Ten-metre cruiser/racers been a staple of many major production boatbuilders for over four decades now. No surprise because this class ticks lots of boxes for the average family; small enough for easy two-handing, big enough for cruising and offering competitive club racing for those so inclined.
- Superb Suzuki V6s are refined, but super-grunty
- Solid construction
- Soft ride
- Heaps of space
- Go anywhere, anytime boat
- Big boat to tow, but easy to trailer
In boatbuilding, as with business, the best clients are the ones that return. You don’t have to convince them with fancy marketing pitches or midnight sales – they already know about good design and excellent construction.
Barry and Bev Swney enjoyed their Image Fishmaster 9m so much they commissioned Invercargill-based Image Boats to build their next step up. For a company that’s renowned for its ability to customise designs to suit the client, Garry and Bev’s next boat has taken the idea to the extreme. Image Boats has created the new Prestige 10.75m – the company’s flagship – packing launch-like comfort into the convenience of a trailable boat.
Being the first of its kind meant the build process for the 10.75 was closer to a custom design than a production boat with significant input from the owners.
“The build process could not have been better,” says Garry. “We were in there almost every day and not once did they baulk at our suggestions for improvements or changes, which is an absolute credit to Dean Wilkes and his team at Image Boats.”
50/50, as she is named, was created using Image Boats’ well-proven, bulletproof approach to construction. Hull plates are 6mm thick and butt-welded, and a horizontal keel bar seam-welded to the plates forms an ultra-strong, stiff and watertight triangulated section running the full length of the keel.
Six longitudinal bearers provide strength and stiffness and a series of transverse bulkheads, along with welded floors, the five sealed compartments. 50/50 has a reassuring combination of strength and reserve buoyancy. The sides are constructed using 5mm marine aluminum with the cabin and deck being 4mm, topped by a 3mm roof.
Chine joints are seam-welded inside and out and the cabin roof is reinforced so it can be walked on if necessary. A 1050-litre fuel tank, 250-litre water tank, 60-litre blackwater tank and commodious underfloor locker space provide plenty of range for a boat that will get to some remote places.
Getting to and from the water falls to an all-aluminium custom-built trailer manufactured by Image Boats. In similar fashion to the boat, it’s been well-engineered with triple 2.5-tonne axles and runners with UHMWPE 1000 Black tops.
Launching and retrieving is remarkably easy with a boat catch system that takes the stress out of the game. An Al-Ko air-over-hydraulic brake system takes the worry out of trailering more than five tonnes of boat. At 2.95m beam 50/50 tows as over-width but is still narrow enough not to require a pilot vehicle.
50/50 is a launch in powerboat’s clothing. The first impression is of her size and space. Her beam is carried well forward and out to the chines, which are near floor level. This makes an exponential difference to cabin and deck space in an already large boat.
A fully-enclosed wheelhouse and cabin has the space and comfort usually associated with a launch. Helm station and living are on one level with a comfortable vee berth and/or large double in the fore cabin. Closing the door to the aft deck keeps the heat in and shuts out all but a whisper from the twin Suzuki 350hp outboards.
The saloon/wheelhouse layout makes the most of the substantial space. The galley, which includes a full oven and grill takes up most of the starboard side aft of the helm seat. Two Fridgetech 12-volt fridge drawers and freezer complement the stove. To port is an ingenious vertical pantry with a couple of transverse seats facing each other in a booth configuration.
The backrest on the front seat is hinged at the bottom to be reversible, allowing the seats to face forward/aft as needed.
A single yacht-style pipe berth to starboard in the forward cabin supplements the vee-berths.
For a well-spec’d boat 50/50’s helm station looks the part thanks to Garry and Bev’s passion for perfection. Centre stage are twin Garmin 8417, 17-inch screens, which link the fishfinder, chartplotter and radar into a nice touch-screen interface.
Around them are the Suzuki gauges, the Maxwell anchor winch controls (interfacing with the freefall system on the Stress Free Drum Winch), the bow thruster control and joystick for the Sea Station Optimus controller. The Sea Station allows the boat to hold position, move sideways and point the bow into any wind or sea at the touch of a button. It also makes fishing/docking very easy.
Above the helm station is an array of autopilot, VHF, Zip Wake and Fusion stereo controls. The helm station offers excellent visibility in both sitting and standing configuration, with good access to the dual throttle fly-by-wire controls and dash readouts.
Anchoring is controlled from the helm station – the Stress Free Drum Winch taking the pain out of retrieving the 33lb Rocna stainless steel anchor. The anchor locker can be accessed from inside the forward cabin via a hatch in the collision bulkhead while an overhead hatch also opens onto the foredeck should you need to inspect the ground tackle. Otherwise, the side decks are wide enough to sidle around the wheelhouse to the foredeck with ample handholds along the cabin top.
50/50 boasts a substantial cockpit with a chequerplate floor and a huge underfloor wet locker. The decks are sealed and drain to a large sump aft, equipped with bilge pumps. There is cockpit space and good toe room for the fisher folk. Across the transom a huge bait board with an inbuilt sink and counter with saltwater wash-down.
Under this unit is a locker with enough battery power to compete with the national grid. Two house and two crank batteries keep all the electronics well fed. The stern of the boat is finished off with a wet deck, wash down with Bomar hatches, live bait tanks and boarding ladders.
On the port side of the cockpit is the marine toilet, basin and shower that is built into the aft wall of the saloon. Starboard of the main companionway is a seat over the self-draining gas locker, Webasto diesel heater, fuel tank and storage area. Above this is an electric drop window, which was inspired by Bev and opens the flow between the aft deck and the cabin at the push of a button.
The only thing better than a V6 outboard is two V6 outboards. Garry and Bev opted for the twin DF350A four-stroke motors with Suzuki’s dual prop system – they deliver awesome power. Despite their grunt, these motors are gentle giants with the onboard noise levels minimal to non-existent at idle and only a harmonious hum at full revs. From the photo boat, they sounded like two Mustang fighter planes in close formation and if you could bottle the sound it would sell like hotcakes.
On the Water
When it comes to boat reviews it is often the details of horsepower, construction and hull design that get discussed. But over the years I have figured out the most important thing is to watch the owners closely. Only then will you tell if the boat is doing what it should and it is the only measure that stands up to any real scrutiny.
Traditionally couples on boat ramps are a hotbed of marital tension. Watching Bev and Garry launch 50/50 is one of those instances when you can see a life-long partnership at it’s finest. There is nothing but quiet voices and smiles and it is all manifest in the boat’s name.
Everything about this boat is big, powerful and well-designed. The GMC pickup Garry and Bev use for hauling 50/50 has more tow than a pair of jandals and it easily manages to move what must be one of the largest trailerable boats you are likely to come across. Surprisingly for a five-tonne boat, launching and retrieving is easy. The well-thought-out trailer and bow thruster help, as does the boat catch system.
Okiwi Bay, near French Pass, put on ideal boat review conditions; flat inside the bay with a leftover northwest slop outside to put air under the hull. Taking the helm was all pleasure. 50/50 just slid onto the plane with a solid feel and ate up any bumps in the surface without hesitation.
Her deep-vee, full bow sections and the well-positioned chines offered a two-stage dampening of what would be slamming conditions in many other boats of this size. The vee of the bow breaking the initial force of the wave and the chines offering an additional cushioning effect to this broken water.
The chines also came in handy for some tight manoeuvring around the photo boat. Their full length and placement in sync with the reverse sheer side panels seemed to give a noticeable bite to the hull on the corners. There was a reassuring sensation that the hull would not let go which was backed up by the two Suzukis and their twinned props – no inclination to cavitate.
With no shortage of horsepower, I was reticent about giving her the turps. A grinning Garry showed me how it was done with a push-back-in-the-seat sports car acceleration coming from the 700hp on the transom. Having that much power in reserve gives the boat a sure-footed feel and when this was combined with the soft ride there was an overwhelming feeling of confidence that the boat would look after you in any weather.
At a cruising speed of 21 knots 50/50 consumes around 1.65 litres per kilometre, not bad for two V6s. Her 1050-litre underfloor fuel tank provides plenty of range and her smooth ride means all-day excursions can be handled with ease. Getting 50/50 back on the trailer was done with the same marital ease as the launch. The only thing to slow us down were the questions of passers-by who invariably stop to marvel at the boat.
I could leave you with some quote from Bev or Garry about how wonderful their boat is but it would not be nearly as telling as watching how they work as a team, backing her into their driveway and tending to her wash-down while talking to yet another group of interested passers-by.
They are like the sound of two V6s flying in close formation./>