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Angelo San Giorgio and John "Bear" Willis head to Warrnambool, Vic, to sample the Surtees 7.3 Gamefisher in some truly testing conditions.

The Surtees 7.3 Gamefisher. If there's one thing the Kiwis really do better than anyone, it's making solid plate-boat fishing rigs.

The western Victorian town of Warrnambool fronts a notorious stretch of coastline known as the Shipwreck Coast. It's an eminently fitting name, as this is a tough, unrelenting environment with a long history of punishing boats and their crew.

Enter the Surtees. To be honest, I almost walked past the 7.3 Gamefisher at the boat ramp. A rather large boat, I mistook the monolith of alloy and glass for a small building, until I noticed the 300 Yammie at the transom.

Like all Surtees boats the 7.3 Gamefisher has an undeniable presence, if not a conventional beauty. Rather than coax the alloy into unnecessarily complex arcs, the Kiwi builder has adopted a hard-edged design, all straight lines and aggressive angles. The end result is stealth-like and unapologetically masculine.


Our test boat looked sharp with its black and Nyalic finish and subtle graphics. Nyalic is a tough, impact-resistant clear resin that's painted on the hull after an acid wash. The look is reminiscent of brushed silver and it complements the painted bits brilliantly - just keep solvents such as petrol away from it. On the subject of petrol, the 7.3 Gamefisher has a 300lt underfloor fuel tank that's floor-filled. It's a little old school but functional, negating the need for long fuel hoses and their fittings, and because it's welded in it contributes to the hull's integrity.

Everywhere you look creativity abounds; it feels as if it was designed on the water in the midst of an intense fishing session. For example, take the simple clamp-on side seats with non-skid panel - sure, they robbed my shins of skin, but they weigh next to nothing, can be relocated around the boat, double as a step stool and are removed in a flash. The cabin doors had nifty floor catches that allowed you to lock or release them with your foot. The side coamings were perfectly flat and bum-friendly, with non-skid panelling for grip. The coamings narrow as they skirt around the cabin, but still provide enough room to plant your hooves should you wish to go forward. A thoughtful handrail running around the hardtop perimeter is another welcome gesture. Hardtops are notorious for collecting water but Surtees has addressed this by angling the roof to channel water to drainage tubes in each corner, which directs it overboard. Clever! Below the coamings are full-length sidepockets long enough to accommodate rigged rods, gaffs or bucket-loads of gear.

Swinging open the compact barn doors reveals a spacious carpet-lined cabin. Heavily-cushioned helm seats with flip-up bolsters sit atop carpeted storage boxes. Pull-out vertical drawers adjacent to the hull walls are another welcome innovation. Behind the large windscreen is a shelf - otherwise known as a mobile phone and Tic-Tac retention device. It's also a convenient place to mount electronics, in this instance a Lowrance HDS-10 combo. There are drinkholders, footrests, lights and so much more. It's a simple but effective formula: everything that isn't vital for the job has been omitted, but what's left behind bloody-well works.


In an attempt to create a light, aggressive hull that rides well but also exhibits great stability at rest, Surtees has incorporated a flooding keel that fills at rest and empties on take-off. It'll take up to 530lt of water, and a door allows you to increase the ballast or exclude it entirely. Two full-length buoyancy chambers have been integrated into Surtees' "Non-Pounding Super Deep-V Hull", the latter an aggressive design with a 20° deadrise.

What Surtees has delivered here is a 7.3m, fully-enclosed mini gameboat with towing weight of between 2350 and 2500kg - well within the scope of mid-sized 4WDs. It hasn't skimped on strength, either, as it still has a 5mm hull with 4mm topsides, reinforced with an alloy matrix beneath its sealed, checkerplate floor.

It's a split personality, but in a good way. Keep the ballast empty for use in calm or shallow water or open it via a simple cord and rope jam to flood it at rest, adding over 500kg of mass for a noticeable improvement in stability. Locking the gate and trapping the water makes it feel more substantial and softer in the slop, the only trade-off being a bit less sparkle when underway.


Despite its reputation, the water off Warrnambool does have its good days, with relatively calm seas. We had one of those yesterday, but oh what a difference a day makes. Test day was indeed going to be testing - even the tuna were jumping out of the water to avoid getting smashed.

After a cursory introduction to the Gamefisher, John Willis hopped aboard the camera boat and I assumed the Surtees' reins. "Have fun, but remember I'm dropping the boat off to the customer soon," said Russell of Warrnambool's Russell Cairns Marine - great, no pressure! I was crapping myself with anticipation as I swung the beast around and headed out into a 30kt southerly. As spray pelted the screen I quickly warmed - literally - to the benefits of a fully-enclosed cabin. With the doors shut, it was eerily quiet despite the plate hull, while the throb of the outboard was reduced to a dull hum. Ensconced in my metal and glass observatory, I revelled in the panoramic vista of barrelling waves threatening to kill me. If I was going to die, at least I would enjoy the view.

Then I tickled the digital throttle and all hell broke loose. We hit a 3m wall of water and just went over it - or maybe through it. Either way, it didn't really matter - hardtop, remember? The Southern Ocean was at its merciless best, but our 7.3m Kiwi brawler was spoiling for a fight and it wasn't backing down for anyone.

We tried to look spectacular for the camera, but to be honest it wasn't all that easy despite the conditions. Then I recalled we'd closed the ballast flap back at the harbour. After Russell had dumped the ballast, we lined up a set and I hit the afterburner. The result was actually a bit disappointing. Sure, she was now lighter and more agile, but the hull took the pounding in its stride as if to say, "Come on mate, is that all you've got?"

We ran headlong into it. We turned broadside and played in the troughs. We surfed down the face of rolling waves and punched through cresting ones. My confidence grew by the minute and I was convinced the boat's new owner had made an excellent choice. I was secretly jealous.

Although fitted with trim tabs, I found the hull relatively benign and really responsive without them - I didn't resort to them once. What I did find beneficial was trimming out that big Yamaha a fair bit. This rig certainly liked a "positive attitude".


The Surtees 7.3 Gamefisher is definitely no fleeting sideshow attraction. I really liked it. It has big-boat cojones with small-boat convenience, plus loads of clever, well-executed ideas. After driving it back onto its custom-built alloy Mackay trailer, the locals gathered round to check it out. At around $145,000 it wasn't for all of them, but for any who could ante up, it will exceed expectations. For those of us with more modest means, the 7.3 Gamefisher's DNA flows through the Surtees range.

On the plane...
* Innovative and effective flooding keel
* Hardtop security and comfort
* Sharp, sure-footed ride
* Turns well
* Comfy cabin

Dragging the chain...
* Sharp edges on removable seats
* It ain't cheap


Price as tested: $145,000
Options fitted: Two-tone hull, Nyalic alloy coating, Lowrance HDS-10, baitboard, remote spotlight, twin GME radios, electric anchor winch, Vic rego, safety gear

Type: Deep-vee hardtop
Material: Alloy (5mm bottoms; 4mm topsides; 3mm cabin)
Length (LOA): 7.60m
Beam: 2.50m
Weight (hull): 1510kg
Weight (BMT): Approx. 2350-2500kg
Deadrise: 20°

People: 6
Rec. HP: 200-300
Max. HP: 300
Fuel: 300lt
Ballast: 530lt on demand

Make/model: Yamaha F300B
Type: 24-valve, DOHC, V6 four-stroke
Weight: 253kg
Displacement: 4169cc
Gear ratio: 1.75:1
Propeller: Yamaha Series 2 stainless 15in x 21in

Surtees Boats
2909 State Highway 30
RD 2 Whakatane
New Zealand
Tel: +64 7 322 8461

Russell Cairns Marine and 4x4
1117 Raglan Parade
Warrnambool, Vic, 3280
Tel: (03) 5561 4354

Originally published in TrailerBoat #284, July 2012.

Find Surtees boats for sale.


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