Mitchell Burge and his Bad Boy were made for each other…
He’s an outspoken lad from Mt Colah with a reputation as a wrecking ball on the sea, having split five boats that The Captain knows of. Now he’s riding in his new Cootacraft – a name synonymous with boats built like brick shithouses that ride “on the edge”. The Captain’s crew hitched a ride to see how the contentious couple were getting along.
The marriage between Mitch and his Cootacraft hasn’t always been rosy. His Bad Boy build went well over time and it’s hard to say who procrastinated more – Mitch or the builder, Mark “the Mad Russian” from Mallacoota. Both are obsessed with build quality and fit-out, and perfecting a ride that Mitch describes as “the best he’s ever ridden in”. Mitch and Mark quarrelled over many of the details of the Bad Boy, often resolved with a deer hunt at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Hunting is a passion these marksmen share when they’re not stalking the seas.
Twelve months after the hull first went in the mould, Mitch’s Bad Boy rolled up the Hume Highway to his home at Mt Colah – a stone’s throw from the Hawkesbury River, an hour north of Sydney.
The lines on the 6.5m long, 2.5m wide Bad Boy are taken from an Apache– a name steeped in American powerboat racing history. One notable winning Apache went by the name of Warpath, a recurring theme for this fable. Construction is hand-laid with no timber anywhere on the hull, which features a 25-degree dead-rise at the transom. The top deck is all-original, yet shares the unmistakable signature of a Cootacraft, with a curvaceous wave-breaker and glass stylishly wrapped within. The internal freeboard is deeper than anything in the 6m class, topped with wide gunwales bevelled on the edges for a smooth – some would say sumptuous – finish. You can’t help but rub an admiring hand along them.
The spacious dash accommodates two NSS 12” screens, mated to a BSM2 module with the 1kW transducer. The electronics set-up features VesselView Link, connecting Mercury’s SmartCraft with the Simrad evo2 display. Mitch can get quick access to revs, speed, remaining fuel, voltage, trim-tabs and alerts, as well as clever stuff like launch control, ECO settings and trolling mode. It’s enough to bring out Mitch’s inner nerd as he waxes lyrical, chomping on a Palm Beach hamburger and hot chips while the crew photograph his pride and joy.
Flat dash space is minimal – don’t expect to be rigging up here. Like its Coldfront cousin, the cabin entry and kill-tank door are too narrow for The Captain’s liking. But each boat can be built to the owner’s specification.
THE DRIVER’S BOAT
Opinion on Cootacraft boats is divided, epitomised in The Captain’s 6m shootout (see issue 2). Several of the crew described the handling on the Bad Boy’s cousin, the Coldfront, in glowing terms, anointing it “the driver’s boat” while other crew members are still picking at the scabs on their knees after their tumble down the flow-coated floor. Since that shootout, the crew has taken a Gun Shot to the shelf and it reaffirmed everything we thought about Cootacraft boats ‑ awesome in a straight line and average at low speed in the slop. But the Bad Boy is different. It’s the Cootacraft with no bad habits. It’s deep, but stable – with no flooding keel required. It’s predictable – with no crash helmets necessary. As Mitch points out ‑ backed up by Mark the builder ‑ any idiot can drive this hull. So we did. Fast.
‘R’ IS FOR RAUCOUS
In developing the 400R, Mercury Racing has put back into outboards what most outboard manufacturers have been removing for years; an auditory assault. Bless ’em. At wide-open throttle the supercharger howls like a supercar. It’s enough to bring tears to the eyes of F1 fans (who have endured the detuning of screaming V8 engines to a dull 1.6L turbo). It’s not the only thing Mercury has added to the Verado platform. The 400R features a highly modified cold-air induction system and water-cooled supercharger that compresses more cool air for better torque and acceleration, revving all the way through to 7000rpm.
The 400R engine didn’t come easy to Mitch. His Bad Boy originally had a 350HP Verado, but that didn’t survive testing, which is nothing new to Mitch – many of his outboards have met the same fate as his previous hulls and no manufacturer has been spared. Once the 400R engine hit the market, he forked out the difference and swiped an engine destined for the Melbourne Boat Show.
You might think top-end speed is his modus operandi, but that’s not the case. Mitch just wants down-low power and a lot of torque. It’s his game-fishing sensibilities taking over. He claims at between 2000 and 4000rpm, the 400R is miserly on fuel. During testing we ran between 3200 and 3500rpm, travelling between 19 and 22 knots, using 24 to 28 litres of fuel. Mitch claims it’s less than his old 140hp Suzuki four-stroke mounted to a Haines Hunter 560L. When he does feel the need for speed, the Bad Boy is capable of travelling in the low 50-knot range. At that speed, economy turns to custard, burning almost 150L an hour. Thankfully, he’s got a 500L fuel tank to get him home.
It’s hard to wipe the smile off Mitch’s face. “All that vee and 400 horsepower ‑ it gets me excited just talking about it!” he enthused. The Captain had heard enough of Mitch’s plaudits, so elbowed him out of the way and tucked in behind the twin 12” Simrads. A 1m-2m swell was rolling around Barrenjoey Headland. I tightened the visor strap and pressed my Maui Jims onto my face, peering to the east as an orange sunrise blazed over the horizon. I bit my lip and dropped the throttle. The power responded as quickly as my eyeballs could grow. The hull popped up effortlessly, with a nose-down attitude that inspired confidence. Turns were predictable, but fun, not leaning over like some deep-vee boats can. Turn too hard with too much trim and it will bite; it’s 25-degrees at the transom, after all, but more nimble than its size and weight suggests. The Bad Boy features a super-solid deck measuring 3.2m x 2m and the hull-only weight is approximately 1450kg.
We trimmed out a smidge of cavitation on the turns and eyed off the 1.5m swell. Passes were predictable, even placid at times. It was only when we saw the faces on the photo crew that we realised we were 15ft in the air. I looked to my left and Mitch just smiled. It’s fair to say he’s pretty happy with his new marriage. The Captain’s crew can’t argue. We’re just hopeful we get anointed best man and invited to every adventure Mitch, his Bad Boy, the 400R and builder Mark embark on. We might have to scrub up on our marksmanship, though, because these boys know how to fire a shot.
With 153hp per litre, the 400R is the most powerful consumer outboard ever produced by Mercury. The 2.6L inline six has the highest power to weight in its class, but it will set you back more than $46,000. Would you fork out for one? Does the two-year warranty inspire you? Here’s what else you could get for the same coin:
- A new black SS Holden Ute with 6.2L V8 engine and 18” rims.
- A kitchen renovation and lifetime supply of Tim Tams from the missus.
- Three Yamaha WR450F dirt bikes, plus gear for you and your new mates.
For more information:
PO Box 548
Mallacoota, Victoria 3892