Fi-Glass Warrior


It has been two years since Fi-Glass Boats has released a new model. It was no surprise, therefore, that the boating media pounced on the new Warrior Elegance at the recent Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show.

Fi-Glass Warrior
Fi-Glass Warrior

Anybody who knows their GRP trailer boats will no doubt be familiar with the name Fi-Glass. They might also be familiar with the name Warrior - a stalwart in the Fi-Glass range. The Warrior was conceived in 1977 at the height of Fi-Glass production when models such as the Viscount, Regent, Fireball and Lightening were pumped out in their dozens to meet an insatiable demand for GRP runabouts.

In the mid-90s Fi-Glass completely redesigned a number of models, including the Warrior, which at 6m replaced the popular Viscount to become the company's biggest model. The new Warrior introduced a completely new deep-vee hull shape that proved nimble and efficient and well-matched to a new generation of powerful outboard engines. The new Elegance retains the same Warrior hull, but sports a redesigned cockpit, dash, windscreen and improved access to the cuddy cabin. The Warrior is best described as a deep-vee hull with a 22-degree transom, and variable longitudinal deadrise with a fine entry at the bow. Unlike the smaller Fi-Glass Senator and Firestar models, the Elegance has two planning strakes each side of a V plank centreline. The V plank gives the Warrior lift and reduces the hull's wetted surface area, thus reducing drag in flat water. The V plank also helps the boat reach planing speed at low revs without any discernable rise in bow attitude. Simply put, you won't find yourself staring at the stars as the throttle is opened and the boat progresses from displacement speed to planing speed.

The hull also features the standard Fi-Glass single reverse chine that effectively breaks water away from the topsides and turns spray down and away. The single chine is just 40mm at its widest point and tapers away to nothing at the bow. While some boats of comparable size have a wider chine, designer Frank Simpson believes that the wider the chine the more obtrusive the noise from water slapping on the hull.

Construction
The Elegance follows the construction techniques employed across the Fi-Glass range. The hull is laid-up in solid GRP with closed-cell foam filling between four full-length stringers. The Elegance now has GRP stringers replacing pine stringers used in earlier models. The transom has also been strengthened and is now manufactured from GRP and Klegicell. The GRP/Klegicell combination provides additional stiffness over the ply/GRP transom and effectively removes any risk of rot, increasing the boat's potential life expectancy.

The Warrior's cockpit sole is moulded separately from non-skid gelcoat and bonded into the hull. The deck and cabin top is moulded as a single unit and fitted with electronics, hatch, stainless fittings, wiring and lights before being bonded to the hull. The upholstery work and graphics package is completed in-house and added at the final stage before the finished product is dropped onto a Fi-Glass galvanised trailer built on site at the Christchurch factory.

Although the new Elegance hull is tried and tested, the cabin and deck structure has been redesigned from the ground up, principally to allow for the new windscreen and dash package. The windscreen has been moved forward and enlarged to allow for the new dash. This features an imitation walnut facia housing speed, trim and engine management instruments. These instruments are mounted at eye level and can be easily read when sitting or standing at the helm. Below the facia is a large soft-vinyl covered area for large navigation instruments. The sports wheel is mounted further below and shares a console with the flush-mounted VHF radio and BEP switch panel for lighting and bilge operation. All up the new arrangement works well and gives the boat a classy well-finished look.

The new layout has allowed Fi-Glass to further increase the size of the opening to the cabin. The Warrior has always been lauded for its open layout and the new model is no different. There is a starboard bulkhead and only a very small bulkhead on the port side. This gives wide, easy access to the cabin. The only downside, perhaps, is that the cabin cannot be locked. The benefits, however, far outweigh the negatives and the feeling of space is impressive. The cabin interior is standard Fi-Glass fare with two full-length berths down each side with the option of an infill squab to create a generous double. There is no storage under the squabs (the cavities are foam-filled for buoyancy), but there is a particularly large parcel shelf that follows the cabin contour in semi-circular fashion. These are nicely upholstered and form back rests for passengers seated below. The cuddy provides reasonable sitting headroom and is large enough to provide shelter for three passengers. It has a deep-moulded foot well with enough width to accommodate an optional chemical toilet. A worthy addition to the cabin is a solid timber step in the cabin forepeak to assist with anchoring duties. Although the Warrior has reasonably wide non-skid side decks, anchoring is far easier from within the cabin. The Fi-Glass deck hatch is larger than most and opens from starboard to port, giving easy access to the anchor locker. The timber step adds height and provides a solid footing when leaning forward to the locker. Moreover, it means you no longer have to put wet shoes on dry squabs. The anchor locker is deep, self-draining and concealed under a hinged lid moulded to match the deck profile. There is room beneath the lid to mount a low profile winch that could be operated from a deck-mounted pressure pad or remotely from the cockpit helm station.

The Warrior cockpit retains an all-purpose theme with a variety of optional seating plans that include single pedestal seats or king/queen combinations built onto moulded fibreglass bases providing additional storage. The test boat was fitted with a single driver's seat on a pedestal and a king/queen combo on the passenger side. The combo unit has been redesigned and features a hinge that greatly improves ease of access to the storage bin. The bin itself is large enough for lifejackets, flares and other safety equipment that might be required in a hurry. An enduring feature of Fi-Glass design is the large underfloor storage well. This has been retained on the new Warrior and will gobble up skis, dive bottles, water toys and rods. There is further rod storage in the port and starboard side shelves. The Warrior has single rear jump seats either side of the outboard well and these are easily removed and stowed when fishing. The upholstery package on the test boats was first class with embossed black and tan vinyl squabs with lumber rolls. The side decks are wide for a boat of this length and provide a place to take some weight off between bites. There is provision for a large radius stainless steel ski pole that drops neatly into the transom. This can be removed and replaced with an optional bait board as and when required. The non-skid cockpit sole butts up neatly to the topsides and ensures an easy clean at days end. The test boat was fitted with button down synthetic carpet in keeping with the Elegance theme. Getting on and off the new Warrior is child's play, with a swim/boarding platform on each side of the outboard well and a telescopic stainless steel boarding ladder on the starboard side.

In the rough
Fi-Glass Boats provided two Warriors for testing, one powered by an inboard Mercruiser 220 MPI and the other powered by a 140hp carburetted Mercury outboard. Conditions on Auckland's inner-Waitemata Harbour were nothing short of appalling, with a biting gale force southwesterly and a steep, short sea with broken tops. We should not have ventured beyond the Westhaven Marina breakwater, but pushed on under the Auckland Harbour Bridge and into the upper-harbour. It was tough going and a case of picking our way through the worst of the seas. The boats, however, handled the conditions well , shouldering aside the worst of the seas in a predictable and comforting way.

We were grateful for the bimini top and clears, which did a sterling job in the teeth of a gale. Fi-Glass boats are well-respected for their agility and responsiveness to throttle and again proved that the hull configuration and good horsepower are a useful combination in a seaway. The boat's natural buoyancy also came into its own with the bow lifting quickly out of the troughs, sparing the crew the full compliment of spray and spume customary in heavier displacement trailer boats. Despite the odd crash and slap, the Warrior proved its mettle and delivered a comfortable, predictable and credible ride.

What did impress me was the way the boat coped when laid broadside and stern first to the seas. This was the only way we were going to get photographs of the second boat. The Warrior provided a surprisingly stable platform that must bode well for the boat's fishing ability. The driving position is comfortable and affords plenty of room between the driver's seat and the forward port bulkhead to stand at the wheel. The engine controls are well placed and visibility through the improved screen is good all round. The seats are well padded and provide plenty of lateral support, which is useful in tougher conditions. My only complaint is the location of the stainless steel handhold on the passenger's side, which to my mind, is placed too far forward requiring the passenger to lean forward in the seat. There is no shortage of things to hold onto out back with twin full-length stainless rails mounted inboard of the side decks.

Fi-Glass has obviously put a lot of thought into the Warrior and the brand name Elegance is more than justified given the level of finish and attention to detail evident throughout the boat. But the Warrior is also a boat that has been built to be used. The hull design is well proven and the engineering refinements to the cockpit sole lend it more to fishing than previous Fi-Glass designs. This is a genuine all-round package that should give years of low-maintenance and stress-free boating pleasure. The new Elegance is also competitively priced, starting from $55,250 complete with 140hp Mercury outboard and on a braked Fi-Glass galvanised trailer. The inboard model starts from $64,250 on trailer.

Fi-Glass Warrior
Length overall: 6.4m
Hull length: 5.95m
Beam: 2.3m
Height on trailer: 2.4m
Length on trailer: 7.5m
Fuel: 120 litres
Towing weight (outboard): 1600kg
Towing weight (inboard): 1870kg
Price as tested (outboard): $62,000
Price as tested (inboard): $79,995
 
NB: Both tests boats were very highly spec'd show boats. Boats supplied by Fi-Glass Boats, 247-251 Dyers Rd, Christchurch, tel (03) 384-2726, e-mail sales@fi-glass.co.nz. Visit www.fi-glass.com

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