by Warren Steptoe

Not many 70 footers qualify as serious fishing boats. Privately owned boats this size are usually rich people’s toys. Sumptuous, ostentatious, and of course pretentious; but definitely more toy than fishing boat…

“Born to Battle” doesn’t avoid the “toy” description either. But then neither does it offer any apologies for that. This is because while blue water fishers accustomed to smaller twin screw flybridge battle wagons struggle to come to grips with the size and scope of this boat – and its gob smacking array of equipment – there’s no mistaking that going fishing underlies its very existence.

For Born to Battle is as much the brainchild of her owner as she’s the product of Riviera’s in-house craftspeople. A toy admittedly, but a dead set serious one for a man who loves his fishing as much as any of us. The only fundamental differences being him being in a position to dream a dream somewhere beyond anything most of us could imagine – and having the wherewithal to make it happen…

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Many readers will have met or know of Peter Teakle from his activities on the gamefishing scene. From his successes at Lizard Island’s tournaments to the Port Lincoln Tuna Classic he organises in South Australia, you can certainly say he’s deeply involved. Born to Battle is his boat, or at least his northern boat – she berths at Hamilton Island (when not elsewhere fishing) while Peter has a smaller Riv 56 he keeps in SA for fishing down there.

Calling a few hours in someone else’s 6 million dollar (plus) toy on a day so calm travel at sea was more like watching the Main Beach skyline scrolling past on a wide screen HDTV a test is less than a joke. However as a fisherman and a boating enthusiast in equal parts I’d warmed to Peter’s boat long before we exited her berth at the Versace marina because while there’s luxury and comfort (and a mind boggling array of high tech equipment) everywhere you look, the fisherman/boating enthusiast in me constantly identified with the underlying practicality of it all.

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Hand laid teak decking greets you as you step from the dock onto a massive exterior deck. Some would call this a swim platform; and as you’d expect it can be raised and lowered hydraulically to do that. Personally I hate the things, they invariably get in the way when you’re fishing. But I was pleasantly surprised when told it can easily be removed and left in port. And often is when Peter goes fishing.

It’s when you hear stuff like this you begin to understand that Born to Battle isn’t merely some “toy” version of going fishing; but is indeed intended to go fishing seriously.

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Before stepping through the transom door into the cockpit you see further evidence of that. There’s a heavy tackle chair mounting (occupied by a table in our photos,) a capacious livewell in the aft bulkhead, and fish boxes set into the deck.

The cockpit actually looks tiny in proportion to the rest of the boat and even when standing in it a whopping 6.3 metre beam makes the cockpit seem short for its width. Perhaps proportionately it is; but cramped it is not. And the bulkhead forward of it contains more refrigeration, a rigging station, and the engine room door. Yes, door; it’s clearly not a hatch or entryway.

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I’ve been in a lot of engine rooms in my time and being small framed I fit in the cramped confines better than most. However despite two huge MTU 12V engines and a pair of Onan MDKBU 27 KW gen sets dominating a space where individual air conditioning units for each cabin, the salon and ‘bridge go almost unnoticed, you can stand up and WALK around in here. Reflections from a polished metal ceiling make the engine room appear even bigger than it is – and it’s big enough!

From the cockpit there are three steps up to a mezzanine deck cum alfresco dining area accessible from a galley placed at the aft end of the salon through a wide window which opens for this purpose across a Corian benchtop. The mezzanine is set up as a social area, and it also serves well as an elevated grandstand overlooking events in the cockpit.

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The mezzanine floor is also hand laid teak and you really start to see how plain boating practicality oversees luxury in this boat when you step into the cabin. There is very little carpet in this boat, especially in high use areas like the salon where anyone who’s lived aboard for extended periods will tell you carpet has a way of taking on a character of its own, a smelly one usually.

Inside Born to Battle it’s hard to maintain a nautical mindset when there’s so much space and the amenities are more akin to a waterside apartment than a boat. Whether it’s a kitchen or the galley then, it’s big, way bigger than you’d expect on a boat and equipped to acknowledge there’s probably no stepping out to dine, meals have to be prepared on board. A gourmet chef would be completely at home here. Peter incorporated no less than 12 fridges and freezers into the galley area and when you’re made aware that he sometimes spends months living aboard it all makes sense; ie: commonsense based on experience.

Two dinette lounges plus a breakfast bar ensure a wide choice of entertaining style in the open plan salon which, like all comfortable apartments, has a separate utilities room and laundry. You couldn’t just call it a laundry due to the presence of a large wine cooler.

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Moving downstairs along a central companionway the master stateroom door is behind you. Down here you’re tempted by quite a few of those “ous” words because the aft stateroom is either sumptuous or luxurious. On second thoughts it’s definitely both of those things!

Perhaps Peter had to concede to partner Tina here – and comfort for once stepped in front of fishing on their priority scale! The master stateroom stretches across the boat’s full beam and if you think the space sumptuous it pales when you step into its dedicated bathroom where black marble and gold fittings defy any impression you’re on a boat.

Riviera offer several configurations for the cabins aboard their 70 model including the double berth bow stateroom in Born to Battle, or alternately, a single stateroom with a pair of double decker single bunks, or two separate rooms with double decker bunks in the bows. Riviera rate the 70 to accommodate 10 to 14 people, depending on what bunk configuration is optioned in the various cabins. With 4 bathrooms to serve them.

A third stateroom to starboard of the central companionway can be optioned with either a double bed, or more singles. Then there’s usually a fourth (single berth) stateroom portside but Peter changed this into a timber panelled office. Check the farm of aerials, communication domes and radar booms atop the ‘bridge in our photos – suffice to say Peter can conduct business normally wherever he is and that’s while literally keeping an eye on the boat via a set of monitors interfaced with Born to Battle’s engine room; and navigation and fish finding array.

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A couple of months living aboard at Lizard Island are a normal part of Peter and Tina’s year where life, as they say, goes on. Feeling jealous yet; yeah; me too!!!

Riviera pay a lot of attention to sound proofing in all their boats and in this one, partly due to Peter opting to minimise the carpet, they had to go beyond that. The central companionway is lined with sound deadening material and they also used special sound proof timber laminates in the salon flooring to achieve the desired levels. With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, there’s no disturbing the sounds of silence on this boat.

Belowdecks through a hatch in the downstairs companionway is a little surprise in the form of a lazarette cum pump room and luggage stowage locker. Elsewhere in the boat the plumbing and the general engineering of plant and equipment is hidden from view yet in the engine room and pump room it’s left exposed for ease of service. In a few words, the plumbing, wiring and engineering in Born to Battle’s plant and equipment are a real credit to Riviera. As Aussies we should be proud a boat builder capable of building boats to this standard calls itself Aussie too!!!

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Climbing the internal staircase (forget “bridge ladder” this is a staircase!) finds another expansive space. From outside the flybridge doesn’t look big while that perspective thing gets you again like it does in the cockpit. It’s big!!!

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Neither does this boat have a helm station so much as a command post. Remember there’s over 6 metres of beam to play with here and even though the fully enclosed and air conditioned ‘bridge loses a tad of that to styling, the wide dashboard absorbs a bewildering array of controls and display units. No less than 6 big LCD display screens stretch across the dash. A smaller pair of main engine monitoring screens sit centrally in pride of place along with lights on and alarm monitor panels. From there it’d fill this entire magazine to list what occupies the dash.

Amongst all the buttons and LCD screens is a very conventional looking twin lever engine control unit, a pair of plain grey toggles for the bow and stern thrusters, and a wood rimmed steering wheel. To steer there’s also a track ball control set in the helm chair’s armrest.

Behind the helm station the rest of the flybridge space is occupied by a lounge dinette portside and a wet bar to starboard. A door opens onto a narrow upper mezzanine deck where the skipper can see down into the cockpit when fishing or docking, using a supplementary set of controls in an aft helm station positioned there for those purposes. The view forward is somewhat compromised by the bridge in front of you, but the view down over the cockpit and to the aft extremities of the boat whilst docking are very good.

On the move, inside the flybridge it’s difficult to get a sense of movement because it’s so quiet and “separated” from the outside environment in there. I did step outside onto the flybridge mezzanine at one point for some reason only to grab frantically for my hat. We were running at over 30 knots at the time and if there was little sense of how fast we were going inside, outside the slipstream wasn’t at all sympathetic.

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Born to Battle had just gone back into the water after having her bottom scrubbed and (with a total lack of engine noise,) was effortlessly loping at cruising speeds between 20 and 25 knots. Those MTU’s produce 1,823 hp each so despite Riviera’s sea trials recording a top speed of 31.6 knots, lightly loaded with a clean bottom we managed 34 knots.

Outside the Gold Coast Seaway calm seas belied any “testing” per se, any test of open ocean handling the exercise certainly wasn’t. Nor was there any point trying out the pair of Sea Gyro stabiliser units hiding away under the cockpit because the boat hardly rocked at rest with them switched off anyway.

One exercise we were able to conduct though was to try some backing down and a few hard turns in reverse to gain some idea of how a boat probably too big to chase a lively fish very effectively would perform. I must say this exercise produced something of a surprise too.

Sure, Born to Battle didn’t pirouette like a hot dogging 35 footer backing down on an aerobatic beakie, but she was far from as clumsy as you might expect given 70 feet of hull and who knows how much mass to shift around.

Riviera state the 70 Enclosed Flybridge model’s dry weight as 41,950 kg which by the time the boat is optioned up and fitted out and 9,450 litres of fuel and 1,000 litres of water fill her tanks will increase substantially. I guess what I took out of this was being able to report to you I was surprised how agile Born to Battle actually was. Not that agile is perhaps the right word to describe her fish fighting manoeuvrability…

Recrossing the Seaway into a now lowering sun and idling south towards her marina berth provided time to contemplate some vexing questions. A Riviera 70 is no battlewagon but it can do things battlewagons can’t – notably including fish places the best battlewagons can’t – not at levels of onboard comfort unavailable any other way apart from a separate mothership anyway

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Peter Teakle has very obviously poured a lot of personal experience into fitting Born to Battle out for long periods living and fishing aboard a long way from port.

There are certainly a few boats around capable of “mothershipping themselves.” Boats like the O’Brien 56 can do that and function very well in a charter operation set up to take advantage. Not at the levels of comfort for owners (and guests) this boat can though. Anything the Riviera 70 loses in the fishing stakes it gains in spades with the other side of its character for this role.

Born to Battle surprised me, I expected her to be luxurious and sumptuous and a few more “ous” words besides. But I didn’t expect a boat so well set up for fishing with such a practical mindset about the realities of life aboard over extended periods behind that.

Spec Check
Riviera 70 Enclosed flybridge

Price as Tested
$6,012,579.00

Priced From
$4,843,912.00

Options Fitted
MTU engine option, stern thruster upgrade to 20 hp, aft galley option, Aqualuma underwater lights, Reverso oil transfer unit, Eskimo Ice Maker 600, Motor Yacht Controller unit, Super Jet Black paintwork, teak side decks and anchor locker hatches, extra high pressure water system, modified A/C to cool nav Equipment, flybridge and office, extra MTU engine display in office, RAS 8 man RFD, M35 Sea Gyro stabilisers X 2, extra HRO 1800 water maker, Qik rope cutters on propeller shafts, port cabin converted to office, custom oval dining table, rod holders X 10 on flybridge rail, custom teak table for cockpit mezzanine, master cabin A/C upgrade to 26,000 BTU, upgraded batteries, hot water system upgrade to 2 X 80 litres, 2 X MTU hot water offtake units, 2 X 4 drawer tackle lockers in cockpit, custom flybridge upholstery, track ball control in helm chair armrest, custom galley benchtop, Mastervolt 100amp mass charger, custom saloon lounge table, refrigerated fish bin in cockpit, Reelax Maxi 2000 outriggers, custom Furuno navigation and fish finding electronics package.

General
Material – GRP laminates with cored decks and bulkheads, isopthalmic gelcoat.
Hull Type – enclosed flybridge mono hull
Length – 22.07 metres
LOA – 23.34 metres
Beam – 6.32 metres
Draft – 1.7 metres
Deadrise – n/s
Dry Weight – approx 41,920 kg
Capacities
People – 10-14 depending on cabin options
Fuel – std 8000 litres, test boat – 9450 litres
Fresh Water – 1000 litres
Holding Tank – 500 litres

Engine
Make/model – MTU 12V 2000 series (X 2)
Type – V12 common rail injected twin turbocharged diesel
Rated hp – 1,823 hp
Displacement – 26.8 litres
No. cylinders – 12
Weight – 3520kg inc gearbox

Gearboxes – Twin Disc Quickshift
Gearbox ratio – 2.48:1
Propeller/s used for test – Veem 41 X 44 X5

Gen Set
Onan MDKBU X 2 (27kw)