TESTED: WHITTLEY SL22

By: ANGELO SAN GIORGIO, Photography by: DEANNE DWIGHT


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While reviewing some Whittley boats, the supporting Whittley Sea Legend 22 suddenly upstaged the entire event.

TESTED: WHITTLEY SL22
Whittley SL22.

The Whittley SL22 was never meant to be the focus of its own test and was merely on location to perform a supporting role as camera boat to film and photograph Whittley Marine’s flagship. This was the bus-sized Whittley CR 2800, the largest legally-trailerable (without flags and lights) cruiser built on our shores.

The script was a simple one. Pick up the biggest Whittley and swing past home and pick up the family on the way to Lakes Entrance in east Victoria, a leisurely four-hour drive all told. We’d then launch the boat and sleep aboard it, planning to catch up with young Alan Whittley the following morning. But when do things really go to plan?

We had a loose wire on our tow tug’s brake booster and fixing it meant a delay that saw me hit peak traffic. In the end we left in the dark, risking a midnight dash to reach our location, grab a few hours of sleep and catch the 6:30 sunrise in all its glory. But that all went out the window when we slept in and were ultimately greeted with an overcast morning.

Mindful of the time and eager to get the formalities I had a plan, and to kill time until the light met our photographer’s requirements, I decided to try out the Whittley SL 22 — the smaller sibling to the Whittley Sea Legend 26 and close relative of the Wghittley Sea Legend 650 — just to see what I thought.



PLEASE STEP FORWARD

I took a brief look around and the SL 22 seemed neat enough, but it wasn’t as tricked up as a demo boat should be: electronics, bells, whistles, dancing girls, none were there. I had a couple of other reservations, the first of which was that I have a bias towards outboards for powering small offshore vessels. I know, I know, I should be more open-minded, especially given my line of work, but save for imported bowriders, outboards are pretty commonplace on most other rigs, particularly fishing boats. Secondly, I was concerned the SL 22’s heavier powerplant (around 150kg more than an outboard of similar output) might blunt the performance and make the rig heavy at the rear.

I also wasn’t all that thrilled by the prospect of chasing down the svelte cruiser, which was packing a thumping 380hp V8. With only 200hp courtesy of Volvo’s new EFI 4.3L V6, I was feeling a tad under-gunned in the SL 22. However, in the interest of playing nice, I smiled politely, grabbed the keys and hopped aboard.



UNDER THE PUMP

We launched the boat before a gathering crowd — pulling out a big video camera tends to draw a few glances at the boat ramp. The current was pushing, aided by 15kts of crosswind. We drove the SL 22 cleanly off the custom Mackay trailer, disappointing the crowd by not demolishing half the pier, and headed off.

My co-pilot’s for the drive was one of the harshest critics to inhabit our fair planet: a teenage daughter. Since boats have been part of Mikaela’s life since she was a couple of months old, she has a pretty good handle on what’s the real deal and what’s a pretender. "Is it fast, Dad?" Let’s see.

Once we cleared the 5kt zone and entered the main channel adjacent to the Lakes Entrance bar, we opened her up and chased the CR 2800, it’s bellowing V8 reverberating against the cliffside and tearing holes in the silence of what had been a still morning. It was only when we encountered the cruiser’s wake that we appreciated how quickly we’d caught up to it. We came to a stop and dropped into idle, trimmed the motor back down and kicked it in the bum.

The SL 22 growled as it lifted its shoulders, raised its nose slightly and finally settled down to chasing the horizon. A pleasant roar, louder than a four-stroke outboard but still comfortable, accompanied our rather rapid progress as we trimmed out to just past the mid-point of the gauge. The hull sat cleanly with only the occasionally movement when we encountered some residual wake. We trimmed the motor back down then flicked the wheel over hard into a tight banking turn as the prop gripped nicely. We then repeated the process half a dozen times just for the fun of it.

I found the hull to have good balance, the weight of the sterndrive actually contributing to the impression. With three-quarters of a tank of fuel and running into a 15kt breeze on an outgoing tide, we averaged around 39kts (72kmh) and were on plane in around three seconds. The rig exhibited loads of grip and sure-footed handling, only tuning the standard trim tabs when we got the breeze on our quarter.

The SL 22 loved to play. Sitting behind the big cruiser as it carved a substantial wake and we went surfing, cutting in and out of the wash and occasionally balancing on its crest.

To give it more of a test we hit the notorious Lakes Entrance bar which, to be fair, has improved considerably over the years and is safe to cross most of the time. We skipped across some messy chop and headed into some solid swell. We got a bit of air and my daughter gave a squeal, which encouraged me to push the throttle harder. We launched the boat off a 2m roller and it landed cleanly and powered on. "Let’s go again, Dad." That’s all the encouragement I needed.



A SUPPORTING CAST

While offshore I took the opportunity to have a wet a line. I wasn’t feeling all that confident, but it was a great opportunity to establish the rig’s fishing credentials. I wandered up to the transom, flicked out a lure and worked my way around the cockpit, No problems here.

There is minimal intrusion from the fibreglass shroud which drops down to provide access to the motor. Its top surface actually accommodates a moulded well, plumbed for livebait.

A quarter dicky seat occupies each transom corner, complementing the two helm seats perched atop moulded boxes with padded seat / lids rounding out six possible perches. Storage in each seatbox could hide a small family.

Sitting above recessed rod racks, the padded side coamings come with two stainless rod holders in each side, with a dedicated position for mounting downriggers, or outrigger bases in this instance.

I’ve got to say, for a company founded on a cruising philosophy, Whittley has actually crafted one helluva fine fishing boat. Stuff a decent combo unit in the dash and I’d happily use it to stalk the tuna and mako grounds.



THE WRAP

When my daughter and I re-joined the rest of the crew for the "real" test, Alan asked my opinion. I think our smiles and the fact the crew was photographing me leaping waves at the entrance probably gave my feelings away.

We’ll soon have the video up on trailerboat.com.au and I’m looking forward to seeing what it looked like from the outside because it felt pretty sweet from behind the wheel. And at around $69,900 with most of the fittings on the test rig, it also ticks the value box.

Yep, Whittley can build a fishing boat after all. I’m curious to see where they go to from here.

 

ON THE PLANE...

  • Grunt throughout the rev range
  • Good use of internal space with loads of storage
  • Excellent value for money
  • Solid resale value
  • Sterndrive provides relatively cheap horsepower
  • Lots of standard features
  • Solid, comfortable ride



DRAGGING THE CHAIN...

  • No electronics fitted to test boat
  • Really big guys might find helm a bit tight
  • Livebait tank a bit small



WHITTLEY SL22 SPECIFICATIONS

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $69,900 (includes most of what you see: rocket launcher; bimini; clears; plumbed live bait tank; freshwater shower; full-width marlin board; loads more

Priced from: $69,900



GENERAL

Type: Deep-vee fishing cuddy

Material: Fibreglass

Length: 6.59m

Beam: 2.26m

Weight: 1949kg (approx. BMT)

Deadrise: 23°



CAPACITIES

People: 7

Max. HP: 225

Fuel: 210L



ENGINE

Make/model: Volvo 4.3L V6 200hp

Type: EFI Petrol

Weight: 417kg



SUPPLIED AND DISTRIBUTED BY

Whittley Marine Group

99 Freight Drive

Somerton, Victoria 3062

Tel: (03) 8339 1800

Web: www.whittleymarine.com

 

First published in TrailerBoat #295, May/June 2013.

Find Whittley boats for sale.

 


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