The bloody sun was shining. Again.
Port Philip Bay shimmered enticingly like some sort of salty wet emerald and the photographer was all smiles.
Ideal conditions for shooting photos — no one could argue with that. But for testing a European-built fishing boat with a reputation for handling itself in the rough stuff? Perhaps less than optimal…
At a glance, the Beneteau Barracuda 9 bobbing sedately in its pen looks ready to set off across the Bay, out through The Rip and point its nose for Flinders Island at the very least. Maybe even Tassie.
The upright wheelhouse brings to mind rugged North Sea trawlers, contrasting sharply with a very modern hull shape – deep vee and pronounced strakes set below sweeping moulded chines.
And did we mention the pair of 200hp Suzukis sitting on the back?
What this boat test required was whitewater crashing off that vertical glass and the outboards wailing as the Barracuda launched off the top of another Southern Ocean swell.
But the notorious Victorian weather gods had delivered a glamourous summer afternoon instead. Well, at least the pictures would look good…
After pretending to be upset at the sunny weather for about 90 seconds, we set about examining the impressive French-built 8.26m fishing boat that lay in her pen at Wyndham Harbour, about halfway between Melbourne and Geelong.
Brand manager Sam Barwell of Vic distributor Sundance Marine explained that the owner of this boat had originally purchased a Barracuda 7 on a trailer, before promptly becoming tired of the whole ramp-and-launching procedure about a month later.
The solution? An even more capable Barracuda 9 in a pen outside his house. Antifouled and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Why wouldn’t you?
The ‘Cuda 9 is the largest in Beneteau’s fishing-focussed series, ranging from a 6.5m ‘baby’ to the big Papa on test today.
The French builder also offers a dayboat-style Flyer range up to 9m and the pilothouse Antares cruisers as well as a range of larger vessels, but for those with a predilection for wetting a line, the Barracuda boats are certainly the most interesting of the bunch.
At almost 9m LOA and with a whopping 2.98m beam, this boat can no longer be considered an easily-trailerable option, but for increasing numbers of Aussie boaters who find themselves with a dock at the end of the garden or a pen nearby, this big beauty is undeniably appealing.
RUNNING ON AIR
Along with the square-sided cabin, it’s the running surfaces of the Barracuda 9 that really stand out. Students of hull design will be eagerly crowding your dock for a closer look at what lies beneath.
What they will find is a sophisticated system of planing strakes leading back from a deep vee entry — a hull shape that could only ever be achieved in fibreglass and one that will have aluminium boat builders sighing with envy at its complexity.
Beneteau calls this design the ‘Air Step’ hull and it functions by drawing air from intakes on the cabin sides, then directing this air under the hull via a centrally placed channel.
Unlike many stepped hulls which aim to simply increase speed by venting air, the Air Step holds the air beneath the boat in specially formed channels within the chines.
This ensures solid water flows to the props unimpeded, but more importantly, this system serves to ‘un-stick’ the hull from the surface of the water, minimising drag while increasing speed and efficiency.
It’s pretty high-end stuff and Beneteau has spent a lot of time finessing this system, which also appears on its larger sports cruisers.
You can bet it sure works well on a 9m hull though. The twin 200hp Suzukis punted us up to an effortless WOT speed of 36 knots with 600L of fuel onboard.
Buyers such as Warrnambool fishos who regularly require fast trips out to distant fishing grounds are the ones who will benefit most from this hull technology, but everyone will enjoy the fuel savings.
MODULAR AFT DECK
On the inside of that sweet hull is quite some boat. Stepping aboard is made easy via a starboard side hull door and from this point you can move inside the cabin (there are sliding doors on both sides) or continue to the aft deck.
This clever access point makes it easy for solo fishers to dock the Barracuda on their own, especially in conjunction with Suzuki’s joystick system, which we’ll come to later.
On the aft deck, guests have a choice of three folding benches which act as thigh supports to lean against while fishing, when they’re flipped up out of the way.
Portside sees a small stainless gate for accessing the stern, where there is also a swim ladder for bathers or divers.
This portside access would also prove handy for dragging giant bluefin onboard, being slightly lower to the water than the midships starboard door.
On the starboard side of the rear bench, a large live bait tank is set into the floor and this is complemented by a mammoth underfloor locker — so deep in fact, that Beneteau has included a ladder to access it safely.
This handy hidey-hole could be used for dive gear, watersports equipment or even provisions if overnighting in the Barracuda is on your agenda.
All around this boat are the ingenious Railblaza mounting systems, which can be adapted to hold anything from fishing rods to drinks to cameras and more.
They are further put to good use inside the cabin, where Railblazas support an extra screen at the helm and overhead rod storage on the cabin roof.
Fittingly, this fishing weapon also includes a five-rod rocket launcher mounted on the trailing edge of the cabin roof.
However, with those three benches folded down, this fishing boat quickly converts to a comfortable family cruiser. Such is the crafty appeal of Beneteau’s versatile design.
This theme continues inside the cabin. On fishing missions, four burly fishos can contentedly shelter from the elements as you blast out to sea in search of your quarry. And we’re talking seats here — not passengers hanging grimly to the rear of the helm chair on bended knees as you launch off another breaker.
But for a family day out, the Barracuda 9 also has you covered. Indoor seating galore, a fridge within reach, sink and chopping board, even a single-burner to boil the kettle (though it was removed from the particular vessel we tested).
And hang on, what’s that rectangular wooden fitting slotted into a roof recess? Why it’s a drop-down table that slides down the central pole and positions itself wherever you might need it for serving lunch and drinks (this is one of the greatest things I have seen on a boat,
A handful of overhead wood veneer panels further serve to lift this Barracuda’s design credentials from ‘basic fisher’ status, as does the overhead sunroof.
This manual sliding panel greatly aids cabin ventilation and includes an insect screen and blackout screen for more tropical climes.
With one or both of the side doors open and the rear doors swung wide, you could almost be sitting in the saloon of a fancy cruising yacht, enjoying ocean breezes and unimpeded views through the Beneteau’s vast expanses of upright glass windows.
STICK TO IT
Visibility from the helm is unsurpassed in this Barracuda, courtesy of acres of tinted glass on
The helm itself is uncrowded and easy to use with twin Suzuki engine monitors set below a Lowrance HDS 9-inch multifunction screen.
The throttles fall to hand outboard of the vertically mounted wheel and your bum is well-supported via a bolstered twin-size helm chair sporting stylish contrast stitching.
What’s really interesting here though, is the extra screen next to the Lowrance. This module controls Suzuki’s Precision Manoeuvring Joystick and it’s a handy piece of kit.
The obvious advantage comes while docking, when the joystick allows the skipper to twist, pivot and slide the vessel in any manner required, employing the manoeuvrability of the two outboards on the stern.
But there are fishing applications, too. The joystick is linked to its own GPS module, so position-hold will keep your boat hovering above a favourite bombie or reef ledge when the bite is on.
Another option is the course-hold function which again employs the GPS to keep your vessel facing in the same direction (into the wind, for example, so everyone can fish off the stern without lines becoming tangled).
Some may consider a joystick to be overkill on a fishing boat, but if the technology is there to make your life easier, you’d be mad not to embrace it.
Stepping down through the portside cabin hatch takes you into the lower section of the Barracuda 9 — what you might refer to as the accommodation deck, perhaps.
The full-sized bathroom holds a pump-action toilet and a shower nozzle that extends on a hose from the basin. There’s even an opening portlight for ventilation.
Up forward is a comfy-looking vee-berth with infill and deep storage compartments all over the place.
Back under the stairwell, Beneteau’s designers have worked their magic again. In this void is another double-sized bed which could easily accommodate a couple of tired kids, or provide a valuable space for stashing gear bags so they can be easily accessed without intruding on the main vee-berth.
You’d want to be good friends with your vee-berth companion, but in its guise as family-friendly cruiser The Barracuda 9 could certainly accommodate a whole family on weekend missions along the coast without any trouble.
Back on deck, the bow area of this boat provides another space for tossing lures or relaxing at anchor.
Raised casting platforms can become seats and the high freeboard means junior boaties will remain safe in all areas of this boat, even if they choose to enjoy the ride from the comfort of the central bow seat in front of the helm.
As mentioned, the calm waters of Port Philip Bay never gave us much chance to really test the Barracuda 9 in anything rough, but that sharp bow entry and solid on-water presence speak to a boat that will take on swells with aplomb.
In combination with those throaty Suzuki DF200ATXZ2 outboards at the stern, there’s very little that will stop the Barracuda 9.
Whether you decide to head far offshore with mates or cruise the coastline with family, it seems a sure thing that everyone aboard will have a damn fine time on this vessel.
FACTS & FIGURES
$215,000 with twin 200hp outboards
PRICE AS TESTED
OPTIONS FITTED Engine upgrade to twin Suzuki 200hp outboards, Suzuki joystick system, 60L refrigerator, extended swimplatform, electric windlass, six rod holders plus five on coachroof, Railblaza accessory kit, port steering cable, deckwash pump, starboard baitwell, Lowrance electronics suite, folding side cockpit seats, bow thruster, long-range fuel tanks.
Type: Centre cabin fishing boat
Length: 8.26m (26’2”)
Fuel: 2x 300L
Make/model: 2x Suzuki DF200ATXZ2 200hp
Type: Four-stroke outboard
Displacement: 2876cc (each)
Weight: 234kg (each)
Pyrmont, NSW; Melbourne, VIC; Hobart, TAS.
P 1300 55 00 89