Tristram 781 Ultimo

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Tristram 781 Ultimo

Perfect Embodiment

By Freddy Foote

From its early beginnings in the mid 1980’s Tristram Marine has firmly entrenched itself in the New Zealand trailerboat market, as well as making great gains into overseas markets. A year after its release, Freddy Foote tests the latest Ultimo 781, this particular boat being one of the first outboard powered models produced.

Tristram Marine came to the New Zealand Boat Show in 2006 with its new Tristram  781 Ultimo model, scooping two awards; Best All Purpose Open and Overall Winner Boat Of The Show. A month later at the Christchurch Boat Show, it received a further award – All Materials Boat Of The Show.

Not bad for a company that released its first hardtop model, the 851 Grandeur at the same show as recently as 2003, that boat also receiving awards.

The 781 Ultimo had been closely guarded and kept under wraps, but had always been rumoured to be a smaller version of the 851 Grandeur. When released, the Ultimo was available as a sterndrive version only, but this year the company has produced an outboard version.

“Because of the length of the boat, it has allowed us to produce both a sterndrive and an outboard version, whereas I believe the 851 should be a sterndrive only,” says managing director Lance Fink.

It’s no secret that the 781 Ultimo derived from the 851 Grandeur, a boat which was four years in the development before its release. A long time to produce a boat you may say but for Lance Fink, it’s one of the core philosophies behind the company – getting things absolutely perfect, making improvement almost impossible.

“We built the 781 to fill a gap in our range, to satisfy a demand for a smaller hardtop, stemming from the 851. The 781 and 851 share similar moulds – essentially the hull of the 781 is exactly the same as the 851, just cut down 600mm,” says Lance.

“Customer demand was also another factor – we had demand from our customer base for this version – and we also took into consideration new technology in outboards producing bigger horsepower.”

Functionality and Innovation

There is a definitive accent on fishing in the 781 Ultimo, showcasing all the features and details to make the boat a serious fishing boat, combined with a dose of style and elegance.

Aft, a low profile walk-thru is built into both transom corners, a flush mounted boarding ladder compliments the port boarding platform.

A large moulded unit is the centrepiece of the aft section, housing a sink to the left, and alongside is a large fully plumbed live bait tank. When not in use, it is tidily finished with a see-thru lid that lifts up and down on a hinge.

A bait station sits snugly in a mount on the forward section of the bait station and when not in use for fishing, it fits a ski pole. Rod holders are built into the bait board, additional rod holders are in the coamings (two on each side), and if further rod storage is needed, a rocket launcher is available as an option.

This unit pulls forward and allows access to the bilge, pumps and fuel filtering systems.

The cockpit is fully carpeted with high quality marine carpet that clips into place. By removing the carpet, you have ready access to a number of storage lockers underneath, one to each side, and two that run down the centre. The aft locker is utilised as a catch bin, and by pulling the bait tank console forward, you can pull out the removable bin when you get to shore. The cockpit is self draining, as too are the underfloor storage lockers.

Deep toe kicks run along the edge of the cockpit, and padding runs along the upper inside edge of the cockpit sides. Along the cockpit sides, there are storage racks for rods, with additional shelf storage located above.

The seating arrangement is available in one configuration; the traditional king/queen arrangement. The bases of the aft facing passenger seats are removable and provide access to the cavernous storage space below, with enough room for dive bottles or bulkier objects.

The galley is accessed by lifting the helm seat forward. The fridge is located underneath and is accessed through the companionway and you’ll also find the cutlery and wine rack.

Two hatches line the roof of the hardtop, and are frosted, allowing light from above into the helm area whilst providing some protection from the sun above. Vinyl trim padding warms the helm area and also provides sound dampening from engine noise. Further tabs and switch panels are all fixed below.

The helm area looks ultra modern and has a graphite finish. A walnut option is also available. The engine instruments were fitted into the graphite section, whilst the main dash, was taken up with a large Furuno Navnet display system.

The forward cabin can be fully sealed off for privacy or security, by pulling the sliding door across. Stepping down into the cabin, vertical storage shelves are immediately to port and finished in teak, giving a very distinctive look.

A large V-berth transforms into a large double berth with the insertion of a squab infill. Further storage space comes in the form of side shelves that run the length of the cabin area, as well as an amount of space that can be utilized under the V-berth squabs.

The space behind the helm has been utilized well to encompass a generously sized head area. This has allowed for a full-width door and the 2m plus berths while ensuring that the forward cabin area doesn’t take up too much of the overall length of the boat and compromise on the external spaces of the helm and cockpit areas.

Also what I think sets the Tristram’s apart are the small and sometimes intricate detailings. Such examples are the vinyl padding fixed to the cabin and cockpit sides, particularly around the throttle control at the helm. As I’ve already mentioned, the vinyl padding in the roof, and accompanying that, the small light fixtures.

Outboard Power

Our test boat was fitted with the latest Yamaha 250hp four-stroke outboard, and delivered a healthy 45.0mph @6000rpm swinging a 19” saltwater series propeller. The 781 Ultimo is rated from 250 to 350hp, making it suitable for the new F350 V8 Yamaha outboard.

Most of the 781 Ultimo sterndrive models have been fitted with 5.7L V8 Volvo Penta sterndrives and will return around 48mph. However, for the more price conscious buyer the 5.0L V8 Volvo-Penta sterndrive is offered as the standard engine package.

Our test day conditions on Auckland Harbour were perfect for boating, with a very gentle light breeze and not much more than a ripple across the water.

Even being relatively tall at 6’1” I could easily slip in and out of the helm seat without knocking my head on anything above. A footrest is built in and all part of the helm bulkhead and adds extra comfort for the skipper; a identical footrest is available on the port side for the passenger.

The 781 Ultimo has optional storage bins below the steering wheel for those who do not want to stand while driving. If you want to stand while driving you would need to spec the boat without them however the storage compartments are a superb feature and with the quality ride I loved the seated driving position. The seated position also allowed great forward and side visbility, so manouvering in and out of marinas or drystacks is easy.

Side windows and the overhead hatches assist with airflow through the helm area.

The 250hp V6 Yamaha readily pushes the boat up onto the plane, and has a happy and comfortable cruising speed of around 35-40mph. Built in coposite trim tabs are fitted, but on our test day, I didn’t see any need to use them. The tabs look great on that boat, and are flush mounted into the hull itself.

Like all tristrams they have great offshore bluewater capabilities and the 781 Ultimo would be right home out the back of Great Barrier.

The Tristram name is one that is not only known widely by people in boating circles but also by those who are perhaps new to boating. I can recall countless conversations with people buying their new and often first boat and when you mention the Tristram name, they almost immediately say “Oh those are the really nice ones from Hamilton that we’ve seen at the boat show”. The words ‘really nice’ perhaps fall short in describing just how good they are. Adjectives such as opulent, elegant, lavish and luxurious are just some of the words that go hand in hand with the Tristram name.

The 781 Ultimo is another fine example of the quality craftsmanship that has again come from Tristram Marine – another reason that clearly puts Tristram at the forefront of Australasian trailerboat production and design.


  • Model: Tristram 781 Ultimo
  • Price as Tested: POA
  • Designer: Lance Fink
  • Material: GRP
  • Type: Hardtop
  • LOA: 8.30m
  • Beam: 2.50m
  • Deadrise: 21 Degrees
  • Hull Configuration: Deep V
  • Trailerable Weight: 3000kg
  • Height on Trailer: 2.92m
  • Engine Capacity: 250-350hp
  • Power Options: Outboard or sterndrive
  • Fuel Capacity: 307L
  • Water Capacity: 160L

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