BOAT TEST: TOURNAMENT 1800 BLUEWATER
All the judges in our recent Australia’s Greatest Boats competition aptly described the Tournament 1900 Bluewater as an “old mate”. It’s a label that speaks for the whole Tournament range if this version — the 1800 — is anything to go by.
TEST: TOURNAMENT 1800 BLUEWATER
The Tournament 1800 is what you'd call an honest boat and a fine example of what modern boatbuilding techniques are capable of. With an appealing attitude and demeanour, it's built by a progressive Australian company that has quickly established itself in the local market through hard work, determination and terrific value for money. With the 1800, Queensland's Tournament Pleasure Boats continues the often forgotten Aussie ideal of providing a fair deal without hidden surprises.
But before I start I should disclose that I have known my local Tournament dealers, Rod and Dave Avard from Cranbourne Boating Centre, for many years, and I couldn't find a better match for product and dealer. Cranny Boating is a second-generation dealership with a father and son team, and a long successful standing in the industry.
Cranny boating is also one of Australia's longest serving Evinrude dealers so they match the boats with E-TEC engines - in this case the 130hp four-cylinder model.
Dave describes the Tournament 1800 as a revised 1750 on steroids. It doesn't have new tricks and gizmos - it's just a really good boat at a very competitive price. Be careful not to underestimate its performance though as the 1800 is a wonderful compilation of new designs coupled with tried and true features. It has a comfortable and appealing finish inside and out, combining a big deck area, standard seating for four people, well structured features, and plenty of sensible horsepower.
More than anything, though, it looks terrific.
Tournament uses a great formula for enhancing the aesthetics of its boats. The attractive mouldings are accentuated by modern lines and an indigo colour band on the topsides of the hull. From a distance, the Tournament 1800's classy demeanour makes it easy to recognise.
Quality fittings, a stainless steel split-bowrail, teardrop cabin-windows, a curved glass windscreen with Perspex sides, practical bowsprit, effective hull decals and a well-laid out transom make it outwardly appealing. This is enhanced by a fold-down telescopic rear ladder with moulded steps on both sides, as well as a functional bimini canopy with front and side clears and a rocket launcher.
The hull is a 21° deep-vee that combines big, wide reverse chines of approximately 150mm each side. It delivers a soft ride with excellent directional stability and very little bow rise. The entry is quite sharp for slicing through choppy conditions, and there are two planing strakes for added lift and control. Stability at rest is quite good thanks to the big reverse chines and added beam.
During the test I was informed that this was the first of the Tournament 1800s and that several of my criticisms had since been addressed. For example, I found the seat supports much too high, and I didn't like the stainless steel frames. However, after a long talk with Tournament's national sales and marketing manager, Ben Triebels, I found out that these are favoured up north because they can be used for storing a fish or icebox (fibreglass seat boxes would also be nice Mr Tournament).
But what about its appearance? The black, white and grey upholstery looks terrific and is of excellent quality. The thickly upholstered seat shells and moulded footrests will be terrific once the seat height is adjusted in the production models, but they were just too high on the demonstration boat. The full length upholstered sidepockets also look fantastic and have a terrific amount of storage. However, they're not strong enough to stand on. Fold-down rear lounges are an excellent addition to walk-up style transoms. They provide comfortable, padded coamings for your knees when lowered, appealing trim and a screen for the bilge, batteries and oil bottle.
Sorry Mr Evinrude but I'm not a fan of the iCommand gauges. I find them hard to see and difficult to operate. Call me old fashioned but give me a nice set of easy to see (analogue) gauges any day.
I found the non-feedback steering of the demo boat acceptable, but a little stiff. Again, maybe I'm old fashioned but I like hydraulic steering on anything over 115hp. As a credit to Tournament, I've since been informed that my suggestion for hydraulic steering has been incorporated as a standard item.
Getting to the hull, which is very well constructed and fitted, Tournament uses a fibreglass stringer system with underfloor foam flotation. This not only makes the thing last but also reduces noise while maximising safety. There's a large wetbox/killtank under the floor between the front seats, and there's easy access to the bilge, fuel filter, battery and oil bottle (if required) under the transom.
Inside the fully-lined cabin you'll find inviting padded bunk-cushions, an optional bunk infill, and large sidepockets. More storage is under the bunks and there's room for an optional Porta-Potti. The moulded liner is clean and neat and incorporates the driver and passenger footrests. The bunks, however, are not full length which means a large person would lie down with their feet sticking out (I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere). Still, Tournament demonstrates its boatbuilding experience with a big cabin hatch that allows for easy access to the bow, as well as a very well designed anchoring layout.
The boys at Cranbourne Boating Centre finished the 1800 with a detachable aftermarket cuttingboard and stainless "3-in-1" rodholders. There are icebox/baitboxes moulded into each rear quarter, strong bollards for mooring, and a 160lt underfloor fuel tank that permits tremendous range. A Mackay drive-on style, roller trailer completes the package.
There is something about Tournament Boats that just feels right. To me it's their honest value and the combination of proven ideas - and I'm sure Tournament has already attended to my small criticisms.
The 1800 has a modern persona that's matched with inviting interiors that will appeal to the whole family for all watersports. Tournament dealers like Rod and Dave at Cranbourne Boating Centre match the standard package with a full range of optional accessories to suit any budget, and with base price in the high $40k range and a price as tested of $54,900 I expect them to have a bright future with a book full of orders.
On the plane...
Aesthetics and trim
Canopy rear awning
Big cabin hatch
Plenty of storage
Big deck area
Good anchoring configuration
Moulded liner in cabin
Dragging the chain...
Seat height and mounts 8
Preference for hydraulic steering (now standard)
E-TEC iCommand gauges
Specifications: Tournament 1800 Bluewater
Priced from: $48,900 (with 115hp Evinrude E-TEC and MLKR Mackay trailer)
Options fitted: 130hp Evinrude, Mackay PU series trailer, bimini canopy, 27 meg radio and antenna, Humminbird 587 GPS/sounder, poly-baitboard, stainless 3-in-1 rocket launcher
Priced as tested: $54,900
Type: Deep-vee monohull
Length: 5.65m (5.95m incl. sprit)
Weight (hull only): 750 Kg
Weight (dry): 1750 Kg
Fuel: 160lt Alloy tank
Rec. HP: 115
Max. rec. HP: 130 (two-stroke); 115 (four-stroke)
Make/model: 130hp Evinrude E-TEC
Type: Direct-injected two-stroke
Gearbox ratio: 2.25:1
Propeller: 17in Polished SST Viper
Tournament Pleasure Boats
2/13 Octal Street
Yatala, Qld, 4207
Ph: (07) 3807 6999
Cranbourne Boating Centre
1 Bowen St
Cranbourne, Vic, 3977
Tel: (03) 5996 2206
Originally published in TrailerBoat 262.
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