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Riviera's 36 Pro Tournament stunned Sydney showgoers with its true blue looks... But DAVID LOCKWOOD found out it's much more than just a pretty face.

Riviera 36 Pro Tournament

OCTOBER, 1997 - If Michael Jordan says "Just Do It" then we do and go buy a pair of Nikes to shoot a few hoops. If Greg Norman tosses a bag of his Shark golf clubs in a new Holden Statesman and says the car drives as well as he does, then we'll buy one.

And if some ironman tells us he eats four boxes of a cereal fr breakfast then we will gobble up that as well, no matter if we've got a body shaped like a blowfish (Ed: steady on, Lockwood!).

Endorsements are influential and almighty when they come from experts in their respective fields. And so it is with these endorsements for Riviera's new purpose-built 36-foot Pro Tournament - the first gameboat ever built by Riviera. The praise for it comes from hardened gameboat critics, and it's hard not to be impressed...

Take Mike Burnley, for example. The former skipper of Sydney charterboat Aspro (on which the all-tackle Australian record blue marlin was caught, and is still held) was extremely impressed with the new Riv, almost as though he was expecting something half-baked from the Queensland cruiser builder and exporter.

"The little bugger goes backwards like a rocket," he says of his sea trials with the Pro Tournament.

"Y'know I used to shove Aspro back until its covering boards were almost under water, so I know how to shove 'em backwards. We were pouring this thing backwards on the pegs as hard as it could go and it proved a good article.

"It handles well and it seems to ride extremely well. You can spin a full 130lb heavy-tackle chair around in the cockpit and all the other gamefishing gear - most of which comes standard - works well.

"We set it all up for trolling, flopped out the Lees outriggers and fished it just to check it out. I was surprised that it worked as well as it did.

"I guess what Riviera has done is listen to a few important people," Burnley said.

Brett Thomas, son of gamefishing skipper Leon Thomas, was the skipper of the Pro Tournament on the day Burnley was aboard. Thomas told BlueWater he felt the Pro Tournament's 36-ft hull, which is apparently unchanged from that used for Riviera's 36 pleasure boat (which has sold more than 100 units!), had a noticeable smoother and more sold feel to it.

It's a very astute observation echoed by others.



The most powerful endorsement for the Pro Tournament, however, comes from Bob Jones who was run two Riviera 48 gameboats - Diamond Girl and Iceman - during the heavy-tackle big marlin seasons off Cairns.

He had a hand in the design of the new Pro Tournament. Working in an advisory role, to make certain Riviera put the bait tanks and fish boxes and the controls and tower together properly, Jones says bashfully that Riviera deserves all the credit for planning the boat.

Jones delivered the new Pro Tournament to the Sydney Boat Show from Brisbane and confronted horrendous conditions on the way.

"It did better than a mile to the gallon at 22kts. The only problem was a porthole leaked on the way down... The trip took 35 hours instead of the normal 19, so you can get some idea how evil the sea was," Jones told BlueWater via mobile phone somewhere almost to Townsville, wiping oil from his arms after working on the engines after a day at sea.

"The hull has definitely got a more solid feel - plain tough, it's also exceptionally dry for its size and the little Cummins - 350hp each - are matched nicely to it. Engine access (through the cockpit floor) is really good for a 36-footer.

"It's a little tight going down because of the exhaust but, once inside, beautifully roomy. Did you see the 8KVA genset in there?" asks Jones. "It's important you can get a gennie inside because we tend to live on these boats these days."

Riviera is aiming the Pro Tournament directly at the 35 Bertram and 34 Blackwatch.

Says Jones: "It's a bit in front of them. It's not only a boat for the boys - it's very comfortable sleeping six but has an island double berth in the bow which the ladies will warm to.

"Part of the plan is for me to fish the boat at all the tournaments next year. I'll definitely be at Port Stephens for the Shoot-out."



Worlds away, I first cast eyes on the Pro Tournament at the Sydney Boat Show in July.  Not Riviera's traditional white but finished in a distinctive navy-blue instead, with a white superstructure, rouge antifouling and a stainless half-tower, it looked like a picture.

Most obvious was the size of the cockpit. Though the Pro Tournament is based on the 36, it has a 34's top deck. The gains are there to see and enjoy when you're hooked up. The flybridge, and the interior forward of the galley, are also from a 34-footer.

Inside, there's a sense of roominess, even in the single forward cabin. This features an island queen-sized berth - a rarity in a gameboat but something we all love - with a firm inner-spring mattress.

The berth rises on gas struts to reveal a massive storage locker. Oversized side pockets are within arm's reach of the bed, while hanging lockers (with lights) are located to port and starboard of the companionway. The port-side locker is big enough to take a spare set of linen and a quilt for when that southerly blows through at night and cools the air.

There is also ample hanging space for swinging several changes of clothes - for when you want to look the part collecting trophies at the presentation.



Our test Pro Tournament was enhanced by the fine interior decorating touches of Sydney Riviera dealer, Lee Dillon. There was a cream-coloured soft-touch vinyl liner and fashionable fabrics inside, including fish-patterns on the furnishings. The carpet was offshore blue, and the whole came together like a well-tied knot.

Despite there being no lower helm station and the windscreen being filled in, there was a sense of brightness and breeziness inside. Fresh air poured through overhead deck hatches and portholes and everywhere you stood there was enough floor space and headroom so you didn't feel cramped.

From the forward cabin, a door leads to a big bathroom, which can also be access through a common entry leading off the galley. Well decked out, it had space to change and easy-clean moulded surfaces. So you could actually use the little boys room at sea if you needed to.

It should also handle the demands of tournament time, with a separate standing-height shower, moulded sink unit, mirror, towel rack, storage cabinet and a high-quality Vacuflush toilet.

On the port-side is the U-shaped galley. Riviera has perfected the cruiser galley, which is also perfect for a gameboat. Teak is used for the sliding and swinging locker doors, the overhead glass or plate racks, but the benchtops are in moulded 'graincoat' for easy cleaning.

The sink appears big enough to drown that crayfish you dived out from a cave. A single-action hot/cold tap keeps a hand free to hold on at sea while an electric two-burner cooktop and that essential on all gameboats, a microwave oven, lets you cook.



Step up two more steps and you're in the saloon, which is where this gameboat gets serious.

On the starboard side you'll find a lounge. It's a good one, big enough for up to three anglers to sit and long enough to stretch out and have a nap between strikes. It also faces an entertainment system with television and video, a compact drinks cabinet for the Bundy, and a locker/wardrobe for crew gear.

Opposite is an L-shaped lounge formed around a compact dinette - let's face it, most gamefisherman eat off their laps.

It's only when you look hard that you find the exceptional touches. Concealed behind the backrests of both of the saloon lounges are tackle lockers for storing the outfits securely and safely out of view. No ordinary tackle lockers, they have been devised and measured especially to take stand-up tackle as well as bent-butt chair rods.

Gaze at the ceiling above the lounges and you'll find the keys to something equally clever. The ring bolts are for assembling (which takes all of a minute) the pullman berths. The backrests from the lounges swing up and form an extra berth on each side so the crew can sleep, snore and keep playing that Jimmy Buffet album well past midnight without disturbing the owner in the bow. Well, sort of...

Also pampering the crew are the saloon windows. They're big and deep so if you're sitting inside or reclining on the lounges, you can still be a part of the outside world and watch those lures surfing down the swells.

These hardcore features don't come at the expense of comfort, however. More to the point: this is a comfortable gameboat and there's no reason why all gameboats shouldn't be that way.



A gameboat's cockpit is no place for playing silly buggers.

The testboat had an Unlimited Orca Chair made from full stainless by See Vee. It's a great chair which appears to be popping up on all the top gameboats, Caribbean 45s such as Two Dogs and numerous Blackwatches. With the footrest fully extended you could spin it in all directions on the Pro Tournament.

Other fishing features include padded cockpit coamings, teak decks, big insulated underfloor fish boxes (each could take a 60kg yellowfin, dressed), no marlin board (they only get in the way), heavy-duty rod holders and a livebait well, more like an aquarium than a tank, in the transom.

The outriggers are the good Lees brand, while the marlin door, offset slightly to port, is big enough to drag that trophy fish aboard.

Tag 'em or bag 'em, Riviera will be including some storage for gaffs and poles in the cockpit, back under the walkways, on future Pro Tournaments.

Meanwhile, the hawse pipes to the cleats and the storage in the cockpit are handy, and the scuppers keep the ocean at bay when you back up hard.

Back against the saloon on the starboard side is a tackle locker and bait preparation unit with a sink to wash your hands, while the port side had a big eutectic fridge or freezer.



Underfloor is that engine room which the fussy gameboat skippers admire for its access. And for the crew, the super-wide gunwales backed by rails leading to the bow are perfect for getting there to berth in a hurry. For a nimble angler they are wide enough to walk a fish around the boat in the case of a double hook-up on light tackle.

Up the ladder, the flybridge has room for a full spread of fish-finding electronics. The testboat had an Autohelm autopilot and GPS plotter, Apelco LCD 530 dual-frequency sounder and an LCD plotter, and a deep-water Raytheon colour sounder... And still room to spare.

There were marine radios in the overhead console. Though there was just one helm seat, future Pro Tournaments will have a seat for the mate. There is lounge seating for at least three crew.

Higher up again was the second station. Though I never made it there it is apparently quite comfortable, with a circle of thick foam to hold you in and a fold-down bench seat big enough for two. The beautifully made stainless tower is an option which, although adding a lot to the look of the 36, also added $30,000 to its price.



And so to sea to chase marlin we head.

Hynautic steering and a big stainless wheel make it effortless to skipper. Single controls make the backing up logical.

With twin Cummins B370 diesel engines, 350hp aside, the 11t hull cruised at 22kts and 2400rpm. Top speed was 30-31kt at 3000rpm. But what is a true joy is the way the boat feels.

It feels smooth. It feels solid. And you can set it up and head east at a comfortable 22kt on less than a mile-per-gallon.

It might be a boat for all seasons but Riviera's new Pro Tournament is also obviously a boat for the game season. It is every bit as good as any American gameboat I've come across - that's my endorsement.



(Facts & Figures)






Bowrail safety wires ($423); Flybridge GRP locker ($506); Teak cockpit sole, side, saloon entry and flybridge steps ($6255); Holding tank, macerator, overboard discharge and deck waste outlet ($1886); Flybridge carpet ($363); Canvas carpet cover ($363); Custom navy gelcoat ($3191); Teak cockpit coamings and stainless cockpit corners ($1833); Custom half tower with spotlights and twin driving stations, single-lever controls, Vyback clears, nav lights, etc ($30,611); Autohelm ST6000 and autopilot ($4709); Autohelm Navcentre 500 plotter/GPS ($3482); Apelco 530 LCD dual-frequency sounder ($1483); Apelco 7000 LCD plotter ($1529); Raytheon V850 colour sounder ($3186); C-Map Sydney-Mooloolabah ($420); Safety equipment ($4416); Aerials ($3858). Note: price does not include Sea Vee 130lb chair.



$278,448 (with twin 250hp Cummins B270s)



Material: GRP
Type: Deep-V monohull
Deadrise (at transom): not given
Length: 11.06m
Beam: 4.07m
Displacement: 11,000kg
Fuel capacity: 1280lt
Water capacity: 460lt


ENGINES (as tested)

Make/model: Twin Cummins 370Bs
Rated HP: 2 x 355hp
Type: Six-cylinder turbo-diesel
Displacement (ea): 5900cc
Weight (ea): 556kg



Lee Dillon Marine, Rushcutters Bay (NSW), (02) 9363 0000.

Source: Trade-a-boat, Oct 1997

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