By Ron Czerniak

by Holly Dukeson


Back in October last year I reported on the Highfield E Jet 330, a collaboration between Highfield Boats; arguably the world’s number one in the RIB (Rigid-hull Inflatable Boat) tender sector and a global player in the 5 metre plus sector, with over 27,000 boats delivered world-wide since the brand’s inception in 2011, and the New Zealand company ZeroJet, to create the Highfield E Jet 330 powered by ZeroJet.

Those that have read that article (Pacific Powerboat November/December 2023) will recall that I was mightily impressed. So, when asked to test and review the new Highfield SP560 Sport, I will confess to a certain amount of, “Oh hum, here we go again, yet another Rigid (hull) Inflatable Boat (RIB) being introduced to an already overcrowded inflatable market sector”. 

But despite my strong feeling of ennui as I drove up to Gulf Harbour on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula north of Auckland, where we were set to sea trial and report on this ‘new’ vessel, I will confess (spoiler alert) that from first glimpse to final haul out at the boat ramp, I was rapt with the SP560 Sport. “But hey”, I hear you say, “You’re a marine journalist Czerniak, of course you are going to say nice things about this boat”. Not so dear reader. When the guys at Pacific Powerboat magazine initially asked me to undertake boat tests for them several years ago, I said straight up, it’s got to be honest journalism. Otherwise, what’s the point? – every boat is a great boat, and we all know that’s not true! 

I met Jonathan Tuboeuf, the director of Highfield operations in New Zealand, at the Gulf Harbour boat ramp on a gorgeous Auckland summer day. Sunny, clear blue skies and hardly a breath of wind. Fortunate and unfortunate, as a bit of a rough sea really tells you how good a performer any given craft is out on the water. And, as this vessel is touted as a family boat, the ability to handle rough seas should be a given. However, with relatively smooth seas, once out on the water, we tried to create our own turbulent sea conditions. But, before we get to that part of our day, let’s start at the beginning – the launch at the boat ramp and the initial inspection of the boat alongside the pier.

First impressions, rightly or wrongly, generally tend to be the ones that stick in your mind. So, what were mine? A few quick, one-word answers in no particular order of importance. Loaded. Innovative. Clever. Spacious. Attractive. Comfortable. Quality. Those are the positive first impressions. On the flip side? OTT (Over The Top. Yes, yes that’s actually three words –– but acronyms only count for one, ok?). Expensive. Kind of a weighted view towards the positive, accordingly let’s see why.


There isn’t much missing on this craft. However, for me the most obvious, for a family day boat, was the lack of a toilet. I’ve harked on this a few times in past reviews of other smaller boats, but sorry; if you want to convince mom (never mind the kids) that they are going to be out on the water all day and the only option is ‘bucket and chuck it’ you’re going to be pushing the proverbial (pun intended) uphill. To Jonathan’s credit, when I mentioned this, he immediately engaged me in a conversation as to how this amenity could be supplied. The solution, as it turned out, was dead simple. There is ample space in the forefront of the helm station for a porta-potty unit, and so now that will be added to the options sheet (see image). I suspect it will fast become a standard item. But if the lack of a toilet on this test boat was the only exception, what made me think ‘loaded’? Although my list is fairly long, by referring to the spec sheet at the end of the article, you will find that it covers most features. One that isn’t mentioned here, really belongs under the “Clever” heading, but here’s a hint: fire prevention. Innovative: Simply meaning a new idea, device or method definitely applies to the onboard fire suppression system. Simple in design, but effective and easy to use. The one place where a fire is most likely to break out is where all the electrics and batteries are housed, i.e. in the helm station console. And while there is an easily accessible hatch, often the last thing you want to do in the case of a fire is give it more oxygen by way of opening the large hatch. Solution, a small opening with a rubber valve in the side of the helm station. If a fire breaks out, simply grab the readily accessible fire extinguisher, poke the nozzle through the rubber valve and operate the extinguisher as normal. The contents of the extinguisher flood the space and job done. 



By which I mean, ingenious or slick. Examples? The swim platform for starters. A glance at the image says it all. Slanting the platform away from the outboard allows for a much larger and unobtrusive platform, without compromising the design and performance of the boat. The retractable boarding ladder, while not innovative, is slick. Then there is the ‘chilli bin’, cleverly thought out and incorporated in a very logical position under the double person helm station seat. The list goes on, but so must I. 


Just look at some of the images contained in this article. Need I say more? Probably not, but here goes anyway. The centre helm station console, with clear access to the bow area, almost makes this 5.6 metre vessel qualify as a bowrider craft, allowing it to live up to the claim of being a family day boat. But not only is there ample space up forward, but there is also room for two people to comfortably sit at the helm station and behind that, yet another wide cushioned bench seat with sufficient room for two big adults or three kids. 


Beauty, as the saying goes, is in the eye of the beholder. And only you can be the judge as to what you find attractive. But speaking for myself, I really like the clean lines of the SP560 which exemplifies that this boat design follows the age-old principle that form follows function. Everything looks well thought out and integrated. From the helm station sun shield tower to the transom tower/roll bar, which houses the stern navigation lights as well incorporating large, sturdy grab handles to ease getting in and out of the boat, to the uniquely patterned, non-slip deck tread and to simple things like the little cushioned back rest in the bow – it all works. 


Absolutely! Whether sitting at anchor, or banging through waves, this craft is comfortable. As mentioned earlier, on the day of the test we had to find our own waves, either by creating them ourselves with several tight, consecutive turns or by utilising the wake of a few large craft leaving or entering the Gulf Harbour marina entrance. Firstly, sitting at anchor. I’ve mentioned the ample seating throughout this craft. I didn’t mention how comfortable all the well cushioned seats are. Suffice it to say, they are very comfortable. The only small complaint I had was regarding the double person helm station seat. Although more than adequate to accommodate two large adults, with a seating position that makes this boat easy to steer from either a standing or sitting position, when one is sitting the tubular port and starboard side supports could use a bit of padding. In typical fashion, when I mentioned this thought to Jonathan, he said, “That’s a good idea, I’ll look into that”. I really appreciate when any product supplier seriously takes on constructive customer feedback. This ethos seems to be very much a part of Highfields DNA, and probably contributes hugely to the reason why they are arguably the world’s number one RIB manufacturer. Listening to your customer is imperative for success. But back to the helm seat side padding. This need only becomes apparent when you are executing tight manoeuvres or crashing through waves, saving your hips and thighs from taking a bruising on the bare metal tubes. Before reporting on the performance of the SP560 Sport, let’s address my remaining positive impression – quality.


You don’t get to be one of the largest manufacturers in your product sector unless you make a quality product. I learned this first hand during my 22 years as the sales manager at Maxwell Marine, especially when supplying to Superyacht clients. The smallest imperfection or lack of attention to detail, pointed out by the captain or owner of the vessel, and your days of continuing to supply to the builder of that particular Superyacht were in jeopardy. One of the hallmarks of quality is attention to detail, and the SP560 exemplifies this to the nth degree. Get on board and have a look for yourself. Whether it be the clean welds on the hull and aluminium superstructures or little things like the smart phone wireless charging pad at the helm – and I could go on and on – this boat epitomises quality and attention to detail. Before concluding this list of first impressions, you will recall that I mentioned there was a flip side to my initial reactions. Those being as follows. 


When I first saw the boat sitting alongside the boat ramp pier I thought, “Seriously? This thing screams overkill”. And it does, but in a good sense. Once you spend time on her you realise that everything about the boat is there for a reason, and if it isn’t there yet, and there is perhaps a good reason for having it, Highfield is probably already thinking about it. Case in point, when Jonathan and I discussed making the Bimini sun shield tower a bit more rigid; turns out that’s already on Highfields “to do” list.


Yes, the SP560 Sport, costing over NZD $80,000.00 as tested, is expensive. But relative to what? A quick search on the internet reveals that ‘similar’ RIBs or comparable alloy craft in the 5.5 to 6 metre range are, on average, about $15 to $20 thousand cheaper. However, if you drill deeper and try a closer “Granny Smith” to “Royal Gala” apples comparison, one soon discovers that there is a lot more on offer in the SP560 Sport package. In the end, as always, it comes down to how much ‘bang for the buck’ are you getting? 


The performance of the SP560 Sport is as stirring as my list of first impressions. Over many years out on the water and spending numerous times on both RIB’s and standard inflatable craft of all sizes, one comes to expect a certain standard of good performance from RIBs, especially in the 3 to 9 metre range. The SP560 not only met this standard, but in my opinion, especially considering that it is touted as a ‘family boat’, exceeded it. During the time on board, putting this craft through its paces, at the back of my mind was safety. You hope that any boat you are on is ‘safe’, but particularly so on a family boat. With dad driving, mom alongside and the kids securely seated on the aft bench, if I were dad, would I feel confident putting the SP560 through the same extreme manoeuvres as we did on test day? Absolutely! Careening off the wake generated by a large launch that had powered up after leaving the marina, I tried extremely hard to make this RIB lose control, but to no avail. Under full power, helm hard over and the boat heeling dramatically, there was only the barest hint of the stern losing its grip on the water and, in truth, this was most likely because this manoeuvre was so extreme, I had created prop cavitation in the air infused wave top. No water, no grip! But within a millisecond, as soon as the prop on the Mercury 115 hp outboard found solid water again, the SP560 carried on as though nothing had happened. Thinking back, I also realised this is a very dry boat. It was only when Jonathan and I purposely slammed head on into a reasonably large wave, that we got any spray whatsoever, and behind the full helm station screen, hardly a drop hit us.

Summing up, the SP560 sport is a perfect family boat for day use or for your next exploration adventure. The heavy duty 24-degree deadrise alloy hull combined with the 115hp Mercury outboard and built-in under deck 105 litre (23 gallon) fuel tank, provides a smooth ride to your closest beach or gets you home safe when conditions get rough. In rough conditions there is more than one driving position due to the flip up standing bolster seat. Additionally, other little details make a big difference: an alcove in the seat designed especially for your cool bag combined with the flip down table behind the seat lets you enjoy a picnic without taking up valuable space.

The upright console with a tall, tinted windscreen and grab rails accommodates an 18-centimetre (7”) Simrad MPS chart plotter. There is a wide bow boarding step with roller and cleat for easy anchoring and while at anchor, lots of room to hang out in the wide comfortable bow seating area. The bow area can be converted easily to a lounging sun deck and in the stern, there is another seating area with folding table and cup holders for lunch. For watersports there is an optional removable ski pole or towing arch and a huge and flat rear transom area with telescopic boarding ladder. All deck surfaces feature comfortable, uniquely patterned EVA which won’t get hot and is so soft on the feet. There are four dry storage compartments including an extra deep rear seat area, and all include hydraulic pistons to hold up lids for easy stowing. Rated for 12 persons and 115hp, and incorporating a built-in fuel system, the New Sport 560 has everything you need for a great day on the water. Due to its nimble size the SP560 is incredibly easy to tow making this model perfect for those who wish to take their boat with them on road trips to explore further afield. In essence, one of the most versatile medium sized RIBs in its class.


  • High tensile chromated & powder coated aluminium hull
  • NEW High-Performance 24º deadrise hull with welded lift stakes
  • ORCA® Hypalon or Valmex® PVC tube – Welded seams (PVC)
  • Integrated transom supports
  • Flush mount non-return air valves
  • Self-draining cockpit deck
  • Swim platform with ladder
  • Cooler bag (chilli bin)
  • Sundeck
  • Integrated rear seat with cushion
  • Double diamond stitch cushions with carbon fabric upholstery
  • Extra wide bow boarding step, with anchor line bow roller
  • Recessed stainless steel folding cleats/davit lifting points (4)
  • Deluxe console with tinted windshield and grab rail
  • Roll bar 
  • Carbon finished dashboard fits a flush mount 18-centimetre (7”) MPS chartplotter
  • Integrated Under Deck installed 105L/28-gal EPA Fuel System
  • Three (3) storage compartments with hydraulic assist lids
  • EVA brushed foam teak finished deck
  • Welded direct to hull towing bridle points (2)
  • LED deck lights
  • Six (6) LED lit panel switches
  • Electrical pack including bilge pump & lights for boat & console
  • Heavy duty splash guard rubbing strake
  • Full length durable keel guard
  • Highfield dry bag
  • Foot pump, paddles, repair kit

Optional Features 

  • 6 Colour options available by special order
  • Boat Cover
  • T-top
  • Fire extinguisher 
  • Porta-potty toilet unit


Overall Length

5.86 m

19′ 3″

Internal Length

3.96 m

13′ 1″

Overall Width

2.50 m

8′ 3″

Internal Width

1.31 m

4′ 3″

Dead Rise



Tube Diameter

42-52 cm


Number of Air Chambers



Maximum Load

1375 kg

3031 lb

Maximum People



Boat Weight (Includes console & driver’s seat)

682 kg

1502 lb

Maximum Power

115 hp


Engine Shaft



Fuel Tank

105 l

23 gal

Design Category




  Highfield SP560 Sport Performance Figures



Speed in Knots


















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