BOAT TEST HAMPTON 750 ENDURANCE
This stunning Hampton 750 Endurance has been built from the keel up for serious Great Barrier Reef exploration, discovers our footloose skipper JOHN ZAMMIT
The idea of what defines the perfect boat is a subjective one: it's generally a matter of how we use them, or probably more importantly, how we'd like to use them. If you've been boating for a while, perhaps had a series of boats and experienced the enjoyment of coastal cruising, the perfect boat may very well be the one that allows you to extend your horizons. Maybe, like me, you've dreamt about heading out to far-flung locations and unspoilt pristine environments. After all, Australia has the best of them…
If you're into adventure watersports instead of just cocktails on deck, enjoy diving, reef fishing and such, then somewhere like Australia's outer reefs, perhaps even the Swain Reef Group, is hard to beat. Situated around 140nm off Gladstone in Australia's tropical north, the Swains are a true tropical paradise, says professional skipper, Captain Glen "Woody" Woodbridge. He's been there in the Hampton Endurance 750 and his stories about the unspoilt natural beauty, the amazing array of marine life - everything from giant sharks and rays to tasty coral trout, Spanish mackerel to countless other reef species - will keep you spellbound.
Of course, when you're venturing that far offshore, you're more or less on your own. Strike a problem and you can't just count on outside help. In fact, most of the area is unchartered and you're relying on old fisheries maps, aerial photos downloaded from Google Earth (Pro) and old Sunmaps to navigate. But to go this far offshore you also need a special boat: one that's comfortable, with exceptional long-range and sea-keeping abilities, even in severe sea states. You also need to be assured of reliability. No good doing a water pump or having a communications issue without a backup plan and/or gear.
THE YACHT YOU WANT
This brings me to a truly special boat, <I>Arabesque</I>, a Hampton 750 Endurance yachtfisher that is what I call a real boater's boat! This is a semi-custom cruiser with a production-boat hull and layout that can be personally customised to suit individual owner's needs. Her current owner, an experienced boater, had her fitted out as a self-sufficient, luxury entertainer capable of spending long periods at sea and visiting remote locations to pursue his passion for reef fishing and diving. The Swains were very much on his radar right from the word "go"…
As such, the Hampton 750 Endurance embodies a fully integrated set of vital features for long-range luxury boating, combing range, comfort, safety, reliability and efficiency smoothly into a boat with impressive build quality that's evident wherever you look. Measuring 22.75m long and with a beam of 5.69m, she just looks timeless, too. Three staterooms, roomy crew quarters, sumptuous living areas and lots of alfresco spaces for relaxing or entertaining call you aboard.
The 750 we spent a long day aboard is, as mentioned, designed as a serious long-range luxury cruiser. Testament to that is, among other things, her 11,400lt fuel capacity. The highly efficient hybrid, split-chine hull, coupled with a pair of 873hp Caterpillar C18 ACERT engines, cruises comfortably at 10kts using a miserly 50lt/h for a phenomenal range. Should the need arise, and you want to get somewhere in a hurry, she has the ability to sprint to more than 20kts.
But foremost, <I>Arabesque</I> has been designed with a Plan B for almost every contingency; should something fail at sea there is a backup system. Everything from fresh and seawater pumps, generators, satellite communications and fuel filters are covered. The list is almost as long as possible gear failures.
TANKS A LOT
There are two totally separate electronics systems, each with separate sounder feed, open-scan radar, GPS aerials and power supply. There are also four separate fuel tanks - one full-beam, which has the added benefit of increasing the soundproofing to the master stateroom, two wing tanks, and an aft tank. All can be isolated or interconnected and fuel transferred to (or from) any one or all. There is even a backup system for the electronic engine controls that completely bypass the primary controls when activated. Inbuilt redundancy wherever you look!
Now, while the systems and engineering are impressive, the lifestyle aspect hasn't exactly been neglected. Step into the wide, spacious saloon and you're greeted by an array of fine leather seating, soft and plush carpet, and superb cherry timber joinery. The combination of inbuilt couches and loose club chairs, matched with beautiful handcrafted coffee and table lamps, is a picture of style and elegance.
There is an abundance of cabinets, dedicated stowage for crystal and glassware, while the owner, a wine buff, has specified custom-made wine storage. The array of inbuilt hi-tech audiovisual equipment includes a 42in widescreen LCD TV, Blu-ray player and Bose surround sound. If you were looking to unwind at the end of a hard day or wanted to entertain guests in refined luxury then this has to be the spot.
The style and elegance carries through to a sensational galley featuring granite bench tops and state-of-the-art brand-name appliances. Storage is plentiful, practical and cleverly designed and, as the galley is located between the helm and the saloon, the chef can still be a part of the conversation with the skipper or guests while meals are being prepared.
Forward of the galley is the lower or main helm, where twin Pompanette high-backed seats face a wide, burl timber dash housing an extensive suite of electronics including four Raymarine E140 hybrid touchscreens incorporating GPS-plotter, sounder and radar. There are controls to operate the hydraulic bow and stern thrusters and Trac stabilisers. Communications include VHF and HF radios, satellite phone and data with wireless laptop. Yet there's still excellent vision forward to the bow through the canted, 6mm laminated glass windscreen.
Alongside the helm, on the portside, is an L-shaped lounge set around a dining table that doubles as a chart table and a pleasant place for guests or the navigator to sit while underway. There's also nearby access to the flybridge via an internal staircase and, either side of the helm, watertight doors lead to the covered, full walkaround sidedecks, which, when heading forward, culminate at the Portuguese bridge with large foredeck incorporating inbuilt seating. There is nothing like sitting up on the foredeck while cruising slowly underway on a beautiful sunny day, especially when you're miles from anywhere.
Head back aft, either by the wide sidedecks or the saloon, and out through the expansive sliding glass doors, and you'll find a covered cockpit with comfortable bench seating and an inbuilt table with plenty of room for a pair of occasional chairs, too. Perfect for an alfresco lunch or dinner on those warm tropical afternoons or evenings, the cockpit is protected from the elements. There are also two helm stations fitted here on either flank, making it easy for the skipper to dock the boat irrespective of which side is nearer the wharf. A wide, moulded staircase to port provides external access to the flybridge, while heading down a couple of steps farther aft brings you to the aft open watersports cockpit area.
LET'S GO FISHING
This open cockpit is what defines this boat as a yachtfisher. It's kitted out with a full-depth eutectic freezer, dedicated baitboxes, a pair of livebait or live-fish tanks, and a lazarette housing dive gear, rope lockers and stowage.
According to Captain Woody, when they're fishing on the reef, the entire cockpit and aft swimplatform becomes an active lifestyle area. With the fishboxes and dive gear out, the custom-made cutting board set up, and guests and family with rod and reel in hand or diving below - everyone enjoying life, at one with nature, in a far-flung coral-reef paradise.
When the sun goes down, guests and owners can sip on a couple of sundowners and reflect on the day's highlights as the crew fillet the coral trout, emperor and whatever else was caught earlier that day… Ah yes, just take me there! This is real adventure cruising.
Up in the big flybridge, you're under a GRP hardtop, and fully enclosed with clears. While an enclosed sky-lounge version is available for the 750 Endurance, this setup is perfect for the tropics - rollup the clears and let that warm tropical breeze waft through. Of course, if it gets too hot, just turn up the 18,000 BTU of chilled water air-conditioning. The best of both worlds.
The upper helm station has electronics duplicated from down below and also twin helm seats. There's seating for guests, including an L-shaped lounge around a table behind the helm. Moving aft is an outstanding Gaggenau outdoor barbecue and steamer with storage and underneath refrigeration. It's a real work of art.
Behind the barbecue is a large, open deck area with the tender that, instead of sitting in a cradle, resides on specially made, loose bean bags and is strapped to the deck. An idea borrowed from superyachts, it means that when the tender is not on the deck, the floorspace is completely free of obstructions and becomes another alfresco lifestyle area.
DRIVING UP TOP
On the day of our test off the Gold Coast we drove mainly from the flybridge. But from either station, it became apparent that the twin CATS are a perfect match for the hybrid hull (read performance appraisal hereabouts). Just as importantly on a boat like this, engineroom access is given a priority. You pass through the crew quarters, which are themselves easily reached from the open cockpit.
Stepping through, you find the crew toilet and shower immediately to starboard and a separate shower to port, which is very handy if you've been diving. Peel off the wetsuit and go straight under. Directly ahead is a spacious crew 'mess' with sink, fridge, freezer and microwave. Actually, it's all remarkably tidy.
In Australia, unlike overseas, the crew tends to dine with the owners and so, on this boat, this area is converted to an engine-service facility, effectively, a mini workshop and parts storage area. Off to starboard is the actual crew cabin with king-size bed and (removable) overhead bunk, while directly ahead is the full head height engineroom with good access all round. The fuel filters, four for each engine, and coolant are conveniently located on the forward bulkhead, the batteries located under a cover near the entrance, while aft of the engines are the twin Onan generators. Everything is just neat, tidy and well engineered.
If you didn't have crew onboard, the crew quarters could be used to accommodate extra guests and family. The fitout is luxurious, what's more, there is also access to this area direct from the saloon. So everyone could just slip off to sleep after a night of reviewing the day's highlights and planning tomorrow.
The main accommodation is accessed via a semi-circular staircase forward of the saloon, adjacent to the helm, and down via a magnificent foyer with inlayed stone floors and domed ceiling. The full-beam master suite is huge and lavishly appointed, with king-size bed, superb timber joinery, mirrored walls, shoji blinds over opening portholes, subtle lighting and loads of storage. The owner's en suite features a double shower, electric toilet, granite tops and flooring, and full-size, walk-in cedar-lined robe.
The stylish VIP cabin forward boasts a walkaround queen-size bed, plenty of storage and an adjoining luxury en suite bathroom. The third stateroom, fitted with twin beds, shares the VIP bathroom and has convenient access across the foyer. There's also lots of light below decks thanks to the opening portholes in every room.
Built in Shanghai, China, and typically taking around 1000 man hours per foot to build, the Hampton 750 Endurance, despite the glamour of her interior, is a seriously engineered boat - the more you look, the more impressive she becomes. But it's after owning a few boats before and reeling in some serious sea miles that you will fully appreciated this five-star exploration cruiser.
FACTS & FIGURES
HAMPTON 750 ENDURANCE
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
A 2.5m swell with around a metre of sea on top meant it wasn't the best day for boating. But it was perfect for our appraisal. What's more, we were also heading out through the Seaway at the worst possible time - the tide ebbing against the swell causing the waves to stand up. We crossed the bar with the engines ticking over at 2000rpm doing 16kts and, while there was a small amount of pitching heading into the swell, she remained surprising dry.
Taking the challenging conditions of test day in her stride, the 750 Endurance travelled beautifully up and down the Gold Coast at a range of speeds up to 21kts. She did everything asked of her and when beam on to the swell, even at displacements speeds, the Trac stabilisers did their job admirably. With the ease with which she handled these conditions, you would be confident of taking this Hampton Endurance 750 anywhere.
PRICE AS TESTED
<B>$4.25 million</B> (inc. GST)
Six Raymarine E140 hybrid touchscreens with GPS-plotter (split into two independent systems), 72nm and 32nm radar systems, depthsounder with dual transducers, VHF and HF Icom radios, dual M9 satellite TV with Foxtel, telephone/data facilities for use with wireless laptop, redundancy systems (for fresh and seawater pumps, livebait pumps, hydraulic pumps and engine fuel filters), Hynautic fully hydraulic steering with inbuilt redundancy system, Onan 23.5kW and 17kW generators, TRAC hydraulic stabilizers, Idromar 130lt/h fully automatic watermaker, RFD 8-man liferaft, Steelhead 1500lb hydraulic davit, Quintrex 4.7m tender with 70hp Yamaha outboard, Caribe IRB with 15hp Yamaha outboard, dive compressor and dive gear x 4 sets, granite galley benches, marble-lined bathrooms, custom-made wine racking and refrigerated storage, Gaggenau outdoor barbecue and steamer, upgraded refrigeration system, Geneico LED lighting, and more
<B>$3.85 million</B> (inc. GST)
MATERIAL: Handlaid fibreglass with vinylester resin for the first five layers, two layers of Kevlar chine to chine and three layers of Kevlar in the forward collision zone
TYPE: Split chine monohull
LENGTH OVERALL: 24.75m
WEIGHT: 50,450kg (dry)
Berths: 8 (inc. crew quarters)
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Caterpillar C18 ACERT
TYPE: Six-cylinder electronic turbo-diesel
RATED HP: 873 (each)
WEIGHT: 1678kg (dry)
GEARBOX MAKE/RATIO: ZF / 1.97:1
These days, people pay a fortune to travel to remote locations, overseas and abroad, yet some of the most pristine, bountiful and stirring destinations lie right on our doorstep - or at least that of the Hampton Endurance 750! Configured for serious passagemaking, exploring, adventure, fishing, diving and just enjoying, the Hampton is your ticket to ride. With a boat like this, the most far-flung postcard-perfect locals become accessible. Sit back, relax, catch lunch, fly guests in or out, while enjoying this country's incredible reefs, islands and coastline. This boat knows no bounds!
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