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Boat Test - GT 580 — by Cruiser Craft (September/October 2008)
Matthew 082 773 6634 • Greg 082 774 3358

Tested by Erwin Bursik

AT A GLANCE
Length: 5.8m
Beam: 2.45m
Draft: 40cm
Construction: GRP only — completely woodfree
Flotation: Foam
Hull weight: 980kg
Weight on trailer: 1 480kg
Fuel capacity: 8 x 25 litre tanks
Rated min hp: 2 x 75hp
Rated max hp: 2 x 115hp
Power as tested: 2 x 90hp

AWHILE back I heard via the grapevine that Greg Allaway, a well respected Protea angler, was designing and building a ski-boat. I paid scant regard to the stories, for I have heard similar tales often over the 30-odd years I have been reviewing offshore boats, and I had not heard a word from Greg himself.
Time passed and then I received a call from Greg that finally led to me taking the first GT 580 to sea off Durban. The story goes that Greg, together with a good friend and now business partner, Matthew Greig, wanted a new boat. However, long delivery times put them off, and as none of the craft on the market really appealed to them, they simply decided to design and builld their own boat.
It was a very bold step, and they did it. But they still haven’t got their new boat. Why? Because she has already been sold. It’s one of the oldest stories in the world — the shoemaker’s kids are shoeless ...

General Impressions
I had not seen any pictures nor heard much about the conception and building of the GT 580, so when I arrived at Durban Rod & Reel Club’s slipway on the appointed day and saw her resplendent on her trailer, ready for launching, I was both surprised and enchanted. Surprised that Greg and Matt had managed to get a craft to this point, and enchanted because she is a beautiful looking boat and totally different to what I had expected.

Conditions for Test
Conditions were actually too good for a boat test. It was a balmy winter’s day, the water so calm that Durban Bay was shimmering in the early morning sunlight. Fortunately, out at sea the north-westerly was funneling down the Umgeni Valley at a fair rate, putting a cross chop on the lazy swell that makes its way towards land at that time of the year. With these conditions at sea I could at least get the GT 580 off the flat, almost sticky water of the bay onto the real ocean. The water’s movement can give life to a hull, allowing her to show her inherent features and how those features contribute to performance over the water.

Launching and Trailering
Greg and Matt had towed their new craft from the factory in Springs to Durban behind a Land Rover TDI. The downrun took six hours and the return journey six-and-a-half hours. To me that was a very good indication of the towability of the rig, which was one of the major criteria on Greg and Matt’s check list for their new craft. Another of their criteria was that virtually everything pertaining to the GT 580 — including the trailer — had to be constructed in-house to make the venture economically viable.
These days trailer configurations are pretty standard. Years of experience firstly on the old Sodwana road and more recently on the notorious Moçambique roads, as well as the requirements for beach launching, have set the standards all trailer manufacturers have to follow. Thereafter, you’ll find a few variations, depending on the particular boat’s application and who is physically building the trailer. Being engineers, Greg and Matt built the entire trailer themselves, including the axle and braking system. The trailer is disc-braked with stainless-steel mechanisms to ensure longevity.
Whilst we launched off a slipway, I am positive that launching and retrieving her off the beach would be nearly as easy as it was riding her on and off the trailer she was presented on.

Motoring and Controls
Greg and Matt had decided to run twin Evinrude 90hp E-Tec motors on their new GT 580, primarily as a result of the incredible service and advice the fledgling boat builders had received from the South African importers of these motors. With only a few hours of use on a local dam behind them, the motors were, for all intents and purposes, straight out of the box.
Even after being told that the inbuilt computer prohibits our stressing the motors during the “run-in” period, I am old fashioned enough to feel for motors this new. With all that in mind, I still had to gauge for myself how these Evinrudes pushed the 19ft cat.
In a nutshell, the performance was so spontaneous and electrifying that I was never actually aware of the fact that the computer was restricting their revs to under 4 500rpm. As far as I’m concerned, these motors are the ideal choice for the GT 580 as they complement both her looks and performance.
Throughout the power range, and especially the torque curve, the thrust of these motors running 17” pitch props enabled me to pull the craft out of an extremely tight turn, out of the hole and back onto the plane in a remarkably short period of time. Even on one motor, either port or starboard, this craft was able to get onto the plane and hold an SOG of 17 miles per hour, despite the fact that I was not able to get full throttles.
I found the Evinrude controls to be extremely smooth, and the position of the trim button on the binnacle mount was very practical and responsive during the full range of trials I performed with the craft. A further advantage is the additional single trim button that activates both motors’ trims simultaneously.
The hydraulic steering was fine except that the wrong ram had been supplied, meaning I had to turn the steering wheel many times to accomplish any particular task.

Handling
Having inspected her chine lines, bow entry and tunnel configuration prior to launching, and then watching her perform for the cameras, I was not surprised at how well she performed when I eventually took over command of the craft.
All indications led me to believe that she would be light on the water, ride in a prone stance, be tight in the turns, give a very smooth ride and be trim sensitive. In all these facets of her performance, I was correct.
In the first trial I ran her directly into the north-westerly, that is straight towards the mouth of the Umgeni River. I wanted to get wind in her tunnel and get the maximum lift to the planing surface of the sponsons before trimming her to find her “sweet spot”.
This took me literally seconds, as I trimmed her to accommodate not only her hull over water, but also the lifting effect of the large T-top she carries. Her ride was stunning, running in effortlessly at 25 knots. I spent much of the time trimming her incorrectly and then reverting by feel and not gauges to her ideal sweet spot. It was easy to find and to hold, and she really rode the relatively small sea beautifully.
On the reciprocal course with the wind directly on the transom, and with a marginally different trim position, she again glided over the water effortlessly. Finally, with the wind and sea on her beam and a lot of speed to make up for the lack of a big sea, I was once again able to get her to ride extremely well. At just on 30 knots from deep off Umgeni running in southwards towards Vetch’s, I was able to sit back, hands off the wheel and controls, and just enjoy the ride — superb!
Readers may well ask how she would perform in a big sea or heavy chop. I asked myself that same question time and again during the test. The correct answer is, I don’t know. However, considering all the trials I did and throwing in a good deal of intuition, I would say she will take it well and her ride will be very soft and relatively dry. Time and experience will be the final judge.
What I can tell you is that running in on the swell over the Kinmount Bank, I was easily able to overtake it, swing her about, dig out of the hole and get back over the same swell without any trouble. She was so tight and explosive in this tricky work that I would have no hesitation in taking her into a really big surf launch situation.
I must reiterate that I was disappointed we did not have a lot of rough water that day, for it’s within this that one gets the feel of a craft during trolling trials at various speeds. What I did do in the choppy, land breeze-affected water was to slow troll using one motor, then both, running at just under 2 000rpm for lure dragging and sailfishing, and finally at the 8H knots needed to pull marlin lures. During these trials the GT 580 lay nicely in the water, affording high lateral stability, and at faster speeds the motor trim gave enough bow lift to prevent bow spray being blown back to cause an irritation to those aboard.
At these low speeds she provides a nice wake to work with which Greg, who has a penchant for billfish, must have been hoping for.
Finally, on the drift I found she sits firmly in the water and provides a good, laterally stable fishing platform for the gamefish angler who enjoys the current flavour of the month — dropshot and deep jigging.

Deck layout
It continually surprises me how many variations on a theme can be dreamt up by both boat builders and those who use the boats. Customising has always been a boat builder’s biggest headache, but from this comes innovation and change.
Any craft that’s trying to break into this range of the boating market has to have the following two criteria to make her mark: Firstly, she has to show innovation in styling as well as deck layout; and, secondly, she must have finishes at least as good if not better than the front runners in her class.
On the innovation front Greg and Matt have pulled out all the stops, virtually reinventing their craft from bow to stern with some really new and practical ideas and great styling. When it comes to finishes, theirs are as good as any you will get in the South African boating market of today.
Readers can form their own opinions of the GT 580’s styling from the accompanying photographs. Personally, I liked the crisp, clearly defined lines and finishes, as well as the mounting and design of the T-top. It fits in with the lines of the craft, is aerodynamically efficient and practical in use while fishing, and folds back onto the gunnels very easily for long distance towing.
In my view, the GT 580 will make a significant impact in the marketplace.
As we’re limited by space constraints, I can’t detail all the innovative ideas I saw on this craft, and will just list a few of those which really stood out. To really appreciate all she has to offer, you need to inspect the craft yourself.
Foremost is the helm station position, as it is situated in the centre of the dashboard with the skipper’s seat being incorporated into a console that has a freshwater supply and basin, a substantial, insulated cooler box and tackle cupboards that are big enough to carry extra fuel if required.
The aft section of the boat is open for fishing, and this, together with the high gunnels, makes it a very practical fish deck.
Access to the anchor hatch in the shaped foredeck had me puzzled until Matt showed me how to reach the anchor hatch via a hatch in the forward locker. It sounds complicated, but not only is it easy, it also allows the anchor operator to stand safely protected by the hatchway surrounding him, and then the anchor is right next to him at a height he can easily work. To understand this theory better, see the photo top left. Simple and practical.
Rod storage within the gunnel sides is also a novel variation on an existing theme. Built for modern-style rods (not the old Natal ’cuda sticks), they allow the rod to slide into a tube and then slip backwards so that the butt section slides into another tube in the aft end of the “rod rack”. It’s simple, neat and practical.
Above all it is worth noting that the entire craft is constructed from GRP only, and there is no wood whatsoever in or attached to the GT 580.

Finish
This is the aspect that sells boats and Greg and Matt have been around the fishing and boating community for long enough to be aware of that fact. The net result is that they have gone overboard to ensure that the GT 580 is extremely well made. She is solid in feel and just as solid in construction — even the aspects pertaining to top deck mouldings and accessories. As I stated previously, all work is undertaken in the Cruiser Craft factory, so the stainless fittings, etc., are excellent and finish off the craft perfectly.

Conclusion
Greg and Matt have spent a lot of time and money perfecting their GT 580. Their reward is the finished craft. She is truly a beautiful boat, both aesthetically and practically, and I have no doubt that over time she will become a popular craft in the middle- to upper range of the ski-boat market. •
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