Chianti Reef Runner

Chianti Reef Runner Boat Test
New Zealand Herald - August 2011

Walkaround should catch on
By Mike Rose 12:03 PM Saturday Aug 13, 2011

Walkaround-style boats have not, traditionally, proved very popular in New Zealand waters. That is somewhat strange because walkarounds are ideally suited to softbait fishing - particularly when drift fishing - and are also perfect for flyfishing, especially the increasingly popular saltwater flyfishing. They can also be an advantage when fighting fast-moving pelagics such as kingfish and kahawai or, if one is exceptionally lucky, tuna. The only downside is that walkarounds come at the expense of cabin space. But how many of us actually spend much time in the cabin? In my experience, cabins are generally used for stowage, as a place to keep children amused if they are not interested in fishing, or as a place to grab 40 winks when the action is slow.

Christchurch-based Reflex Products' new Reef Runner is a fine example of the genre: good-looking, practical and well designed. At this year's Boat Show it attracted quite a lot of attention. The actual walkarounds are everything they should be - reasonably deep, with their own drainage, and plenty of things to hold on to. Getting on to them is relatively easy because Reflex has installed short stainless-steel ladders in the front shoulders of the cockpit. These, combined with the optional rocket launcher and bimini, make the task of moving from cockpit to walkaround and then to foredeck simple. For safety, the walkarounds are coated in a non-skid textured finish. You can also get to the foredeck through the hatch.

The walkarounds have made surprisingly little impact on the cabin. This is still a roomy area, with 1.9m v-berth bunks, plenty of stowage in both side lockers and under the squabs and even a portable chemical toilet. My only grizzle is that this is an open cabin, which will deter people from using the toilet. A privacy curtain, at the very least, should be part of the package. Recognising that anyone who chooses to buy a walkaround is going to be keen on their fishing, Reflex has kept the Reef Runner's large cockpit uncluttered. My colleague, Freddy Foote, reckons there is plenty of room for six to fish from the cockpit. Although he obviously doesn't head out with the greedy, gullwinged, elbows-everywhere lads I do, he does have a point. With its 2.5m beam, Bruce Duncan and I may just be able to share this cockpit without getting in each other's way. The cockpit is packed with useful features. In the aft starboard corner, for example, lives a live-bait tank, handily plumbed into the transom bulkhead. A saltwater washdown pump - an optional extra but a very worthwhile one - has been placed in the transom locker and, better still, the switch is right there on the side of the cockpit. The walkthrough to the transom is out of the way on the port side. There is no boarding platform as such. Instead, the Reef Runner has pods on either side of the outboard. The port one comes with a deep boarding ladder that can fold down flush into the pod. There are rod holders in all the usual places. The seating plan is straightforward. There are two pedestal seats at the front and a drop-down bench seat that runs across the transom. When not in use, this folds out of the way with its backrest acting as a handy thigh-bolster for those fighting fish across the back.

Reflex produces this Reef Runner in conjunction with the Haines Group in Australia, where the boat is sold as a Haines Traveller TF200. They are also the Suzuki distributors for this part of the world so it was no surprise to see a Suzuki 200hp on the transom here. The Reef Runner is rated from 140hp through to 200hp. However, with the boat having a 7m LOA, a 6.15m hull length and a trailer weight of 2000kg it is hard to see a 140hp having the grunt to keep up, especially with a few big blokes on board. That is borne out by the performance figures for the Reef Runner with the 200hp. There is nothing wrong with them but they are not outstanding. With a three-blade 16-inch Dx20 propeller, the 200 powered the boat to a top speed of 40 knots at 5950rpm. With the engine lifted one hole and a three-blade 15-inch Dx21 fitted, the top speed rose to 45 knots. I'm just not sure what would be the case if 60 horses were taken out of the mix.

The Reef Runner provides a very forgiving ride. Foote says in his Pacific Power Boat review that the Reef Runner runs quite flat, requiring quite a lot of trim. However, the bullish bow has plenty of reserve buoyancy to get the nose out of the troughs. The ride is also very dry. Although the Reef Runner is a fishing boat first and foremost, it can also be quite versatile. Divers will appreciate the flat coamings and portofino transom and that extra long fold-down ladder. They'll also enjoy the moulded wet locker in the cockpit sole, which is large enough for bottles, gear bags and the day's catch. For a family outing, you can clip in the optional carpet, leave the transom seating in place and throw in the chillybins, tow toys and whatever else takes your fancy.

Reflex Reef Runner LOA: 7m
LOH: 6.15
Beam: 2.5m
Transom deadrise: 20 degrees
Trailer weight: 2000kg
Construction: GRP
Recommended outboards: 140-200hp
Fuel capacity: 180 litres
Priced from: $77,000
Price as described: $105,895

Want to know more? Check out Freddy Foote's review of the Reflex Reef Runner in the July/August issue of Pacific Powerboat magazine.

By Mike Rose