Anglers will love the Mustang 1600 Tournament and so will the rest of the family
SECTION: boat tests
It is amazing what naval architects can do these days with only a five-metre hull. By waving their magic wand they can create enough space to accommodate a family of four without arguments over elbow room.
Beam has been widened and hull design has also improved to such an extent there is now little compromise between stability at rest and rough-water handling. Basic-configuration craft can be used for skiing, fishing, cruising or just as a means of transport.
Gone are the days when a general-purpose boat had a flat bottom, huge seats that took up 90% of cockpit space and a hull that didn’t enjoy rough water. Manufacturers have now realised that everybody wants to sit outside, not in the cabin, so cockpit space has increased and cabins are getting smaller.
The new Mustang 1600 Tournament from manufacturers Hancock Marine on Hope Island, Queensland, is just one in a range of nearly 10 boats that herald this new breed. The Tournament, although labelled an all-rounder, satisfied my discerning fisherman’s eye . With rod holders, live-bait wells and a fold-away rear lounge, this boat is as close to a fishing machine as a general-purpose craft gets.
The Mustang will also appeal to the gentler sex because it has numerous creature comforts that will make a day out on the water just that bit more enjoyable. Comfortable seats, can holders, full-length bunks with an infill, plenty of storage, hard-wearing marine carpet throughout and an attractive, racy look complemented by groovy decals make this much more than just another runabout. With a cabin that is over 1.5 metres wide and 1.7 metres long, there is enough room for two adults to sleep and the infill converts the whole area into a huge double bed.
I took the boat with a few passengers on board for a spin up Pittwater recently to see how she performed. The test boat was perfectly matched to a 90hp oil-injected Mercury two-stroke spinning an 18” standard stainless steel prop.
The dash sparkled with the five standard white-rimmed dials that gave readings for speed, trim, fuel, engine hours and RPM. I liked the way the needles on the instruments froze in place when the engine was switched off. This protects against vibration when the boat is being transported on the trailer. On the dash there’s a moulded binnacle ready to accept a compass and room enough for GPS and depth sounder. Fully-padded wrap-around helm and companion seats are supportive and give excellent vision over the four-piece windscreen. The screen itself, although strutted, is a touch rickety and it’s not recommended to be used as a grab rail.
The engine controls are close to the right hip and functions such as choke, prime etc. can be monitored with just a glance to the right.
The anchoring hardware, which includes the cross bollard, bowsprit and roller, is all extremely strong and will take the forces of kellicking. A large self-draining anchor well holds miles of rope and chain as well as a couple of anchors. Coming up through the hatch in the cabin, I found there was plenty of room to work the system when standing on the bunk cushions.
The full-width rear lounge hides the water separation filter as well as the battery, which was floor-mounted. I would like to have seen it raised, keeping it away from and water which may have come in through operator error. This seat can be folded away, allowing anglers to get right into the corners and up against the transom to fish.
Full-length port and starboard padded side pockets hold general knick-knacks and the rear mooring cleats are strong enough to attach tow lines. Recessed passenger grab rails in the gunwales are very practical and will not catch line or bruise delicate skin if the boat hits rough water.
All storage is in the cuddy cab under the bunk cushions, keeping luggage dry and the open cockpit free of clutter. A small drained well in the floor between the seats can be filled with ice and used as a kill tank or for cold drink storage. There are wide non skid platforms on either side of the motor for easy boarding and disembarking. An extra lower step is supplied for those who are not so flexible.
There are two breathers to vent the cruise tank on the transom so fuel should not gurgle back up the pipe when filling. Side coamings were 680mm above the deck, which hits well above knee height, promoting a sense of security.
My companions for the day were NSWFM advertising consultant Todd Morrow and local boating identity Ken Bullen, from Ken Bullen Marine. Despite three hefty frames aboard, there was no problem getting on the plane from a standing start. The Merc growled as I applied the ergs, then fell into a quiet gurgle, allowing us to talk without shouting when under way.
It was a very comfortable afternoon out on the water, with just a slight blow from the north-west. The boat played its part in making sure we kept dry and safe as we slid up Pittwater to the open sea.
With a 16° deadrise, the Mustang made small work of the persistent chop and I would have no qualms taking her outside on selected days. Coming off waves in a following sea, the boat showed no inclination to turn left or right. The rising chine and refined entry kept us all dry as water was directed well away from the boat, even on heavy landings.
The high coamings supplemented the safety factor and the standard bilge pump added greater security. The boat reacted well to all the twists and turns under power, with no outward signs of rebellion or prop ventilation or slippage. In full reverse, the water just gurgled around the pod with no intrusion into the transom well.
Engine trim was sensitive, with all the weight coming off the wheel when the boat was levelled out and riding just forward of centre. Back in Pittwater, there were plenty of horses available in the big Merc, enabling us to skim across the water at an unnerving 40 knots or 75kmh doing a flat-chat 5900 revs. A more comfortable 30 knots (56kmh) was achieved with the tacho showing 4800rpm. A 100-litre underfloor cruise tank will cater for long fishing trips or weekends away without having to hunt down marinas that carry fuel.
With three big blokes leaning over on one side there was a list when stationary, but well within limits. For those who like to do it alone, the Tournament is a breeze to handle solo due to the easy launch-and-retrieve trailer. Because of its lightness, the whole rig can be towed by a large four-cylinder car or a small six.
The boat and trailer package from Ken Bullen Marine is designed to get you on water as soon as you hand over the cheque. Padded seats, rod holders, ski hooks, switch panel, navigation lights, bimini cover, marine carpet and the rest are all factory-fitted. All you have to do is pay the man and then drive away a craft that will give hours of safe enjoyment on any of our magnificent waterways.
Mustang 1600 Tournament
Hull weight (approx) 550kg
Standard inclusions: Self-draining anchor well, anchor bollard, ski hooks, stainless cockpit rails, 4 rod holders, mechanical steering, bunk cushions with infill, bow roller, navigation lights, 4-gang switch panel, deck cleats, removable rear bench seat, 2 helm seats, bilge pump, 2 live bait wells, cutting board well lids, fully-rollered Dunbier trailer, in-line water-separating filter.
Options: Two-tone hull, split bow rail, high-pressure deckwash, side & rear covers, front cleats, vinyl cabin door, boarding ladder, cockpit lights, cabin lights, reticulated live bait tank, dash-mounted compass, windscreen rail.
Price as tested: $27,309
Boat supplied by Ken Bullen Marine, 58 Garden Street Narrabeen 2101. Phone 02 9913 3522 Finance available