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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Sessa 36 Open

I couldn't stop laughing.

Craig Muir, Sessa Marine's U.S. general manager and my partner on a recent high-speed romp of a boat test, was laughing, too. Why? Torque. Every time I throttled up the three big-block, four-stroke, 350-hp Yamaha V8 outboards strapped to the transom of this 36-foot express cruiser, I felt what it must be like to defy gravity.

Sessa calls the 36's hull design polyedric: a deep-V with deadrise of 48 degrees at the bow that continuously decreases going aft until it's 21 degrees at the transom. It's a design that helped her jump out of the hole and onto plane in just a hair more than six seconds. Within another 20 seconds, the passing landscape became a quantum leap-like blur. This Italian import sprinted to 55.7 mph at the engines' rated 6000 rpm (such speed will cost you 76.5 gph). In addition to the speedy hull form, 12"x18" Lenco racing tabs recessed into the hull enhanced lateral stability. Once up and going, she tracked arrow straight.

However, when the 36 comes out of the hole, she does so in such a powerful way that she's susceptible to torque steer. In other words, if you don't have her lined up straight before you throttle the controls, she pops up and jumps off to one side or the other. While going zero to WOT is fun, you need to respect the power of her engines and her nimble, real-time-reacting nature when maneuvering.

I found the 36's power-assisted SeaStar steering confidence-building at WOT and while making high-speed turns, which she leaned into with a moderate heel. The Sessa offers the maneuverability of a runabout, but with a more robust feel thanks to her 13,216-pound dry weight.

But she's more than speedy—she's strong. Her hull bottom features a single-skin fiberglass laminate with both PVC and balsa cores used where strength is required without adding weight. More than two inches of laminated okume plywood is used in the transom to support those three monster outboards.

On top of all that, she was also designed for entertaining, with a cockpit that sports L-shape benchseating aft to starboard and an adjustable teak table. Six adults can comfortably eat a meal here because the port-side benchseat slides up to this table on a track.

And if you do plan on dining alfresco, you won't need to go the fully equipped galley below decks to cook. On centerline just abaft the triple centerline bolster-style helm seats, a hefty (and heavy) fiberglass lid conceals an Origo two-burner electric cooktop. You can prepare ingredients next to the cooktop, grill up your grub, plate your food, and serve your guests at that cockpit table. And an ice-cold beverage is just a reach away, since the refrigerator is below the grill (an ice maker is also an option), behind attractive teak doors. I did find the doors sticky; perhaps the wood was swelled from a recent rain.

If you've opted for the hardtop with the extended roof, you can have your lunch in the shade, after which there's plenty of space on the four-person-wide foredeck for you sunpads to catch some rays. Even cooler are the built-in speakers up here that keep the tunes from the optional Sony AM/FM stereo/CD player going all day long. They sound great and also blend nicely into the boat's design so you'll be able to enjoy them without even seeing them.

The Sessa 36 is a solid dayboat and a great Bahamas runner, but she also makes a great overnighter thanks to her below-deck accommodations. Forward is a V-berth (5'2"x5'10") that becomes a double thanks to a filler cushion. But the real magic here is the aft cabin. Since the boat is powered by outboards, there's space under the helm for another double berth (with filler cushion) or two singles. Two elongated amidships windows—about the length of the aft cabin—let light into this space. It's a great place to hang out or get a good night's rest before shooting back across the 'Stream from Bimini.

The look down here is quite contemporary, with light-oak veneers offsetting dark leather on the dining table and V-berth and the stainless steel galley countertops. Muir told me the upscale look was inspired by the builder's 46-footer. An optional 26-inch Samsung LCD TV here helps deal with rainy days at the dock.

But there was no rain and no TV-watching on test day. Conditions were picture perfect: warm temperatures, blue sky, and water that was varying shades of teal—the very environment in which this boat really shines. Sessa's 36 Open possesses all of the class and attractive form European-built boats are known for, all of the muscular performance enthusiasts love, and a profile that keeps you lookin' back at her. And once you get behind the wheel, throttle her up, and shoot this thoroughbred out of the gates, you should be feeling an ear-to-ear grin in about...six seconds.

For more information on Sessa Marine, including contact information, click here.

The sun was head-scorching hot on test day. Too bad our test boat didn't have the optional fiberglass hardtop seen in this rendering. This piece of gear may be optional, but it should be standard. One of its great features is the extended bimini that stretches out at the push of a button to cover the aft portion of the cockpit. This arrangement offers plenty of protection from the sun while you and your guests are enjoying lunch at the cockpit table.—P.S.

This article originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.