Two shipwrights shape the stem for an 18-foot sailboat while a wooden workboat slides down the rails at Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway in Martha’s Vineyard. The scene looks the way it might have a hundred years ago as a Hinckley Sport Boat 40x appears from behind two classic schooners.
With her Downeast styling, the 40x fits in among the wooden beauties, but her looks belie thoroughly modern epoxy-infused carbon fiber and Kevlar construction—a combination of style and technology for which Hinckley is known. The Sport Boat 40x is a pilothouse design introduced on the heels of last year’s Sport Boat 40c, a center console that was the builder’s first-ever boat with outboard power. The 40x has a profile similar to the jet-powered Picnic Boat 40 that Hinckley began delivering last year, except the 40x has a stern whose shape and outboard engines are a definitive departure. Whereas the Picnic Boat may look perfect for a cocktail cruise, the 40x looks primed to haul ass with her triple 425-hp Yamahas.
Ray Hunt Design provided the naval architecture for the Hinckley Sport Boats and the Hinckley design office handled the topside and interior design.
Underway, the ride on these boats feels solid—and fast. Hinckley’s Sport Boat hulls can now outrun all of the builder’s jet boats. The jet boats can top 40 knots with optional power, but the Sport Boats are even faster. With optional twin Seven Marine 627s, Hinckley says, the Sport Boats can go 50 knots or more.
That kind of performance means a Sport Boat can cover the 10 miles from Vineyard Haven to Chappaquiddick in under 15 minutes. The Sport Boats are so fast, owners could go from Newport, Rhode Island, to Martha’s Vineyard for lunch and easily be back in Newport for dinner.
These boats make a good platform for watersports fun, so we cruised to the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, whose shallow salt pond was perfect for kitesurfing and wakeboarding. The 40x and 40c each have a 3-foot, 1-inch draft (2 feet, 4 inches with the engines up), which let us get close to the beach.
I had driven the 40c to Chappaquiddick, but for the ride back to Vineyard Haven I hopped on the 40x. To me, they handled the same. Since they have the same hull that is no surprise, but it’s their topsides and interiors that make them two different species.
The two boats provide completely different perspectives from the helm. On the 40c, the helm is virtually on centerline and about 3 feet farther aft than the one on the 40x. On the 40c, I had to look across an expanse of white cabin top and through the windshield that’s a good 8 feet away. I had expected the glare off the cabin top to be an issue, but because the 40c windshield was almost upright, the cabin top’s eyebrow prevented glare.
I had a different experience on the 40x. The pilothouse yacht’s helm is to starboard and close to the contoured, 36-square-foot, one-piece windshield (Hinckley calls it a Vista windshield). The windshield tilts backward at a steep angle, so the eyebrow can’t always shield the white console from sun. There was enough glare during the sea trial to interfere with my forward vision, but I’m nearsighted, so glare is often an issue for me. My sunglasses took care of the problem. Hinckley says it can design the boat with a darker or less reflective console top, if that’s what an owner wants.
Customization is a Hinckley hallmark. In fact, the first 40x was ordered with a lime-green hull. That’s not something you imagine when you think of a Hinckley, but customers can order what they want.
Visibility to port, starboard and aft on the 40x was excellent. Ventilation was phenomenal from the large side windows and huge overhead hatches. The ride was thrilling: Buoys were coming at me almost faster than I could process.
Meanwhile, guests relax in the lap of luxury. The 40x has two aft-facing commodore seats in the cockpit with footrests that rise at the push of a button. Controls for the Fusion stereo are right there, and a Sureshade deploys for protection from the sun. An optional Seakeeper gyrostabilizer can eliminate roll, while optional Wi-Fi and KVH TracVision satellite TV can keep everyone connected with the outside world.
Custom options on the 40x are almost endless. A fisherman can have a livewell with a window instead of the standard aft cooler for drinks, while a wine aficionado can add a 12-bottle chiller in the galley. A fisherman who likes to have the perfect wine with his catch can have both.
Inside, the layout of the 40x is a lot like the Picnic Boat 40. A V-shape lounge with a table in the bow converts to a queen berth, but on the 40x it happens by pushing one button. A galley is to port, and a head and shower are to starboard. And, because the 40x has outboard engines instead of inboards, what would have been an engine compartment is instead an aft cabin beneath the pilothouse. It has a double berth to starboard and, to port, a forward-facing seat beside a hull window that provides a view to the outside. It’s a great space for working on a laptop in the air conditioning while under way.
Using CZone technology, Hinckley gives owners a graphical display on twin 17-inch monitors at the helm to manage the electrical supply. The CZone system allows for full control, but also offers five pre-programmed modes to cover most situations. Depending on whether owners select day cruise, night cruise, at rest nighttime, at rest daytime or dock unattended, the CZone will select lights and take care of power management. At anchor, power is supplied by a Cummins Onan marine generator.
Docking, a maneuver that can instill fear in even some of the most grizzled boat handlers, is made easier with the bow thruster and Yamaha’s Helm Master joystick technology for full outboard control. Maintenance, too, should be easier than in the past thanks to molded composite artisanal teak that Hinckley has developed for previous models. The faux teak doesn’t require any varnishing—a simple washdown will do.
It may not fake out those shipwrights at Gannon & Benjamin, but with big outboards and no varnishing, Hinckley’s message is clear: Sport Boats are built to give their owners more time to go boating while still looking sharp.
This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue.
CORRECTION: The print edition of this story erroneously reported that Hinckley’s 2013 purchase of Hunt Yachts included Ray Hunt Design. Ray Hunt Design is an independently-owned design firm that offers a full range of design, naval architecture, and engineering services to the marine industry, commercial and military operators, private clients and manufacturers. Ray Hunt Design is not owned by the Hinckley Company.