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- Versatile layout
- Back in NZ
- Petrol sterndrive
A hardcore angler embraces his softer side with the new Whittley FF2100 – an Aussie “crossover” boat. The marque has just returned to the New Zealand market and will be marketed by Bensemann Boating Centre.
It’s late afternoon in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria. Snapper season is just kicking into gear and the all-important tide change is not far away. Hmm, time to find a crew. My partner, Millie, hates the smell of fish, let alone catching one, but after inspecting the Whittley FF2100 she packs her favourite magazine and jumps aboard. Have I struck fishing pay-dirt? A girlfriend who actually wants to go fishing on a boat?
We launch into a glassy Patterson River and make our way into the bay. With 15 knots on top, it’s hardly ideal fishing conditions. The FF2100 laps up the slop. After a short run to a popular reef, the sounder fills with banana-like shapes, so we plop the anchor and send out some fresh squid heads.
The fishing is red-hot. Our long, floppy snapper rods buckle over in every corner of the boat, with good-sized fish sliding onto the swim platform, one after the other. I’m a kid in a candy store full of red lollies; Millie, on the other hand, can barely contain her boredom. She decides to make use of the TV in the cabin.
We keep a brace of snapper, winch up the anchor with the flick of a switch and motor to calmer waters to set up for the night. The FF2100 is designed as a crossover boat. It’s got all the luxury mod-cons of a family cruiser with the accessories of a fishing boat. So with the rods stored away in the aluminum rocket launchers, the tackle hidden in the lockers and the bait board replaced by the BBQ, the boat quickly transforms from fisher to overnight cruiser.
A cool feature of the FF2100 is the canopy. The rear clears can be added and removed in a flash and the rear bimini extension can be folded up and over the rocket launchers. You can go from fully-enclosed cabin to open deck in a matter of minutes – and that’s just what Millie and I do. We find a quiet spot to anchor up, crack open the ciders and chow into some cheese and dip before dropping the covers and cuddling up in the cabin for some seaside serenading. Now this is Millie’s sort of boating trip.
Fun in the Sun
After a good night’s sleep, we slide the FF2100 back onto the trailer and take off to explore the beautiful seaside town of Sorrento. At under two tonnes the boat tows effortlessly on the Mackay tandem trailer. We even have the fully-enclosable canopy set up and the rig tracked straight as an arrow, with no flapping from the clears. The sun shines on a glassy turquoise bay, which prompts Millie to declare “a no-fishing day”.
I agree, while secretly stashing my 17-piece snapper outfit into one of the many storage cubbies. Our first destination is Point Nepean. The point reaches out to a body of water known as The Rip. It’s a notorious stretch of water. We put the hull into some waves and come away pleasantly surprised; the boat handles like a sports car, rolling into turns nicely and powering out without any cavitation.
The FF2100 really does feel great to drive, the helm layout is ergonomic and familiar – it’s almost like you’re jumping behind the wheel of a car. The dash is occupied with gauges, which means your sounder/GPS is mounted on the passenger side – as a fisherman, something I don’t find ideal.
I also discover the helm seat sits a bit too close to the steering wheel. It’s great for driving sitting down, but can be a little tight when standing and driving. The windscreen visibility, on the other hand, is awesome. There are great sightlines from the helm, no matter what position you’re in.
Speaking of performance, the FF2100 is fitted with a 200hp 4.3L V6 Gi Volvo Penta sterndrive. This is in contrast to most other trailer boat manufacturers, who opt to power up with outboards. So why does Whittley prefer inboards?
For a start, they’re much better value, according to Whittley Sales and Marketing Director, Alan Whittley. He says the 200hp Volvo is the same price as a 70hp four-stroke. They also provide a lower and more central centre of gravity, which gives better stability.
Another major benefit of a sterndrive is the space you get on the duckboard. The FF2100’s fitted with a DuoProp, a seriously cool piece of kit. DuoProp consists of twin counter-rotating propellers on the same shaft. This gives the boat better bite in the water, resulting in faster hole-shot and better manoeuvrability.
Another benefit of the Volvo Penta is the QL Neutra-Salt system, which all Whittley sterndrive boats come with as standard. The system allows you to flush the engine with a salt-neutralising liquid. At the flick of a switch, your engine will be flushed and left with a corrosion-inhibiting coating on all the metal surfaces the liquid touches. It’s a pretty neat feature, especially for me. I have fish to clean!
A New Breed
The concept for the FF2100 came to Alan Whittley one morning while sitting on the back of his boat watching the snapper fisherman head out. He wanted to develop a boat that could comfortably fish the bays and estuaries while still having the comfort and family friendliness of the CL (cruiser) range. Says Alan: “We wanted to build a boat that you could use for as many applications as possible – from fishing to overnighting to towing a ski tube.”
He’s achieved his goal with the FF2100. It may be too much of a compromise for some fishos to swallow, but no matter what boat you own or are looking to buy, there’s always going to be a compromise. If you were a hardcore angler you wouldn’t own this boat; you’d be looking at something from the Whittley SL range.
But if you like to fish and have a family to keep happy, this could be the boat for you. It’s luxurious yet practical. The front zone is built for pleasure, the midships is built for partying and out the back is the action zone, where Millie and I spend most of our time diving in and out of the water.
Late in the afternoon, Millie and I spy a quiet patch of paradise in the bay, with clear water and golden sands. We fire up the BBQ, feed some stingrays the snapper frames and kick back with an icy beer and cheese platter.
Reflecting on the weekend, I definitely enjoyed the cruising and relaxing aspects of boating more than I thought I would. Perhaps Millie is rubbing off on me? Please don’t tell my hard-core fishing buddies that, OK? Maybe just tell them they got out-fished by a Whittley Cruiser!
Whittley Back in NZ
New Zealand-built boats have been flooding into Australia for decades and until now the traffic has been decidedly one way. Aussie boat builder, Whittley Marine Group, is set to reverse the trend and has appointed Auckland’s Bensemann Boating Centre Ltd as its North Island dealer.
“We’re excited about returning to New Zealand,” says company director, Neville Whittley. “The brand has had a strong presence in New Zealand, but hasn’t had local representation since 2006.”
With two dealerships in the Auckland region (West Park and Kelston), Bensemann Boating Centre is a Volvo Penta and Yamaha dealer. Director Rose Bensemann plans to establish a dedicated Whittley outlet providing a complete sales and after-sales experience.
While Whittley’s CR (Cruiser) range forms the bulk of the initial consignment, the fishing oriented SLs will also be available – the first one, an SL22 powered by Volvo Penta’s Next Generation V6 and Duoprop Drive, is currently in the mould.
All New Zealand-bound boats will be turn-key packages rigged with factory-installed Volvo Penta petrol or diesel sterndrives. The initial consignment of Whittley will sit atop factory-spec Mackay trailers carrying exclusive ‘Crafted for NZ’ badging.
For more information visit Bensemann Boating Centre at www.bensemann.co.nz.