Calibre 745 Tournament

Sea-kindly, spirited and sophisticated, the Tournament 745 Sports Fisher has found a new lease on life in the experienced hands of Craig Ross of Whenuapai-based Calibre Boats. Steve Raea reports.

Calibre 745 Tournament
Calibre 745 Tournament
The one-time diesel-powered walk-around has been refitted with an enclosed deck and GRP moulded hardtop to broaden the Tournament’s family appeal and while essentially a new boat, the bones of the T 745 have been around since about 1992.

Designed by Craig Loomes and originally built by Loomes’ Tournament Boats at East Tamaki, the design largely disappeared off the radar soon after the moulds were sold by Tournament Boats in the mid 1990s.

Past visitors to the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show might remember the original Tournament 745. It differed in a variety of ways from what was then considered the norm for a 7m trailer boat. The boats were fitted with an inboard diesel engine and sternleg drive. Secondly, they featured full and deep walk-around decks with high bulwarks and a box-like centre console cabin with a steep companionway leading to the below decks accommodation. There was little question that the original layout was tailored to the needs of open water sports fishing. And while perhaps not the most family-friendly trailer boat, the Tournament was a willing performer that established a reputation for excellence in the rough.

It is understood that a further three 7m Tournaments’ were built in the preceding years before Calibre Boats purchased the moulds in 2005. Rumour has it that these particular boats had quality issues that very nearly sealed the design’s fate. But as fate would have it Craig Ross and Calibre Boats were destined, it seems, to resurrect the Tournament brand and inject new life into a boat with a proven and proud record.

With 15 years boat building experience - many with Vaudrey Miller Yachts at Henderson - Craig Ross struck out on his own and established Calibre Boats in September 2002. Calibre Boats quickly developed a working relationship with the Craig Loomes Design Group and has built a variety of Loomes designs that include the distinctive yellow Auckland water taxis and the futuristic 24m tri-hulled wave-piercing catamaran Earth Race.

It seemed only fitting, therefore, that when the Tournament 745 moulds came onto the market that Calibre Boats would buy them and, together with the Craig Loomes Design Group, redesign and engineer new cabin and deck moulds to broaden the boat’s appeal.

The first remodelled Calibre 745 Tournament ‘KaBoom’ rolled out of Calibre Boats shed a week prior to Christmas last year. Built by Craig Ross for his own use, ‘KaBoom’ featured a fully enclosed cabin and stylish GRP moulded hardtop. Gone too was the diesel inboard engine, replaced with a new Honda BF 225 horsepower four-stroke outboard.

A self-confessed fishing junkie, Ross has clocked up considerable hours pushing ‘KaBoom’ hard on the often punishing Kaipara Harbour. Launching from the Kaipara’s Shelly Beach boat ramp, Ross and crew often head directly across the Kaipara bar and through the heads in search of trophy fish. It is a challenging stretch of water for any boat, and while not one to push his luck too far, Ross says the Tournament makes little fuss of the often steep and confused waves, currents and eddies familiar to the Kaipara.

The Tournament is very heavily built from solid GRP. The hull is particularly stiff with large longitudinal bearers glassed in either side to originally accommodate an inboard engine. Calibre Boats has chosen to leave these in to provide additional stiffness and strength for outboard-powered boats. Remember too, the hull was designed to be offshore capable. This is reflected in the boat’s structural integrity.

From a design perspective, the Tournament has a fine pronounced entry with a double chine rail and notable topside flare. These together work to keep the boat’s wake low and clear of the deck and superstructure when punching into or surfing off a following sea. The topsides are considerably higher than similar-sized trailerboat’s, reflecting the boat’s offshore aspirations. With traditional planing strakes, the Tournament has a long run aft culminating in a deep 23-degree deadrise at the transom.

The new Loomes designed deck and cabintop fit the hull like a glove, adding aesthetic value to what has always been a sharp looking package. The high bow and topsides provide excellent height within the forward cabin. While this does not extend to full standing headroom it has allowed Calibre Boats to fit a double set of V-berth bunks providing overnight accommodation for four singles or a couple and two children. With an infill squab forming a large double berth the Tournament 745 suddenly competes with boats tailored more for the family market.

The GRP hard top is beautifully moulded with stylish front and rear overhangs, curvaceous lines and a large five-pane toughened safety glass windscreen. Modern European-style, round deck hatches have been used to good effect on the deck and cabintop. Finished with a full solid stainless steel rocket launcher across the rear and wing-mounted game poles, ‘KaBoom’ provides an excellent showpiece for prospective buyers.

The second of the new Calibre Tournament 745’s, High Calibre, was completed in similar fashion with only a minor modification to the companionway entrance. Delivered in June and fitted with a Mercury Mariner 225HP Verado supercharged four-stroke outboard, owner Peter Breed says the boat has performed above all expectations. A former boat builder himself, Peter says he looked long and hard at existing trailer boat designs before a chance introduction to ‘KaBoom’.

"While I’d forgotten more about boat building than I ever learned, I knew enough to recognise that the Tournament was an immensely strong boat. Craig’s offer to fix it for free if I ever broke it was good enough for me. I made only slight changes; a central cabinway entry for greater privacy and a 400-litre petrol tank over ‘KaBooms’ 300-litre tank."

High Calibre has put about 15 winter hours on the clock since her launch. A keen diver, Peter says the longitudinal internal engine bearers allow up to eight air tanks to be carried each side under the cockpit sole. "That was a bonus. The boat is so well equipped with underfloor storage that I didn’t stop to consider exactly where the tanks would go. I was blown away when I realised they would slip snugly either side of the engine bearers. Made to measure!"

Comforts afloat
For what is essentially a sports fishing boat, the re-worked Tournament has many appointments usually reserved for cruisers. These include an electric cabin toilet moulded into the footwell, pressure water, moulded sink unit and a two-burner gas hob. These are cleverly recessed into the top of the seat pods. While it does require removing both the squabs and seat backs, this is no chore and there is space a plenty up forward to stow them away.

Nice touches extend to wraparound padded cockpit combings and in-laid teak trim on the aft cockpit combings to set off the stainless pop-up bollards, recessed rod holders and a can or cup holder. Seating is comfortable and practical with a double king/queen combo on the passenger side and back-to-back singles on the driver side. Nicely upholstered in two-tone vinyl, these are positioned well within the hardtop overhang and will remain dry in all but the most arduous conditions.

My only criticism, however, is the lack of a drain or guttering to carry runoff from the cabintop. This gives rise to considerable water flowing down on the inside of the hardtop. Again, the cabintop is not fitted with handrails, which makes going forward via the deck a skilled and challenging task. This, however, is mitigated by the cabintop hatch, which is a far more practical way to access the foredeck. The foredeck itself is well laid out with twin hatch access to a deep self-draining anchor locker. A single rail stainless steel pushpit faithfully follows the hull as far aft as the cockpit. A remote up/down windlass takes care of the heavy stuff.

The transom boarding platform is ideal for diving, being both wide fore and aft and the full width of the transom. A liftout transom door is fitted on the port side to secure the cockpit when underway. Moulded from solid GRP, the cockpit sole is clean and crisp with no fewer than six, double-hinged (stainless) floor lockers opening into a cavernous hold. These are supplemented by further hatches built into the cockpit sides.

A single transom hatch fitted well off the cockpit sole houses the engine and house batteries and switching gear. LED cockpit courtesy lights have been recessed into the port and starboard cockpit sides and on the transom – a level of detail evident throughout the boat. The helmstation is simply and cleanly laid out with a teak trimmed instrument fascia to reduce glare and add a touch of tradition. Radio equipment recesses into an overhead panel within the hardtop to reduce instrument clutter around the helm. The driving position is secure and comfortable and visibility is not overly compromised by the window frames and pillars. Passenger support rails are strategically placed to keep the crew comfortable and safe.

Beautifully lined and upholstered, the forward cabin on High Calibre is fitted with full-length curved bunks providing overnight accommodation for four. An infill squab can be fitted across the cabin footwell to create a generous double.

The Tournament’s 2500kg weight reflects the boat’s heavy construction and effectively limits outboard power options to a minimum 200 horsepower. Both KaBoom and High Calibre are fitted with 225HP four-strokes that are capable of propelling the boats to a top speed of about 40 knots. The beauty of the big fours, however, is their quiet, smoke-free performance and excellent fuel economy at cruising speeds.

Calibre Boats’ current work commitments are such that Craig has had little time to market the re-worked Tournament but says he would be happy to show and demonstrate the boat to prospective customers as and when required.

Calibre Boat also recently secured the moulds for the larger Tournament 845 Sports Fisher and the first of the design with fully enclosed deck and cabin is nearing completion. Craig believes the larger Tournament will address a gap in the market for an affordable production-built offshore-capable sports fisher. And like the smaller Tournament 745, the boat will be available as a hull and decks package or fully fitted out on trailer. Engine options will include diesel and petrol inboard or single or twin outboards.

Specifications Tournament 745 High Calibre (Price as reviewed: $150,000)

Designer Craig Loomes Design Group
Builder Calibre Boats
L.O.A: 7.5mtrs
Beam: 2.4mtrs
Dead rise: 23 degrees
Trailerable weight: 2500kg
Fuel capacity: 400ltrs
Engine: Mercury Mariner 225HP Verado

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