Time With Jeff Hunton, Founder

What is your fondest memory from your days on the race circuit?
My first Cowes-Torquay-Cowes in 1975 was amazing, as it was a lifetime dream to be part of the greatest race in the world at that time. I also got great pleasure from seeing other people succeed in racing my boats to British Championships, but the 1984 Round Britain was the race with the fondest and most vivid memories. The enormous seas around Land’s End, travelling in almost blind fog in the Irish Sea and then bursting out into sunshine to see the Mull of Kintyre ahead; seeing Portsmouth after ten days racing; winning our class, the ‘Index of Performance’ Trophy and claiming seventh overall.

Why did you decide to start building boats?
I designed boats right from when I was in my teens. Most of the boats I owned I modified and the first two boats I raced with my friend Roger Kelly, we rigged from bare hulls. I tried to drive as many different boats as I could as I was fascinated by how and why they behaved so differently. When I couldn’t find a boat that ticked all the boxes, I started designing my own. Then I thought other people might also want what I wanted, so after a deep breath, I put up every penny I had and started Hunton Powerboats. What came out was the Gazelle 23, which won the 1980 Championship the very next year.

What is it that makes Hunton boats so special?
The hull always comes first. The handling is paramount, but also the boat has to have accommodation to make it practical. We use composite sandwich construction to allow every inch to be used.

What exactly were you aiming for with the XRS 37?
It had to have great handling and speed and it needed to be big enough to handle open water crossings and provide the necessary comforts for a weekend afloat. Above all though, it had to be great fun to drive and put a smile on the owner’s face.

If there is any boat you wish you had designed, what would it be? When I followed racing in the 1960s and 70s, the boat to dream about was the 36 Cigarette. For me, it is still one of the greatest monohulls ever built.

The Modern Hunton Fleet
As things stand, there are just three boats in the Hunton fleet – the XRS 37, the XRS 43 and the 1005 RIB – but plans have been set in motion for an expansion of the range. A new 65-knot luxury cruiser known as the EQ52 is currently in development, while at the other end of the scale, there is talk of a sub-30-foot craft to help introduce a wider range of boaters to the brand’s remarkable mystique. It is a noble idea and one I applaud, but even if we do see the introduction of a more accessible ‘entry-level’ Hunton, I have no doubt that this famous name will remain true to its principles as a small-scale builder of high-performance craft for the discerning few in search of grandeur as well as grunt.

Categories: H43