Written By Bob Brown
Dry Land Evaluation : Chris Hamlin of Prestige Marine, Aaron Fluent of Absolute Speed and Marine
Photos by : Dusty Wooddell (Primary) / Andrew Ruzek (Secondary) / Bob Brown (Back Up)


"Live the Legend" sets the bar pretty high for a performance boat builder, but Hallett has been doing it for nearly six decades. In particular, their 240 and 270 models became family sportboat icons in the industry, achieving legendary status among owners and the recipient of countless awards for excellence from leading boating publications of that era. And, as boater preferences for bigger and even more luxurious models evolved, Hallett naturally followed suit, introducing an all-new 290-S in early 2012 in three different configurations: a conventional closed deck w/forward cabin, a mid-cabin bowrider, and awalk-thru bowrider to satisfy the widest possible range of boating habits.

Right from the start, let's discuss what sets the Hallett 290-S apart from the rest of the step-vees out there. The modern-day ventilated step-vee trend began over twenty years ago. It's difficult to determine which manufacturer was genuinely "first" since stepped vees have been around in one form or another dating back to pre-World War II days, but certainly Fountain did the best job of promoting it. The basic concept of a ventilated step-bottom makes sense, sculpt pockets into the design of the outer hull chines which directs a flow of air under the hull as speed increases. This induction of air helps break up the natural surface tension (friction causing) bond between water and hull bottom. The stream of air flowing under the hull, mixed with water,results in less friction thus improving efficiency and speed.


Where things sometimes go awry, however,are in the details. The depth, size, shape and placement of the ventilating steps are understandably critical in how the hull will actually perform. It isn't as easy as just randomly placing where the steps go, or how big or what size they need to be to gain a true performance advantage. And this is where some boat manufacturers in the past have run into trouble. Basically, all step-vees are not created equal.

Hallett decided to take a more calculated and scientific approach in bringing its 290-S to market.They enlisted the services of renown naval architect and marine engineer, Michael Peters from Sarasota, Florida, an award winning boat and yacht designer contributing to 13 offshore racing world championships and more than 200 UIM (Union of International Motorboating) Class I victories since the 1980s. What Hallett was looking for in the new 290-S was simply a better handling, more efficient step-vee design that was both easy and fun to drive minus the turning jitters that sometimes accompany this more design-sensitive style of hull configuration. Judging by the results of our test evaluation, Peters had just the answer.


Having recently completed an approved vee-hull design for high speed military offshore patrol boats, Peters quickly adapted those important design elements into a new 29-foot running surface for the Hallett 290-S. Hallett subsequently dubbed the new patented bottom "V2D" to describe the unique twin reverse strakes flanking the center delta keel pad at the stern. The idea is to give the twin ventilated step hull with 22.5 degrees of dead rise an extra measure of "grip to the water" created by the area between the two reverse strakes closest to the keel. The design is intended to deliver greater straight-line tracking consistency at all on-plane speeds and more "hold" in the turns. And we agree, the V2D concept works. It's clean running, rolls up on a plane with remarkably little bow rise and hugs the water in a turn more like a well-mannered conventional vee hull than a typical step-vee.


Hallett lists the approximate weight of its 290-S mid-cabin bowrider model at 5,800 pounds less passengers and fuel, a sizable sum for a single engine model under 30-foot. Hallett will never be accused of skimping on material or building a boat that's anything less than solid. As anticipated, the 290-S lived up to all expectations in workmanship, a masterpiece of construction utilizing balsa core reinforcements, four full length wood stringers and multiple layers of biaxial and tri-axial woven cloth adhered together by vinyl-ester resins.

This particular 290-S is a showroom model which if not sold prior, will likely wind up at the 2015 L.A.Boat Show in mid-February. Hallett decided to power it with one of Mercury Racing's new 540 engine packages including the standard Bravo One XR drive, a great selection for this model since the 8.6 liter (523 cubic inch) displacement is a torque monster. Even with a 28 pitch Hill Signature four-blade propeller, zero to 50 mph acceleration was strong, just slightly over 13 seconds (0-30 mph in 7.08 seconds and an additional 6.40 seconds for the 30 to 50 mph climb). The only minor flaw noted during low end (800 to 1200 rpm range) acceleration was a momentary engine stumble which felt (by the seat-of-the-pants) to possibly be a slight over-rich condition,something easily adjusted with a laptop and Mercury's latest engine diagnostic software.


At normal cruise speeds (in the 30 to 45 mph range) the 290-S was comfortable and at ease. No tugging, no bow steer, no porpoise, just easy to drive like a weekend of boating should be. The sweet spot for the trim range is just slightly on the positive side of dead neutral. Characteristic of ventilated step-vee designs, using excessive positive trim angles in an attempt to raise the bow did not improve performance, it only hurt it. Step-vees by design are intended to have a flatter ride attitude than conventional vee-bottoms. Keeping the line of propulsion approximately parallel with the keel delivered consistently good performance. The hull didn't feel heavy, nor did it exhibit any tendency for propeller blow-out (excessive slip) in the turns or during hammer-down acceleration even from idle speed to rapid on-plane. Based on this experience, the 290-S ought to deliver excellent tow boat capabilities for recreational wake boarding.


The one characteristic of ventilated step-vees I've never been fond of is their turning reliability. On occasion, some have been known to surprise you with an unexpected maneuver if you're not on your game as a driver. Hallett's V2D configuration, however, appears to have put that concern to rest. Try as I might, slow, medium or fast, tight, arcing or sweeping, the 290-S was well mannered and predictable with only a moderate amount of lean to the inside when cornering. It was a good comfortable feel. No white knuckles on the steering wheel, just point it in the direction you want to go and it takes you there.


The 290-S also comes standard equipped with a set of Lenco electric 16" x 12" trim tabs. Adjustable tabs are always a nice feature to have at your disposal if needed,but this vee-bottom seemed pretty indifferent to their function. It rides and handles just fine with them in the full up position. Maybe in rougher water where you want to really tuck the bow to the waves or swells, these tabs would be a plus, but under normal lake or river conditions, not so much. One small adjustment is recommended,however, to improve helm ergonomics,the tab button panel at the lower right side next to the steering wheel is not the most driver-friendly location for these switches.


If you check out the PEF (propulsion efficiency factor) graph, you'll notice the 290-S delivers particularly high marks starting at 45 mph and up. By the time it reaches a radar measured maximum speed of 77.9 mph, it has an impressive PEF of 85% (only 15% propeller slip), excellent performance for a 29-foot single engine powered vee. Again, the optimum drive trim range is pretty narrow. Once you find it, which isn't hard, you're not going to want to deviate much from it except when getting on plane. The behind the wheel feel is definitely solid. Don't worry about chine walk, there isn't any,at least up to the near 80 mph as tested. Water conditions during testing were flat so there's no conclusive way to evaluate rough water ride or handling, but the 290-S didn't display any indication of distress or stability inconsistencies while crisscrossing back and forth through wakes generated during our aggressive slalom and turning exercises.


Undeniably, one of Hallett's strongest selling points over the many years has been its quality fit, finish and luxurious interiors and the 290-S didn't disappoint. The iconic Hallett teak and holly flooring with snap in-carpet kit is always a distinctive eye-catcher... it just looks classy. And Hallett enhances that feeling with some of the richest and most plushly padded upholstery to be found in the custom sportboat industry. It's a little like lounging on your favorite living room sofa. The only thing missing is the big-screen plasma TV. And if you're wondering, Hallett does all their interiors in house. The bucket seats, lounges in the bowrider and mid-cabin,and the aft bench are flawlessly sewn with tasteful accent vinyl colors to coordinate with equally classic hull graphics. If you're looking for the batteries, look under the aft bench base, not the most accessible place, but they are down low keeping the hull CG where it needs to be and the built-in battery charger and what Hallett calls "NASCAR style jumper poles" are a cool touch.


The 290-S interior lay-out is conventional for a mid-cabin bowrider. What isn't so standard,however, is Hallett is uber generous in providing strategic grab handles along the gunnels, behind the bucket seats, in the bowrider section plus a sturdy stainless steel hand railings on both sides of the cabin entryway. If a passenger feels the need to hang-on, a secure handle or rail is never out of reach. Hallett has also learned along the way that active boaters need places to stow things, lots of things. Water sports enthusiasts will appreciate the roomy in-floor locker in the bowrider area which is more than ample in size to accommodate several wakeboards, a tow rope and a few vests. The mid-cabin has a built-in module on the starboard side intended for a large-sized removable ice chest and is fully accessible without having to lift or move a seat cushion, a great idea. Gunnel storage compartments are also in abundance and even the back sides of the bucket seats have elastic netting at-the-ready to hold small personal items like sun glasses or cell phones. And never worry about finding a place to set-down your on-board beverage because the 290-S comes with no less than 15 cup holders...we counted them.


If you take a tally on seating capacity,the mid-cabin bowrider version of the 290-S is good for at least 10 to 12 adults, and that's without crowding. The mid-cabin is especially nice since it affords plenty of sit-full-upright headroom (even our 6'5" co-pilot was okay) and both entryways have locking sliding doors for complete privacy. In the main cockpit, driver and passenger comfort is definitely enhanced thanks to a wrap-around smoked acrylic windshield, uniquely made up of five sturdy pieces and joined together without using metal posts. The windshield does a lot more than just look pretty, it significantly diverts high speed wind-blast up and over the heads of passengers and driver. On an extended day of cruising, this feature will be fully appreciated.


If you're wondering if Hallett does"bells and whistles", just open the engine hatch. The under side of the hatch is fully fiberglassed and gelcoated to match the exterior hull motif. If this doesn't impress dockside on-lookers, nothing will. Engine compartment rigging is also up to Hallett's high standards, nothing fancy, just clean, simple and very functional.

Although it may not seem like a big deal, it is when you're a boat owner and have storage areas that never want to completely dry. Normally this is caused by a lack of drainage from lockers into the bilge. The 290-S doesn't have that problem. Drains are built-in to every storage compartment making sure excess water winds up where it can be easily pumped-out.


Assuming you're in the market for a beautiful multi-purpose family sportboat like the 290-S, you're looking at a retail price tag of about $135,000 (excluding trailer)with the 540 Mercury package. If you think you can get by with a 520 Mercury option (probably only a couple of miles an hour less on the top end and no polished stainless steel CMI headers) it will save you about $5,600. If you go in the other direction and want to up grade to the 565 Mercury motor, add about $5,600 to the $135,000 price. Whichever package you select, there's no way to go wrong.


Manufacturer: Hallett Boats
Model: 290-S V2D Mid-Cabin bowrider
Hull type: V2D V-bottom
Length (centerline w/swim platform): 28' 6"
Beam: 102"
Deadrise at transom: 22.5 degrees
Weight (approx. total as tested): 5,800lbs.
Fuel capacity: 115 gal.
Price (base suggested retail, excludingtrailer): $135,000
Price (as tested): $143,000


AM/FM stereo w/single CD player & 4 speakers, dual batteries w/switch, electric engine hatch lift, electric trim tabs w/indicators, integrated fiberglass swim step w/-step ladder, smoked acrylic windshield, teak and holly flooring w/removable carpet inserts, tilt steering helm.


A showroom model, additional equipment would be added per buyer request.


Manufacturer (engine): Mercury Racing 540
Number of engines: one
Cylinder type: V-8
Cubic inch displacement: 523 c.i.(8.6L)
Max rated PSHP @ RPM: 540 PSHP @ 5400rpm
Propulsion type: Mercury Stern Drive Bravo XR
Gear ratio: 1.50: 1
Propeller make: Hill Marine/Signature
Propeller blades: Four S/S
Propeller diameter x pitch: 15.625" x28"


Top speed @ Max RPM (radar): 77.9 mph @5350rpm
Top speed @ Max RPM (GPS): 77.6 mph @5350rpm


0-30 mph: 7.08 sec.
30-50mph: 6.40 sec.
50- WOT: 15.20 sec.

acceleration-graph hallett-290-page-001.jpg

RPM @ Speed and PEF (propellerefficiency factor)

1000rpm @ 6.1 mph = 34%
2000rpm @ 16.8 mph = 45%
3000rpm @ 31.3 mph = 59%
3500rpm @ 45.5 mph = 74%
4000rpm @ 54.2 mph = 77%
4500rpm @ 61.6 mph = 78%
5000rpm @ 72.3 mph = 82%
WOT: 5350rpm@ 77.9 mph = 85%

boat test-graph hallett-290-page-001.jpg

SCORE CARD (subjective ratings/opinions by test team)

LEVEL 1 (rating scale, 1=least, 10=best)

Hull/mold: 10.0 - typical Hallett, straight and clean
Construction: 9.0 - solid throughout, maybe even a little over-built. Wood stringersand transom.
Rigging/installation: 8.5 - simple and sanitary. Maybe replace zip-ties with stainless Adelclamps in a few places. Also, do us a favor and add one more cleatfurther aft for easier tie-up.
Interior/upholstery: 10.0 - soft, plush and comfortable. Hallett upholstery is the bomb
Innovations/unique features:9.0 - V2D bottom sets a high standard for the step-vee market, verycool five-panel windshield, teak and holly flooring with snap-incarpet is a trademark stand-out. Great gelcoat finish on theunderside of the engine hatch.
Driveability: 9.5 - Exceptionally easy on-plane, narrow trim range in upper speedrange, trim tabs only needed for rough water and specific uses likewakeboarding or wake surfing. Love the way it turns.
Attitude/set: 9.0 - rides relatively level/neutral at speed. No porpoise. Set it andforget it.
Turning/slalom/handling: 10.0 - hard pressed to find any v-bottom that will out-turn it.
Acceleration (low speed):9.0 - will handle a load, very good visibility coming on-plane.
Acceleration (mid-range): 9.5 - lots of torque combined with efficient hull design.
Acceleration (high end): 9.0 - pulls hard and quick to max rpm.
Performance (low speed): 7.0 - normal idle speed single stern drive wander. Mayfair hydraulicsteering helm was unusually stiff in the tilted up position, okaywhen level.
Performance (mid-range): 9.0 - cruising at its best.
Performance (high end): 9.0 - Not like other step-bottom vees, just better.
Suitable purpose/function: 9.0 - hard not to like everything about it.

LEVEL 2 (rating scale, 1=least, 5=best)

Gelcoat/graphics: 4.5 - straight pins and excellent blends, classic graphics.
Helm/instrumentation: 3.5 - both analog gauges and Mercury Vessel View engine monitor. Deduct a point for difficult access to Lenco trim tab switches ondash.
Comfort/ergonomics: 4.5 - Seating is great, mid-cabin is surprisingly roomy and lockable. Integrated swim platform is a bit high out of the water, butconcealed boarding ladder improves access.
Amenities/storage: 5.0 - great utilization of available space on-board.
Engine serviceability: 5.0 - well planned and executed. Hallett makes things easy to service.
Cockpit noise level: 4.0 - Engine compartment does a better than average job of shieldingengine noise, even with CMI headers.
Cockpit wind factor: 4.5 - close the cabin door and let the wrap-around windshield do therest. Comfortable ride in main cockpit.
Appropriate power: 5.0 - the Mercury Racing 540 is a brute, but civilized.
Tracking: 4.0 - very good at speed with drive trim position at neutral orslightly positive angle. Typical stern drive wander at no wakespeeds.
Lateral stability: 4.5 - steady and secure, no chine walk.

SCORECARD TALLY: 181.0 out of apossible 200 max


To read more and hear what people are saying about Hallett's new 290 Please click HERE to visit our forums and read the thread about this test and the boat.

Hallett Boats
4800 Rivergrade Road
Irwindale, CA 91706