Elite 17M Convivial

by admin

Aurhor : Barry Thompson

Photos by Chris Lewis 

The 17.5m Convivial characterises its owners Lance and Bronwyn Fink, with its aggressive, albeit intricate attention to detail and finish that most of us would regard as finicky.

With Lance and Bronwyn being such sticklers for perfection, Convivial has transformed the already popular Elite styling to a whole new level. Given the success of their own business and the fact that their Tristram trailer boats are regarded as the benchmark of quality in New Zealand, building a boat that was less than perfect was never an option. Fortunately, the Finks had the support of Lance’s boatbuilder brother, Andrew Fink, who was prepared to put the time into producing a boat with their desired attention to detail in every aspect of construction, engineering and appointments.

Designer Bill Upfold worked closely with the Finks to achieve the desired result and the finished product is an outstanding vessel, with flowing exterior lines and an immense interior.

“There was a lot of collaboration between Bill and Andrew sorting out the fine detail of what we wanted and I have to give full credit to my brother for not only being able to interoperate our ideas on even the finest points, but also having an immense input into how it could all be done, whilst still working within the original layout”, said Lance.

Convivial started as an Elite 17.5m pilothouse motor yacht from a set of plans drawn up by one of New Zealand’s most respected designers, Bill Upfold. Lance admits they very much stuck to the original plans and changed very little in the actual layout, but more in the detailing. “We worked closely with Bill and between us I feel produced the best looking Elite design on the water”.

“The premise behind Convivial is that we wanted a boat that was big enough to take two families away and be our apartment on the water. It was to be our ‘Auckland’ home when we were in town and we didn’t want to outgrow the boat too early, hence the spaciousness and size”, said Lance.

Andrew Fink Marine started working on Convivial in 1999 and from the outset it was obvious that things would need to be changed. “I knew that what we wanted within the confines of the hull dimensions wasn’t going to work so the first thing we did was get Andrew to lengthen the hull”. This was done by filling in the portofino transom.

The cabin tops were also raised above the deck by 90mm to increase the headroom inside and this had the bonus of presenting a more moulded look to the deck edge. All the cabin sides were curved using a foam core base to take away the flat sidedness look, something the Finks were all adamant they wanted to get away from. “We didn’t want to stick with the status quo and look the same as other Elites. Soft edges and curved lines blend well and they give Convivial an individual look that no one else has”, said Lance.

This is not a hard-core fishing boat, or a serious gameboat. It is a social boat, hence the name Convivial. The layout and internal design certainly reflects that.

One of the criteria was that the owners wanted a large U-shaped dinette in the rear saloon and this was going to be a squeeze in a boat under 16m. Hence the cockpit was extended by about 1m, with the original portofino stern design replaced by a flat transom. This meant that the cockpit size was not compromised.

Large radiused double doors slide back inside the transom to provide a very wide opening onto the aft deck. A detachable bbq is kept out here, as is the storage for the tender when underway. You don’t need to encroach into the cockpit when fishing, with a special bait board mount on the aft railing and wet lockers in the stern platform. There is no permanent seating in the cockpit, with copious storage lockers in the coamings and the lazarette. Electro-hydraulic rams on the lazarette hatches take away the hard work.

To port is a bait freezer and fridge with a rod locker opposite built beneath the external staircase to the enclosed upper bridge.

The difference is already obvious in even the most unseen areas of the cockpit, with the attention to detail flawless – a credit to the craftsmanship of the team at Andrew Fink Boatbuilders. The high gloss teak finish inside the boat is offset with light coloured vinyl and suede furnishings, to present a warm, friendly and certainly ‘convivial’ area for socialising and relaxing.

Bi-fold doors open to lead into the rear saloon and galley area. Another small change to the plan was that the space above the iconic Upfold electric drop-down rear window was altered. The deckhead has been radiused, which has given the impression of a much larger opening.

Bill Upfold has a reputation second to none for pilothouse designs and his treatment of the stern area of the internal layout makes exceptionally practical use of the space. In Convivial this sees the U-shaped dinette with fixed height table and galley to port with the owners stateroom opposite, complete with an en-suite that also doubles as the day head. The ensuite is finished with a granite vanity top and custom made curved glass shower cubicles.

An island berth fills most of the owners’ cabin and like all cabins aboard has individual air conditioning and flat-screen TV.

The galley features a full granite bench top, with both deck and eye-level appliances and generous storage areas. There is again a lot of intricate detail to be found, from the wedge shaped cupboard end, to the white lacquer and teak insert panelling.

Social Space

The main saloon reflects the social entertaining requirements of the boat, with two large lounges plus a loose chair, home theatre system and even a hide-away wine locker that holds 16 bottles. Beige leather is used throughout, with recessed lighting and side blinds that retract into pelmets. The ceiling panels radiate away from a central ceiling mirror that tends to break the feeling of the large flat sections above. Teak has been used intelligently on bulkheads and to accentuate certain areas, without overpowering the spacious appeal of the saloon with too many dark areas.

There are two more cabins forward with the dedicated kids room in the forepeak, set out with 4 ½ berths and a full entertainment system with LCD screen. Bi-fold doors recess flush into the companionway bulkhead and both cabins share the same bathroom. The builders have managed to incorporate a washer/dryer in this area without encroaching into the bathroom space.

The port side guest cabin has a large double berth, hanging locker and plenty of storage available in lockers and drawers. Here is where you’ll find the main access to the engine room, which as expected is superbly finished, totally clean and a masterpiece of engineering. The engine room is also well isolated acoustically, with minimal noise in the living areas when underway.

A pair of Caterpillar C9 engines, which give a top speed of 25 knots and comfortable cruise of 19.5 knots, powers Convivial. Being a pilothouse design, the engines are mounted under the main saloon and drive through supported shafts onto Nibral 5 blade propellers. Since launching the boat in December 2005, the Finks have had numerous trips around the Hauraki Gulf, Great Barrier Island and Coromandel and plan a Christmas cruise this season to the Mercury Islands.

“It is a magnificent boat to drive, very predictable, doesn’t do anything wrong on the water and loves a following sea”, says Lance.

Convivial’s enclosed flybridge can be accessed both internally and externally and has a central helm station forward with large, fully adjustable double leather seat, U-shaped settee to port and single settee opposite. There is also a wet bar behind the seat with fridge and icemaker. A trio of large Simrad screens dominate the walnut and vinyl helm.

Doors slide open to the upper aft deck area and the cockpit staircase. A full width seat provides a pleasant area to relax. While the area is air conditioned there is also a sliding sunroof above as well as a smaller opening hatch should you just want some extra breeze flowing through.

Lance and Bronwyn are extremely proud of Convivial and have never regretted the extra time and effort that went into making it so special. It may have been way over budget and taken a staggering 31500 hours to build, but Convivial is without doubt one of the finest custom built boats of its size to be launched in the past couple of years.


  • Boat Name: Convivial
  • Boat Design Name: Elite 17.5
  • Year Launched: 2005 (Dec)
  • Designer: Bill Upfold / Andrew Fink
  • Interior Designer: Bill Upfold / Andrew Fink
  • Builder: Andrew Fink Marine
  • LOA: 17.05m
  • LOH: 15.54m
  • Beam: 5.02m
  • Displacement: 21.5 tonnes
  • Max Speed: 25 knots
  • Cruise Speed: 19.5 knots
  • Construction: Cedar core/foam composite
  • Fuel Capacity: 2635 litres
  • Water Capacity: 1000 litres
  • Engines: 2 x Caterpillar C9 @ 510hp each

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