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Focus on Boat Builders: Cheetah Marine, Portugal/Isle of Wight

15th March 2019

Cheetah Marine: Focus

Part of the big cat family and uniquely adapted for speed, the Cheetah is the fastest animal on land so it is no surprise that the Cheetah Marine range of boats are also built with pace in mind.

Cheetah Marine was founded in 1989 by Sean Strevens, a commercial fisherman on the Isle of Wight. His original designs for a catamaran were pretty radical but were soon being admired by other fishermen on the Island. The company officially started producing bespoke builds in 1991 and since then the company has established its reputation as an international recognised boat builder.

In this feature article, we take a closer look at the history of Cheetah Marine, from its roots on the Isle of Wight back in the late 1980s to its current position in the industry. Along the way, we’ll focus on one of the company’s latest projects, the ‘Maya’, the first of Cheetah’s 11.2m series to be built in Portugal.

The Cheetah Marine Story

That original design back in 1989 was dreamed up by founder Sean Strevens on the back of his own experience as a crab and lobster potter on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. Strevens had tried (with varying levels of success) to adapt numerous small boats but found that these kinds of craft were not suited for working in rough waters.

After several years of losing good fishing when his boat could not tackle the rough seas, Sean finally took matters into his own hands and began drafting plans for the perfect vessel. The base for this creation was a catamaran hull which would offer greater stability in the water, in surf and remain stable when landing on the beach.

His first design was built on the family’s farm and was constructed using a frame of Tasmanian Oak which was salvaged from a local hotel. Incidentally, the timber was part of the dance floor so was well worn! At 20’ and 6” long by 8’ wide, the frame was given an outer shell of double diagonal marine ply with an epoxy resign coating supplied by West Systems. Engine power was delivered using a 55hp Mariner Two Stroke Outboard.

Dubbed ‘Cheetah’, the launch was from Shanklin Beach and Strevens was very happy with both the speed and the stability of his design. As a direct result, his commercial fishing turn-over for that year literally doubled and the success of the ‘Cheetah’ was cemented.

It was no surprise that Strevens’ turn of fortunes on the waters attracted a lot of attention and plenty of local fishermen had lodged their interest in purchasing a craft….if the family could come up with a way to produce and market them.

Within two years, and after a lot of testing, Streven and his father, Keith, had produced a mould of the design. In 1991, the family were finally in production to meet the demand for orders. Cheetah Marine was in business.

The vessels were an instant, if initially small, success and the Strevens family employed a team of skilled boat builders to help them deliver their products. By 1994, the company were not just meeting local orders but were supplying builds across the UK.

It was in 1994 that the company was approached by a local skipper who commissioned the build of a much larger catamaran. At 9.95m in length, Geoff Blake’s Ventnor Pride II was an instant hit and proved to be a reliable, sturdy and pacey vessel which was often envied by many other fishermen in the area. Taking to waters considered to be too rough for many, the Ventnor Pride II was a stalwart of the Isle of Wight’s fishing fleet.

In 2012, Sean Strevens was inaugurated into the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.

The company has made several hundred Cheetah Catamarans over the last 30 years ranging from those that are put into service within the fishing industry to power catamarans. Their range of boats can be seen across the world performing a multitude of tasks from surveying European waters using echosounder technology and gamefishing off the coast of Bermuda to simple pleasure craft which can be seen up and down the coast of the British Isles.

The Strevens family is still very much involved with the business and the company prides itself on their tight-knit team who deliver a professional yet friendly service.

In 2017, the company opened a European production facility near to Nazarre in Portugal offering a selection of the series. The Isle of Wight workshops continue to supply custom built catamarans to the UK market and currently builds about 25 Cheetahs a year.

Cheetah Marine: The Next Chapter

Celebrating two years of its production in Portugal at their workshops near Nazare, Cheetah Marine has produced a dozen catamarans some of which can be seen working along the Portuguese coastline. Others have been made for export and are in use across Western Europe including the UK, France and Jersey.

A new 11.2m design demonstrator will shortly take to the waters for sea trials and will offer yet more in the way of comfort, speed and reliability to future customers.

Cheetah’s manager in Portugal, Tomas Jardim is proud of the company’s reputation and is a big proponent of the benefits of a catamaran whilst taking to the sea.

“To be in a Cheetah Catamaran is a different level of comfort; emotionally and physically. You feel the safety and you feel the ease on your body. In a monohull after passing a day at sea in the conditions we often work, your body feels very tired. In a Cheetah everything is easy.”

Cheetah Marine’s Latest Project: The Maya

Making its debut in February 2019 at the Lisbon Nauticampo Boastshow, the first of Cheetah Marine’s new 11.2m series built in Portugal, the Maya was very well received.

Purpose built as a diveboat for the Club Santana Beach and Resort in São Tomé, the Maya has a beam of 3.7m and a hull length of 11.2m. She can reach top speeds of 41 knots and peaks at her most efficient cruising speeds of 21 knots with an impressive rate of 48 litres per hour. This has been delivered using a Yamaha 250hp outboard.

Offering a spacious deck area of 25 m sq, the Maya is more than roomy enough for the Santana Beach and Resort dive centre’s specification of 16 divers plus crew and equipment; she is CE marked for 20 passengers. A side door has been incorporated into the design to allow the divers access to the water as an alternative to the traditional aft position between the engines.

The cabin is compact but well-designed to accommodate a galley and table plus reversible and back to back seating. There is also a port-side toilet, bottle racks and plenty of storage available.

Fully fitted with a state-of-the-art electronics package, the Maya comes complete with Hummingbird dual Helix 7 and 12 screens for echo sounding and chart plotting plus submersible radios (Entel and Navicom) with Yamaha data displays.

The Maya was tested and sea trialled between Nazarre of Sao Martinho do Porto, an area which is well known for its huge surfing waves close to shore and bodes well for her future career in the waters around the resort of the Club Santana Beach dive centre. Situated 150m off the west coast of Gabon, São Tomé is Africa’s second smallest nation and is known for its extinct volcanic mountain ranges, tropical rain forest and crystal clear waters. It has had a long standing relationship with Portugal since the 15th century when the, then, uninhabited island was colonised.

The Atlantic Diving Centre at the Club Santana Beach and Resort runs regular reef and shipwreck dives and required a craft that could offer flexibility and stability for a range of uses including:

  • Diving excursions
  • Sunset cruises
  • Sightseeing
  • Snorkelling trips
  • Paddle boarding

Amando Quiroz, the resort’s divemaster, is looking forward to taking delivery of the Maya imminently and has worked extensively with Cheetah Marine to ensure that the build quality meets their expectations.

Speaking at the Lisbon Nauticampo Boastshow in February, Quiroz stated:

“She’s fantastic, it’s true. She is completely made to measure. Very stable with excellent sea handling throughout the testing. She has already had huge interest both in the harbour and at the show. I can’t wait to start working her from São Tomé”

Cheetah Marine: Buying a Boat

You can still get in touch with Cheetah Marine via their offices in the Isle of Wight as well as through their agents across Europe.

For new builds and enquiries, you can contact the company as follows:

  • Sean Strevens MRINA,
  • OceanBlue Quay, The Esplanade, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 1JR
  • +44 1983 852398

Don’t forget to check out our own listings on Find A Fishing Boat for second-hand Cheetah Catamarans. With reliability, durability and speed being at the heart of their builds, they are a popular used fishing boat for sale across site.

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