Fi-Glass Warrior

By: Paul Smith


It was almost 50 years ago, in 1958, that Frank Simpson commenced building a GRP dinghy called the Fisherman. Today, more than 10,000 boats later, Fi-Glass is one of the most recognisable names in the New Zealand marine industry.

Fi-Glass Warrior
Fi-Glass Warrior

Now in the hands of Frank's son, Griff, the company builds a range of trailerable powerboats designed and built to give years of trouble free service while maximizsing the enjoyment of the boating experience.

At 6.4m overall, the Fi-Glass Warrior is the top model in the range, and in its latest incarnation, bears little resemblance to the immensely popular "Warrior" that anchored the Fi-Glass Products range during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Construction and design

Released in 1998, the new Warrior combines contemporary styling cues with an efficient deep vee, and a longitudinally variable deadrise hull design ideally suited to outboard or stern drive propulsion systems (to 225hp). Wide turned down chines combine with planing strakes to provide lift and a dry ride at speed in addition to stability at rest. A fine entry for'd cuts through wind chop and allows the boat to accelerate quickly to plane without excessive bow lift.

Developments in GRP manufacturing processes and materials has enabled Fi-Glass Products Ltd to incorporate "no wood" construction methods in its boats. The use of such reinforcements as 'Divinicell' in place of plywood, full GRP stringers and bearers in place of timber plus the use of closed cell foam-filled hulls for strength and added buoyancy, have resulted in "non-rot" characteristics, as well as more efficient production processes. They also and allow the company to offer a six year limited structural warranty on its hulls.

All Fi-Glass boats are manufactured and fitted out to NZ Boat Building Standards - ie they are CPC compliant - as you would expect given Griff Simpson is the current Chairman of the committee.

Layout

The foredeck of the Fi-Glass Warrior can be accessed by the walkaround side-decks and there are strong stainless steel bow rails either side. But it is much easier and safer to make use of the large acrylic hatch in the forecabin roof and the integrated step in the front bulkhead to access the anchor locker.

The locker itself is deep and self-draining and is protected by a cowling that opens back against the port bow rail. A stainless steel bollard combines with the integrated GRP bowsprit and stainless fairlead to make anchoring duties fussfree.

The forecabin provides vee berths that could convert to a double with an in-fill squab, but the bases are sealed for buoyancy so there is no provision for storage beneath them. However, the back rests form deep and wide parcel trays along each side of the cabin.

The upholstery is completed in house and finished in modern, durable fabrics. Cabin sides and roof are fully lined and while the hatch and side-light windows provide ample natural light by day, a 12-volt electric light is fitted for overnighting purposes. A lined, removable panel on the back of the helmstation provides access to the electrics and steering for maintenance.

The absence of a full bulkhead to port opens up the space between the forecabin and the cockpit. The high, curved one piece acrylic windscreen provides excellent protection from wind and spray and the optional stainless steel framed bimini cover can be supplemented with PVC clears to enclose the for'd cockpit space for comfort in inclement weather. A six rod rocket launcher is incorporated into the bimini frame. A GRP hardtop is another optional extra.

The starboard helm is nicely laid out with three Yamaha digital gauges monitoring engine speed, boat speed, fuel usage, trim etc mounted atop in a woodgrained fascia. A Raymarine L760 plotter/sounder is flush-mounted above the helm and is flanked with electric actuation for the trim tabs.

A Raymarine VHF radio is also flush-mounted and a six gang switch cluster controls the bilge pumps, lighting etc. This boat was fitted with a Sea Star hydraulic steering system. The helm seat is a single pedestal type, adjustable for'd/aft and for height.

To port, a king/queen arrangement tilts forward to expose a cavernous dry storage area beneath. Access to the central underfloor storage locker is via a hatch in the cockpit sole between the seats. The stainless steel fuel tank, 140 litres capacity, is centrally mounted under the cockpit sole aft of the locker (the fuel tank can be upgraded to 200 litres).

UV-resistant carpets can be quickly removed to expose a non-slip gelcoat cockpit sole that can be easily washed out after fishing activities. There is generous rod/gaff storage in racks with shelf space beneath along each side of the cockpit. A removable GRP table is located centrally in the aft section of the cockpit. Removable seat squabs in each corner aft allow standing room against the coamings when fishing while a domed vinyl cover protects batteries located centrally under the engine well.

A strong, triangulated stainless steel ski pole sits ahead of the engine while the portofino styled transom includes boarding platforms either side of the engine. A stainless steel folding boarding ladder and grab rail are located on the starboard side. Other stainless steel grab rails are ergonomically located along the inside of each cockpit coaming along with a rod holder each side aft.

Performance and handling

Lyttelton Harbour was still feeling the effects of a moderate sou'westerly blow when we launched the Warrior for our on water trial. Although the sea state was not particularly rough, there was a short wind chop. The wind was cold and the occasional shower of rain hung around the summits of the port hills that ring the harbour. The Yamaha VMax 175hp (high pressure direct injection, two stroke) engine fitted to the transom of Griff's Warrior burst quickly to life, and once the winch rope and safety chain shackles were undone, the boat slipped easily from the Fi-Glass manufactured multi roller trailer.

In deference to the average weather conditions, the team at Fi-Glass had elected to fit the PVC clears around the bimini and along the top edge of the windscreen. This provided a snug haven and since conditions were not conducive to recording the Warrior's top speed, the loss of top end performance due to the windage of the bimini and clears was of no issue.

The flat chines and planing strakes did a good job in keeping windblown spray down and away from the boat. The fine entry cut through the chop like a hot knife through butter and the Warrior delivered up a ride every bit as smooth and dry as expected. She only requires minimal applications of tab to optimise the ride with the main benefit being able to stabilize a deep vee monohull's tendency to heel in strong side winds.

We found calmer water in the lee of Quail Island where the boat was pushed into a series of full lock planing turns. The Warrior displayed tenacious grip and cavitation could only be induced under severe provocation. The boat is rated for a maximum of 225hp but performs very well with 150hp, so the 175 Vmax was a nice compromise offering satisfying mid range punch and plenty of grunt off the mark for towing waterskiers and/or water toys.

Conclusions

Although you would hardly call the Warrior an entry-level boat - she is too well specified for that - it would make an ideal first boat for a family to get into the boating lifestyle. It is big enough to provide space for family, friends and gear. It is easily handled and has no nasty habits or vices. It is built to a high standard to ensure hastle-free boating for years to come and, at around 1600kg towing weight, does not necessarily require a large 4WD to tow it.

Specifications
LOA: 6.4m
LOH: 6.1m
Beam: 2.3m
Deadrise: Variable, 22 degrees @ transom
Engine: Yamaha Vmax, 175hp, HPDI, V6 two-stroke (Max 225hp)
Trailer: Galvanised steel frame, tandem axle, multi-roller
Towing Weight: 1600kg (light)

Price $75,901 RRP (as reviewed) - packages from $58,000.
Boat supplied by Mr Boats, 247 Dyers Road, Christchurch, tel (03) 3843199.

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