Moderate in design, easy to sail, and built to take hard knocks, this German import is also nicely priced.
The efforts of European boatbuilders to establish a foothold in the US market over the past three decades or so could be described as spasmodic. Several have arrived, departed, and, in some cases, returned. Dufour, Wauquiez, and Jeanneau are examples of those who suffered from bad timing, relative to the US economy and interest rates, non-traditional designs, or quality issues, and then regained traction. Beneteau has enjoyed an uninterrupted presence, perhaps because of the company's deep pockets, and recently Jeanneau has benefited from being under the same umbrella.
In the past five years, favorable exchange rates have attracted other firms, and although the US economy has sputtered for the past couple of years, manufacturers from northern Europe are again showing up with offerings—and finding the market generally receptive.
Among the more recent to arrive in North America is Hanse Yachts. Since 2001, the German builder has established dealerships in Connecticut, Maryland, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
A relative newcomer to the European manufacturing fraternity, the company was formed in 1990 by Michael Schmidt. A racing sailor with a winning record at several levels of the sport, including Admiral's Cup, SORC, and Sardinia Cup, Schmidt was the builder of C & C boats in Europe, a founder of Baltic yachts, and has constructed one-off race boats. Under his direction, Hanse is a production builder with six models ranging in size from 29 to 51 feet. Boats are constructed in Griefswald, Germany, on the Baltic coast. The region, located near shipping routes and with access to forests full of raw materials, has a tradition of boatbuilding dating back centuries.
Of his boats, Schmidt says, "We are not looking for the first-time buyer. We are looking for the experienced boater who wants those added touches that make a better boat, like quiet engine spaces, glassed-in bulkheads, and nimble sailing."
The firm currently employs 100 workers in a new 10,000-sq.ft. plant, and is producing more than 300 boats per year. It ranks in the top five European sailboat manufacturers.
Schmidt makes no bones about the heritage of designs intended to have universal appeal. "They are patterned after boats from the East Coast of America," he says, and interiors are designed with an eye towards the work of L. Francis Herreshoff.
Interestingly, the Hanse line is designed by Judel/Vrolijk, a firm best known for a long list of high-profile, high-performance boats.
Schmidt adds, "Hanse sailboats are designed for speed without the need for a large crew, and designed to the rule of the sea."
The Hanse 371, on which our attntion is focused here, was designed in 1999. When its parts are summed up together, the 371 is indeed reminiscent of the moderate, seakindly boats favored by the East Coast establishment of design (CCA, Sparkman & Stephens, etc.) but you don't necessarily recognize those attributes in her separate elements—traditional sailplan, elevated cabin trunk, flat sheer, reverse transom with opening, sporty near-plumb bow: The designers seem to have taken what they needed from different areas and blended the elements together in a package that balances nicely, to our eye, between the traditional and the modern.
Builder and designers intended to make a vessel that would appeal to the cruising couple or singlehander interested in enjoying a turn of speed without the need to add crew or weight to the rail on a weather leg.
The rig is a 9/10 fractional with two sets of swept spreaders. Boats were equipped with Z-Spar rigs until 2001, but Isomat has since been selected as the supplier.
A full-battened mainsail is standard equipment, as is a self-tending jib on a furler, reflecting Schmidt's intent that the boat be sailed without overlapping headsails. As a consequence, she is easily tacked or jibed without the need for more than a hand on the wheel. Standing rigging is wire.
The jib sheet arrangement also eliminates much of the typical clutter in the cockpit, a feature we appreciated during our test sail. There were no strings on the cockpit sole, or wrapped around winches. Sailtrack for an overlapping genoa is inboard, and other leads can be set up via holes in the toerail.
Decks are 18" wide and shrouds are at the base of the cabin, so the occasional trip forward will be a small chore. In wet weather or when heeled, the aggressive nonskid pattern should provide a secure foothold.
The mainsheet is located mid-boom, with the traveler forward of the companionway on a 42" track. Main and jib sheets are run aft to sheet-stoppers at the top of the companionway because, according to Gregor Bredenbeck, production manager for the firm, "that arrangement is an accommodation for cruisers. If we wanted to maximize performance, we would have the traveler in the cockpit, but that would reduce the appeal for cruisers." (Interestingly, one photo of the boat in the company's sales brochure shows the mainsheet in the cockpit, perhaps a reflection of the difference between US and European sailors.)
Similarly, the split backstay is out of the way when passengers enter via the stern, but there's no backstay adjuster installed to regulate headstay tension. It would be easy to add on.
Cockpit seats are straight, 8'6" x 18" wide—long enough for lounging, or carrying six passengers. A 17" deep footwell means crew won't feel as though knees are resting on chins. The space is not cluttered with a cockpit table—a plus, since pedestal steering and a 40" diameter stainless steel wheel are standard equipment.
An interesting touch is that the forward port cockpit locker is built with no opening other than the lid, so that when filled with water, it can store the catch of the day. Presumably, it would also hold ice and beverages for the on-deck crew—not insulated, maybe, but close at hand. The lack of a drain makes a hand-held bilge pump a necessity.
Aft to port is a 26" x 17" x 17" storage locker suitable for dock gear.
The entire span of the stern, accessed from the starboard cockpit locker, provides an area large enough for sailbags, a much better arrangement than storing them in the aft stateroom. A vented propane locker also is located in the space.
Gebo hatches located amidships and forward measure 20" x 20". The self-bailing anchor locker has a built-in base for an electric windlass, and there's a double roller on the bow.
The 371 is equipped with all the lines and deck hardware necessary to carry a variety of sail configurations, but we especially appreciate the boat in its simplest set-up, with the self-tacking jib.
Two features immediately appealed as we headed belowdecks. First, a switch at the top of the companionway activates an overhead light in the galley, a real plus when returning to a darkened boat. Second, the top step of the companionway stairway is very large, providing a platform big enough to ease the task of exploring the horizon without leaving the saloon, as well as providing solid footing when going below while heeled. The oversized step also increases the size of the engine box. With the front of the engine box removed, engine access is better than we've found on many boats. The compartment is lined with a heavy- duty sound deadener that allowed us to talk in normal voice ranges while motoring.
The center of the space belowdecks is filled with mahogany veneer over plywood and foam-cored panels and doors. The cabin sole is teak and holly. Some people will feel that the overall effect below is too dark, but there are enough gelcoat surfaces on bulkheads and the overhead to relieve any cave-dwelling sensation. The woven cane faces on locker doors are a great touch—old-fashioned and very effective at ventilation, and the glossy shine on the mahogany surfaces increases the feeling of light and liveliness. There is more than 6 feet of headroom throughout, and good natural light through ports and hatches.
Though many disdain the use of cored panels, the exterior appearance is excellent and a foam core reduces the weight of the boat without compromising on sound deadening in the staterooms, while reducing cost.
The galley is located to starboard at the foot of the companionway, and a C-shaped settee is forward. A hanging locker is located outboard to port, aft of the head, which is only accessed from the saloon. The head is a 3' x 4' compartment with sink and toilet, a bulkhead-hung mirror, and two-compartment medicine cabinet. A handheld shower is an option.
Forward, there's a freestanding table, 28" square, with seats fore and aft. It triples as chart table, cocktail table, and dining-for-two table. The navigator can choose which way to face, with instruments and an electrical panel built into cabinetry at the fingertips. It's an excellent use of the space.
The galley is equipped with standard gear—a two-burner gimbaled stove, 16" x 20" counter aft of the stove, and double stainless sink next to the icebox. When sinks and icebox are covered, it adds a 44" x 20" working surface—good for work projects.
A dining table at the settee has room for six, and converts to an 8' x 4' bunk. Storage is below and outboard in shallow cabinets.
The skipper's quarters are forward, with a 2' x 3' dressing area large enough to allow movement without banging the door or hull, and 6' feet of headroom. A hanging locker and cabinets are located port and starboard. The berth, which is 6' long at the shortest point, is wide enough to provide two adults room to stretch fully in comfort. A neat wrinkle is that the forward hatch is located far enough aft that when left cracked open on dewy nights, drips should not land on the berth or its occupants.The aft stateroom provides quarters for two adults on an oversized double berth measuring 6'6" x 6'. A double-door cabinet and dressing counter are outboard.
The company resisted the temptation to add a third stateroom, or second head, in its standard configuration, while allowing potential owners three options. The first is a separate shower aft of the galley, measuring 28" x 48", plenty large enough to be comfortable, and to qualify as a real wet locker. The trade-off is a reduction of space in the starboard cockpit locker. Owners contemplating offshore passages would do well to contemplate that option.
A second option is the addition of a second aft stateroom, also accessed via the galley. A third option would be conversion of the shower area to a large storage locker or work space.
Doors are installed on hinges that allow them to be removed easily for storage during winter months. Ports in the aft cabin, shower, four in the main cabin and one in the forepeak, produce a steady flow of fresh air.
The company supplies each boat with a small suction cup that is used to raise floor boards, a nifty idea that simplifies the operation and eliminates the need for pull tabs. However, like an emergency plug on a throughhull, the cup needs to be where it can be found instantly.
Spaces belowdecks are more than adequate for the crew of four to six. She's spacious, compared to most 37-footers—the saloon is 11' on the centerline and 8' wide measured from the inside of seat backs. She has enough headroom for most adults, and is well- lit and ventilated.
As with many boats manufactured in northern Europe, the Hanse is constructed to endure heavy winds and big seas, and the occasional bump on a hard spot in a shallow anchorage.
In fact, the keel is designed specifically with an eye towards grounding, according to Bredenbeck. "The keel is a combination of an iron casting with a lead bulb at the bottom that locates most of the weight at the bottom and lowers the center of gravity. The keel is attached to the hull with 11 keel bolts bonded into the hull and covered with a stainless steel plate and bolts. Because these boats are designed to be sailed in the North Sea, the lead is bonded to the iron shaft with three stainless steel bolts. In addition to putting maximum weight at the bottom, this method allows the keel to move a maximum of 1.5 centimeters aft in the event of a grounding, which greatly diminishes the effect on the hull.
"In one situation, an owner was going so fast when he hit a rock that the force caused his body to bend the steering wheel, and a passenger was thrown so hard against a door that it broke. However, the only damage was to the bottom of the keel. The hull was undamaged."
A byproduct was a significantly lower repair bill for the insurance company.
Hulls and decks are constructed employing methods and raw materials familiar to most American owners.Hulls are laid up in a female mold that is sprayed with isopthalic polyester resins, which are used throughout the laminate.
We were surprised that Hanse does not use vinylester resin in the laminate, since vinylester has been shown to be superior to polyester in blister resistance, as well as having other good properties.
"We do not use vinylester resin for two reasons," Bredenbeck says. "One is cost. A second is that in doing our own testing we find that iso resins are as resistant to osmotic blistering as vinylester, and do not shrink as much in heat. In our tests we found that vinylester shrinks 2-3 percent in high- temperature areas where some of our boats are sailed, like the Mediterranean. We also sell a lot of boats with green and blue hulls, which may reach temperatures of 170° F in those areas.
"However, we will spray an epoxy coating on a boat at the factory."
Hulls are laid up with a layer of powder-bonded chopped strand mat, which has no roving, and avoids the potential for print-through. Then, three layers of 900-gram-per-square-meter fiberglass, 0- to 90-degree oriented roving, and a layer of 600-gram chopped strand mat complete the outer laminate. Topsides are cored with 22-mm thick balsa. The inner laminate is a near twin to the outer skins. Additional reinforcements are 25-35 mm of solid fiberglass at the keel, and at through-hulls.
"We have built more than 1,300 boats to date without a hull failure," Bredenbeck says, adding that the layup of the 371 requires three days of work by six workers.
The interior structure consists of a "solid fiberglass fishbone structure" bonded to the hull. Unlike a grid system that appears to be a checkerboard, the "fishbone" looks more like a solid section from which have been removed sections into which furniture and bunks will be installed.
"However, we do not simply drop bulkheads into cutouts in the liner. All of the bulkheads are bonded directly to the hull on both sides, and to the deck on one side, which produces an extreme structure." That's a good method, because if the hull liner shifts under torsion, the bulkheads should be unaffected.
The hull-deck joint is an inward oriented flange in the hull onto which the deck is laid and bonded with Sikaflex. An aluminum toerail is then laid on the deck and secured through the hull flange with stainless steel bolts, stainless steel backing plates, and nuts. The toerail is located approximately 1" inboard of the edge of the deck, further dispersing the load of the joint, and helping to prevent crazing. Shrouds are reinforced by a stainless steel rod attached to chainplates that are bonded into the hull and run from gunwale to gunwale.
Decks are constructed with a balsa core encapsulated in a similar laminate. However, ports and hatches, a stringer for the traveler, and winch islands and the areas in which pad eyes and rope clutches will be attached are solid fiberglass. Hardware is installed in aluminum plates bedded in the laminate and secured in pre-tapped holes. The company also beds into the laminate smooth recesses and metal plates in areas where hardware (spinnaker winches, for example), may be installed by dealers, or in the future. Installation then requires only the tapping of bolt holes.
Boats are built to CE Standard A for use on the high seas.
The purchase of any sailboat from a manufacturer that does not have a large distribution network always entails a degree of risk. Buying from a European manufacturer may increase the risk, or extend the amount of time necessary to deal with warranty issues. In this case, however, the company claims a track record and technical expertise that may work to a potential American buyer's advantage as Hanse Yachts works to become established here.
Our test of the 371 was facilitated by Richard Hargreaves of Freedom Marine, in Vancouver, BC. With Hargreaves' assistance, we sailed the boat in the waters surrounding Vancouver Island in light to moderate winds.
We flew the standard full -battened main and 90-percent self-tacking jib. Initially sailing in only 6 knots of wind, her performance was just good enough that we resisted the temptation to turn on the 30-hp Volvo MD2030 atop the Saildrive unit. (The standard engine is the Yanmar 3GM30.) At that point, we'd have been happier with a larger headsail.
Company owner Michael Schmidt is convinced the jib is all the headsail the boat needs.
When the breeze picked up to 8-10 knots as we sailed on the edge of a fog bank, boatspeed ranged between 5 and 7 knots on a beat to weather. We sailed fastest and most comfortably when heeled 12-15 degrees. The helm was light, and she felt buoyant and tacked easily with the assistance of the self- tending jib. Performance was identical on a reach: she feels stiff, and the helm is easily manageable.
She maneuvers well under power, as well. Backing and filling in the marina were easily accomplished, and she turns in a boatlength with the two-bladed prop on the Saildrive and high-aspect rudder working in concert.
The Hanse 371 has clean lines and a slippery hull shape. She's designed and equipped for shorthanded sailing, and it would be easy to become lazy when sailing with a self- tending jib. However, long downwind legs in light air will be more pleasant with more horsepower available. The owner who doesn't want to fiddle with a spinnaker could add a masthead halyard and adjustable-tacked reacher to solve that problem.
Spaces belowdecks are large enough to allow four adults plenty of elbow room. Those spaces also are finished to a higher standard than most production boats. The cook has enough room in which to operate. The nav station/cocktail table is a well-conceived arrangement. Two staterooms and one head will be adequate for most cruisers, though if we were buying a 371, we'd opt for the shower space aft of the galley. Better to shower there than in the head amidships, and a wet locker is a wonderful thing. There's enough stowage in the cockpit lockers and sail lazarette to make up for the loss of space.
The Hanse 371, with generous stock equipment, is priced at $150,000, FOB the US East Coast. By this, and most other measurements, she stacks up well against the competition.
Contact - Hanse Yachts, 49 (0) 3834-5792-0, www.hanseyachts.com.