Vinny Rifice is transforming a slow 318 Skater into the fastest ever built.
By Gregg Mansfield
Photos by Vinny Rifice
Vinny Rifice’s latest project is transforming a slow 318 Skater into the fastest 318 Skater catamaran on the planet. The project is a labor of love for Rifice, who is using his extensive offshore racing setup experience and quickly seeing results.
He’s taken a 105-mph Skater and has it running 128 mph with the same power and an ultimate goal of 132 to 134 mph.
The Amityville, N.Y., resident decided to make a move to an outboard-powered catamaran after spending decades running sterndrives. Rifice raced the famous 388 Skater Talk’N Trash that won a Super Cat World championship and built a 32” Skater that holds the speed record of 172.3 mph for the fastest open cockpit 32-foot Skater catamaran ever built. If there was a poster child for inboards, it was Rifice.
“All my buddies, everybody’s going to outboards, so I said, ‘Let me just try it.’” Rifice said.
Rifice found a 2017 318 Skater with twin Mercury Racing 400R outboards for sale through Torque Motorsports in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. The 31-foot boat had been on the market for a while and in Rifice’s mind the Skater had earned an unfair reputation.
“Everyone told me the (318 Skater) boats just never ran right, and they weren’t fast boats,” Rifice said. “I just knew the boat wasn’t set up properly.”
Establishing a Baseline
After buying the 318 Skater from the dealership in the Lake of the Ozarks, Rifice ran the catamaran to establish a baseline of 105 mph. Even before the catamaran hit the water, Rifice knew it was underpropped with a set of 30-inch propellers.
The boat didn’t handle like a traditional Skater and the previous owner added bow weight hoping to deliver a better ride.
Rifice, a longtime Skater customer, talked with Douglas Marine founder owner Peter Hledin about improving the used 318 Skater’s performance and how those changes can be made to future 318 Skater builds. The 318 Skater was based on the 308 with Douglas Marine widening the 318’s tunnel by 10 inches on the outboard-only model.
Out came most of the catamaran’s rigging, which Rifice described as a “spaghetti mess,” as well as the power steering lines and unnecessary equipment.
“It had it had so many little things that people just neglected over time,” Rifice said. “Once I got all that stuff figured out and I started playing with the testing, that’s when it got really intriguing to me.”
The previous setup had added 300 pounds to the bow to improve handling, but it came at the expense of the catamaran’s top-end speed.
“It was carrying the bow so much that they countered it with weight,” Rifice said.
Rifice took weight out of the boat and added a tunnel tab. Using the same 30” props, the 318 Skater ran 116 mph, a huge jump for a setup change.
“I raced so I learned how to balance the boats to get speed out of them and make them handle better in rough water,” he said. “I knew what I had to do to get the boat to wake up and this boat was just dragging itself.”
To get more lift from the rear, Rifice had Joe LoGiudice of Hustler Powerboats fame build a custom tunnel tab that he hopes to test once the weather warms up in the Northeast.
“The tunnel tab really gave us the rear lift that we needed to get the boat to fly right,” Rifice said. “I had Joe build me a Kevlar and carbon-fiber tunnel tab with side tunnel extension pieces built right into the tab and the tab is adjustable (so) you can move it up and down. Now it’s more rigid than what I even tested with.”
Rather than tuning the 400-hp outboards for extra horsepower, Rifice is using other tradecraft to increase performance.
Rifice installed performance air kits on the motors and had Wilson Custom Marine in Palm City, Fla., redo the lower units. Assisting Rifice with the work is Speedmaster Performance.
“They’re all perfectly trued-up and the inlets are bigger so if I want to jack the motors a little more I can,” Rifice said.
When it comes to the propellers, that is still a work in progress. He ran a 14-degree rake 15” x 33 ½” propeller for the 128-mph run and is ordering a 13-degree rake 15” x 35” to further dial in the 318 Skater.
Rifice keeps a “bible” where he records the changes he makes each time. He’s done it with all of his boats. That’s why he’s confident with bigger propellers, extra air and the perfect skegs, the 318 Skater will have an incredible 4 to 6 mph left on the top-end.
“I see that boat running 132 to 134 mph with 400s on it,” he said. “So far, though, it’s been 128 on the rev-limiter hard with 33 ½.”
The finishing touch was updating the paint to go with the refresh on the cockpit. The original paint was black on the bottom and white on the top.
“Everyone kept saying that boat doesn’t look like it’s sitting right when it’s running,” he said. “It’s an illusion because half the boat is black, and you don’t even realize where the boat is sitting because you can’t tell because it’s all black.”
The 318 Skater restoration is also personal as Rifice wants to change the narrative surrounding the model.
“When this opportunity came to get this boat and it was a challenge, I said, ‘You know what, I’ll take that challenge on,’” Rifice said. “It’s been working out and paying off dividends. And you know what? Peter is ecstatic over this because he’s learned a lot about that model on how to build them from this point forward.”
Follow PRA’s social media for the final restoration.