TESTED: SURTEES 8.5 GAMEFISHER

By: MATTHEW JONES, Photography by: MATTHEW JONES


Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-03.jpg Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-03.jpg
Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-02.jpg Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-02.jpg
Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-01.jpg Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-01.jpg
Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-04.jpg Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-04.jpg
Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-05.jpg Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher-05.jpg

Surtees’ new flagship 8.5 Gamefisher is locked and loaded and ready for action. Trade-A-Boat NZ’s Matthew Jones hangs on for the ride.

TESTED: SURTEES 8.5 GAMEFISHER
The Surtees 8.5 Gamefisher. The Kiwis sure know how to make amazing plate-boats.

Cost aside, bigger is generally always better. And after falling for Surtees' superior build quality, clever tricks, fishable features, and smooth ride, its customers begged for more. The new bigger 8.5 Gamefisher is arguably its best trick yet. In true Surtees style, the manufacturer wouldn't settle for anything but the best, taking a full painstaking year to design and build, using only the best materials available.

Surtees markets its boats as "Built to Fish", and it's no secret they come packed with clever features to help fill the bins. The cockpit is impressively roomy and features an equally large bait station with a freshwater tap, four angled rod holders, and two cup / sinker holders. The wide, thigh-high gunwales have another three rod holders and complementary refreshment holders per side. Two further rod holders on the transom are specifically angled for trolling lures.

A canvas shade extension offers some sun protection while still allowing plenty of open casting room. While it does impede access to the eight rod holders in the overhead rocket launcher when extended, the shade can be slid back into the hardtop, or completely removed when required.

A removable walkthrough transom door drops into place to reduce water intake when backing down on a rampaging marlin, with the easily-accessed and viewed livebait tank directly below. Two large underfloor bins provide plenty of fishing- and dive-gear storage. A drop-down rear seat is a good spot to sit while wrestling with a shrunken wetsuit. There are also plenty of additional features and customisation options available.



WAVE-DEFYING RIDE

After a late-evening photoshoot I dragged the Surtees team out of bed bright and early with the promise of blue skies to show off the 8.5 Gamefisher's pristine paint job. It took a while for the blue skies to respond to the invitation, but at least there was plenty of chop and swell around early on to put the boat's credentials to the test.

We headed out through the sloppy Whakatane bar towards Whale Island, taking the opportunity to unleash the 300 horses bolted to the stern along the way. Pushing the big Surtees way past the realms of recreational use proved no issue for the solid hull. High-speed turns were tight and free of cavitation, and running at WOT through a snotty sea left all our joints and fillings intact.

The hydraulic flooding keel holds a whopping 600L and can be opened and closed with the flick of a switch from the helm; the crappy conditions allowed this feature to be fully tested and it does make a noticeable difference to the ride in rough water by reducing hull lift and forcing the sharp, strake-less hull to slice through - also known as "wave devastation mode".

You lose a bit of speed and holeshot but gain plenty of comfort. As a comparison, at 5000rpm with a following sea and the ballast closed we recorded 30kts (55.5kmh). Flicking the switch to open and discharging the ballast saw our speed climb steadily to 33kts (61kmh) for the same revs.

The 150hp Honda four-strokes have a great sound to them, which isn't too loud considering all that grunt - smooth would be an understatement. Of course, having two engines makes the sound and smoothness even better, and they also enhance manoeuvrability. But how well would the big boat go in the unlikely event of one engine failing? Well, we couldn't get it to plane on one outboard (with the other trimmed right up), but at 3000rpm she did 9kts (16.7kmh), which should still get you home quicker than a tow would. Single outboard and diesel inboard options are also available.



LOADED AS STANDARD

The team at Surtees is full of good ideas, and a lot of features that are optional extras on its smaller boats are standard on the 8.5 Gamefisher. In fact, everything apart from the electronics and engine(s) comes standard.

One user-friendly upgrade is the hydraulic ballast flap, which is easily operated via a switch on the dash. Anchoring can also be easily controlled with a substantial Savwinch drum winch, offering an electronically controlled variable speed drive for working different depths. It also comes loaded with 200m of anchor warp.

Surtees has gone to a clear Perspex front hatch over its usual aluminium model in order to let more light into the cabin. This is further complemented by plenty of large glass windows all round. A full LED lighting system provides an attractive glow after dark, with underwater lights for an extended fishing fix.

Sliding side windows open both front and back and a further rear window drops down to allow good ventilation. Large bi-fold doors open out onto the cockpit to ensure great flow in and out and keep the skipper in touch with the action out back. There's also good headroom throughout with plenty of underseat and underfloor storage to maintain a clutter-free environment. The hardtop is insulated for year-round comfort and reduced condensation.

As is the case with all Surtees boats, this boat's space has been utilised to the full. A comfortable L-shaped couch lies to port with a drop-down table and bunk extension creating a second bed to complement the large double berth up front. The table twists sideways to create extra standing room if required. Stylish anti-slam drawers are located at either end.

Twin gas hobs and a freshwater sink lie to starboard with a 75L electric fridge neatly fitted beneath the deluxe helm seat, which itself has a flip-up bolster for either back-of-leg support or extra standing room.

Up front, 1.9m bunks with infills allow two people with long legs to enjoy an uncramped night's sleep. An electric toilet resides below with a privacy screen available as an option. This boat will comfortably overnight three adults or your average family of four with younger children.



REAP THE REWARDS

Expansive views, a well-laid-out dash, ergonomic controls, and automatic trim tabs certainly make the 8.5 Gamefisher an enjoyable and rewarding boat to helm. Of course, the sportscar-like performance and smooth, predictable ride also helped in this regard. Relinquishing the helm at the end of the test was no easy feat.

At almost 3.5 tonnes, she's certainly a big, solid boat to be towing around, but with a capable tow vehicle no fish will be safe. The Surtees-built tandem-axle trailer features braked stainless steel calipers on all four wheels, and the Carlisle Hydrastar electronic braking system means any able vehicle can be used to tow it without requiring specialised wiring. The electronic controller simply plugs into your cigarette lighter, allowing the trailer's braking force to be adjusted to suit.
With Surtees' clever self-loading trailer catch, launching and retrieving was a simple drive on / drive off affair, which, judging by the look on their faces, left many other boaties at the ramp feeling rather jealous.



GO BIG

When I quizzed him on the boat's size, Surtees Boats managing director Phil Sheaff explained why the company decided to go bigger.

"A lot of guys with Surtees 6.7s and 7.3s wanted a bigger boat and wanted that boat to be a Surtees," he said. "With us not having a bigger model they had to go to other brands, so we decided to go after that market.

"We're really happy with the outcome and tried hard with the styling to make sure the 8.5 Gamefisher looks like a Surtees."

All Surtees boats are built from start to finish by one boatbuilder, who gets to weld their initials on the outboard pod to instil a sense of pride in their workmanship. According to sales manager Cliff Schick, it also creates a sense of camaraderie between customers and staff down at the boat ramp.

Surtees boats are in hot demand, and at the time of writing Surtees had more than 120 on its (New Zealand) order books. Sheaff says it's also making inroads in Australia.

"We've got a really good network of dealers in Australia now with two in Victoria, two in New South Wales, and one in every other state," he said.



QUALITY IS PARAMOUNT

This year will see Surtees celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the fact that it's never had a hull failure. To commemorate the milestone, plans are taking shape for a special edition Surtees.

"The first boat Neil Surtees built was a 6.1m model, so we thought we might revamp it but possibly take it up to a 6.3m or 6.4m hull, which would fit nicely between our 5.8m and 6.7m models," Sheaff said.

Even with 21 boat-show awards to its credit, Surtees Boats isn't resting on its laurels, nor will it sacrifice build quality to increase profits.

"Our boats come with a six-year worldwide hull warranty," Schick said. "We send them up to the Pacific islands and also have a few in Canada, Sweden, and England now, so imagine the cost if something failed over there. That's why everything's over-engineered on our boats."

Schick says the company's production numbers mean it would be more economical to import parts from China, but that's not going to happen on his watch.

"We like to support our local guys and try to use as many local products as possible. The more money we spend in New Zealand the better it is for us and everybody benefits," he said.

Surtees has just installed a state-of-the-art paint booth to allow better quality control and a quicker turnaround to try to keep pace with demand. Every boat that leaves the Surtees factory is CE-rated and is also built to meet Survey standards, only requiring a windscreen swap to 6mm clear glass to get approval. It's one of only a select few New Zealand companies to achieve the stringent CE certification.



THE WRAP

Surtees' biggest and cleverest offering yet certainly sets the bar very high. Its head-turning looks, comfortable accommodation, and all-round capabilities make it a winner in my book.

With the new 8.5 Gamefisher, heading out wide in comfort and style is all but assured.



LOCAL'S PERSPECTIVE

Surtees boats have received extensive coverage in the boating media since their arrival on the Australian scene in 2008. In that time the firm has built a steady band of local followers who have succumbed to the simple charms and unquestionable fishability of its craft. TrailerBoat has reviewed them all and, to its credit, Surtees has featured in our Australia's Greatest Boats finals three years in row. No mean feat.

So where does this new offering sit? With a hull length of 8.65m and a trailerable length just shy of 10m from hitch to prop, it sits at 33ft in the old lingo. Pushing a maximum beam of 2.50m - the maximum without the need to consider wide-load regulations - it'd look like a road train hauling arse to the local ramp and would dwarf any vehicle capable of towing it.

But here's the thing; despite its size and the fact it pulls the scales down to 3400kg, the Gamefisher is still legal behinds the likes of Range Rovers, Toyota LandCruisers and, more importantly, TrailerBoat's new Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited CRD Diesel. Rack-and-stack storage would be another viable option.

So who in Oz is going to consider this behemoth? Well, at $209,000 fully rigged, it's certainly outside my pay grade, but for someone downsizing from a moored cruiser or gameboat with the upkeep that's part of the deal, it could be a viable option. Alternatively, keen anglers looking at upgrading their 7m-plus rigs now have another option to add to the list.

The 8.5 Gamefisher also offers significantly more real estate than many fibreglass boats in its price range, such as Haines Hunter's excellent 760 Patriot/R Limited series. And since many offshore anglers are now travelling further afield in search of richer pickings, the extra size and range would afford loads of reassurance when home port becomes a memory over the horizon.



PERFORMANCE

6.3kts (11.6kmh) @ 1500rpm

9.5kts (13.3kmh) @ 2500rpm

13.3kts (24.6kmh) @ 3000rpm





SPECIFICAITONS: SURTEES 8.5 GAMEFISHER



HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $AUD209,000 (estimated)

Options fitted: Everything, including the kitchen sink. In this category, most boats are personalised to the owner's requirements.

Priced from: $AUD163,000 (estimated)



GENERAL

Type: Plate aluminium enclosed hardtop

Material: Aluminium

Length: 8.65m (hull LOA)

Beam: 2.5m

Weight: 3400kg (approx. BMT)

Deadrise: 21°



CAPACITIES

People: 10

Rec. HP: 300

Max. HP: 350

Fuel: 540L

Water: Plumbed freshwater, and 60L ballast



ENGINE

Make/model: Twin Honda BF 150s

Type: Four-stroke DOHC four-cylinder

Weight: 220kg

Displacement: 2354cc

Gear ratio: 2.14:1

Propeller: Solas 14x21in



MANUFACTURED AND SUPPLIED BY

Surtees Boats

New Zealand

See website for your closest local dealer.

Web: www.surteesboats.com

Email: cliff@surteesboats.com.au.

 

Originally published in TrailerBoat #293, April 2013.

Find Surtees boats for sale.

 


Want the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the free TradeBoats e-newsletter.