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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Pursuit 3480

Damn. Would you look at that?" PMY senior editor Capt. Patrick Sciacca was on his haunches, head between the props, and pointing at the Pursuit 3480's angular hull shape. I took note of the sharp, 241?2-degree transom deadrise—impressive and looking as if it could chew up just about any chop thrown at it, but the weight of his expletive was still beyond me. Then I got it: "It's unlike anything they've done."

We were standing on the gravel driveway at Cutting Edge Marina in Chesapeake, Virginia, and around us were perhaps eight other Pursuits of various sizes, all on trailers. The notable difference between our specimen and her cousins was discernable only from this vantage point. The 3480's deep-V design is in stark contrast to Pursuit's traditional modified-V, and it begged the question, "Why?"

Jim Irving, Pursuit's Northeast regional sales manager, filled us in after the test over a bowl of warm she-crab soup. "We can't ignore...the success high-performance fishing boats are having of late. The 3480s are designed to let us have a piece of that market." This is not to say that Pursuit rushed to turn out just any deep-V hull with big engines strapped to the transom. Approximately 18 months went into researching and developing the 3480, Pursuit's bid into the world of competitive game fishing, namely the Southern Kingfish Association circuit—America's largest saltwater fishing tournament, covering the Atlantic Southeast to the Gulf Coast of Texas. Everything from hull design to what I like to call the "livewell motif" had been considered for her design. The result is a 9'6"-beam, 34'6"-LOA center console with an entry so fine, it looks like it could give you a paper cut. She has unobstructed gunwales and only 34 inches of freeboard at the bow and 29 inches at the stern, where stainless steel nav lights and cleats pop up and the bowrail is recessed. These features, along with a bolstered inwale, should make it easier for anglers to wrestle their catch into the boat.

Alternatively, a bifold door at the transom will allow fish to be brought in, but its proximity to the engines may make things difficult. At least its width lends versatility: At two feet, this transom door is easily wide enough to serve as a point of entry for divers. I found it impossible to keep this door closed on the test run, thanks to a weak spring latch. Pursuit plans to replace the spring latch with a barrel-bolt latch on future models. The relatively light texture of the nonskid was another concern. I'd expected something more aggressive.

Most features, however, attest to the thinking that went into this sportfisherman. With regards to the "livewell motif," Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute worked with Pursuit to provide the best possible conditions for the survival of baitfish. Their research found that a fish's lifespan increases if the tank color mimics its natural habitat. For this reason the interior of the 52-gallon livewell is blue. The well is also pressurized to prevent sloshing, thanks to an overflow valve that can be closed to allow raw water to fill to the top of the livewell, thereby eliminating air pockets. A second overflow valve restricts outgoing water enough to create the pressurization. The optional 32-gallon livewell mounted at the transom is outfitted similarly.

With regards to your catch, if it had an opinion it would say that the four in-deck fishboxes were spacious and comfortable, too (the two forward boxes hold 155 quarts, and the two aft hold 215 quarts), as is the optional 208-quart raised coffin box in the bow. After Hull No. 1, all 3480s will offer an optional U-shape settee to be installed in the bow in lieu of the coffin box.

These features aside, it's performance that makes this center console competitive. We took her on the Chesapeake Bay with only a nuclear submarine and some container ships for company—the barely above-freezing temperatures ensured our solitude. Acceleration was sporty, with the boat reaching a top speed of 52.5 mph in about 25 seconds, thanks to twin 300-hp Yamaha two-strokes. Our acceleration curve attests to the 3480's hole shot: It doesn't even begin to flatten out until nearly wide-open throttle. The boat handled with confidence and kept everything under control with nary a hard jar through the entire test. Aside from the cold, conditions were mild on test day, and the roughest water we could find was our own wake, but the boat proved her mettle in the hardover turns I made in excess of 36 mph. As I looked over my leeward shoulder, I saw nothing but the Chesapeake staring back at me as we came full circle. After one such maneuver, we all saw how tight it was—no more than 11/2 boat lengths. My mother could fit that doughnut in her oven at home. The Teleflex SeaStar hydraulic steering gives seven turns from lock to lock, so making a sharp turn would be near impossible without the 141/2-inch Edson wheel and, as if someone was daring us to do it, the stainless steel suicide knob.

As impressed as I was with the boat's speed and handling, I was curious to know how she would hold up with other sportfishermen of the same genre. After all, the 3480s are lugging a dry weight of 9,200 pounds. Inevitably, that must have an effect on top speed, especially when you consider Contender's 36'2" center console, a larger boat by almost two feet, is 3,200 pounds lighter and reportedly 4 mph faster. Eric Hess, a Pursuit engineer, owned up to the fact that speed has been sacrificed in order to provide a sturdier boat: "We would rather our customers and the boat get to the fish in better condition than a little bit quicker."

Does more weight mean a boat with better seakeeping abilities? Pursuit is counting on it. Its design and construction endeavors have gone into providing a sturdier boat with an increase in dry weight as a byproduct, an advantage according to the company. A latticework of four longitudinal and seven lateral transversals are locked together and reinforced in fiberglass. A fiberglass liner reinforces the hull even further, which is meant to increase strength and rigidity and is reported to minimize flexing and the occurrence of spider cracks.

I was pleased with the 3480's stability, and the speed penalty seemed trivial. But then again, I'm no tournament angler. Another thing to consider is Pursuit's LOA, which fits snugly between some of the competition's 32- and 36-foot models. Occupying such a niche may be an advantage in this super-competitive marketplace. Paul Perry, Pursuit's vice president of sales and marketing says he's excited about the upcoming SKA season, for it will be the true judge of the 3480's performance.

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This article originally appeared in the April 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.