Haines Hunter 800 Grand Sport Review

Issue: October 2000

During a short holiday on the NSW south coast last Easter, I was astounded at the number of large multi-roller trailers with 4WD and light commercial tow vehicles that were parked at the numerous launching ramps. These were all geared up around carrying maxi trailerboats … the same craft many predicated would go the way of dinosaurs due to expense and the need for a large tow horse.

In fact, the market has seen a merging of customers – from those trading up from smaller trailable craft in search of more space and comfort, and those downsizing from cruisers to save on maintenance and berthing costs.

Accordingly, Haines Hunter has found their production line working overtime building the 680 Encore and Prowler series, while the larger Patriot has also been in demand. Many other trailerboat manufacturers tell similar tales. So instead of dying out, the maxis have grown larger and more luxurious. Now Haines Hunter has chipped in with a new cruising and fishing model called the 800 Grand Sport, confident that it too will fill a niche.

It uses the hull from the 800SF Patriot and a superstructure based on the 710SC Elite, creating a very spacious package that’s loaded with features and facilities. With twin outboards as the standard power package (although it is possible to install a single maxi outboard, or a sterndrive) this spacious boat doesn’t come cheap. There’s little change left from $125,000 if you want a boat that is adequately optioned for comfortable cruising and also bluewater light sports fishing.

I see cruising and family boating as the natural roles but there will always be boat buyers wanting a family rig that can be used for fishing with the mates. The Grand Sport will fill that extra duty, but for the diehard fisho I believe that Haines Hunter’s Patriot, Prowler and Encore models are better suited to this more specialised role. The transom/boarding platform offers the opportunity to stand out and fish. There is sufficient space to walk across the back of the boat, a good non-slip finish underfoot, and no chance of tripping on engine cables, electronic or fuel line ducting. An optional stainless steel security railing is available – the same option that is offered for the Patriot.

On board, there’s volumes of space below the cockpit floor and as a result the multiple battery installation, oil tanks, bilge pumps etc are all neatly installed and reasonably easily accessed for service and maintenance. There is also enough space to install a small generator, a power invertor, or a gas-fired hot water system – options that are only just now being more widely appreciated and used on larger trailable cruisers. The hull is at home with the dual outboard installation. The engines fit nicely on the transom with plenty of access space from the boarding platform through the rear cockpit door.

Two outboards add to the cost but there is that undeniable safety factor. The 800 Grand Sport will get up and stay on the plane under the worst scenario – dragging one “dead” engine and running on the other. That single engine (in our case a 200hp Johnson) does work hard initially, but once the boat is on the plane it will maintain a steady 22/23 knots at 4500rpm. Trim the second engine up to reduce drag and that speed shoots up to almost 30 knots. With all 400 horses unleashed, the 8-metre planes at 2600 to 2700rpm and cruises very lazily at 24 to 25 knots in the 3400 to 3500 rev range. Top speed, if needed, is a brisk 48 knots but 30 to 35 knots in the 4000 to 4500rpm range is about all that you need to use if wanting to keep the boat within the economical engine range.

Offshore, the deep vee hull makes short work of everything at this speed, offering a very easy and dry ride. It really loves to be opened up. On the day of our test, with a 2-metre swell slightly chopped up by a light seabreeze, we could run the boat at any speed we liked, tackling the conditions from every direction without a care in the world. It has handling and performance to back up whatever the driver cares to dish out, so a fast run back from a distant offshore reef or a trip home ahead of an unexpected weather change are not going to provide a problem. Hydraulic steering makes control of the twin outboards light and positive. The helm station is well sorted, with the instruments mounted to the left of the wheel, leaving the remaining dash space free for electronics along with binnacle throttles for the dual engines.

The enclosed hard-top is shown as an option but I suspect it will go on every boat ordered, given the shade and protection it provides the helm station and cockpit galley. Really, the hardtop completes the practicality of the boat, extending far enough aft to give shelter to much of the cockpit, including the lift-out table and rear lounge. For ventilation the hardtop has clear hatches and sliding side windows, while clip-on rear covers still allow the cockpit to be used if the weather turns cold or wet while away on a camping trip.

The cockpit galley unit is a neat arrangement, though Haines Hunter’s Ben Hipkins says he is still finding ways of improving the module. Standard, it comes with a single burner cooker (there is the option to use gas) a refrigerator, pressure hot and cold water to the sink and good plate and utensil storage. With a power inverter or small generator, a small microwave could be run. Storage facilities are to be found under-floor, under-seat and in side storage lockers and bins, none of it wanting for room.

Inside the cabin there is comfortable sleeping accommodation for three with a vee berth (and in-fill) in the bow and a tight single berth beneath the raised cockpit sole along the port side. It works but I can guarantee there is no chance of you rolling out of bed during the night. The forward berth is roomy enough to allow a small child to squeeze in with mum and dad if necessary. A curtain is provided to screen off the forward and single berths for privacy, and I’ve no doubt that with full cockpit covers many kids will enjoy the chance of sleeping “outside”, leaving mum and dad to the privacy of the main cabin.

A compact enclosed shower and head sits nicely inside the cabin, and again it works well with just enough headroom and space for the majority of people to feel comfortable. A second hand-held shower at the aft boarding platform supplements this enclosed shower.

With its length of 8.23 metre, 2.5-metre beam and a trailing weight of around 2.5 tonnes when fully loaded and equipped, the Grand Sport may be as big as trailables get. But then who can tell these days?

Story by David Toyer.