The story of the Hans Christian 34 and 36, and their successors, is a microcosm of the history of the Taiwan/U.S. boatbuilding industry. That is to say, a mixture of good designs, fine hand craftsmanship, knockoff gear, occasional shoddy finish and detail work, double-dealing and broken promises. Sometimes out of the mix comes a well-built, good-sailing blue water cruiser like the Hans Christian 34.
The Designer(s) and Builder(s)
Hans Christian Yachts got its start 24 years ago when a former Long Beach, California high school teacher named John Edwards approached naval architect Robert Perry about a plan to build quality yachts economically on the island of Taiwan. It wasnt an original thought; the Formosa Boat Building Co. in Taipei and Cheoy Lee in Hong Kong had been at it since the 1950s. Edwards and Perry had collaborated on an earlier Taiwan-built boat, the CT 54. For Edwards, Perry came up with plans for the hull, keel and rig for what would become the HC 34.
Before the first 34 was built, Perry says he was informed that Hans Christian had blown up his design to a 36-footer but that, no, he wouldnt be getting any royalties. Thus ended, for a time. Perrys role with the design, although the company continued to credit (or exploit) his name in connection with the 36.
Under Edwards Taiwan arrangement, he owned the designs and controlled the distributorship. An outfit called Union oversaw construction, and the yard basically owned the tooling. House designer for subsequent designs such as the 33 and the 41, was listed as Harwood S. Ives of Cruising Design in Winterport, Maine (Perry says hes tried unsuccessfully to track down Woody Ives, has found no one who knows him and tends to doubt his existence. Hans Christians new president, Jerry Finefrock, who took over this year, says he understands that Ives is English, but that he hasn’t been able to locate him either.)
Finefrock, a lawyer who concedes his knowledge of the firms earlier history is somewhat incomplete, says that through some sort of Chinese chicanery someone took the HC 36 molds and began building the Union 36. He said a lawsuit, filed by Edwards after Union lightened the scan’tlings and reverted to the Hans Christian name, ended the chicanery. Perry, who meanwhile had retaliated by designing the Tayana 37, disagrees with that version. He suspects that Edwards somehow alienated the yard, which owned the molds, much as he had with the earlier project, the CT 54.
Later, the Union people asked Perry to lend his name to the 36 in return for royalties. He agreed to a compromise in which the yard could claim the boat was based on a hull by Bob Perry, which was true to the extent it was a knockoff of his 34. When the company continued to claim it as his design, he disassociated himself and the royalties stopped.
In the middle of all this, a Union employee asked Perry at a meeting in Taipei to redesign the 36s keel, paid for the job with a personal check, then took the design and began building his own boat at the Mao Ta yard. The 36, ultimately more successful than the 34 in sales, popped up as the Mariner Polaris 36 and EO 36. None did as well as the Tayana 37, however, of which 570 eventually were made.
Hans Christian went on to create a number of successful models (John Edwards has a good eye for a boat, Perry concedes), eventually parting ways with the Hansa yard, which had taken on the line land presumably dropping German-built from its advertising claims, claims that made a lot of people believe the boats were built in a little Bavarian village high in the Taiwan Alps). The boats then were built at several other Taiwan yards before relocating, in 1989, to Thailand. Edwards then faded from the scene (Hes out of the business, Finefrock said) and the new ownership took over early in 1993 from Edwards former partner, Geoffrey White. Hans Christian now consists of two distributorships, one headed by Finefrock in Annapolis, another in Europe, and a new plant in Bangsaray, Thailand. Finefrock said the factory has air-conditioned lay-up facilities, a new quality control program directed by Michael Kaufman of Annapolis, and is certified to build to ABS standards.
Gone from production, the president said, are the 33 and 38; the 33T (traditional) is suspended, the 38T has been idle since 1990, and the 38 MK II is dead and buried. The 43T, out of production since 1989, will be reactivated, while the 43 Christina, part of Hans Christians updated Euro line, will continue. The 40 Christina is gone, but a new version of the 48T will be made. Plans are in the works for a 60-footer. In all, there are some 1,100 Hans Christians sailing the oceans of the world, including the 34 and 36.
Dont ask Hans Christian for the plans or any data, however; all was lost when the company relocated from California to Annapolis.?You can, however, call Perry (Robert Perry Yacht
Designers, 6400 Seaview Ave. N.W., Seattle, WA 98107; 206/789-7212), who feels a connection to Hans Christian owners, even if he didnt design all their boats. His consultation fee of $250 entitles per- sons to ongoing access and consultation, drawings and any technical backup you need.
As designed by Perry, with a little help from Edwards/ Ives, the Hans Christian 34/36 is a heavy, double-ended, cutter-rigged cruising yacht designed specifically for ocean sailing. Like others of its kind, its often described as a traditional North Sea double-ender, although the tradition exists mostly in the imaginations of builders and owners rather than with any vessels that actually existed. They are exaggerated caricatures of old boats, says Perry. Nevertheless the 34/36 has pleasing lines that draw admiring glances. And it was boats like this that helped Taiwan expand its boatbuilding industry during the 1960s and 70s.
The boat is typical Taiwan in other ways-solid construction (it displaces 18,300 pounds), its real teak decks and all-wood interior. The craftsmanship is excellent and affordable only because native carpenters were paid a tenth of what their U.S. counterparts earned. All this weight, of course, tends to make it a poor light-air sailer.
The 34/36 has a low chin bow, a short canoe stern, a long flat run aft and a fairly straight deadrise in the mid-section over a V-bottom, similar to Perrys U.S.- built Valiant 40. Perry said he began rounding his hulls for boats like the Tayana 37 and FD 35 before realizing hed gotten it right the first time. Thats a hull shape I went back to as time went on.
The hull is solid (and thick) hand-laid fiberglass. The deck is 5/8″ teak planks over a sandwich of 3/8″ glass, 3/4″ plywood, and another 3/8″ glass layer. The cabin top is cored with 1/2″ plywood. Although the deck bungs are bound to loosen with time (this is a boat that requires lots of maintenance) we saw no evidence of deck delamination in the 1978 model we inspected. The hull-deck joint is glassed over on the inside and appears to be through-bolted as well. Solid bulwarks allow the lifeline stanchions to be mounted vertically for better strength than those through-bolted to the deck. Interestingly, the nuts are embedded in the glass, a practice used elsewhere on the boat. (Hans Christian, incidentally, in the future will drop the thick glass and wood-cored hulls in favor of lighter Divinycell foam-cored hulls.)
The solid bronze traveler is definitely heavy-duty, although its position well forward on the boom makes sheeting difficult (photos of other 34s show boom-end sheeting). The bronze, like the wooden blocks, is part of the traditional aesthetic. Despite the overbuilt nature of the boat, little flaws here and there can create problems. On the 34 we sailed out of Newport in the summer of 1993, the Rosalie, a worker had failed to drill a weep hole in the port stanchion of the boom gallows. The result was a persistent leak over the galley that took the owner many hours to track down and remedy. And theres occasional mismatching of metals-in one case we saw stainless steel screws inserted into a bronze fitting.
Another complaint was a squared-off leading edge on the 7,000-pound full keel, described by the owner as looking like a cheese wedge. Perry says that probably was his fault as a relative newcomer, who neglected to give precise enough instruction to the yard that built the keel. The best solution, he said, is to reshape the leading edge with foam and fiberglass.
This is a good-sized boat with commodious, if less than perfect, storage and space below. The galley, to port at the foot of the companionway stairs, is small, with a two-burner stove, ice chest for cold storage and limited counter space.
Rosalies owner, Frank Girardi, cut a door into the compartment under the sink to convert otherwise dead space to storage. To starboard aft is a quarter berth that the owner says is his favorite sleeping berth. Theres also a generous chart table, positioned and sized for the dedicated navigator.
In the saloon is a settee berth to starboard and to port a U-shaped dinette; theres plenty of stowage behind and under seats. Six opening bronze ports, oval in size, and a large rod-reinforced skylight introduce lots of light to the main living area. A second, smaller hatch and several more ports forward provide natural light for the head and V-berths.
This is a deep boat with a big bilge, good access to the systems including the engine, and lots of tank- age; the original boat came with two stainless steel water tanks under the main salon and a smaller one forward. A previous owner removed the saloon tanks and replaced them with a single fiberglass unit that holds 150 gallons-sufficient for almost any trip. Girardi installed filters between tank and head and galley for better-tasting water.
Other alterations made (and worth checking on any boat) included replacing an (illegal) T-joint in a propane line behind the dinette, leading to a LPG water heater, and replacing a gate valve in the head with a Wilcox-Crittenden seacock. The owner also cut another door under the head sink for better access to seacocks. A check of all the seacocks, which may or may not be cheap knockoffs, is a good idea.
At 18,000-plus pounds and with a 5′ 6″ full keel (with cheese wedge up front), this is not your ideal light-air cruiser, despite its three sails (main, Yankee and staysail) and total sail area of 676 square feet. In fact, it requires a good 15 knots to get up and go at anywhere near its hull speed. We were doing 5.6 knots close-hauled, relatively-speaking, in 13-15 knots and small Narragansett Bay waves. The owner has reached a top speed of 11 knots (while surfing in a following sea) and recorded a high of 9 knots on the return of this years Bermuda One-Two race. For the record, the only PHRF data for the 34 and 36 we could find, one boat each, was 204 and 186 respectively.
Despite Hans Christians one-time claim that the 34/36 has a genuine appetite to go to weather in a drifter or a blow. this boat is best on a reach. The highest youre likely to get to point is 45 degrees; we tacked through an even 90 degrees on our outing. A bigger jib should help the boats overall performance, according to comments Practical Sailor has received. In fact, Perry recommends sailing with a genoa and without the staysail to maximize light- air performance. Sailed as a sloop, he says the 34s performance compares favorably to other boars of this genre.
While hardly the boat for a drifter, its definitely a good boat to be on during a blow. Owners report that it rises exceptionally well to the steepest of waves. High-sided with big bulwarks, it may not be the aerodynamic ideal, but it is dry and safe. The cockpit, surrounded by teak staving, is comfortable in size and configuration, but small enough to be safe at sea and with adequate drainage. The bulwarks make going forward feel quite safe.
Although OSTAR and BOC veteran Francis Stokes calls a cutter sail plan the best for ocean sailing, it can be difficult to learn to trim. Perry agrees that the clutter rig is the most difficult for the beginner to master, noting that an over-trimmed staysail acts like a parking brake. We experienced some backwinding of the mainsail by the staysail tin part because its foot was too long for the club and had quite a hook in it) and felt occasional weather helm. Part of the problem may have been the extreme forward location of the mainsheet traveler, which made trimming difficult; a dodger also interfered with cranking the winch a full turn.?The boat itself balances well; the owner reports that his Monitor wind vane works well in most conditions. On the wind, he was able to simply lock the wheel and sit back and relax while the boat held its course.
Heeling was not excessive at 15-17 degrees in 15- knot winds. Reefing should not be necessary until well into 20 knots of wind; easing the mainsheet will buy some extra time without suffering undue consequences.
Hans Christians came powered with a variety of engines. Two 34s we know of, one with an Isuzu 40, the other with a 3-cylinder, 35-hp. Volvo, got about the same results in speed-about 6 or so knots at 1,800 rpm. Rosalies performance under power improved (for a time) to about 8 knots with a three-bladed propeller, but fell off during the season, possibly because of bottom fouling. The owner had switched from his two-blade because it thumped when passing behind the deadwood; fairing the aperture would help this condition.
While not a good boat for the weekend coastal cruiser, or for anyone who does much sailing in light-to-moderate air, this is an excellent choice for the serious blue-water sailor. This is a boat that will take you offshore to Bermuda or just about anywhere and will stand up to a gale. The 34/36 wont get you there fast, but it will get you there safely.
The teak decks and wood interior are attractive, but carry with them the burden of constant upkeep. This is a good-looking boat, particularly to those who like the traditional canoe stern and all the trimmings. And you can probably pick one up in the $50,000-$55,000 range.