If you wanna go fast, go foils. That’s the advice of the Auckland owner of Zorro, a 10.4m power cat. He doesn’t wear a mask or sword (well, not in public) – but the cat’s dark and mysterious and, like her namesake, scoffs at tough situations. Story by Lawrence Schaffler, photography by Roger Mills.

Penned by Auckland design team LOMOcean, Zorro is equipped with two foils between her hulls – one around midships (V-shaped, oriented to the rear) and a second (straight across) trim foil near the stern. LOMOcean is internationally-renowned for its multihull designs, many of which use foils and/or wave-piercing hulls.
I’d heard a few rumours about Zorro – mainly relating to her owner’s enthusiastic right hand and need for speed – and was keen to check her out. And experiencing her foil performance began fairly innocently. She lives up Auckland’s Panmure estuary and the trip down-river to the Hauraki Gulf was without incident – cruising sedately in a 20-knot westerly wind.

By the time we’d reached Browns Island to meet the waiting photo boat, the wind and seaway had become decidedly more boisterous – and within minutes it was blowing 45+ knots, the photo boat heaving and bucking like a demented stallion. (Well done Roger – not a single bit of puke made it to the camera lens!).
So – not ideal conditions, you’d think. But, as it turned out, quite fortuitous – it presented an excellent opportunity to see how the foils perform in a less-than-perfect sea. In a word – impressive.
Zorro’s powered by twin 350hp Volkswagen diesels (badged as Mercury) mated to Bravo X3 drives – and they shift her along at a comfortable 25-knot cruising speed. But her owner doesn’t ‘do’ 25 knots – as suggested, he likes getting everywhere in a hurry – so 30 knots is his ‘cruising speed’. At that rate the diesels’ crankshafts are spinning at 3,500rpm, each engine burning about 43 litres an hour.
Going with foils, says Zorro’s owner – was actually a simple decision. “You can have more horsepower – or foils – both do the same thing in the quest for more speed. But the foils provide a better ride. They also make more sense when you weigh up the cost of building a boat relative to the amount of fuel you’ll be burning. For me, that equation quickly resolved my decision to go with foils.”
I discovered all of this during the cruise to our testing ground. But powering into a 45-knot wind (with its corresponding seas) would, I imagined, relax that right hand a little? Fat chance.


“Going fast,” he explained, “allows the foils to skip across the troughs – it’s much smoother that way.” And indeed it was.
Though she did bounce around, Zorro’s performance – upwind and downwind – felt much more stable at speed. A more cautious throttle setting brought uncomfortable pitching and wallowing – and flying glassware. Forward went the throttles…
Interestingly, the cat’s fuel burn is pretty flat once she transcends the 25-knot barrier – all symphonic music to accompany the owner’s ‘go-as-fast-as-you-can’ boating philosophy.
Getting my head around the cat’s heavy weather behaviour made more sense after talking to LOMOcean director Craig Loomes.
“The foils generate lift and help to ‘raise’ the cat out of the water – but they need speed to generate that lift. Having said that, we don’t want too much lift – that would create instability – so the foils’ profiles are designed very specifically around Zorro’s hull profiles and wetted surface area. It’s a delicate equation.”
Zorro has a relatively high wing-deck to minimise ‘slamming’ in big seas – the additional lift raises the cat, and the wing-deck – even further. We didn’t experience any slamming during our adventure.

Dubai Drama
Another – and equally intriguing – part of Zorro’s story involves her build process. Unlike her motion through (over) the water, it definitely wasn’t a smooth process.
Her gestation began on the other side of the world – in Dubai – where her owner had been living and working for 20 years. The region’s scorching climate is perfect for cruising but his existing 22-footer was a conventional day boat. He wanted a bigger vessel to take his family on overnight cruises – ideally, without sacrificing any speed.
He couldn’t find anything he liked so decided to build a boat – a decision supported by the country’s relatively cheap labour. So began an intensive period of research which, for him, increasingly pointed to a cat. “The vast majority of commercial and charter boat operations use cats, and there has to be a good reason for that.
“I knew I’d eventually be returning to Auckland with the boat, and the prospect of being out at the Barrier, facing a long slog home in a gnarly southwester wasn’t appealing. I wanted a boat that could go fast in miserable conditions, rather than being forced to wait until the weather improved.
“And then Earthrace (a LOMOcean design) with her wave-piercing hulls appeared on the scene and she looked very interesting. So I tracked down the company and began chatting to director Andre Moltschaniwskyj.”
A flurry of email exchanges eventually produced a design that displaces eight tonnes – a 10.4m composite-and-carbon-fibre construction with foils. The Volkswagen diesels were selected because they offered the best power-to-weight ratio at the time.

The project began with a Dubai builder who had built a lot of racing boats – but it soon got to a point where Zorro wasn’t racing anywhere.
“I was left with an almost-paid-for boat, but one that wasn’t almost-finished. So I set up my own boatbuilding company to finish it and moved the boat into a different shed. To add insult to injury, the door of the warehouse where the boat was being built wasn’t wide enough, so I had to bribe an already exasperated landlord (who hadn’t been paid) to let us pull down the entire wall to extricate the boat.
“Of course, the project went over budget – but after a lot of swearing and stress, Zorro was eventually finished and launched in 2015.”
Like most cats, Zorro complements her performance with volume and space.
“People often ask me ‘how long is your boat’, but really they should be asking ‘how big is your boat’, because it’s all about volume – the living spaces inside and above decks. Cats are very good at providing superior space for their length and beam. She’s a great party boat.”
With her 4.9m beam Zorro sleeps six – a main cabin with a double bed, a port bunk room and a fold-out couch in the ‘man-cave’, complete with TV. There is a single bathroom with separate toilet and shower. She’s equipped with air-conditioning (an essential in Dubai) that runs off the 8kVA Fischer Panda generator.

Top side offers plenty of deck space for relaxing (and partying), and the windows between cockpit and saloon retract, creating one large, integrated space – perfect for al fresco dining and entertaining.
And she’s pretty economical – at the sweet-spot (25-knot cruise speed) her diesels are together consuming 2.56 litres/nautical mile. Depending on who’s driving, though, you might have to hold on to your toupée.