Author : Barry Thompson
Outside the Square
In 1991 Lazercraft turned up at the New Zealand Boat Show with a fibreglass deck and cabin on an alloy hull. It was an immediate success and since that day the company has built hundreds of combination GRP/alloy rigs. The all-new Lazercraft Avanti 620, which replaces the 620 Sport GT, takes that concept to a whole new level.
Conscious of the changing trends in both aluminium and fibreglass and aware that if they wanted to maintain their appeal to the ‘fibreglass boat’ buyers, they needed to up the ante. That decision made over 18 months ago has resulted in a boat that could very well turn the ‘alloy’ boat market on its ear. Lazercraft has not forgone the ‘alloy’ market as such, with a full range of basic unpainted boats that are designed to appeal to fishos and divers. It’s just that the 620 Avanti, while still equally at home in that market, is unashamedly also pitched towards the family fibreglass boat owner. Significant changes to the construction have meant a shorter build time, better quality and the chance to incorporate some really Softline styling. All other models in the Lazercraft range have fibreglass decks that finish short of the transom, whereas the 620 now incorporates all that area in the deck mould. A first for a New Zealand production alloy boat are the curved corners of the transom, which eliminates any hard edges and does a lot to distinguish the Avanti from other boats in the Lazercraft range.
The basic hull construction is very similar to other models with welded panels and support structures, but the big difference is that the fibreglass deck is bonded, not screwed, around the gunnels. The same Bostic adhesive is used in other areas such as the floor plates, which presents a stiffer, stronger and quieter boat. Prior to delivery to the dealers the boats are all pressure tested to 28kPa (4psi). Lazercraft Managing Director, Gavin Child took me around their Dunedin factory to see first hand how the boat was built and was enthusiastic to the max about the look, finish and performance of his latest creation. Although I was dialled in to test the boat prior to the Christmas break, he wasn’t ready and it wasn’t until mid January that I got a chance to go boating. By the time I got to Dunedin, there were already 20 hours on the clock, so it was well run-in and tested. Dunedin can provide all the seasons in a few days and the day prior to my arrival it was blowing 50 knots at Tairoa Head and a screaming Nor’easter turned the harbour into a fairly wild place.
However the day after, the wind had gone completely, the harbour was calm and I thought we wouldn’t prove much in those conditions. Boy, was I mistaken!
Biggest Water Ever
Bloody huge! That’s the only way to describe the size of the swells that confronted me when I took the 620 out through the entrance to Dunedin Harbour and turned south past the albatross colony. My estimate was upwards of 3m to 4m, with a very ragged and confused sea that got worse the further out we ventured off the coast. Our camera boat kept disappearing from sight as we both dipped into the troughs and it was an eerie feeling as we dodged the occasional rogue wave that seemed to rise from nowhere – not to mention the seals! However I never once felt unsafe as the 620 ate the big long swells with ease as we notched up a few miles down the coast in a beam-on sea. In the direct following or head sea it was something else and being unsure just how far down it was on the other side, I had to work the throttle for each swell so I didn’t get out of control. Some of the lips were enormous and those I tried to avoid. This was the biggest swell I have ever done a boat test in and was reminiscent of when I raced in the World 6-Litre Championship at Mar del Plata, Argentina. Conscious of the sea conditions and in the size boat I was in I didn’t push it too hard at the start, but it didn’t take long before the throttle was wound up a bit and with Gavin Child, also a former powerboat racer, alongside me, the 620 was soon running 40 mph along the swells. I was totally impressed with the ride and handling of the boat that exceeds that of the standard Lazercraft 620, which is also exceptional.
It lands quietly, level and softly in the rough water and we never once took a drop of water on the deck or screen. There was however a hint of strake chatter in the mirror smooth water of the inner harbour. While the 620 Avanti retains a very similar hull to the previous Lazercraft 620 there are some changes to the running surface. Most importantly is the addition of two strakes per side, which is something new for Lazercraft. Part of the reason for these is to eliminate any ‘stickiness’ on the calm fresh water and Child says it now allows them to rate the boat from 115hp through to 200hp. The floor of the cabin has been raised 80mm and tapered aft, which has increased the underfloor buoyancy and eliminated any ‘pooling’ of water inside. The fuel tank has been moved further aft and there is now underfloor storage for the first time. According to Child it’s large enough to take a “Stolen from Talleys” fishbin! The new deck has also been designed for small cabin side windows, something that was unavailable in the previous 620 and is certainly necessary now that the cabin can be fully closed off. The drop sheer line continues the soft European styling of the 620 Avanti and will be a trademark look for all future Avanti models in the Lazercraft range. It’s a distinctive point of difference that certainly sets it apart from all other aluminium boats on the market.
Compared to the previous 620 Sport GT, the Avanti has a more useable cockpit with the moulded transom and rear deck area now allowing the inclusion of dropin seats. The extra 400mm depth either side of the engine well has allowed for a pair of large and comfortable rear seats. These can be slid out of the way under the rear deck when not required, or provide part of the six-person cockpit seating arrangement. The bases form extra storage or double as fish bins. The battery and oil tank are mounted on a separate pad above the cockpit sole and are hidden behind a hinged alloy door. The cockpit is fully self-draining with scuppers either side. There is provision for an optional live bait tank and a pair of self-draining transom lockers can be used to stow the back anchor, bait or in the case of a boat from the South, are tall enough in which to stand a dozen or so Speight’s stubbies. There are recessed footpads either side, with the drop-down ladder mounted to starboard and provision for an outboard auxiliary to port. There is also an optional dive platform if required. Standard seating is back-to-backs on moulded pedestal bases with split storage lockers. The top one is for dry gear, the lower for items you don’t mind getting wet. Both bucket seats are swivelling and for/aft adjustable. I found when I was seated to drive the seat was ideal in the fully forward position and allowed me to get my feet on the footrest. When standing I had it slid all the way back and despite this, the base was well out of the way. Following on from the previous 620, the exceptionally wide side trays have been retained to accommodate full length rods and are wide enough to take dive bottles. The helm follows the trend of the split level design to be able to handle plenty of flush mounted electronics as well as leaving enough area for all the instruments, switches etc. There’s even a recess for the helm and the compass. A first for Lazercraft is the lockable sliding cabin door which leads through to a fairly standard cabin layout with twin berths with fully lined storage under and large overhead side trays. The extra height in the cabin allows sitting headroom for 2-3 adults and there is easy access through the gas stay mounted deck hatch for anchoring. The kidney shaped anchor well hatch moulding has been especially designed to take an auto-retrieve capstan or there is provision for a standard electric capstan forward. Ideally suited to 140-150hp, the Lazercraft 620 Avanti ran 50.5mph on a mirror smooth Otago Harbour with a Yamaha 150hp 4-stroke @ 5900 rpm. It climbs onto the plane easily and remains on the plane as low as 2500rpm. Lowest trolling speed was 3.5mph, which is okay for some of those big local salmon, but maybe a notch too fast for the Taupo trout. The Lazercraft 620 Avanti sets a new benchmark for this type of aluminium boat and although the purists will argue that it is a hybrid with the marriage of a fibreglass deck and cabin, it still presents the hard running surfaces and benefits one would expect from aluminium. What the fibreglass does is add a certain flair and style that Lazercraft sought and couldn’t get with alloy without making the boats so expensive that nobody would buy them. In the 620 Avanti they have a marriage made in heaven.
- Model Lazercraft: 620 Avanti
- Price (Boat/Trailer): $38,890
- Price as Tested: $72,605
- Designer: Gavin Child
- Type: Cabin
- LOA: 6.20m
- Beam: 2.35m
- Height on Trailer: 1.90m
- Deadrise: 20 degrees
- Trailerable Weight: 1300kg
- Engine Capacity: 115-200hp
- Power Options: Outboard Only
- Fuel Capacity: 150 litres
- Engine: Yamaha F150