Vision 450: High-end catamaran cruiser

Sep 26, 2011

Introduced to the U.S. market earlier this year, the Vision 450 catamaran is built by Matrix Yachts of Cape Town, South Africa. Matrix Yachts is a family-owned business, founded by Peter Wehrley, his wife Fiona, and their son, Mark. After many years of operating charter boats in the Caribbean, Wehrley, a structural engineer, thought there was a market for a larger luxury charter catamaran. He returned to South Africa and established a state-of-the-art boat yard where he started building the Silhouette 760. First launched in 2004, the Silhouette 760, a 76-foot luxury charter boat, has been well received. The other boat built using the same molds is the Mirage 720, an open-deck daysailer for resort day charters.

The third boat to emerge from Matrix Yachts is the Vision 450, which bears a strong resemblance to her big sister. Both boats share similar profiles, with wedge-shaped cabin tops, modern plumb bows and a well-integrated cockpit hard top. Many of the structural elements are shared as well, which creates a catamaran suitable for coastal as well as long range, offshore cruising.

The Vision 450 is a modern innovative design, which incorporates build features found in performance catamarans. The fiberglass hulls are a vacuum-bagged sandwich construction using vinylester resin, E-Glass and a high-density rigid PVC foam coring. The bridge deck consists of a polyethylene honeycomb material, Nida-Core, which has a very high strength-to-weight ratio and good sound dampening qualities. This reduces the noise created by wave slap under the bridgedeck. Nida-Core can also be found within the bulkheads of the boat. A paper resin impregnated honeycomb product called Tricel is used in all the doors and cabinetry, again, to limit weight factors. All these materials and techniques result in a lighter, faster boat.

Keels not integral with hulls
The keels are solid glass, without any coring. They are attached to the hulls separately, therefore, if an unexpected hard grounding should occur the hulls would not be compromised. The fresh water tanks are located with the keels, placing this weight as low as possible. However, the Vision 450 lacks dagger boards, which would improve its upwind ability and tracking.

There are two Whitlock cable steering systems, one per spade rudder, that are independent of each other, save for where they link to the pedestal wheel. Good for creating safety through redundancy.

The boat is fitted with two Yanmar 30-hp diesel engines. Wehrley chose this power plant for its lightweight factor and its fuel sipping ability; it burns less than one gallon per hour, per engine, at 8.5 knots. Access to the engines is adequate, with all sides readily accessible except for their aft ends. With a fuel tank capacity of 92 gallons, cruising range is 697 nm at a speed of 8.5 knots.

The Vision 450 is fun and easy to sail. With 1,250 square feet of working sail area and 1,650 of reaching sail area and a displacement of only 11 tons, the cat is well powered to take advantage of light air. The aluminum fractional rig, by Southern Spars stands almost 64 feet off the waterline, just low enough to transit the U.S. East Coast Intracoastal Waterway and its bridges. Standard rigging is 1/8-inch wire rope. All running rigging is composed of low stretch high-tech line. Reefing is done from the cockpit. The Quantum main is slab reefed with an easy stack pack flaking system. All winches and sailing hardware are by Harken. Standard sail cloth is a mylar laminate.

Comfortable on deck
On deck, the Vision 450 is loaded with lounge space, both in and out of the sun, and storage. A full width trampoline spans the foredeck. Cabin fairings, though they somewhat hamper access to the mast, create a shielded area from cool foredeck breezes. Huge storage lockers and hatches for deck gear can be found forward of the mast. Wide side decks, coachroof handrails and rather tall stanchions with double lifelines make walking aft comfortable and safe.

The cockpit is spacious and well-appointed. The helmseat is situated to starboard at a medium height, high enough to see over the coach roof but low enough to become part of the social scene when it’s time for laying down some dark and stormy’s. The large, comfortable U-shaped outdoor dining table seats six to eight. These features, along with a small settee aft of the helm station are all under cover of a hardtop bimini.

Step over and down a slight threshold, through a large vanishing sliding door and enter into the saloon. The large seamless windows offer a 360-degree view of the surroundings. The sole is a dark cork renewable material while the cabinetry is all perfectly-matched cherry veneer. The U-shaped galley, located to port, features Corian countertops and plenty of counter space. An aft-facing sliding bus-type hatch acts as a handy pass through to the cockpit area. The double sink faces aft with a recessed hidden drying rack situated adjacent to it. A full four-burner propane stove is mounted over an independent oven with a microwave nearby. In honoring the aesthetics of the saloon, the refrigerator and freezer are located to starboard, under the counter. A second fridge, which is solar powered by two 140-watt panels, is located under the settee in the cockpit. A lovely leather L-shaped settee reaches almost the entire width of the saloon, stretching from the dinette table, which seats six to a forward facing nav station to port. Opening portlights in the forward vertical window of the saloon, coupled with the opening overhead hatches ensure excellent ventilation.

Available in a four-cabin or thee-cabin layout (in which the entire starboard hull becomes an owner suite), the interior reflects a contemporary feel, achieved through the use of clean lines, minimal hardware and liberal use of soft colors, light woods and natural light. Each stateroom has its own head with enclosed fiberglass shower and electric toilet by Planus.

Systems lockers centralize gear
Separating each sleeping cabin is a locker dedicated for systems. The electrical panel, air conditioning system, fresh water pump, bilge pump and watermaker have been located within to facilitate repairs. These lockers also serve as sound isolation for the sleeping cabins.

When asked to comment on the boat’s performance, Mark Wehrley said: “They (delivery crew) did Cape Town to Annapolis (Md.), 9,840 nm in 46 days. That’s an average of 213 nm/day giving them an average overall of 8.9 knots. For a 45-foot catamaran sailing through the doldrums and during hurricane season when the trade winds are light if not non-existent and refueling is not an option, that is record breaking! They also achieved nine consecutive days of over 250 miles a day. For any boat of this size to average over 10 knots for a 24-hour period is remarkable, but to sustain that for nine days in phenomenal. The highest speed they ever recorded was 19.6 knots which, in my opinion, is a little crazy and shouldn’t have been allowed to happen.”

The Vision 450 is a well-built, well-designed catamaran, an inviting introduction for many sailors to the world of high-end catamaran cruising.

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Annie Lannigan is owner of Sarasota, Fla.-based Marine Market & Design Group and has sailed extensively on her 65-foot Kanter sloop, Te Mana.

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