Hallberg Rassy 42
A top-quality production boat, proven as an offshore passagemaker—with a few bits and pieces that cause concern.
European boats exported to the United States are generally of above-average quality, simply because the associated costs of marketing and shipping are more easily absorbed in higher cost products. Examples include the Trintella from the Netherlands, Bavaria from Germany, and Hallberg Rassy from Sweden. These last are exclusively cruising boats—expensive, but considered by most to be well-made.
Hallberg Rassy is the result of two yards and two men who were never partners. Harry Hallberg, born in 1914, opened his first yard in Kungsviken, Sweden, in the 1940s. Largely self-taught, his first boats were built of wood. His first series-built design was the Folkboat. Hallberg began using fiberglass in 1963. He died in 1997.
Like Hallberg, Christoph Rassy was brought up near the water, on Starnberger See, in the south of Germany. Also like the man whose name would eventually be joined to his, he began building boats as a youth. In 1962 he sought work building boats in Sweden and moved there with his only significant possession, a bicycle. When he wasn't working he built a variety of boats for himself, some of which he successfully raced, and later sold.
When Hallberg outgrew his yard in Kungsviken and moved to a larger facility in Ellös, Rassy bought the old yard. The two men were competitiors from 1965 to 1972. Rassy's first production boat was the Rasmus 35. It was first built of mahogany, later in fiberglass, but always with the distinctive windshield, which remains a trait of all Hallberg Rassy designs. The Rasmus was designed by Olle Enderlein. Enderlein also was designing boats for Harry Hallberg, such as the Mistral 33 and Misil 24. Hallberg's most successful boat was the P-28, which he designed himself.
In 1972 Hallberg decided to retire. Rassy bought the business, and because Hallberg's brand name was the better known of the two, he renamed the businesses Hallberg Rassy.
Hallberg Rassy is regarded as one of the top European yacht builders. The company began exporting boats to the United States in the mid-1970s, with the Monsun 31 sloop, of which 900 were built, ending in 1983. Next came the HR 41, built between 1976 and 1979; the HR 38; the HR 352 between 1977-1989, with more than 800 built; the HR 312 from 1979-1991, with more than 700 built; and in 1982, the HR 49.
The HR 42 was introduced in 1980 and production continued until 1991. In all, 255 42s were built. Like all Hallberg Rassy boats, the 42 has a heat-tempered glass windshield, probably its most obvious design element. The HR line expanded to include the HR 29, HR 312, HR HR 352, HR 38, HR 42 and HR 49. These older boats, including the 42 reviewed here, were designed by Christoph Rassy and Olle Enderlein. German Frers is the author of the newer designs—in chronological order they are the HR 45, HR 36, HR 34, HR 42, HR 39, HR 31, HR 53, HR 46, HR 62 and the new HR 43.
In total, Hallberg Rassy has built more than 7,960 boats.
Today, it offers eight models between 31 and 62 feet. The company has three distributors in the U.S, one in Seattle, and two on the East Coast, in Annapolis, Maryland, and Essex, Connecticut.
After some experimenting with racing designs during the 1980s, Hallberg Rassy has firmly settled on world cruising as its market. Enderlein's 42 is a good example of the earlier HR models.
Underwater, the 42 has a long cruising fin keel; that is, if it weren't for the large cutaway forefoot and carved-out area for the prop, it would be a full keel. Instead, the fairly deep fin extends from midway between station 3 and 4 to station 8. The rudder hangs from a full-length skeg.
The foredeck is flush, which results in considerable freeboard. This can adversely affect pointing ability and also make docking in crosswinds more difficult. On the plus side, it opens up room below. It also impacts crew movements on deck. On one hand, there's no deckhouse to sidestep, but on the other hand, there's no house to brace against or to serve as a barrier against breaking waves. In the end, one's attitude toward flush decks is a personal matter: some will enjoy freedom of movement on deck, while others will feel vulnerable.
All portlights are in the hull side, which makes them somewhat more susceptible to leaking, though good maintenance should prevent it.
As noted above, the most distinctive element of the Hallberg Rassy line is the fixed windshield. Regarded as odd back in the mid-1970s, hard dodgers and windshields now are accepted as offering superior protection against wind and wave. Glass windshields are easier to see through than wrinkled acrylic windows on conventional canvas dodgers. Keep in mind, however, that in huge boarding seas, a canvas dodger may simply be carried away, while the glass windshield may cause problems, as it did the owner of one HR 42 who found his cockpit scuppers clogged with broken shards of glass. Desperate to free the scuppers, he dug into them with bare fingers, badly cutting himself. Hallberg Rassy offered the hardtop as an option, one we'd certainly look for in a used boat.
The HR 42's ketch rig is fairly low- aspect. The sail area/displacement ratio of 14.7 is on the low side, even for the moderate displacement/length ratio of 278. With a waterline of 34' 5", the theoretical hull speed of the boat is just under 8 knots; loaded for cruising, we suspect this speed will be hard to top. Indeed, this will not be a spritely boat under sail, but then it's intended as a bluewater passagemaker that should make 180-mile days fairly easily in the right conditions.
Mention must be made of another common theme with Hallberg Rassy: the center cockpit, aft cabin arrangement with walk-through passageway. This plan makes for two private staterooms at opposite ends of the boat, While berths in the aft cabin will be more comfortable at sea than the V-berth, the best berths still will be amidships where motion is least. The center cockpit is a great arrangement for a charter boat, but not necessarily the best for all others.
According to an old brochure, the 42's hull is solid fiberglass and "built according to Lloyd's specifications for 'Certificate of Hull Construction,' and under the personal supervision of a Lloyd’s surveyor." The standard color is white with a blue boot and wide stripe below the rail. Fiberglass stringers are bonded to the hull to add stiffness. The brochure for the boat says water tanks are integral, meaning they are made of fiberglass and bonded to the hull; however, some water tanks were apparently of stainless steel, and removable. Ballast is an iron casting, set into the hull.
The deck is cored with 25 mm PVC foam. The hull-deck joint is fiberglassed over. There is a bulwark topped with teak that adds considerably to on-deck safety. Other trim is teak also, as is the non-skid.
Teak decks were very popular during the early years of fiberglass boat construction, but have steadily lost favor due to maintenance and the astronomical cost of replacement. Prospective buyers should have their surveyor pay particular attention to the teak decks, and to the fiberglass deck underneath. There's no balsa to rot, but water in the core can cause delamination of the sandwich skins.
The mast is stepped on deck, which many, including Practical Sailor, criticize as not being suitable for offshore work, preferring masts stepped on the keel. The idea here is that should a stay or shroud let go, the keel-stepped mast has a better chance of saving itself, and if the top goes, perhaps there will be at least a stub from which a jury rig can be set.
There are certainly some benefits to a deck-stepped mast: It's quieter below. There are (usually) fewer leaks at deck level. The mast doesn't channel rainwater inside and down to the mast step below, so corrosion at the butt is eliminated.
While we're at it, we should note that few builders secure the butt of a keel-stepped mast so that in the event of a rigging failure the foot doesn't come adrift and take out furniture and crew.
All that said, however, we still favor keel-stepped masts for offshore boats. The safety benefits outweigh the convenience benefits.
Early boats had Lewmar 48 three-speed sheet winches and Lewmar genoa cars. Some had reel winches for wire halyards. These are dangerous and should be replaced with conventional winches for all-rope halyards. Jiffy mainsail reefing was standard.
Several models of Volvo Penta diesel engines seem to have been fitted over the years. The 52-hp. Volvo Penta MD 21B is listed in one brochure, while the MD 30 and MD 31 are mentioned elsewhere. These are four-cylinder freshwater-cooled engines.
The standard prop is a three-blade 17 x 11 left-hand. Fuel is carried in two stainless steel tanks totaling about 120 US gallons. A pump for removing sludge from the bottom of the tank is provided; this is a very important feature almost always neglected by builders of lesser quality boats. Stainless steel is an excellent material for fuel tanks, but expensive. One should watch for corrosion at the welds.
All through-hulls have seacocks and all hoses are secured with double hose clamps, which is good practice but not always followed.
The electrical system wiring as it came from the factory is run in conduit. There are four 125-amp-hour batteries, one for starting the engine and three for the house. If you plan on adding demand to this system, such as by installing a 12-volt refrigeration system, you might want to increase battery capacity and upgrade the 55-amp alternator to a unit of around 100 amps or more. A number of 12-volt receptacle outlets are provided for plugging in 12-volt appliances like vacuum cleaners, televisions, and fans.
The Hallberg Rassy 42 was sold well-fitted, with an electric windlass, 45-lb. CQR anchor, six mooring lines, fenders, boat hook, flag staff, Sestral compass, and boarding ladder on the transom.
Most owners responding to our Boat Owner's Questionnaire rate quality of onstruction from above average to excellent.
The standard accommodation plan shows a 6' 8" V-berth forward, followed aft by a head with sink and shower, the saloon with opposing settees and drop-leaf table; galley to starboard of the companionway ladder and nav station to port; and aft, the owner's stateroom with private head. Interior bulkheads, furniture faces and ceilings (hull sides) are finished in mahogany.
At the bow is storage for propane bottles atop the chain locker. It's accessible from deck, and drains overboard.
The head has a telephone-type shower and 6' 1" headroom. Instead of a hundred dollar economy toilet, you get the venerable Baby Blake, one of the world's best.
The L-shaped port settee in the saloon measures 7' 0" and the starboard settee 6' 8". The overhead is made up of removable, vinyl-covered panels.
The galley is equipped with a propane stove, double stainless steel sink, hot and cold pressure water, plenty of storage for tableware and cooking utensils.
One thing that distinguishes quality yachts from lesser-priced boats is interior materials and craftsmanship. On a boat this size, the difference can amount to a great deal of money, perhaps six figures. For this you get things like wine and liquor bottle stowage in the drop-leaf table, a special chart locker in the passageway overhead; book shelves, and many other attractive and useful details.
Opening portlights, hatches and Dorade vents provide adequate ventilation.
As is easy to tell from the drawings and specifications, the HR 42 is a cruising yacht, not a round-the-buoys racer. Owners rate speed upwind and downwind as just average. These same owners rate seaworthiness and stability as above average.
The ketch rig allows you to strike the mainsail and proceed under "jib and jigger." This works so well because the rig is balanced; that is, with adequate sail area forward and aft the boat doesn't need a lot of helm to hold course. For long-distance sailing, this is what you want: the ability to lock in the sail configuration and let the boat sail itself. The easier the boat is for you to steer, the easier it will be for an autopilot to steer, too. Offshore, the autopilot is your best friend, so don't risk overworking it.
The 42's sail area/displacement ratio of 14.7 won’t make her sparkle under sail, especially when loaded for cruising. The drag of the three-blade prop only makes her slower. We'd strongly recommend a feathering prop like the Max-Prop or Autoprop. Under power, the 42 will make about 8 knots. In bad weather with a foul tide, you'll be happy to hunker down under the hardtop dodger propelling yourself toward home at near double-digit figures.
The Hallberg Rassy 42 is a well-built ocean cruiser. Author, seminar leader, and adventure charterer John Neal has owned a succession of Hallberg Rassys, including the 42. He said, "After 70,000 miles, including Queen's Birthday Storm, six Cape Horn roundings, Antarctica, and thousands of miles in the Southern Ocean and tropics, I would say it is an excellent value. Negatives are too little light below and the teak decks, which require a sun awning in the tropics." (Neal also keeps an inflated RIB on the flush deck forward to give protection from spray and boarding waves.)
In checking the used boat market for the 42, we were surprised to find a wide range of prices, from $139,000 for a 1987 model to $210,000 for the same year, and $229,000 for an older 1981 model. We guess much depends on condition and equipment. One with a genset, air conditioning, life raft, new electronics, and good sails, will certainly command a much higher figure than one with old gear and decrepit teak decks.
There are plenty of web resources for Hallbery-Rassy owners and potential buyers. Used boats can be found at the builder's website, www.hallberg-rassy.se/. John Neal reports an excellent source for parts— www.hr-parts.com —run by Vickie Vance, a Seattle-born sailor and yacht broker who fell in love with the boats, sailed to Hawaii on one, then set up a dealership, then moved to Sweden, as she says on her website, "in order to work even closer to Hallberg-Rassy." Now there's an endorsement for you.
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Contacts- Eastland Yachts, 33 Pratt St., Essex, CT 06426; 860/767-8224. Free State Yachts, PO Box 6529, Annapolis, MD 21401-0529; 410/266-9060. West Coast Yachts, 1836 Westlake Ave. N., Suite 201, Seattle, WA 98109; 206/298-3724.