Sea Ray 680 Sun Sport

Sea Ray struts its finely developed stuff with the 680 Sun Sport.

Few boatbuilders invest as much in creating and testing new products as Sea Ray does at its product development and engineering facility in Merritt Island, Florida. The new 680 Sun Sport is proof the investment pays off. She is the most impressive product Sea Ray has introduced, establishing a new large-yacht standard for her builder and raising the bar for others in her class.

These days, the market for large sport yachts is specialized, yet active. The exterior play space and interior volume such designs afford, and their ability to cruise at high speeds, make them attractive to yachtsmen for whom time is precious. Sea Ray is not new to these waters. I tested the company's 630 Super Sun Sport in the early 1990s. When plans for the 680 hatched, the company organized customer focus groups. Many skipper their own boats and expressed a strong interest in reducing the hassles and headaches of command. Many also confessed that while they liked the sexy, low-slung, sport yacht look, the designs were at times impractical. Fussing with large areas of canvas when seeking shelter was viewed as a compromise on a million-dollar-plus ride.

In response, Sea Ray's design team created a curvaceous profile that incorporates a full bridge enclosure supported by a distinctive windshield and arch. While some enclosures appear as an afterthought, the 680's helps retain the look of an open boat. A 5-by-10-foot sunroof allows the owner the option of indulging in the benefits of such design. Other builders have dabbled with sunroof designs, but I have never seen one as well engineered and executed. With the push of a button, the carbon-fiber roof panel slides back or vents aft in a fashion common to automotive design. A semicircular glass bulkhead with a stainless-steel frame completes the enclosure, and sliding doors separate the bridge from the cockpit.

The 680's gelcoat exterior is beautifully detailed. Cleats, for example, are custom manufactured in stainless steel and are integrated in the toerail design. Gates in the cockpit coaming are provided for side boarding, and a stainless-steel passerelle deploys with the push of a button from a nest on the transom. A remote electronic unit in a cockpit locker controls the engines and bow thruster for stern-to docking. The teak-decked cockpit has a settee that converts to a sunpad. A transom gate allows access to the hydraulic water sports/tender platform, which can be raised or lowered and can accommodate a 15-foot tender. Transom lockers are provided for stashing lines and fenders.

Wide side decks allow easy passage from the 680's cockpit to her foredeck. Access to the chain locker and ground tackle system is at the bow, but the anchor can be deployed and retrieved remotely from the helm. There are well-thought-out shorepower service connections at the bow and stern, and an isolation transformer protects the electrical system from problems ashore.

The 680's enclosed bridge has a teak and maple sole and complements the belowdecks area with curved seating, a wet bar and an entertainment center with a 25-inch plasma-screen TV. Leather pilot and copilot seats are mounted on stainless-steel pedestals and seem infinitely adjustable. There is also a companion benchseat. A passageway leads belowdecks to the saloon and galley. One sofa section can be rotated inboard to form more intimate seating or a dining area. A 42-inch plasma-screen TV is mounted on the bulkhead. The master stateroom with private head is forward of the saloon, and the VIP stateroom with private head is aft. A smaller stateroom adjacent to the VIP would be ideal for two kids or overnight guests.

Fit and finish is exceptional, the best I have seen from Sea Ray. High-gloss, burl wood joinery, along with cherry wood flooring, hand-painted tile, and high-end fixtures and hardware, contribute to the 680's custom feel.

Crew's quarters for two, including an enclosed head and shower, are abaft the machinery space and accessible from the cockpit. A combination washer/dryer serves as a nightstand. Americans likely will opt for the utility room layout, which has a larger washer and separate dryer.

A computer defined the 680's hull and superstructure, and Sea Ray's five-axis router sculpted plugs for both. The hull is built with stitched multidirectional fiberglass reinforcement, and balsa-coring stiffens the hull bottom, topsides and superstructure. All core materials are vacuum-bagged. A network of fiberglass longitudinal stringers, balsa-cored fiberglass bulkheads and balsa-cored fiberglass ring frames on 50-inch centers provides internal stiffening. Ring frames are bonded with fiberglass to the hull and superstructure. The hull-deck joint is also bonded with fiberglass. This stout approach to structural design produces the required strength and stiffness without relying on interior cabinetwork and partitions for support.

The 680's machinery space is accessed through a hatch in the cockpit. A pair of Caterpillar 3412TAs was custom outfitted to include a stylish trim package and the Sea Ray logo. Sea strainers with transparent covers are mounted neatly on the front of the engines, and an oil change system services both engines and the 25 kW generator. Access is good, and the bilges are neat and finished.

Sea Ray invested heavily in the 680's systems design in an effort to keep boaters boating. A common drain system funnels gray water to a pair of sumps in the machinery space, minimizing through-hull fittings. A central freshwater manifold is easily accessible, and the 120 VAC freshwater pump is fitted with a 12 VDC backup pump that kicks in automatically if AC power is lost. The waste system is designed with redundancy, as well. The 680 also is equipped with Cruisair's modular rack-mounted, chilled-water air-conditioning system.

It is clear the 680 is well designed to compete in an international market, a goal Sea Ray achieved while emphasizing dependability and ease of operation. The price, including electronics, a watermaker and a long list of goodies, is about $2,653,000.

Contact: Sea Ray Boats Inc., (800) SR-BOATS, (865) 522-4181; fax (865) 971-6423; www.searay.com.