madforsailing test: Hunter 707

The 'sportsboat' of choice for the club racer?

Sunday September 9th 2001, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: None
Described by designer David Thomas as 'a very simple little boat', the Hunter 707 still manages to provide a level of performance that not so long ago was the preserve of those several feet longer. The 707 was an instant success at its launch, and demand straight off the drawing board surpassed most others in the mid-90's craze for new sportsboats.

The madforsailing test team, led by Olympic sailors Shirley Robertson and Andy Beadsworth, took the boat out on a breezy day to discover why.

From the get-go, the 707 felt like a much bigger boat. She’s very stable and almost all the deck area aft of the mast is given over to the cockpit - four, five or even more crew can feasibly sail the boat.

A number of other features endeared the 707 to the madforsailing team. The deck layout proved almost faultless with controls falling easily to hand. A clever outboard well stores the engine, and made mounting and stowing easy and safe. And the rig should stay in the boat come what may ...

The stark, if functional, interior is built from Hunter's proven combination of bonded-in floors together with substantial plywood bulkheads and bunk fronts - and it does a lot to keep the price down. At the request of the owners' association, formed before the first boat was even delivered, Hunters provided a high quality deck gear package using Harken and Spinlock fittings. Construction is solid and the boats are very durable.

But our test team had their gripes as well. Upwind in a breeze, the lack of a backstay precluded flattening the mainsail by bending the mast this way. Other measures are required if one is not to be deafened by the constant rattling of the Sobstad sail. This feature could also hurt forestay tension and pointing - although that’s not a problem in the big one-design fleets in the Solent and elsewhere.

Nevertheless, at its launch the 707 seemed to epitomise what the club racer wanted in a sportsboat - it’s a brilliantly targeted design from Thomas and Hunter. Over 120 have been built and area championships in all parts of the UK encourage countrywide ownership. But it must be said that the bulk of the big fleets are concentrated in the Solent.

Right from the start the boat's reputation was underpinned by the low price, still around £20,000 all-up, and budget conscious enthusiasts can buy it in kit form. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Hunter 707 is no Grand Prix boat and struggles to make the cut as a sportsboat by our standards - but it’s a solid, fun boat, that's simple to sail and there’s a lot right with that.

Rants It’s probably not going to go down in history as a boat that advanced yacht design
Raves The racing

The Nitty Gritty

Ease of Sailing

Upwind, Shirley thought the helm on the heavy side, but we have to remember she was comparing it to her Europe! While Andy Beadsworth - more used to the sometimes Herculean struggle with his Soling - thought the feel was very light. An objective assessment concluded that while the rudder can load up on a tight reach, the helm was basically well balanced with just enough positive feedback.

The 707’s basic stability is high, with each additional crew member stepping aboard inducing less heel than might be expected in what is a pretty wide boat. Keel area has been kept fairly small and though this had no noticeable affect on performance upwind, care is needed coming out of a tack if maximum speed is to be maintained.

In a breeze, not having a backstay made it a bit of a drama upwind, as there’s no easy way to flatten the mainsail by bending the mast. In addition, the Mylar structure of the Sobstad sails ensured that the shape was virtually locked in. The outhaul, cunningham and kicker do have an effect, but not as great as you would expect from a softer Dacron sail.

All this cuts both ways, it can be frustrating (and noisy) if you think the shape is wrong, but if you’re not sure what the sail should look like anyway, then you have the comfort of knowing that yours is pretty much the same as everyone else’s! For the record, we felt the best way to get upwind in a blow was by powering up the bottom of the mainsail and using a combination of sheet, traveller and vang to twist off the top.

As with most of his higher performance boats, David Thomas has opted for a chine in the aft sections, allowing a flat planing surface without introducing too much volume higher up. This seemed to work well in our test, with the hull tracking nicely even when pressed on a spinnaker reach. Downwind the 707 was light to handle and trim, and the bulb keel provided plenty of stability.

Systems and Layout

On stepping aboard, the first thing we all commented on was that the 707 had the feel of a much bigger boat. Almost all the deck area aft of the mast is given over to cockpit and even with five (crew, not the band) aboard things would not become an unbearable crush. With plenty of room for everyone and no need for the forward hand to scramble about on the coach roof, the boat’s a dream if you’re used to something with a tight cockpit like a J24 or a Contessa 32.

This was a giant step in the right direction for the Systems and Layout score before a single rope had even been pulled in the test sail. But the deck layout also proved faultless with every control falling easily to hand. Only a pair of cleats to stop the spinnaker sheets trailing in the water upwind would make the boat a touch closer to perfection.

In the Hunter tradition, the 707 features an outboard well. Clever design allows the engine and its mounting bracket to be stowed below the cockpit floor while racing, with an easy transition to motoring mode without risk either of physical injury to the crew or loss of the engine into the tide.

Stowing the large cover for the engine locker could have been something of a problem but for the foresight of the designer, who’s carefully sculpted the foot-chocks in the forward end of the cockpit to allow the cover to fit snugly over them.


David Thomas’s 'very simple little boat' provided performance that belied her size. Downwind in a breeze the flat stern sections came into their own with an almost seamless transition from displacement to planing mode once cracked away onto a reach.

In these conditions, running square was no problem either thanks to the symmetrical spinnaker and conventional pole. In many situations in restricted waters, the 707 may well prove faster than her asymmetrically rigged competitors.

In what lighter conditions we had, the 707 made good progress, though it is important to keep her heeled and trimmed well forward if the large flat area at the stern is not to cause too much drag.

But the lack of a backstay did, in my opinion, hurt forestay tension upwind and thus her ability to point, which could be an issue in handicap racing fleets. Speaking for Hunter Boats, Peter Poland reckoned there was no downside, pointing to successful dinghies that don’t use backstays such as the International 14 ...

Build Quality

Before the first boat was delivered, the owners' association had been formed and they requested a high quality deck gear package using Harken and Spinlock fittings, which Hunter have supplied. Despite the apparent cost penalty, we judged this to be the right decision as everything worked perfectly and there should be no necessity for expensive upgrades.

There were some problems with a couple of fittings on the rigs of the early boats, but these have been modified. Apart from this detail, the rig, and pretty much the entire boat, are built to be bulletproof. The long, highly-swept spreaders hold the mast firm in the boat, and the rig looks like it should always stay where it's meant to be.

Down below, the interior is constructed from Hunter's proven combination of bonded-in floors together with substantial plywood bulkheads and bunk fronts. Functional rather than beautiful, the structure looked well up to the job.

Below the hull hangs a fixed cast iron keel with a relatively slender foil suspending a modest bulb. Lacking the advantages of a lifting fin, the 707 does benefit from the improved structural integrity of a fixed keel and will not suffer the inevitable maintenance problems associated with lifting mechanisms.

Anticipated Durability

Construction is a hybrid mixture of high quality polyester resin, glass and aramid (Kevlar) reinforcements. The result is a light, stiff structure which, if the state of our hard-used five month old demonstrator was anything to go by, should take the rough and tumble of racing life in her stride.

Quality of Race Circuit

To a great extent, the quality of racing will be as critical to the fate of any yacht in this market sector as the intrinsic qualities of the boat. And the 707 has gone a long way since her launch to getting established as the club racer's sportsboat of choice, with big fleets in Hamble, Burnham and Scotland. Perhaps forty or fifty boats can be expected at the Nationals most years, which is great racing by the standards of any keelboat class.

Value for Money

However much you pay for your Hunter 707 (and it depends on how much constructing and finishing you’re prepared to do yourself) you get an awful lot of boat for your money. We’re not the only ones to figure this out and the price was perhaps one of the reasons for the quick growth of the class. The final cheque shouldn’t come in at much more than twenty grand (£20,450 inc VAT) which given the boat's performance should provide a lot of fun per pound.

Contact Hunter Boats, Head Office, Sutton Wharf, Sutton Road, Rochford, Essex, SS4 1LZ. UK.
Tel. +44 (0) 1702 546541 Fax. +44 (0) 1702 541015

Sales Office,Hamble Point Marina, Hamble, Hampshire, SO31 4NB. UK.
Tel. +44 (0) 2380 452177 Fax. +44 (0) 2380 456364

Or visit

Latest Comments

Add a comment - Members log in


Latest news!

Back to top
    Back to top