Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four of the best sportsboats suitable for a weekend on the water…
There are lots of very valid reasons for buying a high performance sportsboat. Speed is the most obvious. For most of us, boating is measured in time – a day, a weekend, maybe a week in the summer.
So it follows that, if you can double your cruising speed, you can double your range. Get a fast enough boat and the Channel Islands become a possible lunch destination from the south coast if the weather is calm.
But what if it’s not? Well a proper sportsboat has your back there too. With hulls optimised for speed and wave cleaving, the ride at lower speeds is usually far superior to more prosaic craft.
But let’s get real, the reason we covet them so much is because they look fantastic and they are great fun!
Rather than a leisure boat company that took one of its models racing, Hunton began with Jeff Hunton building 28ft race boats that proved so successful back in the mid 1980s that he developed them into a high-performance leisure craft called the Gazelle 28. The Gazelle 42 followed in 1990 and the RS43 (predecessor of this XRS43) in 1998.
The original RS43 had the usual two cabins below decks, split by a central saloon. The only problem with this layout in a performance oriented boat is that its low, slim hull results in rather cramped quarters.
So for the XRS43, a far more open (and far less compromised) interior was developed. A central double bed forward opens directly onto the saloon with no bulkhead between, and RS43’s cave-like mid cabin is also gone to make way for a larger heads and separate shower.
The result is a transformation from cramped cruiser to spacious weekender, which is how most people use these boats anyway.
Where typical sportscruisers create headroom below by utilising the space beneath a cockpit bench, the XRS43 has three forward-facing wraparound drop bolster seats, perfect for locking you and your crew in position while you unlock the performance of the boat.
But it’s not all about the drive, there’s a decent dinette seating area behind them, a wet bar and a large sunpad above the engines.
Hunton offered a huge range of engines, from twin 285hp Volvo Pentas on sterndrives through to Cummins or Yamaha diesels, even monster Mercury Racing 662hp petrol engines!
Twin and triple installations were offered, and sterndrives or surface drives. This one was re-engined in 2015 with a pair of D6-400 motors on sterndrives for a 50-knot top end and a 40+ knot cruise.
When Hunton upgraded the RS43 to the XRS43, it didn’t just change the interior, the hull is fundamentally different too, with twin steps being added to improve efficiency.
Whilst that helps the top speed, it also pays dividends for fuel consumption, making this probably the most economical 40-knot 43ft boat on the water.
LOA: 43ft 1in (13.1m)
Beam: 10ft 10in (3.3m)
Draught: 3ft 4in (1.0m)
Displacement: 7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 900 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D6-400 400hp diesel engines
Contact: Martin Payne Marine
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Windy 31 Zonda
When Windy launched the Zonda, it referred to it as a “new old” boat – a homage to classics of the past. It’s why there’s no radar arch and no massive hull windows, and why it looks so amazing.
Following the bloodline cast by boats like the 8000, the Tornado and the Khamsin, this is a proper old-school high performance weekender.
Having introduced the Zonda as a boat that harks back to the classic weekenders of yore, we immediately have to begin with the most obvious departure from all of those boats.
Head inside any previous Windy weekender and you’ll find a dinette snuggled up front. But Windy reckon no one really sits inside the cabin, with its limited headroom and lack of a view, it’s mostly used for sleeping.
So for the Zonda, the dinette makes way for a proper fixed double bed – less adaptable but far more comfortable for actually sleeping on. Also down here you’ll discover a small galley and a separate heads.
It’s all very compact, but it’s also beautifully trimmed, with virtually no fibreglass showing other than in the heads.
With the cabin given over solely to sleeping, cooking and, err, other things, the cockpit becomes the living space. And in order to make that function as practically as possible, Windy developed a canopy that stays on its framework and simply drops beneath the back seat once the engine hatch is raised.
There are no side decks, in order to maximise cockpit space, so foredeck access is through an opening windscreen section.
Most buyers opted for a single Volvo D6. Originally in 370hp output when the boat was launched in 2011, we clocked a smidgen less than 40 knots.
The later D6-400 in this 2018 model seals the 40-knot deal, with factory figures promising 43 knots.
With Hans Jørgen Johnsen working his magic on the hull design, it’s no surprise that this is a seriously capable driver’s machine with first rate seakeeping.
We tested it in some big seas and discovered that “you simply set the revs to reflect your mood, not the sea conditions”, concluding that it was “Windy’s best ever hull”. High praise indeed!
LOA: 31ft 6in (9.6m)
Beam: 9ft 8in (3.0m)
Draught: 3ft 6in (1.1m)
Displacement: 3.9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 517 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta D6-400 400hp diesel engine
Contact: Berthon International
Sunseeker Superhawk 40
Launched in 1999, the Superhawk 40 bore an uncanny resemblance to the Sunseeker Superhawk 34, and with good reason. It’s basically the same boat.
So why the change in nomenclature? Have a stroll around to the stern and you’ll find a much longer swim platform. It’s there to extend the engine range beyond the sterndrive Volvos of the latter.
Everything forward was broadly similar, a good thing since this is one of the best looking boats on the water.
You pay for those low, sleek, dart-like looks inside. There’s no question that this is a sportsboat, not a cruiser – a 911 rather than an E Class.
That said, as a weekender for two it’s entirely sufficient. There’s a dedicated bed in the bow, the table that lies across it cantilevering out to sit centre stage of the semi-circular dinette aft.
A galley to port and a small heads complete the picture, and it’s all trimmed in a riot of 1990s Sunseeker cream leather and high gloss cherry.
The exterior reaps the benefits of that compact cabin, with flawless lines accentuated by the wing tipped radar arch and stainless steel framed windscreen.
The cockpit is sunk deep into the hull, lowering both the profile of the craft and the centre of gravity. Purposeful and elegant, it’s one of those boats that looks like it’s doing 40 knots before you even leave the dock.
Sunseeker offered engine options every bit as exotic as its hull designs. A pair of 8.2 litre 500hp petrol engines lifted the top speed to 60 knots while Trimax drives with surface propellers mated to twin 420hp Yanmar diesels weren’t much slower.
But the vast majority went out with the more prosaic but far more practical Volvo Penta sterndrive diesels. The twin KAD 300 285hp engines installed in this boat give speeds in the region of 40 knots.
Form and function are often bedfellows, and so it is with the Superhawk. The narrow beam gives wave-cleaving performance and the low profile and centre of gravity aid handling. This is what the Superhawk does best: go hard, go fast and go well.
LOA: 41ft 1in (12.5m)
Beam: 10ft 2in (3.1m)
Draught: 3ft 9in (1.1m)
Displacement: 8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 700 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta KAD 44 EDC 260hp diesel engines
Contact: Global Yacht Brokers
In over a decade as a marine journalist I’ve tested hundreds of new boats. And in my house hangs a single framed photograph of me driving one of them. Frozen in time, a brand new Levi Corsair hangs in the air, propellers completely clear of the water.
There are two reasons why that particular boat test is immortalised; it was one of the best driving experiences of my
life, and in my opinion it’s the most beautiful boat in the world.
Built in Venice, each Corsair takes eight artisans about five months to create. Mass production this is not. And it’s inside where this is most evident.
Lovingly lacquered mahogany and thick sumptuous leather is lit by carefully inset strips of LED lighting. Based on a design from the 1960s, there are vee berths forward and a small dinette opposite the galley as well as a separate heads.
A Corsair 27 won the 1963 Cowes-Torquay before being developed as a sportscruiser. This current model is less a homage to that boat and more of a copy. It’s why the cabin top is low, the side decks wide and the sheer line to die for.
Back in the cockpit, there are a pair of helm seats plus a deep, wide seat above the engines back aft. Complicated it’s not. Elegant it most certainly is.
About the only aspect that has changed significantly is the motive power. In the 1960s, twin 150hp petrol engines were virtually race spec.
This boat sports a pair of VW Marine 265hp V6 diesel engines. It’s why the original did about 30 knots, and this one does 45.
Wessex Marine (importer of the Corsair) boss David Adams is a very experienced ex-powerboat racer, which is why I took his advice and hit the big waves off Poole at 30 knots when I tested it back in 2013.
As we hung in the air for a sickening second after clearing the first aquatic ramp I thought we were about to break something, possibly me, but it landed as sweetly as an ice skater and begged for more. Fantastic!
LOA: 27ft 0in (8.2m)
Beam: 9ft 0in (2.7m)
Draught: 2ft 7in (0.8m)
Displacement: 5.4 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 540 litres
Engines: Twin VW Marine 265hp diesel engines
Contact: Global Yacht Brokers
First published in the March 2022 issue of MBY.
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