I stood gobsmacked. The swordlike profile, metallic silver topsides and teak-accented side decks and foredeck of the U.K.-built Hunton XRS37 offered Bond-like sophistication. Gazing at her lines as she approached the transient dock at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was like looking at a perfectly tailored tuxedo. I soon discovered that underneath that fine form is a vessel that has a license to thrill, too. The finely pointed bow of my 37 scowled at the sea, ?daring the water to come at her.
A slightly scalloped ocean off the Florida coast posed no opposition. Her standard, twin 430-horsepower MerCruiser 8.2 HO ECT gasoline engines (370-horsepower Yanmar ZT370 diesels are optional) are stealthily concealed under the aft sun-pad seating for three and offered instant response from the single-lever Mercury DTS controls. Like a 3-year-old coming out of the gate at Churchill Downs, my 37 was off when the throttles got firewalled.
Her beefy V-8 motors bellowed as my test boat streaked across the water at 30 knots, then 40 knots, then 50 knots. ... I looked toward the coast only to see a blur of sandy beaches pass before my sunglass-?covered but teared eyes. Did we just pass Miami? I questioned to myself. The Garmin GPS displayed an average top hop of 55.5 knots, and it seemed that we were above the water and that every other blade of her propellers attached to the end of her stern drives sliced the sea, leaving a near flat wake behind her.
By the time the 37 had completed her all-out gallop, my boat?s deep-V hull had carved a scar into the sea. That was a couple of months ago, and I?d guess that the ocean is still smarting from that smackdown. I know I?m still waiting for my hair to flatten. (That is, what wasn?t blown off my noggin permanently.)
It doesn?t take too long to realize that this Hampshire, England, import, which is named for her designer, Jeff Hunton, comes from a racing heritage. Her hull form, which features 45 degrees of deadrise at the bow, 30 degrees forward and 25 degrees at the transom, descends from a vessel that was a couple of feet longer and was originally designed as a Class II diesel race boat.
Hunton successfully campaigned his missile-looking craft called the Kent Koi for years, winning the coveted Guernsey Gold Cup, which is a three-race series in the U.K. The engines in the racing version of this boat were a pair of 630 hp Sabres that saw her top out at 76 knots.
The production 37 has also served as a race boat across the pond in the Cruiser Class, even winning a U.K. Championship, which is a series of 12 races. And to race that often, she needs to be durable.
To ensure the 37?s strength and sustainability over the long haul, Hunton builds its boats (there?s a 43-foot version too) to handle the rigors of high-speed ocean running with a hand-laid, biaxial E-glass and Kevlar hull. The 37 features balsa coring in her hull and topsides as well as foam coring for further strengthening without added weight. All totaled, she comes in at around 11,023 pounds.
If you ordered one today, she could be delivered and ready to run in about five months. She also comes with a long list of standard equipage, including electronics and a bow thruster, and only a handful of options like heat and air conditioning, making the purchase process easy for owners.
One of the remarkable things about running this boat is the comfort level from the wheel at speed. The 37 can pivot and change direction with the precision of a pro hockey player and then make for the horizon effortlessly. Her bolster-style seats, which flank a centerline entryway to the belowdecks area, hug you around the middle, offering a sense of control at all times.
And keeping course at speed is made easy since the Garmin 5008 multi?function display is placed in the center of the helm console and can be checked without taking your eyes off the road.
I found that even when running this boat at 40-plus knots, I could comfortably converse with Total Marine?s John-Henry Falk, who was sitting in the passenger bolster seat across the way. (Total Marine is the U.S. dealer for Hunton.) Our third companion on this sea trial was John Cafaro, who is a director of design for Chevrolet at General Motors and knows something about sleekly designed fast vehicles. He looked completely unfazed by the speeds of the 37 as he sat comfortably in the cockpit?s U-shaped seating for four.
In fact, Cafaro had outstretched legs and sported a Cheshire-cat grin, and the scene instantly illustrated this boat?s mission as a fun-at-sea vessel. I easily pictured us shooting across the Gulf Stream for conch fritters and Kalik in Bimini, and being back for 5 o?clock cocktails.
If you wish, the 37 could do an overnight in Bimini too. Her belowdecks space is admittedly narrow because of the boat?s 8-foot-6-inch beam, and headroom will require most average-size adults to do some ducking, but there is a berth for two all the way forward plus a single head. The amidships section has cozy, opposing settees. There?s also a two-burner electric cooktop should you desire to try your hand at meal preparation. Just add that air conditioning and heat, and she?d be comfortable for a couple for an evening.
But I would not be spending the evening on board. I was at a boat show and had to get back to working the docks. As Falk deftly brought the 37 alongside to let me hop off, a crowd gathered and gazed as I had when she first pulled up. Wide-eyed kids and adults pointed, commented and stared as a late-afternoon sun glistened off that metallic-color hull. ?What?s that?? many inquired enthusiastically. ?A Hunton 37,? I responded. One tiny tyke and future boat owner, for sure, looked up and said, ?I like it!? Me too, me too.
Credit: Patrick Sciacca