BOAT REVIEW Southern XP726 Hunter II

Trailer Boat Reviews
By John Eichelsheim Photos by
MODEL Southern XP726
DESIGNER Southern Alloy Boats
BUILDER Southern Alloy Boats Ltd
LOA 7.3M
BEAM 2.45M
ENGINE Yamaha F225 four-stroke outboard 225hp
Weight on Trailer 2100 kg
Passenger Capacity 6 people
DEADRISE 20 degrees degrees
  • Extra length means a bigger cockpit
  • Nicely presented and well finished
  • Rewarding drive
  • Fibreglass-like performance and handling
  • New model
  • Handles better in a following sea
  • Shares manufacturing facility with Lazercraft
  • GRP hardtop

Developed from the successful XP676, Southern’s latest model is longer with subtle hull tweaks for better handling in a following sea. These include a finer bow profile, cut-back planing strakes and altered chines

The hull’s extra length equates to more cockpit space while the interior reflects subtle changes in materials and layout that make every new Southern boat a bit different from those that came before. For example, the next XP676 will feature pipe footrests instead of bolt-on Tenob examples and the carpet lining will be eliminated from the side shelves. Carpet reduces rattles and damage to equipment stored on the shelves, says Southern’s Jono Bakker, but there’s a small risk of corrosion if thorough cleaning is neglected.
“This boat is one of the last to leave the factory with carpet on the shelves,” says Jono.

Southern Boats Aluminium XP726
Southern Boats Aluminium XP726

Upping the ante
The incremental changes Southern makes to every new boat means each one ups the ante ever so slightly on the boat that came before. Between them Southern Boats and Lazercraft, which share the same manufacturing facility, produce around 40 boats a year.
Hunter II has been set up to its owner’s specification with a Yamaha 225hp four-stroke outboard providing the grunt. The hull likes plenty of horsepower and this engine is a good fit. The boat is painted in two-pot ‘Southern grey,’ a colour exclusive to Southern Boats that looks sharp, though it was a challenge to photograph on a mostly overcast day.
Inside, grey marine carpet is easily removed and the cockpit, hardtop and cabin are lined in grey carpet and Frontrunner respectively. Grey macrosuede is used in the front cabin for the squabs and backrests and black vinyl for the seats, which comprise two swivelling buckets and rear-facing seats on moulded GRP bases. Seating options include deluxe composite seats, which have storage in the bases for three dive bottle per side, and fold-up bolsters on the bucket seats.

Southern Boats Aluminium XP726
Southern Boats Aluminium XP726

This boat has a plumbed marine toilet tucked in behind the fore cabin bulkhead and the sliding door offers privacy and provides a locking cabin to keep valuables safe, a useful feature when the boat’s on the trailer, either in transit or in storage or on a mooring.
Fish and dive
The new model’s cockpit is truly vast, benefiting from plenty of freeboard, padded gunwales and a well-designed transom layout. The bait station includes the usual table with extra rod holders, a live bait tank on the port side with viewing window and a freshwater sink on the starboard side. A couple of hatches in the transom wall provide dry storage and the two batteries, while bolted to the floor, are otherwise well protected behind a solid aluminium door.
Valves for the various pumps are easy to reach and there is both a freshwater cockpit shower and a saltwater wash down. The Icey-Tek cool box is supplied standard with the boat. It can be moved around to suit or removed altogether, but its natural home when the boat’s underway is across the transom where its padded lid provides a comfortable seat.
Southern makes good use of high-density neoprene panels which add seating comfort to the coamings and provide non-slip footing to the swim steps and side/foredecks. The dive ladder and transom step-through are on the starboard side.
The cockpit layout is familiar from the other Southern boats I’ve reviewed. Full-length side shelves provide useful stowage, also for dive bottles, with alloy pipe uprights doubling as steps to climb in and out of the cockpit. They can also be used for securing objects you don’t want sliding around the deck. There’s no underfloor wet locker but a 225-litre underfloor fuel tank takes up most of the under-deck space that’s not sealed for buoyancy. The cockpit drains to a sump aft where the bilge pump dumps water over the side.

Southern Boats Aluminium XP726
Southern Boats Aluminium XP726

The Southern XP726 sports a fully-lined resin-composite hardtop strong enough to stand on. Hunter II is fitted with a removable rocket launcher so it can be stored undercover. The aluminium tandem-axle braked trailer has also been modified: 12-inch wheels have been fitted instead of standard 17-inch models to lower the ride height so the boat fits in the shed. All up the rig weighs-in at around 2,100kg on the road.
The open-backed hardtop is relatively short but still offers plenty of protection to its occupants. Sliding side windows allow good ventilation and anchoring is done from the helm, though there is access to the bow through the forward hatch (acrylic) or by sidling around the hardtop. Anchor duties are taken care of by a Maxwell capstan and a Delta 6 anchor. The anchor locker, accessed via an inspection hatch in the forward bulkhead, holds 70m of warp and 20m of chain.

Southern Boats Aluminium XP726
Southern Boats Aluminium XP726

Rewarding drive
Driving the boat is a pleasure.
Vision from the helm is okay and the boat runs nice and flat, but slightly more bow up than other Southern’s I’ve experienced. That’s on purpose, says Jono, and reflects the tweaks Southern has made to the hull. There was certainly no tendency to bow-steer when we pushed the boat through steep pressure waves in Motuihe Channel and the ride is exemplary. Seastar hydraulic steering keeps the boat pointed in the right direction and Lenco trim tabs keep it on an even keel.
The helm console is unremarkable but it has enough real estate for the Garmin GPSMap 7412, the Garmin VHF, Fusion stereo and controls for the trim tabs, windscreen wiper and anchor. There are also the usual switch panels, engine gauges and a 12v outlet. The footrest is positioned for the owner’s comfort.
Hunter II is a smooth traveller. While sea conditions were generally pretty good with just a light chop, there was plenty of confused water in the channels due to the biggest tides of the month. Throwing the boat around for the pictures in this stuff was fun. The ride was impressive and the hull felt nicely balanced and well behaved. The engine height needed some adjustment, as we experienced a fair bit of ventilation at times, especially in the turns, but dropping it a hole or two should sort that out. On the day we saw a maximum speed of 80kph (43.2 knots) on the GPS screen, but that was three up and Jono has had slightly more from the boat.

Southern Boats Aluminium XP726
Southern Boats Aluminium XP726

At a more sedate 47kph (25.5 knots), the Yamaha is burning a very reasonable 31.7 litres per hour at 3500rpm. That’s a comfortable and economical cruise speed with plenty of performance left in reserve.
Highly evolved
Since the current owners took over the company two or three years ago they’ve launched six new models, each a slight improvement on its predecessor. The XP726 is the latest in this evolutionary process and possibly the best Southern yet.
The Southern XP726 shows and even higher standard of fit and finish than earlier models, and they were already notable in that regard. Joining a select few aluminium trailer boats, the Southern XP726 gives little away to a moulded GRP boat of similar size, aesthetically, dynamically or practically.[/caption]


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