BOAT REVIEW Haines Hunter SP635

July 2024 Trailer Boat Reviews
Words by John Eichelsheim. Photography & video by Roger Mills.
Build Quality
MODEL Haines Hunter SP635
DESIGNER Haines Hunter/Nic de Mey
BUILDER Haines Hunter Boats
LOA 6.76M
LENGTH (Waterline) 6.35M
BEAM 2.34M
ENGINE 1 x Yamaha F200 DEC four-stroke outboard
Weight on Trailer 1800 kg
Max Horsepower 200hp
Passenger Capacity 6 people
DEADRISE 21 degrees
  • Sweet handling and excellent ride for its size
  • Hardtop styling works well
  • Hardtop enhances the 635’s utility, especially in winter
  • Excellent performance with 200hp, but will perform well with as little as 150hp

A breezy day in late May with squally showers sweeping across Bream Bay perfectly illustrated why hardtops are so popular in New Zealand. In our Haines Hunter SP 635 we remained warm and dry. The journey both ways was considerably more comfortable than it would have been in a more open style of trailer boat.

The hardtop SP635 shares the same underpinnings as the popular SF 635 which was a completely new model back in 2020 (see Boating NZ, November 2020 for a review of the SF635). SP stands for Sports Pursuit and SF for Sport Fisher.
3D modelled by Nic de Mey and incorporating the latest GRP construction practices, the 635 is not just a development of an existing model. Foam-cored composite floors are bonded to the hull and the spaces between are foam filled for quietness, rigidity and strength, while its vacuum-infused carbon fibre hardtop – a first for Haines Hunter – weighs just 22kg. The hardtop’s side-windows slide back into the carbon pillars at the rear. Except for teak capping on the gunwales and some teak trim, no timber is used in the boat’s construction.


The 635 models are successors to the long running and hugely successful Haines Hunter 600 (and its 650 derivative), but provide more beam, greater interior volume and a much larger helm console suitable for today’s large-screen electronic displays. With 21 degrees of deadrise at the transom, the hull delivers a good compromise between deep-vee rough water performance and decent stability at rest.
Haines Hunter has continued to update and modernise its model range, incorporating new materials and technology and more modern construction techniques. As a thoroughly modern design, the 635 is easier to manufacture than its predecessors, but doesn’t compromise on quality, using only the best fittings and finishes and retaining many Haines Hunter features familiar from other models. And it’s a hardtop too, the smallest in the Haines Hunter family.

Creating a good-looking hardtop is always a challenge for boatbuilders, even more so with boats under seven metres, but Haines Hunter has succeeded admirably with the SP635. And because carbon construction is used, the extra weight of the hardtop is minimal compared to the SF635, so stability and handling are very similar. In profile, the 635’s lines set it apart from anything else in the Haines Hunter range, but somehow it still manages a strongly familial look, which was evident during our three-boat expedition – the SP635 shares many styling cues with its bigger hardtop siblings.
We left Marsden Cove Marina in Whangarei Harbour in in the company of an SP725 and a Haines Hunter Overlander, from which we flew the drone. Our plan was to head across to the Chicks, where we’d spend a few hours fishing, plus a bit of time on the SP725 to as assess its Seakeeper stabiliser system for a story in a later edition. The opportunity to subject the SP635 to a real-life boating scenario was appreciated.

The vessel as reviewed was powered by a 1.8-litre Yamaha F200 outboard with integrated electric steering, digital controls, and Yamaha’s Helm Master EX boat control system – the joystick on the dash gives it away. Although this model can be rigged with 175hp or even 150hp outboards, the F200 is a great match, providing spirited performance and a reported top speed of 43 knots.
The stiff south-westerly breeze meant the seas built the further we ventured from shore, but still we remained relatively comfortable aboard the SP635, travelling at around 25 knots with the seas following from the starboard rear quarter. The 635 tracked straight and we barely had need of the boat’s twin washer-wipers, the ride was so dry – the bow does an excellent job of not only softening the ride, but also deflecting spray. The boat is quiet too – just one of the benefits of GRP over aluminium.

The comfy king and queen seats on the passenger side are standard Haines Hunter fare, as are the removable transom bin-seats and hinged backrests across the transom protecting batteries, relays and switches from the elements. The king-queen seats offer generous storage underneath, useful side pockets, plush, water-resistant foam cushioning, and white-stitched black vinyl upholstery.
The skipper gets to sit on a swivelling helm seat mounted on a GRP pedestal that accommodates a split-lid Icey Tek chilly bin. The bin slides partway under the pedestal and the bin’s cushioned rear portion serves as another seat, making a total of six if you leave the rear seat bins in the boat – one or both could be removed to make more space in the cockpit if the focus for the day is fishing. Easy-clean, easy-on-the-feet Ultralon U-Dek covers the cockpit sole.
The cockpit layout works well, whether family boating or fishing. A saltwater wash-down and Haines Hunter’s moulded GRP bait station with twin Railblaza rod holders are features of the transom, along with a cup holder and the walkthrough on the port side. The bait board is replaceable, swim steps can be optioned with a live bait tank, and there’s a drop-in ski-pole.

A pair of stainless-steel through-gunwale rod holders set into the teak coamings grace either side of the cockpit, there are rod racks under the gunwales, raised side shelves (toe-room under), and an angled rocket launcher that folds flat for easier garaging. As we discovered while casting soft plastics into the wash, care must be taken to avoid clashing with any rods in the rocket launcher which, along with the hardtop roof, encroach slightly on the cockpit’s airspace. Moving the seat bins resolved the casting problem by allowing us better access to the transom and clear space overhead.

The hardtop features LED lighting, ample USB outlets, and speakers for the dash-mounted Fusion Bluetooth and WiFi stereo. There are plenty of built-in storage options, including moulded cubbies for phones, underfloor wet/dry storage between the seats and more storage in the forward cabin in the side shelves and under the squabs. Drop covers fully enclose the cockpit for storage or overnighting.
Cabin access is through an extra-wide bulkhead opening, side windows and the overhead hatch let in natural light, and LED lighting is used at night, also in the cockpit and under water across the transom. Vee berths are long enough to sleep on and a chemical or plumbed toilet between the berths is an option.
At the pointy end, the SP 635 is equipped with heavy-duty stainless steel bow rails, a stainless-steel fairlead, a Delta anchor and a recessed Maxwell capstan operated remotely from the helm or from inside the forward cabin using the second switch. Haines uses stainless-steel pull-out cleats at the transom, bow and amidships for spring lines.

The Chicks provided us with some welcome respite from the wind, tucked in close against the cliffs – the last couple of kilometres of the outward journey had been rough enough to launch us off the wave tops at times. All in all, the SP 635 handled the conditions very well and a speed run in relatively flat water fully fuelled and loaded with gear and three people onboard saw us reach 40 knots at 6000rpm. The fuel burn was 80 litres per hour.

The helm position is very good: comfortable sitting or standing, with good all-round vision, adjustable seating, and useful support from the moulded footrests. The console with its attractive blackout dashboard easily accommodates a 12-inch Simrad MFD, Yamaha CL5 touch-screen digital display, Zipwake interceptor trim tab controls, a Uniden VHF, Helm Master joystick and assorted switches.

On the way back to Marsden Cove at the end of the day, we had the same quartering sea to contend with, but this time on the bow. If anything, the wind had built during the day and the sea state had deteriorated somewhat. Nevertheless, the SP 635 shrugged off the conditions and punched its way homewards, though this time we did need the wipers. While we had to hang on to one of the boat’s many handrails, the ride back was not too uncomfortable.
The SP635’s forgiving handling is very reassuring. It’s a pleasure to drive, feeling stable, and responsive with excellent directional stability. While it seemed to like the motor trimmed out, the hull handles nicely throughout the trim range – with a quartering head sea on the way back, we had to trim the motor in.

We were generally able to keep up with the two larger boats on the return trip, though I did ride the Overlander’s wake for a while. In general, the ride was soft, spray was well controlled, and we were able to maintain 20 knots-plus most of the way. Impressive. According to the fuel computer, we used under 50 of the underfloor tank’s 190 litres of fuel for the day.


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