BOAT TEST: FI-GLASS 5.1 DOMINATOR
Second-generation Kiwi boatbuilder Fi-Glass is enjoying its foray into the Australian boating market, says John Willis — and with value-packed offerings like the 5.1 Dominator, why wouldn’t it?
TEST: FI-GLASS 5.1 DOMINATOR
With origins in the land of the long white cloud, the New Zealand Fi-Glass 5.1 Dominator is now available in Australia. The Kiwis have a well-earned reputation for building good, strong, seaworthy craft, and the current exchange rate makes importing from our old ANZAC allies a very cost effective proposition.
A number of boats from across the trench are already enjoying success in Australia, and the Fi-Glass range is no exception, having quickly established a network of Australian dealers through the Avante Marine Group.
The Dominator is packaged by Avante with a bullet-proof Mercury 75hp two-stroke outboard that has been proven time and time again to be a value-packed, reliable powerplant. It's a simple carburetted, three-cylinder two-stroke that will provide years of trouble free service and very torquey power. It may not be the smoothest at low revs, nor the quietest at speed - and it may not even be the most fuel efficient - but it's a damn good all-round performer that gives the Dominator plenty of power for a full range of family watersports (I should know - I own one).
The Fi-Glass Dominator will appeal to new boaters in the market for an "entry-level" package, and for about the same price as a reasonable secondhand alternative. Its price is also comparable to a new 4.6-5.2m aluminium combination. It even offers the comfort and style of a well-appointed half-cabin with nice mouldings, good looks and a user-friendly fibreglass construction.
Entry-level in my dictionary can also appeal to those who started small and got bigger and bigger over the years until they finally realised that a small, easily managed package can be just as much fun as a bigger boat, and without the hassles.
This boat will also suit those who do much of their boating in enclosed waterways. In fact, for a couple pottering around an estuary it would perform reasonably well with even a little less horsepower. Naturally, it's totally up to the customer but I found the Mercury 75hp ideally suited for the average family.
HANDLING AND RIDE
Fi-Glass is entirely confident of its build quality and provides a six-year hull warranty for every boat. One of the reasons for this is that the hull is completely foam-filled. This deadens hull noise and gives those aboard the kind of piece of mind that comes with maximum safety.
On the water in a light bay chop, the Dominator does well. We weren't breaking any speed records but it turns well and handles jumping around in a little slop with relative ease. It has a pleasing attitude and it comes out of the hole with little bow rise, continuing that attitude throughout the rev range.
The Dominator loves travelling at around 3700rpm at a comfortable and economical 19kts (35.2kmh). You can hear the engine start to unleash the shackles at 4000rpm with a very pleasing ride at 21.5kts (39.7kmh). The conventional two-stroke does everything we've come to expect, providing instantaneous power throughout the rev range right up to Wide Open Throttle.
Having said that, the engine on our test boat revved higher than the specified maximum of 5250rpm and I could only use very little trim before cavitation. This suggests that the engine could drop a hole and perhaps spin a bigger prop. I'm sure the Avante boys have since finetuned the configuration.
The boat's interior is nicely presented and looks very stylish with its black upholstery and gold highlights.
The dashboard is simple but nice, and here Avante fitted a full set of bright, easily read analogue gauges, backed by a small walnut-trim plate. A basic fishfinder and marine radio are also part of the standard package. However, the demonstration unit had been upgraded to a Lowrance HDS-5 colour-depthsounder/GPS/plotter, a highly recommended option in my view. A padded coaming surrounds the Mercury flush-mounted controls and vision is quite good through the single-section Perspex windscreen.
Padded sidepockets with great storage potential run the length of the boat. More storage is under the upholstered bunk cushions, and I was pleased to see a fibreglass liner and light grey frontrunner trim throughout. These additions give the boat a warm and comfortable appeal. Fi-Glass has also followed the modern trend away from pinch welds on fibreglass edges.
While the 5.1 Dominator is not a big boat it does provide a well-proportioned and comfortable cabin. Anchorwell access is via a large, solid Perspex hatch that gives plenty of light and the illusion of more space to the interior. The bow section is finished with an enclosed anchorhatch and bollard, as well as a bowroller. Since there's no sprit, I'd change the bow fitting to a fold-over style that could retain the anchor out on the bow.
There are no shortcuts in Avante's Fi-Glass 5.1 Dominator package. This boat represents exceptionally good value for money and is loaded with all the basics that should provide many years of trouble free boating. Standard items include stainless grabhandles, rodholders and bowrail, nav lights, a Covercraft bimini canopy with aluminium rocket launcher, a tonneau cover, and full saltwater safety equipment and registration. The trailer is a single-axle, drive-on Dunbier Supa Rolla.
Limited stability at rest lets it down a little but its high gunwales, presentation and standard features certainly place it high on the shopping list in the $30,000 price range. Overall, it's a sensible, value-packed new alternative to secondhand fibreglass boats and new 4.5-5m tinnies.
On the plane...
Budget oriented and value packed
No-tricks comprehensive packaging
Big Perspex anchorhatch
Dragging the chain...
Cramped helm (Note - this has changed on new models)
Specifications: Fi-Glass 5.1 Dominator
Price as tested: Approx. $31,290
Options fitted: Spare wheel, Lowrance HDS-5
Priced from: $29,990
Type: Monohull moderate-vee
Length (overall): 5.05m
Weight: 400kg (hull only)
Approx. towing weight: 950kg
Fuel: Twin-22lt tanks
Rec. max. HP: 90hp
Make/model: Mercury 75 ELPTO
Type: Electric-start, power-tilt and trim, oil-injected, three-cylinder CDI, two-stroke
Rated HP: 75
Gearbox ratio: 2.30:1
Propeller: 18in S/S
247 Dyers Road
345 Dorset Rd
Boronia, Vic, 3155
Phone: (03) 9760 2222
Originally published in TrailerBoat 261.
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