TESTED: HAMPTON 700 SKYLOUNGE
A high-level of luxury masks an otherwise pragmatic and most seaworthy oceangoing craft. With a potential to skip around our island continent in less than three fuel stops, we were keen to book its berth.
They say every boat is a compromise. They say you can’t take a boat in any one direction without compromising another. And to be fair, this summation is mostly correct.
Yacht designers routinely face this dilemma, as they strive to build the fastest boats within the constraints of a design class’s rule. Indeed, those who follow America’s Cup racing will be aware of the way the cup holders customarily manipulate a regatta’s running to ensure they can optimise their own boat for certain weather conditions while stacking the design odds against the challengers.
Powerboaters face similar issues – among other compromises, going fast all too often comes at the cost of a benign ride. As Scotty, of Starship Enterprise fame pointed out, "Ye canna change the laws o’ physics."
Well, we might not be able to change them but with experience it is possible to optimise a design to make the most of its challenges. And it would seem after a day-long trial of the Hampton 700 Skylounge that the boat’s designers, working with a very experienced Leigh-Smith cruiser sales team, have done a fine job to that end. In Ryan Leigh-Smith’s own words: "With 14 previous Hamptons under our belt, we are confident we’ve put all the best bits into this one and eliminated anything that didn’t meet our standards."
BY THE NUMBERS
That this vessel sits at the luxury end of the Australian cruising spectrum is a given. All of the boats from the Hampton yard do so. What is interesting is that the Hampton 700 is clearly built to do much more than swing on its anchor as a decadent platform from which to sip champagne.
We see plenty of vessels that look good from afar, but are far from good. For me it’s the vessel’s specifications list that proves the Hampton 700 is wearing a well-tailored pair of men’s trousers.
The boat’s 71 by 18-foot dimensions are impressive enough on their own. With the fully glassed enclosed Skylounge perched on top, the look becomes imposing and suggests real seagoing potential.
At around 65 tonnes displacement it’s close to 20 tonnes heavier than most of the vessels we test in this class. For many those sorts of numbers alone would be enough to assure a degree of seaworthiness, at least from a robust-build point of view. Taking things a significant step further the Hampton yard has included two layers of Kevlar from chine to chine with three layers of Kevlar in the collision bulkheads, pushing this hull’s margin of safety plenty of percentage points further up the bell curve.
LONG-RANGE BY NATURE
The next thing on the specification sheet that should be underlined is its fuel capacity. The Hampton 700 carries a total of 7600lt. This large volume is managed in five separate tanks – three forward and two aft – giving the captain plenty of options should the unexpected occur.
Coupled with its hull length and the comparatively miserly (at cruising speed) twin 930hp Caterpillars C18 ACERTs, the Hampton 700 lives up to its long-range moniker with an estimated range at 7.9kts of 2400 nautical miles. To put that in perspective this vessel probably carries enough fuel to do a well-managed passage from Sydney to Darwin on a single fill. In fact it could potentially circumnavigate the continent on less than three fills, and with its 130lt/h desalinator supported by abundant refrigeration and storage, fuel filling would be the only reason to have to call into port. Now there is a boat test I’d like to go on.
Of course, as any old salt will tell you, all this potential accounts for little without robust secondary systems in support.
First and foremost would have to be the 12ft² Wesmar hydraulic stabilisers. Although the boat probably doesn’t require them they are nice to have and would make all the difference if passagemaking in less pleasant conditions.
I was captivated by this system’s digital workload display built-in as part of the helm station dash. At first glance the readout looks somewhat meaningless but after a short explanation from the experts it is easy to understand what is happening beneath the waves. I suspect this information becomes useful if an issue arises as stabilisers are difficult things to observe in action. It is also important to note this is well-proven technology and over-engineered to cope with the not insignificant forces at play when such tonnage is moving at the Hampton 700’s top speed of 24kts.
The use of hydraulics continues with the twin 25hp thrusters – one forward and one aft. What is important about this option is that the skipper has endless use of these thrusters available should they be needed when manoeuvring in tight confines rather than being hamstrung by electric thrusters, which can only be used in small bursts.
There is electrical power available onboard, and it needs to be. In keeping with the more refined side of its brief the Hampton 700 Skylounge is comprehensively equipped with, or can service the needs of, every appliance a discerning owner’s family or guest could possibly ask for in the effort to maintain a standard of living afloat which equals that experienced at home. The necessary power at sea is supplied primarily by twin generators, one rated at an impressive 27kW with a back-up unit rated to 13.5kW. For convenience a Victron Energy 5000W invertor is also on hand.
A BLEND OF WORLDS
In an enjoyable display of the sum of its parts this vessel put on a faultless demonstration as we charged down the Gold Coast’s famous million-dollar strip. The bridge styling, with its twin Ultraleather Pompanette seats and old school vertically-mounted wheel, suggests a more conservative driving experience, yet with the hammers down the speed is enough to keep you on your toes watching and thinking ahead rather than drifting off pondering the joys of a good book.
Even though the temptation to throw the boat around for the benefit of the chopper overhead had to be tempered by the need to keep a close eye out for whales – a large contingent was passing through this day – we still got a chance to test her right through the rev range. At 930 horsepower the C18 ACERT CATs in the engine hold are set to the lower end of this block’s potential – an approach that serves to increase the engine’s longevity – as the speed curve at the end of the review shows the Hampton 700 is not short on performance. In fact it is deceptively fast because you don’t really feel much vibration or unpredictable movement coming up through your feet like you do on a high-speed hull such as a gamefishing launch. The sensation is quite ship-like, albeit a ship for which 20kts is well and truly within its all-day cruising range.
As trained observers will notice the most impressive figures are actually at the bottom end of the curve. As discussed for a greater-than-60-tonne vessel the capability to eat-up sea miles at more than 10kts on 56lt/h will be raising eyebrows industry wide.
If the blueprint for success in this category is to blend unconstrained oceangoing abilities with the level of comfort a classic champagne cruiser might offer, then the challenge handed to the designers is a tough one. As the experienced Leigh-Smith brothers know, achieving a satisfactorily functioning living experience at sea usually means accepting a few compromises. Well, we are pleased to say it would seem they have pushed the envelope on the Hampton 700 Skylounge as there are few concessions to pragmatism.
All three levels feature dedicated living spaces. The appropriately named Skylounge up top sits aft and one step down from the helm station to provide comfort for four with views to match. Finished in leather an L-shaped lounger, serviced by a robust wooden table, sits opposite an entertainment centre complete with Vintex wine fridge and TV which drops out of the ceiling. A conveniently located dayhead for guests and crew is available on this deck, sitting adjacent the rear door leading to a generous mezzanine.
This modern-styled rear deck sits ready to receive a tender, with a Brower fully hydraulic 1600lb davit already in place. Some personal customisation would quickly change the existing refrigeration/storage area into a complete outdoor cooking solution with barbecue hotplates and plenty of preparation space.
MODERN LIVING AFLOAT
Winding down the enclosed wooden stairwell accesses the main living and dining deck. With no secondary helm station in place (it would be redundant anyway with the complete and enclosed station on the bridge) the opportunity to maximise this deck has not been missed.
All the way forward and blessed by panoramic views under the main saloon windows, a large galley space is completely encircled by its granite bench. By eye alone I would suggest this is the biggest galley yet reviewed on a 70-foot vessel. A near complete selection of appliances is offered with a full-sized Miele under-bench oven, ceramic cooktop, dishwasher and microwave, Leibherr fridge and freezer, an icemaker, a trash compactor and yet another dedicated wine fridge (one of three onboard).
On the same level and directly aft Hampton has opted to include a standalone six-seat semiformal dining table. That this space isn’t crowded is the direct benefit of not bothering to install a downstairs helm station. Too often we see designers shoehorning in all the features they feel are needed to compete in the market, which just leaves the space cluttered and impractical.
Separated from the galley and dining area by a soft barrier in the form of a change of levels and a partial wall in the form of cabinet space, the saloon proper is genuinely massive. By my count there is potential to seat up to 10 guests in absolute comfort. Again, if the views aren’t good enough or perhaps the footy is on, a quality Samsung HD LED TV is offered – one of eight onboard. Supported by Blue-ray and with a Yamaha surround-sound system, I’m sure taking in the game with mates would be just like being there, only with the benefit of your personal choice of wine and beer only an arm’s reach away.
I have to say I felt very comfortable roaming about this elegant layout which, like mentioned earlier, is still functional and practical. It’s a warm space with lashings of light cherry timber panelling, textured fabrics and acoustically-smart panelling. Most would describe the styling as contemporary, yet it still has a touch of maritime without being overdone and heavy. Most importantly of all it is consistent throughout the boat and clearly shows the craftsman’s touch.
The Hampton 700 Skylounge is presented with berths for eight separated into two areas. Family and guests sleep forward in either of the two double cabins or the twin single, while crew, rowdy teenagers and members of visiting rock bands bunk aft in the other semi self-contained twin-single cabin.
Naturally the high standard observed elsewhere is continued down below. Both the VIP cabin in the forepeak and the twin single to port are beautifully appointed and serviced by a quality and spacious bathroom. Yet, as expected, it is the central full-beam king-size master which is most deserving of column inches.
The width of the bed in here is so wide it almost throws out the room’s proportions, an optical illusion making it look shorter than it is. Clever use of mirrors counteracts the effect somewhat, but while I haven’t been able to confirm the claim, I think this is a king size.
Included in the cabin is a tasteful vanity, a substantial walk-in wardrobe and very nicely presented en suite. I particularly like the use of cedar in all the clothes storage space. This freshly aromatic timber choice really does make all the difference to the appeal of the space.
It is always a pleasure to get onboard a vessel which has been designed from the keel up to go to sea. As discussed above, the hardware and the capacities have all been chosen and installed with genuine long-range cruising in mind.
We didn’t cover the external spaces in much detail but the full walkaround setup is the ideal approach, ensuring all are as safe as can be when engaged in outdoor tasks or just lounging about enjoying the environment. And when the going gets tough, battening down the hatches can be completed quickly and thoroughly with top-quality hatches and sea-doors guarding all the possible water ingress points.
That the internal spaces offer so much comfort and class is really the icing on the cake on what I regard as one of the most capable and complete vessels we have assessed this year.
› True long-range bluewater capabilities
› Kevlar-reinforced construction
› Quality, yet functional layout and finishing
› Great use of space on the primary living deck
› Miserly at cruising speeds
› Excellent walkaround deck configuration
› Backed-up by the Southern Hemisphere’s largest shipyard
› None noted
[TRADE-A-BOAT SAYS… ]
It is always a pleasure to get onboard a vessel which has been designed from the keel up to go to sea. As discussed, the hardware and the capacities have all been chosen and installed with genuine long-range cruising in mind.
HAMPTON 700 SKYLOUNGE SPECIFICATIONS
PRICE AS TESTED
$3,350,000 sans tender
MATERIAL Vinylester resin with two layers of Kevlar
TYPE Planing monohull
PEOPLE (NIGHT) 8
WATER 1500lt plus watermaker
MAKE/MODEL 2 x Caterpillar C18 ACERT
TYPE Electronically injected turbo-diesel
RATED HP 930 (each)
GENERATOR 27kW plus 13.5kW
Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales,
76-84 Waterway Drive,
Coomera, QLD, 4209
Phone: (07) 5502 5866
Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #442, July/August 2013
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