When Haines Hunter NZ took out the prestigious Boat of the Show Overall Winner Award with its SP725, it was a timely acknowledgment not only for the company but also the co-owner and designer, Lionel Sands, who on the same night received the 2011 Hall of Fame Award for his 50 years of dedication and achievements in the boating industry.
The 725 is the first Haines Hunter to be designed in conjunction with the CAD system and mould cam technology. While the design parameters that were fed into the CAD program all started with designer Lionel Sands, the end result is a wonderful tool for future development of the hull and testimony to the incredible accuracy that can be achieved with five-axis milling. “It’s a footprint to the future for our development and it’s certainly how I see all our new models being designed from this point on”, says Lionel. It is also testament to Lionel’s business partner, Denis Kendall, who headed the design development with his intimate appreciation of computer technology and his ability to “drive” the project from start to finish.
Everything started with the original drawings of the 700, which was released in 1986 and has been one of the company’s most popular models ever since. 263 of the Mark1 SF700 & 508 of the Mark2 SF & SS 700’s were built and right up to January 2010 when a fire destroyed the moulds they were still a mainstay of Haines Hunter NZ Ltd. The last boat was sold at the 2010 New Zealand Boat Show.
“We had already established our place in the market in the 7m boat range and when we had the fire and lost the 700 moulds we took that opportunity to consider what we could do to make the replacement 700 that much better, but it was also important not to lose its identity”, said Lionel.
He adds, “Working closely with customer feedback, we took the approach that whatever we built had to be a prominent boat in the market for at least ten years and would garner the same respect and success of the original 700 that it was replacing”.
“The process was simply taking the design that we had, looking at it from every aspect, reshaping it, tweaking it and ultimately creating a big enough point of difference from the old 700 so it was genuinely a new boat and not just a ‘cut and tuck’ of an existing hull”.
The 725 is in fact longer by 250mm, wider by 150mm, deeper in the sides by 25mm and has a bigger area in the cockpit for fishing, plus the 725 has a full non-skid gelcoat composite structural cockpit liner, whereas the 700 was fibreglass over tanalised plywood.
“This a very significant change and has benefits not only in the production process, but being a two-piece system it means we can get in plenty of toe room area under the wide moulded side pockets and still offer full-length rod storage, something that a lot of boats with moulded liners are not able to provide”, says Lionel.
However, it also had to retain the endearing qualities of the previous 700, being its rough water handling and ride for which it is renowned. The underwater shape has changed very little, although the strake pattern has been softened and narrowed to reduce slap at rest, but without detracting from the purpose to deflect spray and offer lift. The 21-degree deadrise and chine shapes have remained consistent with the 700.
SP725 Internal Changes
While externally the new 725 still has the very distinctive Haines Hunter look and style, something that Lionel felt was important to retain, the interior has come in for some changes.
The 725 is available in two versions, the SS725 (Sport Sedan) and the SP725 (Sport Pursuit). The main difference is that the SS is a fully enclosed version with solid bulkheads and a lockable teak timber door dividing off the forward cabin area. The SP version has a bulkhead on the starboard side only, which precludes the fitting of a door. The hardtop on the 725 uses the same footprint as that on the previous 700 and also the current SS660.
Haines Hunter boats have always been known for their large back-to-back, king/queen seating style and the 725 is no different. The seats are built to a very high standard and by using various density foams a high comfort level has been achieved.
Under the seats is plenty of storage space with a freezer option under either seat. The seats are mounted on their own modular bases that are slightly raised off the cockpit sole. There will be the option of twin pedestal seats that are again mounted on modular bases to the sole, and you can have a combination of both – it is your choice.
However, it seems that the vast majority of 700s in the past have been sold with the twin king/queen option. There are also a couple of rear bin seats that are removable. Great when you are fishing and you want maximum workspace. While the 725 is designed as an overall family boat, there is obviously a bent towards fishing, especially as Lionel & Denis are such keen fishermen, so it’s not surprising to find the cockpit layout so well adjusted to fishing. Firstly, there’s the recessed toe kick under the coaming and the right height of the cockpit sides to use as a bit of support when hauling in a reasonable fish. There are triple racks either side for rods and as already mentioned they will handle your average long boat rod with ease.
In the port corner of the moulded boarding platform is a bait tank, with the option of connecting up a full live tank system. You can fit the bait board either side of the transom and there are plenty of rod holders in the coamings or in the optional overhead rod rack. During my time on the water we fished just two of us from the cockpit and there is certainly room for more. Four would be plenty.
I liked the fact that the overhang on the hardtop was not so far back that you would hit it with your rod tip, yet it afforded just enough protection from the sun and in our case also a little rain. The wide, flat teak coamings are also at a nice height to sit on when waiting for the bite or with your SCUBA gear on before rolling over the side for a few bugs.
While the 250-litre stainless steel fuel tank takes up the rear space under the centre of the cockpit sole, there is a large wet locker forward which makes a great place to stow the dive gear. It’s big enough for three dive tanks. We had a fishing mat in place, but the 725 comes standard with a fibreglass sole, with fitted carpet being an option.
Lockers in the transom house the batteries, keeping all the electrics off the sole and providing extra storage, plus there’s a moulded sink unit to starboard with a freshwater option. A saltwater wash down option is also available.
The dash layout, finished in carbon fibre with a raised stitched leather surround, is a modular unit and has been designed with a lot more flexibility than on the 700 to take advantage of the new range of larger screen displays. On our test boat we had a Lowrance HDS10 multi functional screen with GPS/plotter/sounder combo and twin Yamaha gauges, the usual switches for trim, pumps, anchor etc. The driving position is well placed, with all the necessary switches easy to reach, and unbroken sightlines to the gauges and the all-important fish finder. It’s a boat that you’ll find comfortable driving seated or standing and there’s great visibility all round. Seated, you look over the dash and can still see what’s happening with your anchor winch. Standing headroom is over 2m under the GRP hardtop.
Driving along in the rain, I found the wiper really made a difreview ference and although some people seem to favour the cheaper option of a product like RainX on the screen, there’s nothing like a good clean blade sweeping away the rain. You can also have one fitted to the port side. Sliding side windows help to circulate the air.
In the SS we had the full cabin closure with bifold teak doors and a sliding hatch that can then be locked. To port is another locker and aft a two burner gas cooker. In the SP version the cooker remains but it is lower and further forward and the locker above isn’t there. It’s simply a more open plan easy access concept.
The cabin is surprisingly large, with an enclosed head to starboard and the option of a portapotti or a fully plumbed in electric flushing toilet. Opposite is part of the galley arrangement with a fridge under a small vanity complete with plate and cup rack. The V berth has a standard in-fill to transform the entire space into one large berth. Storage is available in generous side trays above as well as under the squabs. Timber teak accents break from that sanitary gelcoat finish and reinforce the tradition that comes from the era when the company just built wooden boats.
Like all boats from Haines Hunter NZ, the 725 is available in outboard only versions, with a range of 225hp – 300hp. Running the new generation lightweight Yamaha 225, we recorded a top speed close to 50 mph. The SP725 fitted with a Yamaha F300 Offshore has been clocked at 55.0 mph. Interestingly, both engines are based on the same 4.2-litre V6 powerhead and both weigh an identical 255kg. If you have the need for more speed the upgrade from 225hp to 300hp is around $NZ6400.
The balance with the Yamaha 225 is perfect with an easy transition onto the plane that we achieved at around 8 mph. The absolute ‘sweet’ spot as far as I was concerned was at 3500 rpm, when we cruised quietly and very comfortably at around 29-30 mph for a very economical 31L/h. Interestingly, we spent five hours on the water between changing fish spots and doing photos and used 34 litres of fuel total. A bloody cheap days boating!
Test day conditions were calm, with a very light harbour chop so as for the rough water performance of the 725 I can’t really comment. However I would say that having boated many long hours in a friend’s SF700 and knowing just how good that is in rough water, I can only assume that the 725 is that and more. In fact, Lionel says enthusiastically, “In my opinion the 725 exceeds the seakeeping and rough water ability of the previous 700, a boat that I thought would be hard to beat”.
The significant, but somewhat subtle changes in the replacement for the 700 have been done to perfection. While some may have thought that starting from a blank computer screen would have been cause to look at something totally new in style, Lionel Sands was determined not to lose the identity of the Haines Hunter design that he has promoted so painstakingly and enthusiastically over so many years.
Haines Hunter NZ (not to be confused with Haines Hunter Australia) has produced a fitting replacement for the 700 and while retaining all the most endearing features has taken a step forward. The 725 was released at the 2011 New Zealand Boat Show and within three days there were confirmed orders for three and to date over six have been sold. Although not available yet, the 725 will soon be offered in a soft-top version with a fold-down bimini and clears.