Chianti Reef Runner

Chianti Reef Runner Boat Test
Boating New Zealand - September 2011

Reflex Reef Runner
Reflex Reef Runner
Reflex Reef Runner
Reflex Reef Runner
Reflex Reef Runner
Reflex Reef Runner
Reflex Reef Runner
Reflex Reef Runner
Reflex Reef Runner

Boating New Zealand Review
By Kevin Cudby
Photos Chris Coad


When a hull has a reputation for great fishability and good rough water performance, you need a special kind of day to test its latest incarnation. The Met Office didn’t disappoint: five days of southerly gales, sleet and snow had built up a healthy Cook Strait swell so our test day for the Chianti Reef Runner featured squally conditions with patchy overcast that put a smile on our photographer’s face. 

We climbed aboard at Mana Cruising Club, 25km north-west of Wellington. The boat feels solid and stable thanks to the space between the hull and liner being packed with foam which makes the cockpit sole feel as rigid as a concrete footpath. Although it features a wave crushing deep vee, the boat is surprisingly stable and easily copes with the weight of two or three people on one side of the cockpit, which makes for easy loading and unloading.

This boat has an extraordinary tendency to run flat. It hardly squats at all in the transition between displacement and planing speeds, and it planes at about 19kph. Its attitude hardly changed right through the speed range as we cruised down the channel towards the Kapiti coastline. It simply rose higher as it accelerated. 

In a light chop in the sheltered Onehunga Bay the speedo showed 75kph on about 85-percent throttle heading into a 15-20 knot breeze. There was no tendency to veer off-course in the gusts. Full noise might have been safe, but with 25-30 knot squalls sweeping down from the hills with little or no warning, we weren’t game to try. However, give me a few more hours experience on this boat and I’d probably give it a go. 

Sometimes, a boat’s most important feature is its ability to get safely home if the weather turns dodgy. It’s not enough to run fast in a chop - the boat must also handle well at all speeds. As we got clear of the channel, the southerly was kicking a messy chop across the swell which was bouncing off the shallow bottom, steepening the sea. But despite punching the waves at 50kph, the ride was so soft there was no need to stand up. There was no jarring, and not very much noise. 

When I backed off the throttle for the odd steep trough, I sometimes wondered if I was being overcautious, and had to remind myself I was driving a 21-footer at more than 50kph on a day when most boaties would probably stay ashore.  

The boat turns predictably, upwind or down. At 40kph down-sea it runs dead-straight with no tendency to broach, and with 200hp on tap we easily outran the swell. Thirty-five to 40kph feels like a good, no-hassles cruising speed but if this boat is caught out in bad weather, the fact that it runs pretty-much flat at any speed allows it to mosey along at 15-20kph without sacrificing driver control. 

The passenger seat gave a comfortable ride in all conditions. The footrests moulded into the aft end of the bunks work well, and while the port side grab-rail seems oddly positioned at first, it soon becomes familiar and feels secure. In spite of the blustery conditions we stayed surprisingly dry as the hull seems to throw spray down, rather than out. Although the cockpit got a good wash, my bag stayed completely dry in the shelf above the port bunk. 

Out in the swell we let her drift near an ugly reef. There’s something about the Reef Runner’s hull geometry that works brilliantly for drift-fishing techniques such as jigging. It puts its stern quarter to the sea and naturally finds the perfect attitude to minimise rolling. Thanks to its stability and the damping effect of its integral swim-steps, it’s as steady a fishing platform as any I’ve seen, and even idling at about 3.5 kph, the boat steers well.

Another impressive feature is that despite this boat being capable of more than 80kph, there’s no need to bump the motor in and out of gear, except in the slowest trolling situations. 

The cockpit sides are a good height for comfortable stand-up fishing and to keep small children safely inside the cockpit. If you put the starboard quarter toward the swell, the throttle/gear lever is within easy reach which is great when fishing near reefs or bringing larger fish alongside. That also puts the bait tank right where it’s needed. Fishing out wide, it’s great for two or three fishers, and inshore in good weather it’ll accommodate at least four in the cockpit, plus one or two on the walk-around. 

We tested the walk-around by transferring our photographer from the camera boat to the Reef Runner. Access from the cockpit is excellent with the rocket-launcher providing a good handhold. The deep well eliminates any risk of slipping, even in the choppy conditions on our test day. Unfortunately the bow rail leans way outboard, so there’s not much to hang on to. A taller, more upright bow rail would eliminate this problem, and would also make it easier to come alongside a breastwork or jetty without bending the bow rail. A grab-rail on the cabin top would improve matters too.  

The deck itself is great, and there’s no doubt the walk-around will work brilliantly when you’re nosing up to a beach, coming alongside a boat or jetty, or working the anchor. The 360 degree access is a bonus. 

The Chianti Reef Runner is well-appointed for weekend cruising for two people, with a couple of good-sized bunks, toilet, and plenty of stowage. As a family day boat, it’s versatile enough to do everything. Its tendency to run flat makes it great for towing water toys, and it will happily tow a biscuit at 15kph as easily as it will tow a skier at 60kph.

The test boat has a 200hp four-stroke Suzuki with a 15 inch diameter propeller and I suspect its sparkling rough-water performance has a lot to do with the match between propeller diameter and hull. Boat City’s Ian Coutts reckons the Reef Runner performs well with engines down to 14hp. Some 150hp and 175hp motors come with big-diameter props, and they’d be as good in rough water as the 200hp. 

Boating’s verdict

Reflex promotes the Chianti Reef Runner as a general purpose boat with fishing capability. They’re not wrong. It works well for light and medium tackle fishing, inshore and out wide. Most of the features that make it a good fishing boat, especially its rough water performance, also make it a very practical and safe boat for New Zealand’s favourite cruising waters. 

Pros Predictable handling, level attitude at all speeds, very soft ride, forward cleats well-positioned for coming alongside jetties. 

Cons Bow rail leans out way too far, no handrails on cabin top or dash-board, heavier than a tinnie. Specifications

Reflex Chianti Reef Runner
Loa 7m
hull length 6.35m
beam 2.5m
berths 2
length on trailer 8m (approximate)
maximum load 950kg
trailerable weight 2000kg (approximate)
fuel 180 litres
construction hand-laid woven glass hull with integrated bonded liner and deck/cabin
cruising range 280 km approx @ 50kph
top speed 83 kph (with Suzuki DF 200)
power options 140hp – 200hp
price as tested $105,000