The Barracuda 9 is reminiscent of the old cabin cruisers that were popular in the late 1940s and ‘50s, but, of course, up-dated for the 21st century. New NZ importer Family Boats will have their first one at the Auckland On Water Boat Show in late September. THE Beneteau Barracuda 9 is an entirely new boat for the local market, but it is not a new concept. Boats like her are all over Scandinavia and Greenland and islands in between. She is aimed at providing a unique blend of safe offshore seaworthiness coupled with all of the basic creature comforts for day boating with the occasional overnight stay. Built around the patented Air Step hull, the Barracuda 9 was designed to be both fuel efficient and be able to handle snotty conditions. Commuters in the northern latitude Archipelagos never know what is going to be blowing in from the North Sea or the Arctic, and this design will get them back safely and comfortably. It makes it an ideal boat also for our New Zealand winter boating conditions.
According to Beneteau, the intent of the Barracuda 9 is to create a boat that can be used by boaters late into the season and in all kinds of weather. She’s also a boat that can be a very capable cruiser for two people on a weekend retreat because she can go over 35 knots (40 mph). She also makes a good daily cruising boat for a family with seats outside both forward of the cabin and in the cockpit aft — as well as inside for five people.
As mentioned above, this is not a new concept. It makes sense because there is plenty of space outside, but when it gets rainy or cold, the pilothouse becomes a welcome retreat. When it is hot and sunny, simply open up the side doors and windows and let the air blast through — and either way the skipper is in the shade. The Barracuda also has the option of running air conditioning in the pilothouse while underway for those hot and muggy summer days.The Air Step Hull is found in other Beneteau models and we reckon it to be an unqualified success. Air is injected under the hull from the topside (the only design that we know of that does that) reducing the drag of surface friction as the boat goes through the water. The Barracuda 9 pulls air from topside into two tubes that direct it to the keel where it is sucked by a naturally occurring vacuum under the boat. There is a forward tilting transom seating arrangement in the cockpit is carried far back, almost to the engines. At first glance, it appears that this design will prevent the engines from being tilted out of the water, but the aft bench seat tilts forward into the cockpit and the engines then have room to come up. This allows maximum space in the cockpit when using the boat – over 2.97 sqm. Opening doors both port and starboard are another feature usually seen only on much larger boats but without a doubt equally convenient here. It makes singlehanded docking on either side a snap for the skipper. When it is warm, simply open both doors for a cooling breeze. There is 30cm of clearance on each side of the pilothouse. This a remarkably versatile boat that can be adapted to so many different purposes. She draws only .62 m so she can go most anywhere. Her optional flying bridge gives the skipper the height to read the water and enjoy the breeze and sun.
Her interior will be welcome by the whole family when nature calls or simply to take a nap or warm up. The optional flying bridge is small to be sure, but it is there nonetheless. Access is from a vertical ladder on the port cabin side. With foldaway pilothouse tables abaft the helm, the pilothouse can be used as a comfortable gathering area or quickly converted into a dining area for four. The arrangement reminds us of what might be seen in a small private jet.
With an empty weight of 3,440 kg, full fuel, twin Yamaha 4-stroke 225-hp engines and two people onboard we had a test weight of 3,896 kg. The Yamahas were driving Saltwater Series Two-15 3/4 X 15 3 blade stainless propellers and we reached a top speed at 5800 rpm of 40.5 knots (46.6 mph). At that speed, we were burning 160 lph for a range of 105 miles. Best cruise came in at 3000 rpm and 20.7 knots (23.8 mph). That reduced the fuel burn to 45.8 lph for a range of 188 miles. Clearly a major component of the design feature was to provide speed to the fishing grounds, but we found ourselves asking if she was slightly overpowered. The Barracuda 9 seems to handle the midrange of the power curve much better. At full throttle, the trim tabs start to become a major factor in her cruising attitude. The Barracuda 9 was designed for either single or twin outboard engine installations. Customers can choose from various brand and power configurations, but Beneteau recommends the following: single 300- or 350-hp; twin 150-, 200- or 225-hp.
In the twin installation, the engines are mounted fairly close together which — theoretically — lends itself more towards power than manoeuverability in close quarters. However, a practiced hand can still manoeuvre with precision. We had no problem manoeuvring in the close confines of our dock. When the wind got a little too strong we did give a shot or two of the optional bow thruster.
Cockpit size matters and in this case its plenty. For seating, there is a large triplewide aft bench seat that tilts forward with the aid of gas struts to allow for the engines to tilt forward. There are a number of cockpit options available, such as at the forward end of the cockpit the standard configuration calls for a foldaway PVC bench seat facing aft. The aft bench seat faces forward and in between the two bench seats there is room for an optional cockpit table. Here family or friends can have lunch or cocktails. A second choice allows for a console with sink and work surface mounted against the wheelhouse. This can be a food prep counter or maybe a place to put out drinks and snacks when entertaining aboard. Put a charcoal grill in one of the rod holders and make burgers on the counter. The third choice is a requirement for those opting for the small generator, which is concealed in a cabinet with a flat surface and drink holders.
The bow features a bench seat forward of the pilothouse and two options are available that might be high on the list for anyone purchasing the Barracuda 9 for cruising. First is a foredeck Bimini that quickly deploys over the entire bow. Second is a foredeck sunbathing kit, basically a hammock-style lounge, running from the bench seat to the bow. Clearly the bow area with its 75 cm bulwarks is a comfortable place to hang out. Families with small children will like it because of the safety aspects. And the forward-facing bench seat is a thrilling place to sit when speeding along so long as the water is not too rough. An optional windlass is secured to a teak platform with two stainless safety rails to either side. Further outboard are two hatches that lead to the wet head storage locker. This space is also large enough to hold two or three fenders.
Let’s start by taking a look at the aft bench seat where there is storage underneath. In the center is a 42 L optional refrigerator, and flip up tables to either side will turn the area into an impromptu dining area– airliner style. The pilothouse lends itself well to accommodating four people, even while dining, with the captain and observer seats swiveled aft and lowered, to face the tables.
The pilothouse is surprisingly well finished given the utilitarian nature of the boat. The starboard mounted helm has outstanding visibility. There’s little concern for greenhouse effect thanks to the benefit of the two opening side doors, opening rear window, and the opening overhead sunroof. Air conditioning is an option. The helm station of the Barracuda 9 has more high points going for it than low ones. In the high points category is the lack of clutter thanks to the dual (with twin engine installation) digital gauges to either side of the optional Lowrance 10” display. The engine controls are located on a moulded quadrant to the starboard side and while the controls are mounted at a high angle because they’re digital their movement is smooth enough to remain still comfortable. I’m always happy to see space above the helm being utilised for items that are only used occasionally such as the VHF, stereo, and control for the optional remote spotlight. There is a wood foot rest.
FLYING BRIDGE OR HARDTOP?
The Barracuda 9 comes in two versions, one with a basic hardtop, and one with a flying bridge. This sort of flexibility is the hallmark of Beneteau and one of the many reasons why its boats are so popular.
The flying bridge is accessed from a vertical ladder secured to the port side cabin bulkhead. (This reduces the side deck clearance to 22.7 cm. It is a small flying bridge, but the fact that it exists at all is a qualified positive for the Barracuda 9. There is a double wide helm seat, and indeed two people are all that this flying bridge will accommodate both from a size, and load bearing standpoints.
This upper helm station is as equally well equipped as the lower helm station with a separate Lowrance navigation display, digital engine controls, gauges, and trim tab controls.
The forward cabin in the Barracuda 9 has much the same features as a basic cuddy cabin style boat. While the cabin’s size does not lend itself to extended voyages, it’s comfortable enough for a couple to spend the night in a pinch. It is also good for an afternoon nap. Headroom ranges from 1.70 m at the entry to .94 m moving forward. There is storage both under the 1.9m long berth and in the forepeak and an opening porthole is on the port side bulkhead. The enclosed wet-head is completely fiberglass lined and has 1.65 m of headroom. The toilet’s holding tank has a capacity of 80 litres and an opening port light allows for ventilation.
In one respect the Barracuda 9 is like a big, offshore center console with a pilothouse. For those skippers who have had family members complain about a little rain, or wind, or spray, or sun, or say that they are too cold, or have to go to the bathroom, then the advantages of this boat become apparent. We like her because she extends the boating season no matter where on earth she is used, but also because she makes boating more comfortable for the loyal family members who are trying to be supportive of the skipper.
We’ve mentioned Greenland and Scandinavia, but how about the tropics? Because of her sunroof and two side doors she can generate a breeze in the cabin. Add a small generator and air conditioner in the pilothouse and now she is equally at home in the tropics. The Barracuda 9 may remind us of an old cabin cruiser, but our granddads’ boats didn’t have a bow thruster, flying bridge, fold-down seats, high bulwarks in the bow or many of the other features that this vessel has, but they did have a cabin, a head and much of the utility of the Barracuda 9. For that reason, we think she is going to find wide acceptance for many purposes.