall. Space that is not achievable in a similar length monohull.

Powercats are one of the fastest-growing segments of the boating market, with ILIAD Catamarans offering four models; 50, 53S & 53F and 62. Plans for the hybrid ILIAD 53E and ILIAD 75 are well underway. The ILIAD 53S features a sporty sedan silhouette, while the ILIAD 53F is the flybridge edition based on the same 16.35m hull. ILIAD Catamarans arrived on the international stage in 2019 with the launch of its long-range cruising motor yachts ranging from 50 to 80 feet. Starting with the ILIAD 50, the range has continued to grow, and according to General Manager Michael Crook, they are not about to stop, with big plans for the future. The vision was to develop three models; 50, 60 and 70. While there have been ten ILIAD 50s built, the company felt that after seven years, the natural evolution was to update the 50. The result is the 53, available in both sedan and flybridge models. The 53 does not replace the 50, it is a new addition to the fleet. The 53 is a completely new tooling, not just a modified version of the 50. A main point of difference is the 53 is offered in two versions, sedan or flybridge, whereas the ILIAD 50 is only flybridge.

Of the first six ILIAD 53s sold, three are flybridge and three sedan models, with the first 53F released at the 2023 Sydney International Boat Show in August. The USA will see its first 53 at the 2024 Miami Boat Show. “We are not aiming to compete on a price point with production manufacturers, but like to think we more a bespoke builder, with semi customisation and our goal is around twelve 53s annually,” says Crook.

The ILIAD 53 is essentially designed as a coastal, or offshore cruiser, and a 3500-litre fuel capacity means you can cruise long-range at low speeds. Top speed maybe 21 knots, but drop that back to around 17 knots @ 3000 rpm, and with a pair of 440hp Yanmar or Volvos, you have an impressive range of close to 500 nms. Bringing the speed back to a slow cruise speed of around 7.0 knots, total fuel burn is a miserly 1 lpnm and you can expect just over 2500 nm range with a good safety reserve. Now that’s enough to run offshore across the Tasman from Auckland to Sydney or from Brisbane up to the Whitsundays and still have plenty left in the tanks. New Caledonia, Vanuatu or Fiji, they are all within reach without having to add any extra fuel.

Power is transmitted via a straight shaft with a deep keel to offer prop and rudder protection. Something that is a bonus when travelling around the coral-invested waters of the Pacific Islands. The 53, like all ILIADs, is built using a vinyl esterbased infused system with foam core throughout. Displacement of the 53S is around 25 tonnes, depending and how many more extras you add.

ILIAD Catamarans were designed by Italian naval architect Riccardo Bulgarelli and built to CE (Category A) as standard. However, all models can be made to any specified international survey classification, including a five-year internationally supported structural warranty for commercial operation and maximum peace of mind.

While a pair of Yanmar and Volvo Penta 440s are standard, there is the option to upgrade to 480hp Volvo or Yanmar or 550hp Cummins QSB6.7 engines. You can expect around 23 knots with the bigger Cummins, which might be a good choice for the extra weight of the 53F, but I wonder if you need it. I ran the ILIAD 53S on calm waters off Surfers Paradise, and it never put a hull wrong. The ideal speed was around 17-19 knots in the sea conditions. The symmetrical hulls quickly transition onto the plane with little bow-up attitude. It ran exactly where I steered it in the low long swells and was ultra-quiet. Naturally, being a catamaran, the stability at rest was rock steady, and the heel was minimal in sharp turns. A set of four small Hydrotab interceptors also help keep the boat level at all times. A single thruster in the port bow gives you that extra control coming into a berth or fuel dock.

The new 53 also has a touch more ‘bling’ inside than the 50 and is pitched towards potential buyers that are monohull sedan owners who appreciate a more modern trendy interior finish. The virtually one-level saloon featured a U-shaped port side galley with loungers fore and aft, plus a twin seat helm.

Surrounded by plenty of glass, the views are exceptional despite the heavy mullions. I liked the driving position and that those seated in the forward lounge could be involved in the driving experience. The L-shape lounger is at a perfect height to give you the ultimate visibility of what’s happening outside. A coffee table also hides away a couple of poufs for extra seating. There is also a twin starboard side lounger aft of the helm, giving you a huge forward area for entertaining or relaxing with friends or family. While there are options, the first 53S has a folding dining table around the starboard aft L-shape lounge, which works perfectly. It’s opposite the large galley and a natural flow through to the upper deck area exists. It opens it all as one area and takes advantage of the extra beam a powercat affords.

The U-shape galley has fore and aft servery areas, a large pantry, a full-size refrigerator and freezer, and well-designed storage. One area that the ILIAD 53 excels in is storage. With long-range cruising in mind, when having areas to stow gear is so important, the 53S uses every available space. The owner chose Caesarstone for the benchtops, adding a classy touch to the interior finish. The galley opens to the cockpit, where you’ll find an aft bench seat, a bar area and dining seating for up to ten guests, barbeque, an ice maker and a fridge/refrigerator.

Your outdoor spaces are not just confined to the raised cockpit, as you also have a foredeck lounging space, and then there is an optional high/low boarding platform (450 kg capacity) to be used when the tender is deployed. A 3.8 centre console tender with a 30hp outboard was destined for this particular boat.

While most of the 53S and 53F saloon layouts are common to both, the lower helm is optional on the 53F flybridge version, with the space transformed into more seating. Standard helm seating on the 53S is a less intrusive bench seat, with the option of a couple of high back sport seats or a single helm seat.

While Raymarine is the electronics brand of choice, you have the option also of Garmin. Both brands are interlinked with the Yanmar or Volvo Penta engine management systems. Displays are a pair of 16″ screens.

Being a semi-custom build, you can choose various accommodation plans with 3 or 4 cabin options. Custom interior option choices mean the client can have exactly the look and feel they prefer. The owner of this 53S chose the three-cabin layout with the entire starboard hull devoted to the owners. This includes an oversized transverse island queen bed, panoramic windows, an expansive ensuite, and a two-seat lounger with plenty of storage and open spaces. One word describes the owner’s stateroom. Spacious.

The port hull is split between two cabins, with the forward equipped with a double and upper single berth and the aft cabin a pair of singles or a double. Each has an ensuite, plenty of storage and a hanging locker. If you want to run a captain or crew, there is the option of a single cabin in the forepeak. Not something anyone would include in a boat being used around NZ or Aus, but it is not uncommon in some areas of South East Asia.

Crook says that with seven sold even before the first boat was launched, they are confident that the 53S and the 53F will become one of the most popular models in their ever-expanding range. “The real point of difference is the fact that the level of finish is exceptionally high compared to many in the powercat market, and we have the performance and price point to match, all of which I feel will attract those traditional monohull owners”, says Crook. I agree.

On all three points, he is bang on.