Hanse 400 Boat Review
Designed by German firm Judel/Vrolijk & Co., this racer-cruiser offers good performance and is easy to sail.
The Hanse 400 is a cruising boat for those who love to sail, and a club racer for those who enjoy a summer cruise. Its construction quality and price point qualify it as a cost-effective alternative in the 40-footer marketplace. In comparison to mainstream production cruising boats, the Hanse 400 is an absolute performance standout, not only in its ability under sail, but in its ease of operation.
The Hanse 400 presents the image of a well-trained athlete—strong, capable, and legitimately deserving of its billing as a "crossover" sailboat. In keeping with Hanse’s performance-oriented design philosophy, the 400 has been exactingly engineered to deliver a blend of performance attributes and cruising comfort. The result is an easy-to-handle, spirited racer-cruiser that packs plenty of cabin space and amenities into its beamy hull.
Designer Judel/Vrolijk & Co. is a cutting-edge firm that opened its doors in 1978. With America’s Cup winner Alinghi, Admiral’s Cup victories, Volvo Ocean Race designs, and a pet project for the King of Spain on the roster—not to mention its mega-yacht design business—Judel/Vrolijk’s star has risen. Part of its success has been linked to the company’s embracing modern computer-design technology, using both 2-D and 3-D CAD programs. Spending time 3-D modeling a new design keeps unwanted shop floor surprises to a minimum. Things like locker doors, engine room space, and table heights end up with the clearance that they need in order to function according to plan.
The team at Hanse conceived the interior design of the 400 and worked with Judel/Vrolijk designers to define a sailboat with comfortable accommodations and the sailing ability that Hanse production boats have become known for. At the heart of the success is a canoe body shape with a clean entry, full beam, and flat sections aft that make the boat look more like a racer than a cruiser. When the modest keel appendage is attached, the race-boat theme is greatly subdued, however, with 952 square feet of working sail area, this modern racer-cruiser plays well at both games.
The logic behind choosing an easy-to-sail performance cruiser makes perfect sense for many sailors. Considering the soaring price of diesel and the light winds that prevail along much of the U.S. coast during the summer sailing season, there is a distinct advantage to having a boat that can turn 6 to 8 knots of true wind speed into a fun sail.
The Hanse 400’s wide beam, carried well aft, delivers plenty of initial stability, allowing the vessel to stand up to the heeling moment induced by its sizable sail plan. The ballast—iron keel and lead bulb—is listed as weighing 6,426 pounds. The low placement of lead also lowers the boat’s center of gravity (CG), increasing its secondary righting moment. Those looking to maximize stability can shave 1,000 pounds by ordering the epoxy-resin laminated hull along with the deep-draft (6 feet, 5 inches) configuration. This combination provides a positive-stability limit of over 120 degrees. The boat is certified to ISO Category A "Offshore" standard and built to Germanischer Lloyd GL Yacht Plus standards, giving the buyer confidence in the quality of construction and design.
A major factor in designing wide-transom boats is to keep the stern from submerging, which causes drag to increase. Many sailboats achieve this at anchor but once sailing to weather, the infamous transom gurgle reveals that the hull has dug a hole in the water and drag has dampened performance. The Hanse 400 leaves a nimble wake, and the slightly elevated transom stays clear of the surface even as the breeze increases. Its long waterline and flat run aft generate a minimal amount of wave making, another sure sign of an efficient hull shape.
One of the most noticeable deck features on the Hanse 400 is the sculpted deck plates that cover halyards, self-tacking jib sheet, topping lift, and other lines led aft. This arrangement keeps the coach roof clear and unencumbered. The self-tacking, 90-percent blade jib is easy to handle, and its single sheet means that there’s no sheet swapping during a tack. The ability to set 952 square feet of working sail area and not have to deal with an overlapping genoa is a big plus for those who sail shorthanded. The 562-square-foot mainsail may seem daunting, but with lazy jacks or a Dutchman sail-flaking system, and appropriately run reefing lines, the mainsail handling routine becomes very user-friendly.
The deck, cockpit, and cabin house work together to provide an ergonomic sailing platform. Absent is the feeling that the deck configuration is a result of excess emphasis on accommodations crammed belowdecks. The Hanse we sailed had attractive teak side decks, but a nonskid gelcoat finish is also available. The nonskid option—which PS highly recommends—saves the buyer about $8,000, lessens maintenance, and has about twice the longevity of teak.
Hanse believes that one interior design doesn’t fit all, and consequently provides different cabin configurations. The 400 is divided into three cabin segments—fore cabin, saloon, and aft cabin—and there are mix-and-match alternatives for each area. For example, in the forward owner’s cabin, you can swap extra locker space for a second head and move the centerline double berth more to port. The main saloon can be set up with a dinette to starboard and a settee/sea berth to port, or an owner can eliminate the sea berth and opt for two built-in arm chairs and a small side table in the same location. The aft configuration allows for either small side-by-side cabins or a single cabin and a storage area.
The Hanse 400 is not a long-term liveaboard sailboat, but it is fine for summer cruises or participating in yacht club point-to-point races or cruises. The tight turn of the bilge and open layout leave less room for storage. The two-burner stove and modest tankage volume are in keeping with the theme of a racer-cruiser that won’t be bogged down by too much gear and equipment. This doesn’t mean that a run to Bermuda or a fast trip to Hawaii are out of the question; in fact, this is a boat that would take such summer passagemaking in stride and get the crew there in a hurry.
The woodwork is computer-cut, finished, and nearly completely assembled prior to placement in the boat. Flat, smooth surfaces coated with spray-applied, matte-finish urethane offset the white gelcoat and Corian countertops, adding an open and spacious feel to the cabin. The L-shaped galley has all the basics—stove/oven, sink, and refrigerator—and is nicely finished, but counter space may be a little lacking for the seagoing gourmet. Again, this is in keeping with the boat’s lean-and-mean mission statement.
The cabin sole is a faux teak-and-holly plastic veneer that’s visually appealing and quite durable. There’s a Euro minimalist design that balances form and function and eliminates wood trim and complex, costly joinery work. The engineers and designers seem to have collaborated on how to build an aesthetic yet cost-effective interior, and it’s offered it in either a dark mahogany or a light birch finish, both of which are appealing.
In comparison to mainstream production cruising boats, the Hanse 400 is an absolute performance standout, not only in its ability under sail, but in its ease of operation. On the boat we sailed, setting sail was simplified by the Dutchman flaking system, a set of control lines attached to an adjustable topping lift that guides the sail efficiently from its boom-stowed position to full hoist and back down again. The 390-square-foot furling working jib rolls up and unrolls effortlessly, and it’s self-tending nature makes tacking a breeze.
All it takes is a simple turn of the wheel to test how ruggedly a sailboat has been built, and whether or not an effective monocoque structure has been achieved. By tacking through the eye of a 15-knot breeze, the momentary flail of the mainsail causes some boats to shake like a wet terrier, and as they settle onto a new tack, all types of squeaks and groans punctuate the silence. The Hanse 400 neither squeaked nor groaned, and while heading into the wind with the large mainsail enduring a momentary flutter, the vessel showed no sign of telltale twisting or bending.
The semi-balanced spade rudder offers finger-tip steering thanks to a large wheel and the smooth, Jefa drag-link design steering system that nests just under the cockpit sole. This design allows for watertight integrity to be maintained between the upper and lower rudder-stock bearings, preventing water from seeping into the accommodations. The downside is the exposure to seawater that the drag-link system and autopilot drive must endure. These components are either well-sealed or made of corrosion-resistant metal, mitigating the effect of occasional dousing.
One of the big plusses is its sailplan. The tall mast, with a big mainsail and a small blade jib, delivers good all-around sailing ability without the need to wrestle a massive genoa on the foredeck. When the breeze goes from 12 to 18 knots, a reef is easily tucked in the mainsail and the inefficiency of a partially rolled up, bulky genoa is eliminated. The resulting wide wind range in which one headsail can be used is a plus, but the crew needs to make sure that they are well practiced in mainsail reefing. For those craving responsiveness in light air and ease of sail handling, there’s a neat retractable stem head extension that serves as a tack for a code zero or asymmetric spinnaker, which can also be roller-deployed for convenience. Add well-planned sheet leads and a cockpit set up for efficient shorthanded sailing, and it becomes clear why the boat is so enjoyable to sail.
A 40-horsepower saildrive Yanmar diesel is neatly tucked in a box beneath the companionway steps. With the assistance of a couple of gas cylinders, the ladder, and sound-dampened engine box easily lift out of the way. This lift-the-hood look at the engine affords great access to key components, not always the case aboard sailboats in this size range. The three-cylinder diesel runs smoothly, and the saildrive eliminates all shaft rumble noise. The trade-off is the need to pay close attention to zincs, and to take care to avoid introducing stray current or galvanic corrosion when installing any electrical equipment.
The Hanse 400 is a cruising boat for those who love to sail, and a club racer for those who enjoy a summer cruise. Its construction quality and price point qualify it as a cost-effective alternative in the 40-footer marketplace. The vessel has the right set of attributes for the light-air conditions of the bays and sounds of the Northeast, Southern California, and Gulf Coast, but will feel right at home on the more blustery bodies of water such as San Francisco Bay. In short, this is a capable performer that offers a lot of bang for the buck.