Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hallberg Rassy 412 Review

A sophisticated Cruising Yacht
It was about a year ago that I heard Hallberg Rassy was developing a new aft cockpit 41 footer. Long known for their center cockpit boats, it seems that the venerable HR firm has made a commitment to this style, at least for their smaller models. I think a center cockpit boat needs to be at least 45 feet long to be truly good looking and practical, so in my opinion this is a healthy trend for them. If you visit the Hallberg Rassy web site (, which is where I got my information about this boat, you'll find that they now have a line of aft cockpit boats ranging from 31 feet to this new 41.

The HR 412 was designed by German Frers. Best known for his superyachts and Swan yachts, you might think Frers is an odd choice for a company that in the past has built its brand with fairly frumpy small center cockpit cruisers. I think it's an excellent choice because of all the designers they could have chosen, Frers is one who could imbue this type of boat with that ineffable sense of grace that has been his trademark throughout his career. That is evident in this newest HR and in the recently launched HR 64.

Let's start by taking a look at how this boat might perform. We can deduce a lot from looking at the outboard  profile and deck plan, which will give a good idea of the shape of the hull. Combine this with the boat's hull and rig dimensions and we can create a good estimate of what to expect from the HR 412 in terms of sailing performance.
Notice the long waterline, wide stern and the step-thru transom. With its tall rig, deep keel and powerful rudder, this boat  should be a fast passagemaker.

Here are some numbers:
LOA ................ 41.42'
LWL................ 37.75'
BMAX............. 13.50'
Draft................. 6.58'
Sail area............ 970 sq ft
BAL/DSP......... 36.2%
SA/DSP........... 18.45
DSP/L.............. 202

Heavy construction, deep bilge sump, powerful spade rudder.

Interpreting the numbers tells us that with a displacement/length ratio of 202, it is a bit heavier than most racer/cruisers  But the tall, 3-spreader rig and sail area/displacement ratio of 18.45 provides plenty of horsepower even for relatively light air. We can surmise from the distribution of volume below the waterline that the prismatic ratio is in the .54 range, which is fairly conservative. I would guess that there is plenty of flare in the aft sections of the hull so the boat will be well balanced when heeled in a breeze. With the stem angle at about 14 degrees from vertical, I'm confident that the bow near the waterline is finer than many cruising boats. Couple these features with the deep bulb keel and you have a package that will sail well to weather, with the weight and horsepower to punch into a head sea. The big mainsail and small jibs will enable the boat to reach at high speeds and if you noticed the masthead spinnaker, you know this boat will be quick downwind as well.

Going on deck, we find Hallberg Rassy's trademark windshield wrapped around the forward end of the cockpit. Way up north where they build HR-412, that windshield is a requirement for cruising, but given how much thought they have put into the design of this boat, I would like to see a bit more finesse in the windshield in the form of  some radii where the sharp corners are. I like the simple but efficient geometry of the cockpit, with its long seats and broad coamings. I also like the step-thru transom. This is an important convenience for getting aboard from a dinghy as well as fishing...all essential activities for cruisers.  The 412 sports non-overlapping jibs but fortunately eschewed a transverse jib track on the cabin top. This makes for a more versatile sailplan and reduces clutter on the foredeck. Aboard the Honcho, I had to modify the stemhead to accommodate a Manson anchor. This type of anchor is a vast improvement over the plows and danforths of yesteryear, so builders should make accommodations for that type of anchor.

Notice the Saildrive. They are becoming commonplace even on cruising yachts. This one is fitted with a three blade folding prop.

Hallberg Rassy offers a wide range of interior options so I scrolled through the various plans and chose the one I think works best for a cruising couple. Forward is a large stateroom with plenty of storage space and a private head. The head includes room for a washer/dryer, very convenient. The main salon includes a basic settee and dropleaf table arrangement. The settees are are big enough to serve as sea berths if fitted with lee cloths. There are deadlights in the hull adjacent to the settees, which add light and visibility. The galley, to port, is adequate but not enormous. A nice touch is the optional separate freezer. Opposite the galley is a smallish nav station. When you're on a cruise, the nav station serves many purposes aside from navigating. It is a desk, work table and sometimes an extra galley counter, so I like mine to be big, with a comfortable seat and plenty of room for all those small things that always find their way into the chart table and adjoining lockers.

Aft of the nav station is another head with space for a shower stall.  This will be a great place to hang wet foulies

I like this boat. It meets all my criteria for a good, solid, fast cruising yacht. I give it high marks for striking a finely tuned balance of performance and comfort. Aesthetically, the overall proportions of the boat should be pleasing to the eye, and that's important. Some might criticize the 'springiness' of the sheer on the 412. I think a little more tautness there might improve the boat's looks, but I'll reserve judgement on that until we see the boat. Sometimes what looks good on paper doesn't work out as well in reality.

The Hallberg Rassy 412 is scheduled to be launched later this year. I would put this on my short list of must-see boats.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hanse 415 Review

The new Hanse 415 has just recently been unveiled in Europe and will soon arrive in the USA. It is an all-new design by the firm of Judel-Vrolijk, which has a long string of successful racing yachts, as well as a number of production cruising yachts to its credit. The 415 follows the decidedly Teutonic styling of the other yachts in the Hanse lineup and I think there will be many who really like it, while others may find it a bit too quadrilateral. I fall into the second category.

Hanse 415

With its 13'-8" beam and 20,000 LB displacement, the Hanse 415 has a big, buxom hull with a plumb bow and nearly vertical transom. It’s a beamy boat and that beam is carried well aft. In fact, it’s nearly as wide at the transom as it is at the Bmax point. This hullform is becoming more common in cruising yachts and I think it makes for a very fast hull, but could be a handful to steer in quartering seas. Of course it provides a great deal of interior volume and that is probably an acceptable trade-off. The firm bilges, high freeboard and nearly flat sheer add to the visual bulk of the hull, but those factors also contribute to interior volume. Again, it’s a matter of balancing performance, accommodations and aesthetics. 

The keel and rudder of the Hanse 415 are deep and efficient foils and the torpedo shaped bulb is massive. I question the wisdom of such a keel on a cruising yacht. Snagging longlines, kelp and other underwater obstacles is not uncommon in many cruising grounds. More than once we sailed over or around them while cruising in Mexico and I would recommend not having such a keel if you’re headed south. Fortunately Hanse offers a more practical shape in their shoal keel.  I must say the bow thruster will be handy for the shorthanded crew when you’re trying to shoehorn your new 415 into a tight berth.

Notice the retractable bow thruster.

The profile view of the 415 shows a nicely proportioned cabin trunk.  The ports in the topsides provide light and a nice view from the salon, but there is no disguising the high freeboard. Notice the split bow pulpit, traditionalists may object but it is much more practical than the old style pulpits.

The sailplan of the 415 is excellent for cruising, especially if the main carries full battens and a ‘stackpack’ system as shown in the drawing, although I prefer the battens to be parallel to the boom so they fall perfectly into the pack when dousing or reefing the main. On the other hand, I’m not so fond of the bridle system in lieu of a real traveler. You can tweak this system to drive hard upwind, but a traveler is easier to manage.  I struggle with the idea of mid-boom sheeting. It’s not efficient, it requires lots of muscle, and it puts enormous loads on the boom and cabin top. On the other hand, it allows for a full dodger-bimini arrangement, which is very desirable in the tropics.

All of my recent designs have outboard chainplates, which limits the headsails to about 105%.  The Hanse 415 also incorporates this feature. The working jib on this boat actually sheets to a traveler just forward of the mast so it can be self tacking. I like that, as long as there is enough horsepower there to make the boat go in 5-8 knots of wind. Fortunately, the sailplan also shows a slightly larger headsail that sheets to tracks mounted on the cabin top. Self tacking is cool, but I prefer pulling in a bit of jib sheet on a slightly larger jib.

Hanse 415 carries its beam well aft. 

Judel and Vrolijk did a nice job with the cockpit. The very wide beam aft allows for spaciousness and sailing efficiency. Twin wheels mean that the helmsman can sit well outboard and drive the boat like Cayard while the rest of the crew relaxes in comfort behind the dodger. The cockpit seats are nearly long enough for a snooze and the cockpit table is big enough to manage all the refreshments the cruising crew might desire. Alas, the coamings, which appear to be broad and comfortable, are not. Someone down at Hanse, or possibly in the JV office thought it would be a good idea to lead the halyards and lifts right over the coamings to a gang of rope clutches at the back end of them. This was done ostensibly to make working the vessel more efficient for a shorthanded crew. Unfortunately this is a mistake. People sit on coamings. They put their drinks on them. They stand on them and use them for all manner of other purposes. If Hanse absolutely has to have those lines led aft to the back end of the coamings, why not put a cover over them?  As they are now, they are worse than useless.

Inconvenient cockpit coamings, but a nice back porch

The rest of the deck plan is fairly well thought out. There is a good-sized anchor locker with what appears to be a stout bow roller up forward. Again, I am amused that Hanse thoughtfully provided covers over the halyards and lifts on the cabin top, but not on the coamings. I wonder what they were thinking.

Let’s go below. Hanse offers a plethora of alternatives in the accommodations plan and I studied them all and chose the one I like best. It incorporates a large forward cabin with plenty of room to maneuver and storage space. The berth is pushed so far forward that it is quite narrow at the pointy end. I’d prefer to have it another 6 inches aft. This would allow for a larger anchor well and a more spacious berth at the cost of some closet space.

One of many possible accommodations plans.

The main cabin offers a spacious dinette to starboard and settee/desk to port. This apparently doubles as the nav station as well. I’m not fond of this arrangement. I think any yacht this size should have a dedicated nav station. It should have a good size chart table, plenty of space for navigation and communications equipment, and a comfortable seat. I also prefer it to be near the companionway.

Spacious Galley

The galley is spacious, with lots of counter and storage space. For a crew of two or three a single sink might be adequate, but I would prefer a double sink. Like the rest of this boat, the galley appears to be well finished with satin-varnished wood and faux granite counters. But the sharp corners and square lines remind me more of an apartment that a sailboat. This squared-off theme is carried throughout the boat and, while it’s clean-lined and simple to build, it seems a bit cold and uninteresting to me.

Designer appointments in the head.

I really like the large cargo hold aft of the galley. It is accessible from there and I presume from the cockpit too. It appears to have a small workbench and  space for sails, spares and other gear. This kind of space is very valuable on a cruising yacht.

The head is spacious and includes a separate shower stall. I like the location near the companionway, and that shower will make for a convenient wet-locker at sea. The apartment house theme is evident here, with the designer washbasin and lack of fiddles on the rather large counter.

Aft of the head, the large quarter-cabin incorporates what looks like a king-size berth and plenty of storage space. Notice the companionway steps. The engine lives under and behind them. It looks like access to the engine compartment is excellent. This is another thing that is very desirable on a cruising yacht. Easy access to filters and pumps is vital because you very often find yourself having to service them while underway, and it’s annoying at least, and possibly dangerous when the only real access to the engine involves moving the companionway steps.

I like this boat and think that with a few modifications it could be a comfortable cruising yacht. While the interior styling doesn’t work for me, for those who prefer a more cosmopolitan living environment, it could be just the ticket.