Haines Signature 580br

Haines Signature 580br Boat Test
Boating New Zealand - September 2006

Award winning Aussie

With industry and boat show awards on both sides of the Tasman, the Haines Signature 580BR - for bowrider - has all the right credentials

John Haines Snr designed the 580BR, the latest model from Australian boat builder Haines Signature, as a family-friendly, all-round sports boat. Equipped with a Suzuki DF175 four-stroke EFI outboard, it was awarded best sports/ski boat at the Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show in June. The same model was judged Australian Dayboat of the Year, an Australian Marine Industry Federation (AMIF) recognised award, earlier in the year. The Haines Group also distributes Suzuki outboards in Australia and New Zealand.

Suzuki Marine New Zealand's national sales manager, Craig Archer, delivered the 580BR to Takapuna boat ramp on Auckland's North Shore for our review. Roger's Boat Shop, the local Haines Signature and Suzuki dealer, is conveniently close to Takapuna's boat ramp. Haines Signature is represented in New Zealand by Reflex Products in Christchurch, which manufactures some models under license.

The review boat was towed on an Australian-built MacKay tandem axle trailer. With its white-enameled, steel-spoked wheels, it complements the boat's striking lines and bold colour scheme.

The galvanised steel trailer is fully rollered and features Australian-style cable-operated override brakes on one axle. Towing weight is approximately 1600kg.

We slipped the boat into the water on a sunny winter's morning, intending to give it a decent run the islands of the Hauraki Gulf. With a 135-litre underfloor tank, the range is good but we didn't anticipate using more than the 40 litres of 91-octane with which Archer had topped up the tank.

Although the weather was fine, it was a cool day and we were grateful for the 580's good quality, black canvas bow cover. This attaches to the gunwales and across the bottom of the windscreen domes, effectively blocking wind and rain. A canopy is optional, though it wasn't fitted to the test boat.

In sports/ski boat style, the driving position is low. The 580BR is meant to be driven while seated and the swivelling bucket seats are comfortable and supportive. There's good lateral and lumbar support; a deep cushion soaks up any bumps. The helm controls are well positioned, as is the footrest; the seat is adjustable fore and aft and the wheel is adjustable for height, automotive style.

The dashboard looks smart, but it wasn't fitted with electronics: fishfinders or GPS units would need to be bracket-mounted, as there's no room to flush mount them in the console. However, bracket-mounted electronics could detract from the styling and would probably impinge on the driver's visibility.

Style is a big part of the 580's appeal. All Haines Signature boats have distinctive looks, but this boat's futuristic Curves and low-rider stance complement its sport boat aspirations. The bold black-and-white colour scheme is striking, nicely offset by hull decals and detailing in silver, stainless steel and anodised aluminium. Inside the boat, the black-and-white theme continues, softened by grey vinyl upholstery panels and removable grey marine carpet, and accentuated by black upholstery piping. Inside and Outside the boat appears well finished.

Much use has been made of black faux-carbon cloth vinyl fabric, used as contrasting highlights alongside grey vinyl panels and to pad the gunwales
and dashboard. Real carbon-fibre dash inserts with striking black gelcoat for the dash consoles are offset by white gauges and cup holder inserts. The whole effect looks sharp, setting the boat apart from the usual family cruiser.

Bowriders have never been overly popular with New Zealanders, and particularly New Zealand boatbuilders. Yet the open bow design is the most popular style for powerboats in the United States and many, other places. Australians have embraced the bowrider concept, too, as the 580BR ably illustrates. A bowrider layout certainly makes maximum use of a boat's interior space and it's no mystery why the layout is popular with families: On a nice day, the kids can ride up front and the whole family can spread out around the boat, underway or at anchor, rather than crowding into the cockpit. Getting on and off the boat over the bow is also a breeze.

The bows are easily accessed via a folding windscreen centre section; the Sole is moulded non-slip GRP, as is the cockpit under the carpet. Remove the carpet and the rear settee-bin, replace the ski pole with a bait board and the boat is ready for fishing, with the advantage of being able to fish from the bow. A shallow half-door affords access to the two-piece GRP swimstep across the transom, equipped with a standard Signature retractable stainless steel ladder and stainless grab rails either side.

Inside the boat there’s plenty of room for a family’s boating needs. Deep side pockets will accept water-skis and wakeboards. There’s generous underfloor locker and more stowage in a full-width, removeable transom bin-lounger, as well as under the bow seat squabs. Useful cubbyholes, a lockable glovebox in the passenger side console and cup holders everywhere complete the picture.

The boat’s also strong on entertainment. A powerful four-speaker Clarion CD-radio system takes care of the sounds and removeable GRP table can be positioned in the cockpit or up in the bow. The versatile seating arrangement accommodates a surprising number of people in comfort while LED lighting illuminates the cockpit at night.

The 580BR is entertaining to drive, too – an important consideration in a sport bat. The Suzuki 175hp provides smooth power right through the rev range and seems particularly strong in the mid-range. It’s quiet, too, allowing conversation between front seat passengers without the need to shout.

The handling impressed. In the turns the 580BR is rock-solid. It didn’t matter how hard the boat was wound into turns; it simply went where it was pointed. The hull responds instantly to helm and trim inputs and the Suzuki’s large capacity block, variable valve timing and multi-stage induction ensure generous torque for great throttle response.

The The boat really shines in this regard, showing none of the breathlessness at high revs of sluggishness off the mark exhibited by some four-stroke outboards. The 2867cm2, four-cylinder, 175hp four-stroke engine is a good match for the hull, but it would perform adequately with 150hp or less.

The boat also feels stiff. There was no apparent ‘scuttle shake’ or excessive flexing over the bumps – a bit like a convertible motor car, bowriders rely on the hull to provide stiffness and strength, as there is no cabin to provide extra bracing and support. Haines Signature uses all synthetic materials in the boat’s construction, including fore and aft bearers and stringers. Floors and stringers are made from Ruply, which is impervious to rot and fungal attack.

John Haines Snr cut his teeth designing race boats for himself and others. His boats typically feature complex, variable deadrise hulls, often incorporating notches, steps and planing planks. The Haines Signature 580BR uses Haines Signature range, which is responsible for the boat’s soft ride and responsive handling.

The 580 has a fine entry for soft landings, with prominent strakes to provide lift and help keep the boat dry, but they are a little noisy in certain conditions – there’s a constant chuckle from the hull as it passes through the water. However, the boat doesn’t need much outboard trim to run at it’s optimum attitude and at higher speeds it climbs up on its strakes to run on the plank, reducing drag.

We took a long run around the islands, encountering a variety of sea conditions as the day progressed. As often happens in Auckland, the wind gradually built through the morning, ensuring a wind-against-tide chop, especially in Motuihe Channel. The 580BR dealt with the typical Hauraki Gulf short chop with aplomb, the hull cushioning the boat’s occupants from most of the bumps. And we remained dry – a bowrider doesn’t off the same spray protection a cuddy cabin boat does, so dryness is important.

Although the engine had fewer than five hours running time, it was a strong performer. It may offer even more when fully run-in. We cruised comfortably at 4000rpm, the Suzuki speedometer indicating 32mph. At 4500rpm, indicating speed was 39mph with 50mph coming up at 5500rpm. Top speed was a more than respectable 55mph at 6000rpm.

The Haines Signature 580BR deserves its critical acclaim. It’s a well-finished, snappy-looking performer that will reward family boaters and sporting types. Something of an all-rounder, it has the performance and handling characteristics for serious water skiing or wakeboarding, with the space and layout to accommodate the whole family plus a few friends for a great day on the water.

It’s perfect for fooling around with water toys and general family relaxation and fine for casual fishing and diving. And the 580BR’s speed and handling mean it’s a lot of fun to throw around just for the hell of it.