BOAT TEST: FI-GLASS BOATS


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Kiwi-made Fi-Glass Boats cross the ditch to tackle the Aussie market

BOAT TEST: FI-GLASS BOATS
FI-GLASS BOATS

 

It's often said that to see one's future you must look to the past, which is certainly the case with Kiwi-built Fi-Glass Boats, now imported into Australia by Avante Marine.

Some readers will look at the photos hereabouts and say, "Hang on, I've seen these boats before," and yes, they probably have. Because for the last four years, the Brunswick Corporation (read Mercury) was importing the boats, but rebadged them as Quicksilver. However that partnership has now expired and the Avante Group seized the opportunity to represent this well-known Kiwi brand in Oz.

 

 

HISTORY LESSON

And so begins the history lesson. Fi-Glass Products was formed in 1958 by Frank Simpson, who is the Kiwi version of John Haines Snr here in Australia - he's regarded in New Zealand as the doyen of fibreglass boatbuilders.

Simpson was one of the first of three manufacturers in NZ to take advantage of the new fibreglass technology being used to make washtubs and shower trays in that country. With the expertise gained from these humble beginnings came the first Fi-Glass Boat, the Fisherman, which was designed

by Brian Wall. This boat created a great deal of interest and strong sales lead to Fi-Glass Boats being found on many NZ waterways - from jet boats on the Canterbury River, to Finn Class Yachts on Waitemata Harbour.

Many new cuddy cabin models followed, but they were basically runabouts with the hardtop unit, and windows, bolted on. They were extremely labour intensive to build, but the company prided itself on building boats with no wooden components, instead Divinylcel transoms, fibreglass stringers and foam-filled hulls. The result was boats built to Survey standards. They were strong, soft-riding craft that delivered a dry ride, even in the tough boating conditions our ANZAC brothers have to endure for much of the year, which makes them perfect for our waters.

 

 

FIRST FULLY-MOULDED BOAT

In 1972, the Viscount was introduced as the first fully-moulded cabin boat in NZ, and it set the hull shape and style of pleasurecraft still used today. More than 1000 Viscounts were sold and they continue to give their owners immense pleasure even today.

In 1977, the Warrior was released and proved to be one of the most successful cabin boats on the NZ market. It was a robust, dry and safe vessel that gave family boaties sparkling performance. With a pedigree like this, and the knowledge that this boatbuilder has constructed more than 10,000 boats during the last 50 years, it's easy to understand why the Avante Group was keen to put its name behind Fi-Glass Boats and become the brand's sole Australian distributor.

The company is now run by Frank's son Griff, and it really is a case of like father, like son. Frank taught Griff well, but he has added his own touch to these boats to, if it was possible, make them even better.

At present, Avante imports three models into this country, the 5.1m Dominator; the 5.8m Lightning; and my favourite the 6.4m Warrior, which is a hardtop boat that's perfect for offshore sportsfishing. All of these boats make excellent family-fishing/cruising craft, because they're spacious, soft riding, even in the worst conditions, and they deliver a level of safety that every boating parent requires for their family.

 

 

SUCCESS SECRETS

The secret to the hulls' excellent ride lies in the fact that all of the boats have relatively (as opposed to similar Aussie-built equivalents) narrow beams, compared to their length - 5.1m Dominator (2.04m); 5.8m Lightning (2.3m); and 6.4m Warrior (2.3m). They don't bulge out just forward of amidships, and they all have seriously aggressive chines, which are carried well forward, and a variable deadrise of between 21° to 23°. This gives the hulls a sharp forefoot that slices through the water cleanly, but doesn't present a flat area one-third of the way down from the bow to slap the water (as similar vessels do) directly under the skipper's feet.

The aggressive chines throw water and spray down and away from the hulls, so the boats are dry riding; plus, the chines form mini tunnels between their outer edges and the keel. As the boat moves forward, air is trapped in these tunnels, which generates lift and allows the hull to ride on a cushion of air - something offshore boaties will truly appreciate if they become airborne off a wave. You don't have to wait for the "bang" as she comes down, because that same cushion of air eliminates it.

 

 

OUT OF THE HOLE

These hulls also rocket out of the hole, even if you take off with the engine trimmed out after you've been travelling on the plane for a while and come to a stop before taking off again. It's quite amazing and has to be experienced to be truly appreciated. The boat can do this because the hull has a flatter vee'd-plank at the transom, before the angle of deadrise angle increases again as it moves towards the chines.

On the plane in seconds, all the driver needs to do now is trim the outboard leg well out and the boat slices and dices the sea better than most boats we've driven - the ride's that good.

The Fi-Glass Warrior, Lightning and Dominator are almost household names among boaties "across the ditch" and with good reason. They are strong, handlaid fibreglass boats with better rough-water handling capabilities than many other vessels twice their size. Plus, you can get one as plain, or as fancy as you like. All Fi-Glass Boats are built by tradesmen in this family-run business that prides itself on the products it produces.

And while Fi-Glass can build vessels up to 13m, it concentrates on 5m to 6.4m cuddy cabins… it really is a small-boat specialist.

For more information about the entire Fi-Glass range call into the Avante Marine showroom at 210-212 Silverwater Road, Silverwater, NSW, or visit www.avantemarine.com.au

 

 

 

 

Specifications: Dominator

 

Length: 5.05m

Beam: 2.04m

Length on trailer: 6.3m

Freeboard: 750mm

Rec. max. HP: 90

Transom height: 20in

Weight: 400kg (hull)

People: Five

Price: $29,990

Contact: Phone (02) 9737 0727

 

 

Specifications: Lightning

 

Length: 5.8m

Beam: 2.3m

Length on trailer: 7m

Deadrise: 22°

Rec. HP: 90 to 150

Transom height: 25in

Weight: 950kg (hull)

People: Six

Price: $44,990

Contact: Phone (02) 9737 0727

 

 

 

 

Specifications: Warrior

 

Length: 6.4m

Beam: 2.3m

Length on trailer: 7.5m

Deadrise: 22°

Rec. HP: 130 to 225

Transom height: 25in

Weight: 1400kg (hull)

People: Seven

Price: $74,000

Contact: Phone (02) 9737 0727

Find Fi-Glass boats for sale.

 


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