Whitehaven Harbour Classic 40

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Whitehaven Harbour Classic 40


The Whitehaven Harbour Classic 40 has been described as both revolutionary and retro with the elegance and ease of a bygone era. Barry Thompson went to Sydney to experience this 40ft dayboat that combines the timeless appeal of a gentleman’s cruiser with the benefits of high-tech design and engineering.

When describing the Harbour Classic 40, Whitehaven refers to it as ….. a thoroughly modern take on a traditional design that encompasses sophisticated luxury while embodying a sense of freedom, fun and flirtation. I reckon that pretty well sums the boat up to perfection.

Over the past few decades I have reviewed more boats than I can remember and yet there are only a few that have made a lasting impression. One of those was the Bill Upfold designed Espresso 40 built in 2004 by Oscar Yachts for owner Dave Tuke. Interestingly, while only six were ever made, I said at the time that the boat was timeless and despite the ongoing trends in boat design, the Espresso 40 would forever be a thoroughbred.

Now, after 15 years hibernation, the moulds are back in business and thanks to Whitehaven Motor Yachts, the Espresso 40 has been reborn as the Harbour Classic 40.

So what’s different? When I first got to go aboard the Harbour Classic 40, it is evident that the new owners had put their stamp on the layout and while it loosely imitates the original, it’s entirely different. Not only visually, but so is the fit and finish and equipment list, with Whitehaven going all out to make their new charge the ultimate luxury dayboat. I use the word day boat advisedly as while it is undoubtedly a perfect and practical day cruiser, it is also very much an overnighter and more.

When designer Misha Merzliakov walked me through Tonic, (the name of the first Harbour Classic 40), it was apparent he is extraordinarily passionate about what he has created. There is a hint of superyacht in the design but restrained to work within the space of a 40 footer. The way the lighting has been featured throughout the boat is exceptional and the hint of ‘Bentley picnic luggage accessories’ in the upholstery with the featured straps is a nice touch. Bespoke, personalised and 100% custom, the Harbour Classic 40 can be as unique as you want it.


The hull and foredeck area, designed by Bill Upfold remains relatively the same but the while the Harbour Classic 40 has a new deckhouse, it still reflects the classic lines, but with a more modern and retro look. While the Espresso 40 had a completely open plan layout with no rear bulkhead, Whitehaven wanted to be able to have the option of separating the cabin and saloon. However, it was also important that with the door and windows open, there was a natural flow through between the internal and external areas.

The monohedren hull has a generous beam of 3.85m, with a moderate deadrise, no keel with a fine entry developing into straight buttock lines in the aft sections. The running surface is soft and rounded with a wide spray chine that is kept above the waterline to eliminate chine slap when moored.

The only hull alteration has been raising the sheerline 700mm, to provide a more pronounced feature line, but also gave more headroom below deck. It elongates the profile of the boat and helps provide harmony between the hull and the superstructure.

Merzliakov took it one step further and used teak timber panels inset into the exterior window line to add a touch of a bygone era when timber was the building material of choice. ” I was looking to bring in not only that classic boat look but also to make the boat look sporty”, says Merzliakov.


The cockpit is optioned with a short or long roof extension, with no aft support stays to break the smooth lines. The longer extension when fitted with drop down clears, transforms the open cockpit into another massive enclosed space. If the weather cuts up, you can still entertain and enjoy your boating in total comfort. If you opt for the short roof, there is the option of a Sure Shade telescopic shade cover which can extend right back to above the transom.

The cockpit is all about relaxing and has been designed accordingly with ample seating with a large L shape settee with high/low table to port. Forward is the fridge/freezer with a server area above.  A unique twin-engine hatch arrangement opens the cockpit sole for easy access to the engine space beneath.

As mentioned, one of the most noticeable differences is the enclosed aft bulkhead which has a glass door to starboard and large hopper window to port. Open it all up, and you transform the interior and exterior spaces into one.


Merzliakov’s refers to the saloon styling as rustic in nature, with lime-washed walnut and antelope hide-derived diamond quilted vinyl panelling with Ostrich inspired fabric used on the ceiling. “It is deliberately different and brings back some nostalgia, and I also wanted to avoid any high contrast interiors in this classic boat”.

Stepping inside one glaring thing I noticed was no galley aft, something that you expect to see on virtually all locally built boats. However, being the style of boat that it is, the galley is forward, and the saloon is maximised with seating. After all, this is an entertaining boat so you might as well make the best use of the space.

There is a large U shape dinette/lounger covered with diamond quilted leather befitting the quality image of the Harbour Classic 40.  With the high/low option, you can transform this space into another double berth for those that couldn’t make it home after a hard night enjoying your company. Opposite is the single helm station with fixed bench seat with an icemaker beneath and an electric drop down window beside the skipper.

The electronic’s package is the owner’s choice, and there is space provided for twin  MFD screens plus all the necessary switches, controls and whatever else you decide to fit the boat out with. There is also an electrically operated Webasto sunroof overhead. While Lime washed Walnut timbers were used throughout Tonic, you do have a variety of timber options and finishes to choose from.

“The helm is based on a 1960s sports car with feminine curves around the dash, plus I have brought the outside colour into the boat like the old Porsche dashboards and even incorporated a push button bank like they used to have in old Cadillacs and T-Birds”, adds Merziliakov. However, he was also quick to point out that while there is a lot of automotive ideas in the design, it’s still essentially a practical day boat, so everything had to be functional and easy to use.


The atrium forward exposes the galley and accommodation areas to natural light and with no doors to separate the two cabins, it is very open living. There is one forward cabin with a twin-island berth and one aft, under the saloon sole with another considerable king size double. If you want your privacy, then there is the option of a screen or even a full solid door to divide off the forward cabin from the atrium space. The Walnut stair treads have also been kept open to make the under sole aft cabin as transparent as possible.

Both share the one extra-large head and shower area, which includes a full walk-in shower, separated from the rest of the bathroom and there is plenty of space to get changed. A raised glass bowl, Corian composite surfaces and large mirrors, again reflect the quality and upmarket image of the Harbour Classic 40. Merziliakov has carried the use of Corian into not only the galley and bathroom but also as accents in the cabins.

The galley has a household freezer/fridge, Corian surfaces, two burner electric hob and microwave. There are also plenty of storage spaces available.


The Harbour Classic 40 offers twin or single engine power with a Volvo Penta D6/480 standard. Boat #1 has been fitted with the optional 550hp Cummins. Interestingly boat #2 is being equipped with a pair of Volvo Penta IPS 400 which should put the boat into the low 30 knots range. While the twin IPS are indeed a tight fit, you don’t have the option of running twin conventional shaft drive engines due to the low profile under the cabin sole.

During our trials, we saw 26 knots on the GPS. What I found quite interesting is the way the new boat handled, despite being considerably heavier than the Espresso 40. It still felt quite nimble and was very responsive to the helm. When I ran the Espresso 40 in 2004 with a Volvo Penta KAD300 with a DPG sterndrive, we topped out at 25.5 knots. While we had another 250hp in a boat that weighed another 4 tonnes, the performance was more than acceptable.

Designer Bill Upfold was aboard for the trials, and he also remarked on how well the heavier hull performed. Whitehaven says their Harbour Classic 40s will have a lighter displacement in the future, so expect even better figures.

Test day on Sydney Harbour was relatively calm, albeit with the constant boat wakes. I couldn’t fault the ride and handling of the boat and while it has been a long time since I ran the previous Espresso 40, I have recollections of a top handling boat in the moderate to rough water. The new version does everything you would expect, gets on the plane with a slippery low profile attitude and has no excessive heel in tight turns. I have to give credit also to the Seakeeper 3 Gyro both underway and at rest. It wasn’t until I had the skipper turn it off on a very sloppy Sydney Harbour that those on-board realised just how well it works. It again showed the ability to hold the boat level when moored alongside a wharf being buffeted by  30-40 knot wind gusts. A not inexpensive addition on the options list but one well worth ticking.

The Harbour Classic 40 is the first single engine shaft drive boat in Australia to be fitted with  the Twin Disc Express Joystick System (EJS), which showed its abilities in docking into the tight berth at Darling Harbour. Along with Express Positioning (EPS) a dedicated GPS that determines the boat’s location and heading, it made putting the boat in and out of the marina a stress-free and instantaneous manoeuver. Along with Quickshft, there is no lag, no lugging, lurching or clunking, so it’s very smooth and quiet.


If you are looking for a superbly built, highly speced and engineered boat and don’t have the space to keep something too big, then the Harbour Classic 40 might well suit you. While the design of the Harbour Classic 40 has been deliberately accented towards spontaneous day boating and entertaining, it is a lot more besides. I would have no hesitation in spending a few weeks gunkholing around the Whitsundays or the Marlborough Sounds.

The Harbour Classic 40 is the first of a new series that will see larger versions based on the same styling. It is the definitive entertainer’s getaway, destined to become a modern classic, and as I said before….timeless.


  • Boat Design Name: Whitehaven Harbour Classic 40                     
  • Year Launched: 2019              
  • Builder: Whitehaven Motor Yachts     
  • Designers: Bill Upfold (Hull) Mischa Merzliakov (Superstructure & Interior)                   
  • LOA: 12.9m        
  • LWL: 10.50m
  • Beam: 3.85m       
  • Displ (Dry): 9000 kg
  • Max Speed: knots               
  • Construction: GRP
  • Fuel Cap: 800 litres            
  • Water Cap: 460 litres                    
  • Engine Make: Cummins 550
  • Priced From: $Au850,000

Whitehaven Harbour Classic 40

Fuel capacity:800litres 
RPMKnotsL/hL/NMRange  (NM)

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