Hallberg Rassy 54

by George Day

Blue Water Sailing
April 2008


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"Ocean-going works of art crafted to the highest standards..."

Built in Sweden, the new HR 54 and all of the modern HRs are ocean-going works of art crafted to the highest standards by artisans with generations of experience.

Over the last few years something big has started to happen every August on the remote isle of Orust off the west coast of Sweden. Cruising sailors and yachtsmen from all over Europe and North America congregate for the weekend in a celebration of fine yachts and raise their glasses to the pleasures of owning and cruising some of the best yachts built anywhere in the world.

It is a kind of old fashioned happening where you will see more blue blazers in the crowd than tie-dyed T-shirts because the sailors who come are there to look at, admire and possibly buy a Hallberg-Rassy. The happening takes place in the Hallberg-Rassy marina and boat building facility in the small town of Ellös, which is a good hour’s drive north of Gothenburg. It all started years ago as a simple open house at which the boat builder entertained its customers, vendors and friends. But such is the HR mystique, and the worldwide attention that soon followed, that the simple open house became a boat show that then grew into the happening it is today.

In a smart, egalitarian gesture, HR invites its competitors to show their boats at the weekend event, making this one of the best boat shows in Scandinavia. Over that weekend in August roughly 24,000 sailors attend the event, which is almost equivalent to the number of people who attend America’s largest sailboat show in Annapolis, Maryland, each October.

HR shows off all of its models from 31 feet to 62 feet and often has a new design to roll out for the adoring crowd. They run factory tours so customers and owners can see where and how their boats are built. And, they run seminars that help customers learn more about the company, boat building, sailing gear and equipment.

In 2006, the new boat of the year was the HR 54, which the company launched that month and which they designed to be their new statement on design and construction for all HRs to come in the years ahead.

The reception of the boat was warm to the point of conflagration, so much so that the company sold out production of the boat for the year ahead. But such is the HR place in the world of yachtsmen and offshore sailors. And such is the draw of the island of Orust, the village of Ellös and the craftsmen of the HR yard. As the old saying goes, if you build it, and build really well, they will come.

The HR Concepts
The roots of the HR traditions go back to the Hallberg Yard in the 1940s. Once joined by the Rassy family, the company expanded to build modern cruising boats. And, since the company launched its first Hallberg-Rassy Rasmus in 1967, the company’s founders and owners have remained true to three simple but vital concepts that make the boats they build unique and of such value.

First, they contend that there is no need for cruising sailors to be “soaking wet to enjoy sailing.” It makes sense to us today. But if you look at many designs from the early 60s, the Swedish Folkboat comes to mind, you will know the roots of this concept. So, the new designs had relatively high topsides and incorporated the angular windshield that is now a signature detail of Swedish cruising boats.

Second, the company has always dedicated itself to building boats that offer owners “affordable quality.” That means the boats are built to a very high standard but as efficiently as possible. And, it means that HRs maintain higher than average resale values. At the end of the day, HRs are not the least expensive cruising boats on the market by a long shot. They are instead a statement of the owners’ understanding of proper modern cruising boat design and construction for blue water cruising and their appreciation of the value of their own money. When the time comes to sell, a well maintained HR will demand a handsome price.
Third, the designs and the boats are conceived from the first napkin sketch to be blue-water sailing boats that are capable of handling ocean sailing weather conditions from the tip of Scandinavia (Spitsbergen) to the Antarctic Peninsula and everything in between. All you have to do is ask John Neal and Amanda Swan Neal who have sailed their HR 46 Mahina Tiare some 150,000 miles to the ends of the earth and back without a boat failure.

A large part of the HR concept is the design pedigree that lies behind the boats. All HRs launched since 1989 have been designed and engineered by Germán Frers, the noted Argentine naval architect. Frers and his company are regarded as one of the premier design firms and have created fine sailing crafts from small cruisers to America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race boats to mega sailing yachts. The experience and artistry they bring to their Hallberg-Rassy designs adds to the value of each boat and contributes to establishing the HR world class status.

The HR concepts are the core elements of all that go into a new Hallberg-Rassy. Even more than the materials and labor, these concepts define the boats and ensure that the final product that sails away from Ellös lives up to the builder’s high standards.

The New 54
The premiere HR 54 launched at the 2006 open house stopped traffic along the quay and had fans lined up for a viewing. The new boat was something special. The design is an evolution from earlier HRs and is thoroughly imbued with the company’s core concepts. But the 54 was also something new as HR set out with the boat to make a statement about their ongoing processes of innovation in design, construction and finish detail.

The Frers-designed hull is long on the waterline and has a fine entry forward that will give it a pleasant motion sailing to windward. The aft sections are fairly full and the run of water off the stern is flat and untroubled by sudden curves, so the boat promises to be able to carry a lot of sail when reaching and should have high average speeds. The 7-foot bulb keel offers ample stability, which shows up in the boat’s very high limit of positive stability at 130 degrees.
The upshot of the design detail is a pleasant looking hull with balanced bow and stern shape may be one of the handsomest HR designs in years and certainly promises to be one of the best sailing designs. The design’s polar diagrams, which predict speed at various wind angles and strengths, show the 54 broad reaching at 9 knots in 16 knots of true breeze.

The center cockpit deck layout is made for comfort and protection at sea and pleasant living aboard at anchor. The cockpit is large enough for six adults to sail the boat or for more to enjoy gathering there at the end of the day. The main sheet runs to the traveler just aft of the cockpit so it is easily accessible to the helmsman. The spray shield that runs around the front of the cockpit provides a secure base for a canvas dodger or for an HRdesigned hard dodger; and, when you want to fold away the dodger it fits neatly on top of the spray shield structure.

The afterdeck has two big lazarette lockers for all of the gear cruisers carry. And, the transom folds out to make a large swimming platform. The foredeck and cabin top are good working spaces while under sail and there are well placed handholds where ever you need them. The teak decks look great and provide excellent footing when they are wet.

Standing on the 54’s stern and looking forward along the neat parallel lines of the teak decks, the boat looks beautifully proportioned and ready to sail over the horizon and across any sea.

Down below the interior layout and style are part tradition and part innovation. The boat at the 2006 show had a teak interior, which was a departure for HR as they have long had mahogany interiors as their standard.

The teak gives the saloon and sleeping cabins a warm, bright look that is enhanced by the large opening port holes, the white overhead linings and the cove lighting that surrounds the cabins. The choice of light colored fabrics only enhances the warmth and brightness below decks.

The 54 comes in a variety of standard layouts to accommodate couples cruising alone, families or larger sailing crews. The after cabin is the owner’s suite and will be a luxurious retreat for a couple out cruising. The centerline double is spacious or the optional large V-berth will be great for long ocean passagemaking. Ample drawers and hanging lockers are built in for extended living aboard.

The forward cabins can be laid out with three different configurations and each will be comfortable and spacious for guests or family members cruising with you. And, if you plan to have a permanent crew aboard, the forepeak can be set up with a single berth with its own head and sink.

The saloon is a pleasant size for a 54-foot cruising boat and will work well both at anchor and at sea. HR offers two galley options. In option one, the large U-shaped galley to starboard will make gourmet cooks happy since it is well equipped with a lot of counter space, huge fridge compartments, large double stainless steel sinks and a modern three-burner stove and oven. This is one of the best sea going galleys afloat. If you go with the starboard galley, the chart table will be to port.

In option two, the galley lies in the passageway aft to the master stateroom and offers the same conveniences as option one but in a more linear layout. In this case, the chart table is moved to starboard and enlarged to home-office size.

The dinette is L-shaped and will be comfortable for six at a sit down dinner, with two portable chairs set up on the inside of the table. Across from the dinette HR can either build in two comfortable easy chairs with a table between them or a long bench settee that will double as a good sea berth when making offshore passages. If you choose the arm chairs, HR can build in a pneumatic lift inside the cabinetry to display or hide a large flat screen TV.

The saloon and the rest of the 54’s interior is very finely finished with matte varnish, topof-the line hardware, beveled mirrors, custom carpet and much more. Yet it also embodies all of the best aspects of a blue water interior, which means that it has a seagoing galley, convenient hand holds, good sea berths, positive latches on all doors and floorboards and safe storage for everything you need to carry offshore.

The 54 is a true blue-water boat that has the benefit of three generations of boat building tradition in one of the world’s best boat building regions. The company is run today by Magnus Rassy who leads a team of managers and craftsmen who themselves are from the old boat building families of Orust. This environment of boat building excellence blends with Hallberg-Rassy’s essential concepts to foster boats that are prized worldwide for their integrity, quality and capability.

Hallberg-Rassy 54
LOA 54’11”
LWL 46’11”
Beam 15’5”
Draft 7’6”
Displacement 58,000 lbs.
Ballast 21,500 lbs.
Sail area 1,628 sq. ft.
Engine Volvo D4-180
Fresh water 273 gals.
Diesel 238 gals.
Mast height 80’5”
Ellös, Sweden
Ph: 46-(0)304-54-800


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