Boat Review Date: June 2010
Author: Mike Brown
People who buy an Air Rider hull are looking for very special performance. Abalone divers, sea rescue groups, and discerning private owners seek out these designs by naval architect Gavin Mair; they are looking for extraordinary toughness, load carrying ability, stability, and excellent rough water capability. The hull form is cathedral – something like a deep-V with trainer wheels – that became unfashionable quite a few years ago due to a series of high drag, oddly handling boats of that style. The Air Riders have changed all that, with 15 or more years of experimenting going into the final form.
Millennium Fabrication specialises in Air Riders, building every one to order and to the buyer’s specifications. The review boat, a Millennium 760, was for an enthusiastic fisherman who plans to fish the whole coast with emphasis on the north. He wanted size, and good enough accommodation for extended trips. He was on board with me as we tested the boat in conditions it was designed for: 30+ knots of wind producing significant seas.
The superstructure as well as the hull could cope. The hardtop extends well aft, and side and rear curtains can convert it into a large wheelhouse. Builder Peter Sandy, who had the wheel, immediately tested it with wide-open throttle into the sea. He quickly got us up to the maximum 31.5 knots to demonstrate that the 760 could cope, before dropping to 23 or so. This was actually comfortable, where full speed although feeling safe had definite jolts. We did not have the side screens up and did not regret it. The 760 certainly threw spray, but none of it touched the side glass or windscreen.
For a three-tonne boat with 260hp, 31.5 knots is a very good result. According to the designer Air Rider has a literal meaning. At speed air is rammed into the two tunnels, generating lift and reducing wetted surface area - and also softening any impacts.
In almost any boat, the conditions we were experiencing would have been at best endurable; in the Millennium it was fun. Its response to throttle and wheel was predictable, and it relished being thrown around in the boisterous conditions. Part of the pleasure came from the diesel engine with its huge torque and progressive throttle. A classy engine too: the Yanmar 6BY260Z is shared by the 5-Series BMWs. At 23-25 knots it consumed only 1.2L/mile, giving a 375-mile range from the 450L tank.
With hull dimensions of 7.6m by 2.7m the Millennium makes a big footprint on the water. Add on the effect of the wing hulls and you would expect something spectacular in the stability department. Which you get: the 760 is barely less steady than a jetty.
The near rectangular plan form does spectacular things to the cabin too – it houses a Playboy-size bunk, under which is an electric-flushing toilet. The door to the cabin is possibly unique: it’s a roller door, garage style, and ideal for the job – when open there is absolutely nothing to get in the way. Its segments are foam-filled to reduce noise transfer.
Seating is simple: a sliding, locker-mounted seat for the driver, and a fore and aft settee to port for passengers. The cushion and squab of this are removable to reveal a two-burner stove and a sink, with a fridge and locker below.
As well as sliding side glass and an opening windscreen to ventilate the area, the hardtop has clear hatches above the seats. A secondary use is to allow the driver to stand on his seat and get altitude when piloting tricky reef country, the Abrolhos in particular. A remote control for the autopilot lets him steer from on high.
The fisherman is well catered for besides space and stability: a regiment of rocket launchers, a bait table with a choice of locations, and a king size catch tank.
Cruising got its share of attention when other fittings and equipment were planned. There is a deck shower, a 175W solar panel feeding two house and one starting batteries, monster underdeck store, and a huge mid-deck icebox to share with fishing operations. Either side of this are removable scuba racks. The scuba ladder aft is a beauty: a great beefy thing that not only hinges but can be completely removed. It is foam filled so if you drop it during removal it will float. Another that can attach to the bowsprit matches it.
On its trailer, the rig weighs 3.8T. The owner has a Chev Silverado so towing is not a problem, but for people with a need to get towing weight under 3.5T an aluminium trailer would do the trick. For extra cost of course, and this is already an expensive vessel. Seeing a Millennium under construction would provide the explanation for this: there is such an immense quantity of framework with kilometres of weld that it looks almost like a solid block.
For a few people nothing but a boat like this will fit their bill, and there probably are no others like it.Lowdown
|Price, as reviewed||AUD $220,000 +GST|
|Price from||AUD $170,000 +GST|
|Engine||Yanmar 6BY260Z diesel plus Mercruiser Bravo 3 leg|