Author : Barry Tyler
Even a tertiary perusal of the Hampton 680 Pilothouse Motor Yacht leaves a person pondering why boaters of our region have only in the last few months been introduced to the Hampton Yachts brand. It seems incomprehensible to me that no broker or dealer until now has appreciated the ‘opening’ there would be for a brand of such high standard and appeal.
And yes, you guessed it, Hampton Yachts is yet another example of craftsmanship originating from the boat-building capital of the world, Taiwan. But there is a twist, for while the Chen family had been building Formosa yachts in Taiwan for more than 40 years, in 1992 the second generation and current Hampton Yachts CEO, Jeff Chen, packed up and re-located to mainland China, to what is today fast becoming the world’s next boatbuilding capital, Shanghai. The reason was brutally obvious – the lower cost of labour in China affords Hampton Yachts the luxury of including significantly more detail and innovation into each boat that the company builds.
Importer Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales (LSCS) sees this new 680 model as being the vessel most likely to attract attention from discerning Australasian boaters. One of the major attractions of this brand, especially for boaters in a region such as ours where boaters do know exactly what they expect in and of a vessel, is the fact that Hampton Yachts is a semi-custom yacht builder. Therefore, you get to choose not only your interior layout but also the woods and veneers, fabrics, materials and their colours.
Nothing is compromised in Hampton’s quest to build the best boat possible. The basis of any good boat is a sound and strong hull and Hampton leaves nothing to chance by completely hand-laying the GRP hull. Most builders use one or two tie-layers of vinyl ester resin; Hampton provides five outer layers of vinyl ester. The hull was solid GRP, yet Hampton complemented this further with two more bottom layers of Kevlar and increased it to three layers in the forward ‘collision’ area. Vacuum-bagging optimises the strength-to-weight ratio.
Well Balanced Profile
One of the most pleasing aspects of the 680 was its profile lines; yes there was a hint of traditional passagemaker styling but more so it enjoyed close affinity with the styling lines of the top European luxury marques. The reality I soon discovered was that this boat embraced both worlds. The boarding platform that while not huge in dimension still did its job capably well – of leading you by way of the teak (surprisingly the boarding platform was ‘teak-less’) steps off to each side – up onto the entertainer’s cockpit that by the time our tests were done, featured a teak floor also (the photo does not depict this). As well, it featured a large table and settee that with the addition of the fold-up chairs on the forward side, seated as many as 12 people.
Further enhancing the visual spectacle was the flybridge that very much continued the ‘entertainer’ theme. Accessed either internally from the saloon, or up the moulded stairway from the cockpit level, this compelling ‘daytime’ working area of the boat offered a number of seating options. There was a U-shaped dining setting aft of the skipper, a lounger or what Hampton refers to as a jump seat was forward and to starboard of the helm, and of course there was the three-person skipper’s bench seat module in behind an impressive duplication of the downstairs helm. Other must-have features on this open-side Targa top level included television, DVD and stereo and a large starboard-side module that housed the wet bar, sink, refrigerator, and electric BBQ.
The entry to the saloon was majestic to say the least, the huge stainless steel and darkened glass door parting to beckon you inside. Wow is the first impression, for the wide 5.53m beam certainly allows for a saloon of substantial area. The owner enjoys the flexibility at the time of purchase of choosing free-standing or custom-built integral furniture – in this instance a house-style lounge suite meant the full width of the saloon could be utilised.
It (the salon) was huge, and boasted, in addition to the above, a raise and lower coffee table, a servery table, a pop-up 42″ LCD TV, a Harmon Kardon surround sound system, and in the aft starboard corner, a cleverly concealed entry to the aft crew quarters. Décor was a delightful contrast of cream leather lounge suite, matching padded ceiling panels, an eye-catching central feature ceiling and beautifully presented woodwork in deep-gloss North American cherrywood.
The woodwork in fact deserves special mention for while it was superb workmanship wherever you looked, it was the attention to detail as regards the grains in the wood, which demanded acknowledgment. The dealer concerned or if it was pre-sold then the owner, actually flies to the factory and chooses the one particular tree that all the woodwork is crafted from. They even go to the trouble of making their veneer three times thicker than the industry standard – so there is no possibility of ‘print-through’ (machining pattern) appearing at a later date. Just superb!
Give a Little…. Take a Little
While most saloon levels step surreptitiously up onto a pilothouse level, this Hampton model traditionally uses the galley ‘back’ to ostensibly separate the two areas. LSCS has taken the concept one step further, moved the fridge in the galley outwards and as such have cleverly opened the two areas up to one another. I will use the word clever again, for the maximisation of the beam of the saloon allows this facet of the boat to be perhaps shorter (without noticing it) in length than is traditional – thereby increasing actual floor area on the pilothouse level.
The net result was more floor area devoted to the key high-usage aspects of dining, galley and helm. The galley in fact was as good as it gets, again indicative of the lengths to which Hampton goes to provide comfort and practicality – along with elegance and grace! Everything was house-size and of course top quality refrigeration and cooking equipment from the house of Meile. Best of all though was the ease with which you could move about this area. Most U-shaped galleys present problems when you have to bend down to inspect what is cooking in the oven, or where the pots and pans are – this version with its extra area was decidedly user-friendly.
The portside setting forward again of the galley was innovative yet so stunningly simple; a clever use of space simply by folding the dining table in half. During the day guests can be seated immediately behind the skipper and when the occasion arises they can eat or drink at this table, as and when desired. Of an evening when the driving chores are over for the day, swivel the Pompanette helm chairs round, unfold the magnificent burl and cherrywood table and you have an ambient dining setting for six people.
Little needs to be said of the helm station, that has sublime visibility, other than to say it was as per my expectations – even down to the twin screens of the latest digital Raymarine E-120 electronics package. The upright vinyl-topped burl and cherrywood dash module was of stupendous dimension and as such there was room for even more features, in the unlikely event that you could think of anything else to add to the plethora of navigational and mechanical aids.
While there is a luxury two-cabin layout available, the generous 5.53m beam allows Hampton Yachts’ designer, Canadian Naval Architect Howard Apollonio, to include three staterooms below decks – the master with its own well appointed ensuite head and the two forward cabins sharing a two-way ensuite & head. Up forward was the VIP stateroom and the second guest cabin was in this instance a portside twin-berth side by side cabin. There is an option for this third stateroom to be either another queen-size VIP stateroom, or indeed an office.
The king-size master stateroom in under the pilothouse sole was just that, a full-beam stateroom of enormous proportions that was presented to absolute superyacht specification and appearance. Other features included integral dressers, nightstands, and vanity spaces, cedar-lined walk-in hanging lockers, Toshiba LCD televisions and Pioneer DVD stereos. Incredibly, the Hampton 680 Pilothouse has a whopping 90kW of Cruisair ‘chilled water’ air-conditioning capacity – a separate unit for every room in the house!
The ensuites attached to all three bedrooms were all marble and cherrywood masterpieces complete with premium-quality Grohe faucets and marble bench-tops, while the shower recesses were lined in ‘clean-friendly’ DuPont Corian. Each ensuite is spacious and very open and the master ensuite boasts an integrated unit referred to as a “wall spa” with spa jets and a natural rain feature. Entering either from the cantilevered ‘transom’ door adjacent to the boarding platform, or through the saloon, the aft crew quarters and utility area, complete with double berth, separate head and shower, laundry washer, dryer and countertop, S/S work bench and utensil area; could just as easily double as a fourth accommodation facility.
Easy access to the engine room was through a bulkhead door in this ‘crew’ room. And like everything about this vessel, the engine room was presented to a sublime level. I am tempted to suggest luxury level for it was a work of art in every facet, with plenty of room around the engines and peripheral mechanicals, including filters and valve cocks, for maintenance purposes. The engines incidentally were not the standard 885mhp versions, but the 1015mhp Caterpillar diesels. Running through ZF500A 2.54:1 ratio gearboxes and conventional shaft drives, she ran a set of 38” x 32”P 4-blade Hung Shen propellers.
For a vessel of 37 tonnes (dry weight) with its payload of 5,700 litres of fuel and 1,500 litres of water, I was most pleasantly surprised at the 680’s top speed of 25 knots at the maximum 2350rpm. A nimble performer, the planing hull (rather than the traditional passagemaker displacement style of hull) had a fine entry and flattened out towards the aft end. The hull design also included propeller semi-tunnels to reduce the propeller shaft angle, thereby increasing fuel efficiency and reducing the draft.
I have used superlatives galore yet I have omitted thus far to mention a multitude of stand-out items on this boat, which quite frankly set it apart from the rank and file ‘norm’. Items such as the cherrywood mullions, le grande dimmers-lighting, garbage compacter, Tecma toilets, central vacuum cleaner, an S&K 100L/h watermaker, the cherrywood-lined side-window recesses and the colour coded copper fuel, water and hydraulic lines – were all standard equipment. There were not one but two hot-water cylinders and as well the Hampton 680 Pilothouse boasted a Wesmar RS600 stabilizer system, 15hp SidePower bow and stern thrusters, a Muir VRC 3500 windlass with counter, a second Kohler 13.5kW/60Hz genset (to go with the 23kVA standard one), a 500kg Davco davit, a Sirocco RIB and 40hp 4-stroke Mercury outboard…… By now you get the picture – this was a boat that indeed had everything – and it was all presented so aesthetically well. I say again, how come we haven’t seen this brand on our shores, before now?
- Design Name: Hampton 680 Pilothouse
- Year Launched: 2008
- Designer: Howard Apollonio
- Interior Designer: Identity Interiors
- Builder: Hampton Yachts
- LOA: 20.72m
- Beam: 5.53m
- Draft: 1.4m
- Displacement: 37 tonnes
- Max Speed: 25 knots
- Cruise Speed: 19-21 knots
- Construction: GRP/Kevlar/Divinycell
- Fuel Capacity: 5,700 litres
- Water Capacity: 1,500 litres
- Engines: 2 x 1015mhp C-18 Caterpilla
- Base Price of Boat: $A2,950,000
- Price As Tested: $A3,100,000