Highfield Boats specialise in building functional, offshore-styled, alloy-hulled RIBs. In this review, PBR correspondent Barry Thompson tests the merits of the company’s latest Sport 700 and discovers an ultra-deep-vee RIB of great diversity.

French/Chinese boat manufacturer Highfield Boats claim they are the largest builder of alloy RIBs in the world. With 43 models spread over five prime ranges, the company says it produces an astonishing 10,000 boats per annum. In fact, it has been developing its luxury Sport range for over nine years and now offers 16 models ranging from 3m to 9m in length. The 2023 Sport 700 is one of Highfields’s very newest, and while benefiting from a deluxe internal upgrade, it retains that same efficient, seagoing, powder-coated alloy hull and Hypalon sponson combination that has become so integral to the brand.

Centre console RIBs are a design classification in their own right, having become by far the most popular form of RIB within the global 5m to 10m market. Highfield’s Sport range comprises eight centre console models, each following a similar design, albeit the layout of each is determined by the internal area relevant to each model.

Features and layout

Highfield 700 Sport 20

Good footrest position and adjustable helm seating.

The Sport 700 has an internal beam of close to 1.5m and an internal length of 5m. This means there’s plenty of real estate available! To best utilise the space, the console is wide enough to allow room on either side to transit to and from the bow. The deck’s forward section features a V-shaped settee with a large storage locker beneath. It was good to note that gas struts had been fitted to this unit to take the effort out of opening the heaviest hatches. With the squab infill provided, you can transform the entire forward deck area into one big sun pad. However, if you’re more interested in fishing than acquiring a tan, with the squabs removed, the foredeck transforms into an ideal casting platform.

Bow seating and storage.

Bow seating and storage.

The central seat fitted to the front of the console is hinged for access to the additional storage found within. The console seat is then ideally placed when the foredeck removable table is set in place. A separate anchor locker with flush-mounted fairlead, recessed lights and a drop-down cleat to its pulpit is a very likable feature too. Owners will appreciate this when using the foredeck as a boarding platform. No more stubbed toes!

Highfield 700 Sport

A good size perspex screen offing adequate protection from the elements.

While the test boat was fitted with a single Garmin Echomap Ultra, there is sufficient space within the helm console dash for a pair of 12in MFD screens. Also included on the test boat’s technical list was a Fusion head unit, a Yamaha Command Link display and an Icom VHF radio.  A high-quality electronics package of this type is perfectly adequate to serve most needs.

Highfield 700 Sport aerial view

Great deck space with ample seating

Further to the helm, I liked the position of the footrest and the fact that I could move the helm seat to suit my driving position. Seated or standing, the option is therefore yours, with the Perspex screen affording plenty of wind protection in the process (though no bimini was fitted to this boat, it is an optional extra that can be ordered). 

Anchor fairlead and LED lights.

Anchor fairlead and LED lights.

There is dedicated seating for five people in the self-draining cockpit comprising a pair of forward bucket seats and a full-width aft bench seat. The aft seat is then hinged for access to the technical space and storage within. In addition to the removable table, drinks holders are plentiful and internal LED lighting illuminates the deck’s EVA teak surfaces.

Highfield 700 Sport

Solid rear hinged bench seat.

Retractable swimming ladder

Retractable swimming ladder

Onboard shower

Onboard shower

Detailing to the upholstery

Detailing to the upholstery

LED light feature to bow

LED light feature to bow.

As for the aft deck, this features a pair of storage lockers and a robust powder-coated alloy tow mount complete with a stern-mounted light. Either side of the outboard are located two small boarding steps with a drop-down stainless ladder to port. Besides the heavy-duty rubbing strake and a keel guard protection strip fitted as standard, all Highfield Sport RIBs have davit lifting eyes installed.

Inset fuel filter.

Inset fuel filter.

Performance and handling

Few production boats on the market boast such a deep-vee hull as the Sport 700. In fact, at 26 degrees, I’d describe it as an ultra-deep vee. This significantly benefits the boat’s performance through rougher seas and makes for a more sea-kindly ride. In fact, the boat eats chop for dinner, and thanks to its strong, robust construction, it’s capable of taking plenty of punishment if called upon to do so.

Highfield 700 Sport Yamaha 200

The Highfield’s alloy construction affords the vessel ultimate rigidity and stiffness. But fear not, its metal construction does not produce any ‘tinnie’ slap, and throughout our test, no wave impact could be detected resonating through the structure. To all intents and purposes, and from a user’s perspective, there is little or no difference between the alloy and the equivalent GRP in terms of hull noise. But from a sustainability standpoint, one advantage aluminium most certainly has over GRP is that it can be recycled ad infinitum.

Highfield 700 Sport

Due to the RIB’s ‘non-radical’ design type, its tube-to-hull relationship ensures the type of stability at rest most people would seek when contemplating a rigid inflatable. Despite the Sport 700’s ultra-deep-vee hull form, at rest, the aft section of the tube/sponson sits in contact with the waterline, but then once underway, the hull’s hydrodynamics lifts the tubes sufficiently so as not to incur undue drag.

 

Garmin Echomap Ultra is fitted with adequate space for a pair of screens.

Garmin Echomap Ultra is fitted with adequate space for a pair of screens.

VHF radio and Fusion head unit.

VHF radio and Fusion head unit.

The hull’s high-lift, reverse-chine design, the rubbing strake’s downward-contoured leading edge and the bow’s raised sheer and fine entry all combine to produce a dry ride. This attribute is even more relevant in the case of the Sport 700, as the helm console windscreen is not a large wrap-around affair.

While the Highfield Sport 700 is rated for single outboards from as low as 115hp through to those with a maximum of 250hp, the Yamaha F200 fitted to our test boat proved a very likable option. At flat-water full throttle, we hit 41 knots on the GPS, which means that for family and water sports use, this maximum speed will deliver the necessary thrill factor while remaining within sensible bounds. Fuel burn was around 75Lph, which by my estimation gives something in the order of a 150nm range. That said, if you reduce the throttle down to 30 knots, in line with the engine’s cruising ‘sweet spot’ of 4500rpm, the fuel burn drops to a very acceptable 35.8Lph and the range jumps to 225nm.

Highfield 700 Sport

The 2023 Highfield Sport 700 is a fine example of how versatile RIBs can be. It’s a boat that’s equally at home performing the role of a tender to a larger vessel, a family sports craft or an adventure-styled day boat with offshore capability. Thanks to its construction, it’s reasonably light on the trailer to tow and fulfils the functions of a highly versatile craft. Well-appointed and nicely finished, the Highfield Sport 700 scores pretty highly in my book.

Performance & Fuel DataSpecifications

  • Year launched: 2022
  • LOA: 6.99m
  • Beam (external): 2.93m
  • Beam (internal): 1.70m
  • Deadrise (transom): 26 degrees
  • Tube diameter: 565mm
  • Trailerable weight: 2500kg (approx.)
  • Max. speed: 41 knots
  • Construction: Aluminium/Hypalon
  • Fuel capacity: 285L
  • Water capacity: 40L
  • Engine: Yamaha F200
  • Max. power: 250hp
  • Flooring: EVA MFD: Garmin Echomap Ultra

Price

  • As tested: £91,242.85

Contact

www.highfieldboats.com

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