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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Hampton 580

I never got the chance to talk to Lane Scelzi, owner of All Wet, the Hampton 580 Pilothouse I tested in early November, but I wish I had. I'd love to have heard him tell me why, among all the many motoryacht candidates in this size range, foreign and domestic, he picked this boat. But even without talking to him, I think I can figure out the reason. There's a war going on in the 50- to 70-foot-motoryacht range for the hearts and minds of boaters like Scelzi, and the combatants are boatbuilders in China (where Hamptons are built) and Taiwan versus those in North America. Far East-built boats' ace in the hole is generally considered price—the boat you see here carried a list price of less than $1.6 million—particularly in the lower end of that size range. Those who build and sell boats from this side of the Pacific counter that you get what you pay for, that Asian-built boats lack the quality of their (choose one or more) laminate schedule, exterior finish, hull design, systems engineering, or creativity.

So do you pay a penalty when you buy a boat made in China or Taiwan? That question is simply too general to answer in a meaningful way and certainly not based upon a single boat like the Hampton 580. But I can say this: The boat I tested is as well-designed, well-engineered, and well-executed as any comparable boat I've been aboard regardless of her origin. I couldn't find a major flaw, anywhere, and believe me, I looked. And I'll bet that, more than price, is what ultimately made an experienced boater like Scelzi choose Hampton.

Notice that in making that statement, I did not mention seakeeping. Our test boat was moored at the dealer who sold her, Adventure Yachts, on Seattle's Lake Union, and the only sizeable body of water available to us for a sea trial within a reasonable distance was nearby Lake Washington, which was as flat as the page these words are printed on. I can't even show you an acceleration curve because of a radar-gun glitch, although I was able to get data on speed (courtesy of the onboard GPS), fuel burn, decibel readings, and running angles. The first two I'd judge to be average or above for the class. Running angles were moderate, sound levels (taken at the pilothouse) were low, and helm response was sharp, with a turning radius at cruising speed of little more than two boat lengths. Our 580 did roll slightly to outboard in hard turns, regardless of whether the standard Wesmar RS600 stabilizers were on or off, a characteristic not unusual in vessels with large, lengthy keels like this one.

Speaking of hull design, the 580's is the product of a collaboration between Hampton's in-house team and Howard Apollonio, who, as he often does, called in hydrodynamicist Ed Hagemann. In his design notes Apollonio says he began with an existing Hampton hull, sharpening up the entry and flattening the aftersections to add buoyancy; the bottom transitions from a deadrise of 19 degrees amidships to 14 degrees at the transom. He also says he altered the keel to help resist broaching in a following sea and, interestingly, to "resist roll-out in turns."

Hampton has executed this design with a thoroughly modern laminate schedule. The hull is, of course, hand-laid, using either Knytex or Cymax fabric, two layers of Kevlar that run chine to chine, and vinylester resin on the first five layers for blister resistance. An additional layer of Kevlar provides impact resistance forward of the collision bulkhead, while Divinycell foam core stiffens and insulates above-decks structures. The hull-to-deck joint is also serious: through-bolted every six inches, sealed with 3M 5200, and bonded with three layers of fiberglass. All major interior components such as bulkheads and soles are bonded to the hull and/or deck. Additional structural rigidity is provided by a grid-type stringer-transverse member matrix whose intersections are overlapped, not butted, and which, like every other interior area, is finished in gleaming white gelcoat.

Equal attention has been paid to systems within that hull. All plumbing runs are clearly labeled, and wiring is loomed, bundled, and labeled at every terminus. Wiring, plumbing, and anything else that passes through structure is protected against chafing by rubber grommets. In the engine room there's a standard valving system that lets either engine's raw-water pump pull from the bilges instead of through the strainers in the event of a major leak. In a space with 6'2" headroom, 360-degree engine access, and white surfaces predominating , the standard Cummins QSM11s frankly looked a bit lost. The 11'7"-long lazarette immediately aft is just as nicely finished, available for stowage (and, says Hampton, crew quarters in the future), and accessed primarily by a watertight, pantographic transom door. However, should conditions preclude you from venturing out on the swim platform, you need only push a button in the 6'4"-long cockpit, and an engine-room hatch in its sole opens hydraulically. Cockpit controls that include joysticks for the bow and stern thrusters make the 580 easily handled by a couple.

Examining all the 580's structure and engineering, I almost forgot what Far East boats are best know for: wood, and plenty of it. That is until I stepped into the saloon. Scelzi opted for the dark-stained, high-gloss makore, and "impressive" does not begin to describe both the joinery and the lacquerwork. I might also add "oppressive," at least in some below-decks places like the forepeak VIP, where a half-dozen halogen bulbs labored to overcome the gloom imparted by all the dark wood. Were this my boat, I'd have opted for light wood or upholstered panels to offset the makore, but there's no denying the fact that overall the effect is impressively masculine.

Besides being beautiful, the 580's interior spaces are generously proportioned, with seven-foot headroom just about everywhere. That and large windows make the area feel big, and it is. Yet there's room for generous side decks covered by a bridge overhang from about amidships aft. Because the galley, immediately aft of the pilothouse, has refrigerator drawers instead of a stand-up model, the helmsman can actually see the transom, a nice surprise on a 58-footer.

There are other pleasant surprises as well. Retractable LCD TVs are nothing new, but on this boat, the 37-inch Sony Aquos is fixed. When you don't want to look at its blank screen, you can conceal it behind an elegant etched-glass panel that rises from a credenza. Cedar-lined closets are also nothing out of the ordinary, but those in the 580's master and VIP staterooms are each heated by a copper pipe to keep mildew at bay. That pipe is part of the system that also heats the soles of both heads. Most boats of this size have bilge access, but on this one you can crawl the entire length of the area beneath the accommodations level. Just lift the steps leading from the midship landing down and aft to the master, and you can hands-and-knees your way through a lighted, gelcoated passage forward to a VIP hatch.

Details like these, plus solid engineering and, yes, that gorgeous woodwork prove that Hampton is not trying to match competitors but to exceed them. Were the 580 a $2-million yacht, she'd be a fine vessel. With a base price of less than $1.4 million, she's all that and a bona fide bargain to boot. I'd say this battle goes to the Far East.

For more information on Hampton Yachts, including contact information, click here.

No one likes to think of a crisis at sea, but they do happen, and nothing is more frightening than a major leak or holing. This standard crash-pump system on the 580 is designed to deal with just that possibility. Like most systems, it lets you close an engine's sea-water intake and pull water from an internal intake in the bilge. This system has a single intake (with strainer) that can be valved to run off either or both engines. So if one dies, you can still remove water from your bilges using the other one. Another interesting aspect of this design: You could actually supply both engines from one through-hull, which could be handy if a through-hull became clogged. Of course, you couldn't run both engines under any significant load this way.—R.T.

This article originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.