Amongst the ‘hype’ of American and Chinese imported boats, there are still plenty of good quality and great performing boats being built in Australia.
Into this mix we have that perennial choice between aluminium and fibreglass – and it is fair to say that this is an argument that will never be resolved, and nor should it. Each material has its strong points, and boats like the Tournament 1800 certainly exemplify the big ticks that glass brings to the water.
I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in a Tournament 1800, as my brother-in-law in Seaford (a suburb of Melbourne for the geographically challenged) has had one for a few years now. So I pretty much knew what to expect when the guys from Maynes Marine in Hobart slipped the latest model into the not-so-pristine waters of the Derwent River in Hobart.
The clean lines of the Tournament aren’t just for show, as a quick look under the boat prior to launching confirmed. A deep V at the stern rising smoothly up to a pretty reasonable sort of reverse chine means that rough water performance is good and the reverse chine gives stability to the vessel that a straight deep V struggles to give.
This is a ‘guts’ of the issue – you can flatten out the stern for a stable platform at rest, but this compromises ride. You can make a deep V for great ride in the rough stuff, but it will wobble all over the place at rest. Smart designers do a bit of both – a deep V for ride, and a good-sized reverse chine for stability at rest, which is what we have here.
Before the Tournament slipped into the water, I spent some time wandering around taking note of all the ‘human’ aspects of the boat; things such as storage, seats, helm position and fishing room where it counts. It is clear to see that the 1800 isn’t just about fishing, as there are enough creature comforts and finishing touches to make this as comfortable for a family as it is practical for a serious angler.
I’d hazard a guess that most of us in this magazine are serious anglers, so I’ll focus for the most part on that. The room on the ‘dance floor’ is impressive, and for a boat of 5.65m long and 2.3m wide there is commensurate space to keep two anglers comfortably hooked up without annoying each other. When the fishing is hot, the backbench seat can be laid down flat to give more room.
Up forward the bunks are workman-like, and while I doubt you’ll stretch out for a full night’s sleep here, there is plenty of room to sit and relax or stretch out for a short kip in between big fish.
Underneath the cushions there are removable lids that allow access to good storage for those items that need to be taken, but don’t need to be close at hand.
The helm is, I have to say, bloody marvellous! I am 6’3” tall, and it is refreshing to prop in the helm of a boat that has two things – heaps of headroom and a seat that can be adjusted backwards and forwards. To be frank I’ve not come across a seat that can be slid backwards and forwards, and swivelled as well, and I was sold on this.
This might seem a small issue, but it is very important to have a comfortable helm when traversing rough seas or dealing with poor conditions. The throttle and shift is at the perfect spot where the hand falls automatically from the wheel to the shift, so a big tick for that too.
The steering wheel isn’t positioned at an angle like many other boats I’ve been in – it is basically straight up and down. I was initially uneasy about this, but driving the boat convinced me that this was a good placement – the only change I’d make here would be one of those knobs on the wheel to make steering and manoeuvring a lot easier.
The Derwent is a great place to do a boat test for a craft such as this, as the conditions change so frequently in different areas on the estuary. Launching at Prince of Wales Bay, we shot out past Incat and down the river towards the Tasman Bridge. As many locals would know, the stretch near the zinc works towards the bridge can get very untidy, especially when tide and wind are at cross purposes.
As such, sloppy wave and a stiff cross breeze meant I could play around with the Tournament and see how some ‘normal’ conditions effected performance at different speeds. Sliding into the chop saw the deep V do exactly what you’d expect. It was interesting to play with trim in these conditions – trimmed out too much brought the reverse chine into play, making the ride a bit ‘rougher’, but dropping the nose a bit made the V work properly and resulted in a perfect ride.
Around, across and down the wind was the same – get the trim right and this is one sweet lady. I should say that even if you don’t get it right it is still a perfectly adequate ride, but it does reward adjusting the trim judiciously. I was super-impressed with the ride, especially down the wind – trimmed right and would out to full throttle it just sang – what a combination!
At rest it was what you’d expect from a deep V with a good and well-designed reverse chine. It was good and stable and I’d be very happy fishing from this boat in anything under ‘horrible’ conditions at anchor. Snapper fishers in Port Phillip will love it, as will the growing band of offshore anglers in Tasmania on the east coast seeking the regular line up of game and bread and butter species.
This boat was powered by the new generation Honda BF115 – a terrific piece of engineering. It was fitted with a four-blade prop, which is an interesting addition. This helps with the hole shot and for those who like to drag the kids in a tube or others on skis, this will give plenty of torque to get them up and away.
It was interesting to note that when I drove it off the trailer, the boat listed to starboard, as to be expected when 120kg stands on one side. I gave the throttle a quick squirt and the boat popped up as level as anything – which is very reassuring and a sign of good hull design.
The Honda is as faultless as any four-stroke engine I’ve come across – big power, smooth transitions from neutral to in-gear and quiet operation. The range of power is from 90-130hp, and if budget allows I’d opt for the 115hp. The bigger motor might only be an option if there was plenty of skiing to be done or if there was heavy loads such as diving equipment to be on board.
As with many boat packages produced in Australia, we see trailers now perfectly matched to the hull that provide for easy launching and trouble-free retrieving. Launching is never usually much of a hassle, but many new boat owners struggle with the concept of getting the boat back on the trailer.
This set up is perfect for all comers, as the trailer is set up to centre the boat on the trailer. At the conclusion of the test there was a stiff cross breeze, which was catching the clears and side of the boat. This is usually the most difficult of retrieving conditions, yet it was a simple matter of getting the bow between the two skids and the trailer did the rest as Chris powered it up the trailer – easy peasy!
The key thing with boats such as this, is room to move. That means room to move around the deck on the rear two-thirds of the boat, and this boat is very good in this respect.
For many anglers fishing bays and estuaries, the next thing is ease of setting the anchor, and the Tournament is also very good in this respect, with good access to the bow section to deploy the anchor. Electric anchors are always a bonus, and for a 5.65m boat I’d be looking for an aftermarket fit up to make life a bit easier when dropping and retrieving the pick.
Storage is as to be expected from a boat such as this, with scope to organise as you’d see fit. The area under the seats is left open for storage of coolers or tackle storage units – I like this as it allows prospective owners to put things where they want them.
Options include bait boards and rocket launchers and for good fishing efficiency I’d certainly recommend optioning everything that makes fishing better.
Stability at rest is an excellent feature of the Tournament 1800, and one which is extremely important. You’d be very happy to anchor up on a reef off the coast, drifting for striped trumpeter and other yummies or stake your patch in Port Phillip or Western Port, as this boat delivers a very good platform.
Those that like the odd trip offshore to chase tuna will also be attracted to this boat, and while I wasn’t out on the swell, I’d confidently predict that this boat will be a good game boat when conditions are suitable.
This is a great example of Australian manufacturing finding the heart of the family boater and serious angler alike. It is well designed and built, it is fantastic on the water and easy to launch and retrieve. It has all the power to lift skiers and every design feature needed to make for a good all round fishing boat.
For more information on the huge range of options visit www.tpboats.com.au. Reg Turner at Mayne’s Marine would be more than happy to show this boat on the water and I heartedly recommend a test, it will tick all the boxes.