More is better

David Toyer | VOLUME 22, ISSUE 5

Whittley has raised the stakes in the trailerable cruiser market with the launch of its new CR2800.

Whittley’s new nine-metre cruiser; the CR2800, redefines luxury trailer boating. The new flagship of the Whittley range, replacing the Cruisemaster 700, is a very civilised and comfortable way to go about your boating, provided you are up to the challenges of towing such a package over any distance, be that within the confines of busy city traffic or out on the open highway.

While it is a trailerable craft, it does have its limitations. While the boat and trailer fall inside the normal regulations and do not require any special wide load or other permits, and travel times are not restricted, this is not a boat that can be hitched behind just any family 4WD. With a dry weight (boat, motor, trailer) in excess of 3250kg, only the likes of the Toyota Landcruiser, Nissan Patrol or Ford F250, to name but a few of the larger, semi-domestic haulers, have the specifications to hitch-up with the CR2800.

So, with an investment that can start around the $140K mark for a base boat, but is more likely to be upwards of $160,000 or more with a few options, plus the cost of a suitably upmarket and heavy duty 4WD or light truck, this is most certainly luxury trailer boating.

But then, that is what this boat is all about. It provides many of the comforts and much of the luxury of a mid-sized sports cruiser, without the restrictions of a marina berth or dry rack storage. The CR2800 is designed specifically for the family who want more freedom from their boating – to be able to get on the water where and when they like and without the limitations imposed by water travel alone.

Taking trailer boating to such an extreme did have its challenges. Apart from the obvious – the maximum width of 2.5 metres – which always poses a challenge for the use of space as well as boat handling and stability at rest and underway, the most significant consideration was that of weight.

The aluminium trailer, built by Trailermade in Shepparton, is the most evident example of this, saving almost 300kg in on-road weight. But that was the relatively simple bit, as Whittley invested more than $1 million in R&D, using the latest CAD technology to design every part of the boat, and the latest construction techniques to find ways and means to reduce weight without compromising quality and strength. A lot of honeycomb cored structure went into deck and hatch components, and solid timber disappeared from most elements, replaced by a foam-filled glass structural grid, offering solid reinforcement to the hull.

On top of the in-house R&D, Whittley took on board a huge amount of feedback and input from Whittley owners and dealers before finalising the layout and fit-out of the new flagship model.

COMMITTED

After all, an investment of over $1 million in the development of a trailer boat that is intended for a somewhat restricted market is not just a big commitment, but a huge gamble. Whittley will need to sell a lot of boats, but the company is confident that the CR2800 will do well – both here and in the US. Orders from the rounds of the 2007 Australian boat shows have been good, but the US market is another challenge all-together. This boat does have what it takes to make it in the US, but it will be up against a helluva lot of established brand names.

While prices of around $140,000 have been quoted at the boat shows, most models sold to date have had some luxurious options added, lifting the base tag to around the $160 to $170,000 mark. This is the case with the boat reviewed here, where options such as bow thruster, electric toilet and holding tank, bow sun pad, electric sliding sun roof, air conditioning, cockpit fridge/freezer, upgraded electrical and battery system, upgraded navigation package, upgraded TV and sound system, extra bilge pumps and roof solar panel have all been fitted to optimise the look and feel of a mid-sized sports or express cruiser – all in a legal trailable boat. And, I have to say, Whittley has done it well.

Start with the oversized boarding platform. This is a great extension of the cockpit. It is a good swim and dive platform, but, more importantly, it is wide enough to hold a couple of deck chairs and a small table – a fabulous place to enjoy evening cocktails as the sun disappears beyond the horizon. The lift-out stainless steel rail, with the mandatory built-in rod holders, doesn’t enclose the platform, but it is the place to mount one of the many small aftermarket barbeques.

The cockpit is accessed via a step thru in the starboard side of the transom, leading into what, I think, is quite a roomy and free-flowing layout for a trailer boat cruiser. The seating runs across the transom and down the port side, forming an L-shaped lounge around a large lift-out table.

The table storage is unique. It sits up under the hardtop, concealed by a moulded panel that hinges down (on air strut hinges) to reveal the table. Unlike many small cruisers, where the table is stowed below the cockpit floor or under some of the bunks, it can be accessed in seconds and is quick and simple to install or re-stow.

The hardtop provides shade to most of the cockpit, stopping on the line of the aft lounge. It does provide excellent protection and though aft clears are an option, they aren’t absolutely essential unless you plan on sleeping the kids out in the cockpit or do your boating extensively in colder climates.

The electric sliding sun roof is great, opening up the forward section of the cockpit to some sun when you want it, as well as getting a good flow of air through the cockpit. But with side glass windows also sliding, it’s not essential to open the sun roof to get some breeze through the forward part of the cockpit.

There is the usual Whittley trait of providing storage lockers, bins, glass racks, ski lockers, etc, in every nook and cranny conceivable, making sure that no space is wasted.

The helm station is compact, but extremely impressive in its appearance, and practical in its layout. All the electronics and instrumentation are well positioned, shaded from direct sunlight in most instances, and are easy to read. The control binnacle and trim switches are close by to the driver’s left, and I found the helm seat quite comfortable, with good clear vision.

OPEN PLAN BOATING

I was going to say, “moving forward into the cabin” – but that’s not exactly correct. The cabin opens off the cockpit and, with a wide bulkhead opening and one step down, works in much the same manner as it does on the smaller Whittleys – it is really part of the cockpit. The entire boat works as a whole – one large, connected space – and this is more so given the 1.8 metre headroom that has been achieved in much of the cabin.

This design is one of the most practical and workable layouts to be found on a small cruiser, be it trailable or otherwise. With the galley just one step down and immediately inside the cabin, this facility is ideally positioned to serve both the internal and external dinettes. It’s amazing just how well both the cockpit and cabin integrate into the one space.

As a day cruiser, the 2800 provides spacious and comfortable facilities for eight people. For an overnighter, weekender or holiday cruiser, it offers practical sleeping facilities for two to four people.

For meals, the internal dinette table would be a squeeze for four people – which is where the cockpit table comes in. But for two, it is a cosy, intimate place where you can enjoy an evening meal prepared from the galley, which is equipped with microwave, two-burner cook top, fridge/freezer, sink and a lot of storage space that has been specifically designed for all the essential items. The galley is limited in its space so Whittley has made sure that it can be used to its max and is not just a series of cupboards, drawers and shelves. There are sliding baskets for cereals and smallgoods etc, special racks for crockery, cutlery, cleaning utensils and linen and small wares.

The bathroom is quite compact, but then you don’t want it to be too grandiose on a boat this size. The headroom is tight, but I loved the waterproof flap that covers the toilet roll, preventing it from being soaked whenever the shower is run.

As you would expect, with a beam limited to 2.5 metres, an overall length of close on nine metres, and with a fair expanse of hull and superstructure exposed above water level, the 2800 can be sensitive to wind conditions and, under some circumstances, passenger loading. However, the independently controlled trim tabs are quick-acting and the hull does respond almost immediately when prompted.

It is a very easy boat to drive, the power steering and twin counter-rotating propped MerCruiser Bravo 2 sterndrive taking care of all the torque and the usual trim hassles normally associated with single sterndrives. The boat is very agile and nimble and has a really quick and sure-footed response to the helm. Though you would not want to do this, the boat can be pulled around quite hard and fast in a turn, with the hull hanging on superbly. The hull does bank quite a bit in the turns – again the result of the narrow beam/long waterline length combination, but this is not an issue.

Although the Bravo 2 sterndrive is quite user-friendly and a help to docking a single sterndrive rig, the optional bowthruster is superb. Even with all the windage from the superstructure, the bow thruster can manoeuvre this boat in the tightest of berths, no matter the wind or current conditions. This is an option that, once experienced on the CR2800, you would not go without.

The 350hp MerCruiser MAG MPI (which, incidentally, is the maximum rated power for the hull) has no problem in getting the hull quickly and smoothly onto the plane, holding a steady planing trim at 2900rpm at a shade over 14 knots. The hull lifts nice and level and the long raking foredeck doesn’t obstruct the view from the driver’s seat. If you have a lot of people in the cockpit, the tabs are also a great help in planing the boat flat and smooth.

Top speed is around 38 knots at 5000rpm, but the 350 MAG MPI is very thirsty at full throttle, so it’s good to note that the cruise speed at a more economical 4000rpm is still quite brisk, at a shade over 28 knots. You can afford to drop the throttle further to 3500 to 3700, if you want, and still have 22 to 25 knots of cruising speed.

The standard 200-litre fuel tank is a bit light-on for any long range cruising and I think the optional larger tank is something worthy of consideration. I know on-road weight was one of the primary concerns in the design, and this probably was the reason behind the tank size, but with a 350 MAG MPI as the recommended power option, the 200-litre tank is not all that practical. And, of course, you need not necessarily tow the boat with a full fuel tank.

The Whittley family has made a huge investment in the CR2800 so it will be a long-term model in the range. There had been criticism within the industry that the boat was too narrow for its length and style and it would be tender. But on the test, I thought the boat handled well and was no different in this regard to the numerous imports and the few other locally made boats all around the same 8 to 9 metre length/2.5 metre beam configuration.

The quality of the fit-out, standard of finish, and the amount of standard or optional accessories is superb and makes for luxury trailer boating at its best. For me, the free-flowing layout and access of the CR2800 is its crowning glory.

SPECIFICATIONS: WHITTLEY CR2800

Length (Hull): 7.5m

Length (overall): 8.9m

Beam: 2.5m

Deadrise: 19 degrees

Weight (Boat only): 2100kg

Weight (BMT): 3236kg

Fuel: 200 litres

Water: 110 litres

Engine: 350hp MerCruiser 350MAG MPI Bravo 2 Sterndrive

Performance

RPM Speed (knots)

1000 4

1500 5.5

2000 8

2900 (planing) 14.3

3200 18

3500 22

4000 28

4500 34

5000 38

Price as tested: $160-170,000

For more information, visit your nearest Whittley dealer or go to: www.whittleymarinegroup.com.au.


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