Nelson 76 Sportscruiser Review

Our American cousins often refer to top-end game fishing craft as battlewagons. The term is quite appropriate – the boats are designed and built for the purpose of sailing out into the ocean currents of the world so men can find and do battle with great gamefish.

Although this Nelson 76 has been designed and carefully equipped for such battle, I would find it hard to apply the nomenclature. That such a refined craft devotes its cockpit area to the blood and guts involved in deep-sea fishing is like entering your new S-Class Benz in the Demolition Derby at the local speedway.

But men will insist on chasing big fish and they will also insist on doing it in considerable comfort, even luxury. And, in some cases, considerable style. Hence the Nelson 76.

Nelson Yachts commissioned Sydney naval architect Peter Lowe (one-time partner of Ben Lexcen) and custom boatbuilder Dave Warren (from Gosford in NSW) to build this remarkable creation in composite FRP.

Warren is no newcomer to working at this end of town – he has been building big custom projects for years, the best-known being a craft of similar configuration for The Shark himself.

I have written before that you know you are in the presence of serious style intent when you observe that the mooring lines are of braided black line, spliced into loops which are fabric-padded where they have the temerity to touch the boat. But there is more.

Much more. Like the window blinds that are raised and lowered by flicking a switch. Or the fact that the owner’s stateroom has a separate room for dressing, a room which includes a safe. Or the cappuccino machine which emerges from below the kitchen worktop.

Let’s get back to fundamentals. There is no helm station in the main saloon; the driving is done from the air-conditioned comfort of the first-floor station, reached by climbing a spiral staircase from the main saloon. The fishing helm station is on the balcony outside the main helm station.

The interior trim, by Sam Sorgiovanni, makes a serious style statement. The timber is lacquered African rosewood, the carpets are wool, walls and ceiling are in off-white alcantara, a suede-like material that saves the interior from the threat of being too dark.

In the kitchen you will find black granite, and the appliances – stove and fridge – are in brushed stainless steel. Sam has avoided the Orient Express look I have seen in European yachts, when the stylists have used too much metal with the dark red wood, and too many textures.

The accommodation layout has a VIP room in the bow, with en suite bathroom. Moving aft you will find another bathroom, followed by a double cabin each side. Then you head down a small spiral stair (only a 90″ spiral) to the owner’s cabin, which is beneath the saloon area and runs the full width of the hull. Everything is air-conditioned; all cabins have an audio control panel.

Immediately ahead of the cockpit is the service area. This is where you will find a daybed and shower, the washing machine and drier, dive tank (room for four bottles) and compressor, and a workbench. Here too you will find the glass-fronted storage case for the game rods and the gold-plated reels, each one of them probably worth more than my car.

The bulkhead separating this area from the cockpit incorporates an electric barbecue, a fish preparation area, and eutectic fridge/freezer.

Set into the cockpit floor are four hatches. Lift them and you will find various things – a fish hold with freshwater shaved ice machine (the area can also be used for storage); pump access; on the port side you will find the tuna tubes. Tuna tubes ? These are vertically positioned tubes into which you stuff, headfirst, the live tuna you’ve caught as bait for the big ones.

A pump circulates water to keep them alive for a time, although they probably have a bad headache. You hook them up, toss them over the side and then, when a big one shows interest, the tuna is swapped for a lure. What happens to the tuna ? I was afraid to ask.

On the foredeck is the tender, a Zodiac Project 350 RIB with jet power. The crane that lifts the Zodiac off the foredeck and over the side is hidden below the foredeck. The crane uses Spectra line; nothing as crass as wire to fray and snag the hands of unwary crew.

The heart of a gamefisher is the chair. This one is by the legendary Murray brothers of Florida, who also recommended the offset pedestal that allows the chair to be swung out towards either gunwale, depending which way those contrary fish choose to head, overcoming the disadvantage of this boat’s considerable beam.

How much does it all cost ? Around $US3.3 million; what that means in Aussie dollars depends on what day it is and whether the Polish zloty is aligned with Jupiter at full moon, and whether the tide is half full or half empty.

How do you summarise such a craft ? I don’t know; this is a magnificent boat which proceeds down-harbour with an imperiousness that only the very rich can relate to. Perched high in the air in air-conditioned isolation, the stereo softly playing and the MTUs mumbling every so softly in the distance, it is easy for anyone to develop a feeling of imperiousness.

In this post-Olympic slump, when life has returned to normal and every Australian needs a bit of cheering up, the Nelson 76 stirs a little flicker of nationalistic pride.

It is a very effective luxury cruiser that should be able to fish with the best. When you stumble into the main saloon after a hard day in the game chair you will be able to make yourself extremely comfortable. 

And after a very brief wallow in luxury of this magnitude you should soon be able to put out of your mind the painful memory of the one that got away.


– The home theatre in the main saloon includes surround sound, a DVD player, CD, video and a 42″ (yes, inch) plasma screen TV, which rises silently from the base of the entertainment unit/bookcase.

– During mooring manoeuvres the skipper (upstairs) cannot easily see the cockpit. But he can watch what the deckhand is up to on the video; the screen on the main instrument panel.

– For small game fishing, wait until dark and turn on the underwater transom lights. These apparently attract the prawns, which in turn attract the tailor.

– The 55kg stainless steel Bruce type anchor sits in the stem, mounted in a stylised housing which makes the anchor look like a fashion accessory.


The Nelson hull is a deep-vee with tunnels running longitudinally to help with lift. She also has an external keel which helps both with directional stability under way, and the boat’s drifting attitude when stationary or at trolling speed.

Power comes from a pair of 1350hp MTU V12 diesels.

Fire up the MTUs and there is no need to turn up the stereo anywhere on the ship. The Nelson 76 lifts her head imperceptibly as she starts to plane, but there is no transition.

She corners flat; no need to hold onto the glass of Grange, you can leave it on the table.

Fifteen hundred revs buy you 15 knots, a pretty easy cruise. Push those MTUs to 2300rpm and the builders claim 33 knots with half-fuel.

At the other end of the velocity scale, MTU’s electronic control system features trolling valves, which act like lower gearing so the engines operate in a comfortable rev range at very low hull speeds.

After all this boat does a respectable speed even at idle. There is also automatic throttle synchronisation.

Words by Barry Tranter, Photos by Michael Pugh