by BWS Staff
Blue Water Sailing
The last time I saw a speedo register 14 knots it was a hair-raising situation. The anemometer had been flirting with 60 knots, and the sea was a maelstrom with waves breaking across the deck and cockpit of our 43-foot ketch, sending us to the lengths of our tethers. However, this time aboard Tom and Diane Might's Hallberg-Rassy 62, Between the Sheets, the autopilot easily managed the helm as we sat comfortably under the hard dodger. We celebrated each extra 10th of a knot, and Tom mused about getting his camera to document the speed while Kevin slept soundly below.
This was our fifth day at sea, after leaving Hampton, Va., bound for Tortola, British Virgin Islands, as part of the West Marine Caribbean 1500 Rally. The rally began with just five to eight knots of wind in the Chesapeake Bay. We crossed the line a little late, then enjoyed overtaking other boats in the fleet under the driving force of our Doyle Utility Power Sail (UPS), a light-air, roller-furling headsail. Passing to leeward of some, watching others battle with symmetrical spinnakers, we couldn't help but wave and grin, pleasantly impressed by the light-air performance of our 33-ton blue-water cruiser.
When the light breeze turned into no breeze, we began motoring, using the Volvo Penta 237-horsepower diesel to take us through the Gulf Stream and the calms that waited on the other side. With the Gori folding propeller positioned to overdrive, we were able to make 8.3 knots at a fuel-efficient 1,300 rpms, and at 2,200 rpms and pitched for regular ahead, she made 10 knots.
Too much or too little is so often the lament when sailors speak about breeze, and on this passage we encountered both. After two days of calms the breeze began to fill, and it built to 35 knots with higher gusts. However, while others in the 1500 fleet began doubling up on watches and refreshing their memory of heavy-weather tactics, the HR 62 was just getting into her stride. The Cardan link steering and semi-balanced rudder made for fingertip helming as we zoomed along, ticking off 200-mile days.
They looked at many top-end builders such as Hylas, Tayana, Valiant, Oyster and Swan, but in the end decided on Hallberg-Rassy after comparing specifications from engine size to righting moment. "Hallberg-Rassy was oversized and safe in every category," comments Diane. "There's never any fear this boat can't take you where you need to go. She's got a huge engine and duplicates of almost everything."
It is no accident that Hallberg- Rassys are renowned for their seaworthiness. Harry Hallberg pioneered the use of Glassfibre Reinforced Polyester (GRP) to build production boats at a reasonable price. Meanwhile, Christoph Rassy experimented with the design elements that would become the Hallberg- Rassy trademark such as the center cockpit, large engine, windshield, and generous accommodations.
In 1972 Hallberg retired and Rassy took over his yard in Ellös, merging the blue-water elements of his design with Hallberg's production efficiency. In 1988 Germán Frers became the chief designer. He improved the boats' light- and heavy-air performance, increased their upwind abilities and emphasized performance and seaworthiness in both their sailing and livability. Hallberg-Rassys are hardy blue-water boats that sail well, are easily managed and exemplify HR's belief that there is no need to be soaking wet to enjoy sailing.
The plans for the HR 62 show a properly proportioned blue-water cruiser. With a displacement/length of 257, she is a moderate displacement cruiser and will feel sturdy underfoot and track well. Frers kept the length/ beam to 2.97, which adds to her easy motion through the water. In fact, the HR 62 has a motion comfort rating of 48 out of a possible 60, which is relatively high. She is amply powered and has a sail area/displacement of 17.4. Sheets' sail inventory proved an especially good combination. In the light breeze we sailed under the UPS and full main. When the breeze built we were able to sail under the full main and full cutter staysail in 30 knots.
The bulb-fin keel is cast lead and affixed to the hull with two rows of keel bolts where width allows and a single row where it tapers for a total of 14 bolts. At 11 tons, the keel accounts for 33 percent of the total displacement. She has a righting moment of about 128 degrees and a capsize ratio of 1.62, safely below the threshold of 2.0.
Rig and Deck
The HR 62 has a three-spreader aluminum mast and boom by Seldén and rod rigging and turnbuckles by Navtec. The mast is deck-stepped, supported by a solid compression post. The HR 62 comes standard with hydraulic in-mast furling that was easy to operate from the helm.
The amount of hydraulics on Sheets was impressive. In addition to the main, genoa and cutter staysail furling systems, the outhaul, vang and backstay tensioner were hydraulic. On Sheets, the five cockpit winches were hydraulic, but on later versions, they will be electric.
The main and genoa halyards are cable with detachable lines. The cables hook into special conduits on either side of the mast and can be adjusted with a winch handle. There are two manual winches at the mast for the staysail halyard, UPS halyard and rigging the poles.
It was obvious that a lot of thought went into the placement of fittings about the deck. From the helm, the main, genoa and staysail winches were all within an arm's reach and adjustable at the push of a button. All leads were fair and we were never for want of another winch or line clutch. The genoa and staysail cars share the same track. The deck cleats are through-bolted onto the toe rail. These details make for an open deck that is easy to maneuver. Handholds run the length of the cabintop and padeyes to clip harnesses into abound. The lazarette and forepeak were huge and accepted all of our fenders, lines, outboard fuel and miscellaneous items.
The cockpit on the HR 62 is designed to protect the crew on offshore passages while also serving as an extension of the main saloon. The HR 62 comes standard with a solid windshield and soft top. However, the Mights decided to upgrade to the hard dodger. Instruments above the companionway were easy to read, and the Raymarine multifunction display was tucked under the starboard side of the dodger. Placing it here instead of on the pedestal kept the cockpit open and maintained visibility from the helm. All hydraulics are operable from the helm. All sail controls are on the pedestal, as are the controls for the two autopilots, windlass, emergency bilge pump, engine control panel and VHF radio. Hallberg-Rassys also come with a full enclosure for the cockpit that snaps into place and is designed to extend the cruising season in Scandinavia.
The hard dodger was great, and the cockpit was well thought out. On a boat of this size, the cockpit becomes too wide to brace a leg against the opposite bench. Since the cockpit has a grate floor, we suggest installing a tent-shaped foot brace that fits into the grate.
The insides of the bilges are ground smooth and painted, preventing sharp edges that will cut hands or damage gear stored within. All lockers have false floors and removable backs so that every section of the hull can be accessed. The rudder is semi-balanced, and its skeleton has a solid 100-millimeter stainless steel shaft and is suspended by three roller bearings.
The deck-to-hull joint is fabricated of overlapping laminate, a method that has proven superior in respects to structural soundness and preventing water ingress. The stanchions are mounted on solid stainless steel rods that rise through the toe rail but do not penetrate the underside, thus eliminating potential leaking. Bulkheads are fiberglassed to the hull and deck. The engine, generator and all tanks are installed after the interior and deck are finished to ensure that they can be removed if necessary.
Woodwork and joinery are inherently difficult due to a boat's movement. Because joints creak and shift underway, top-end boatbuilders construct wood laminates that they mold into shape. Hallberg-Rassys contain few sharp angles and joints. All fiddles and doorframes are molded laminates with rounded corners, as is the molded division in the V-berth. In the head and the laundry room, teak doors have floating panels so they won't warp as the wood expands and contracts with moisture.
All Hallberg-Rassys come standard with a teak-and-holly sole over which a rugged carpet snaps into place. My first encounter with bulkheadto- bulkhead carpeting, I was curious, but soon into the passage I became a fan. On passage, condensation, spray and dirt accumulate down below, and the sole under the ladder gets slicked over with a slippery film. The carpet kept us on our feet, was easy to vacuum, kept the noise down and protected the sole from scratches and dropped objects. The snaps are widely spaced and barely noticeably.
A number of interior versions are available, and the Mights spent lots of time designing the perfect accommodation plan for their needs. "When people get to shore they need three things: trash, ice and laundry," explains Tom. "We wanted to minimize our dependence on shore and have dealt with all three on board." They installed a trash compacter, icemaker and a washer/ dryer instead of a third head. With three grown sons, they also wanted three separate sleeping cabins in addition to their master stateroom.
The V-berth in the forward cabin sleeps two, and there is ample storage with two hanging lockers, two shelf lockers, shelves above the berths and storage underneath. The forward head opens to the laundry area as well as the midships cabin. While the head has a separate shower stall, it is designed so that the entire area can be used as a shower in rough conditions.
Forward of the mast, on the port side is a private cabin with ample storage. This midships cabin can have a double berth or bunked berths, the advantage of the latter being increased floor space and an added sea berth. The Mights decided to put two berths in the midships cabin and two on the starboard side across the companionway. These companionway berths had their own hanging locker and shelf lockers. Given the bumpy Gulf Stream and subsequent rough conditions, I soon vacated the V-berth. The motion was easy sleeping on the top bunk in the companionway. Outfitted with lee cloths, these four bunks boast a comfortable motion in any kind of sea and distance from the sounds in the engine room.
In the main saloon the Mights opted for the trademark twin armchairs. They were extremely comfortable and secure, especially on our prolonged port tack. I find that armchairs on boats can often look out of place, but upholstered in almost-white faux leather, this pair looked trim and fit in perfectly.
Storage abounds throughout the interior. In the main saloon, lockers can be found beneath and behind much of the U-shaped settee. All of the floorboards come up, and the aft chair folds forward. With the HR 62's beam of almost 17 feet and a high overhead, it becomes a challenge to place enough handholds around the saloon. In addition to handholds along the overheads, Hallberg-Rassy usually installs a bench with a high back in the center of the saloon facing the table. However, Diane found this partitioned the main saloon and pushed for an ottoman instead, and after 10,000 miles in a range of conditions, they don't feel they have sacrificed a thing.
The nav station is to starboard of the companionway. The desk and bench are wide enough for two people. A VHF, SSB, Inmarsat Fleet 33, Raymarine multifunction display, instrument display and laptop all had their place with extra space to lay out a paper chart. The electrical panel outboard is well organized. Behind the seat are shelves for manuals and the master switches for the complex electrical system on board.
The inline galley on the port side also serves as the walk-through to the aft cabin. The galley comes standard with a deep freezer, top-loading refrigerator and front-loading day fridge. The Mights also installed a trash compactor and icemaker that requires AC power to make ice, but runs on DC to maintain. The galley has Corian counters with an integral lip. The HR 62 comes standard with a gas stove, but the Mights installed an electric one after trying out one on Christoph Rassy's 62.
The aft cabin can have two large berths, but most owners, like the Mights, choose the owner's stateroom with a double island berth. Owners will be hard-pressed to utilize the abundant storage space including two hanging lockers and numerous shelves. Diane wired the vanity on the starboard side for a computer, and she uses it as an office. The upholstered benches on each side of the berth came in quite handy for an all-hands matinee shown on the flat screen on the forward bulkhead.
The highlight of the aft head is the tub. Yes, the HR 62 can come with a bathtub. You might scoff or smirk at first, as I did, but Diane was right when she said it was the most secure way to bathe. When the conditions made my stomach cringe at the thought of showering forward, Diane offered the bathtub with a wink. Indeed, the athwartships-running tub provided the most secure shower I have had in a big sea.
The Hallberg-Rassy 62 runs on four voltages: 12, 24, 110 and 230 volts. While this makes for a complex electrical system, operations are relatively straightforward. The most cumbersome aspect may be the electric stove. If using more than two burners, you have to run the generator. However, the Mights align meal prep time with charging time and run the generator twice a day for an hour each time. It is important to note that Sheets is outfitted with a 15-kW generator, as opposed to the standard 6-kW one.
In designing their electrical system, Tom estimated daily power usage at 479 amps. In addition to upgrading the generator, they increased their 24-volt house battery bank from the standard 560-amp/hour bank to 720 amp/hours. The instruments run off of a 240-amp/ hour 12-volt bank, an upgrade from the standard 140 amp/hours, and the starter runs off a 140-amp/hour 12-volt bank. They also upgraded to a high-output alternator. As a result of this robust system, we were never for want of more electricity and were able to have AC power for much of the passage.
The Hallberg-Rassy comes standard with a Volvo Penta TAMD 63 M, 174 kW/237-horsepower, six-cylinder direct injected turbo charged diesel. A three-blade, two-geared folding Gori propeller, fixed three-blade spare propeller and 15-horsepower bow thruster are also standard. At a cruising speed of 1,300 rpms and with the prop in overdrive, the engine sound was below average, and it was easy to hold conversations down below.
The bilges are easy to access, and there are two electrical bilge pumps. In the event of an electrical failure, there are two manual pumps. Also, the Mights outfitted Sheets with an Edson Model 165, the Orange Bag Pump, "a massive brute of a pump," Greg Jones reported in BWS's May 2005 issue.
After the calms that greeted us on the other side of the Gulf Stream, the wind built to a steady 10 to 12, and we sailed along at eight knots with the wind at 60 degrees true, as close to the wind as possible with the UPS. The wind settled in out of the south-southwest making it difficult to keep to the rhumbline. Switching to the genoa, we could sail at a true wind angle of 30 to 35 degrees in 12 knots, making seven through the water.
The wind clocked to the west and built throughout the day. By the next morning, it was blowing 20 knots and building with seas on the beam. We knew the rest of the fleet had motored more in the calms, so we had some miles to make up. We decided to push it, sacrificing crew comfort for speed. We reefed the main and kept the full genoa up to drive us, making better than 10 knots. While some boats might slam to a halt in steep seas, we cut through the waves, maintaining our speed and momentum. Down below, cooking was a chore, but we still managed a complex stew. With lee cloths rigged, sleeping came easily.
The forecasts predicted deteriorating conditions with an approaching front, so we took down the UPS apparatus and stowed it in the voluminous lazarette. By evening it was blowing over 25 knots, and we began to see lightning off our stern. With Diane operating the buttons at the helm and Tom on the sheets, we furled the genoa and rolled out the cutter staysail in minutes. The cutter staysail eased our motion while maintaining our speed. In 25 to 30 knots of breeze, we made 9.5 knots and realized we should have made this move earlier. With the full cutter staysail and the main reefed in a third in 30 knots on the beam, Sheets was in her element with a balanced helm and comfortable motion.
After the front passed over the wind shifted aft. We set the genoa to port on the carbon pole, kept the main and staysail to starboard, and rigged the running backstay. Sailing wing and wing, we made 10 knots in 20 knots of true wind. Just before sunset we caught our first fish and celebrated with ice cream that had been kept solid in the freezer for a week. When the wind continued to clock around we brought the genoa over and in 25 knots enjoyed a very comfortable broad reach sailing at 11.5 knots under the genoa, cutter staysail and main.
On the sixth day we saw our first fellow rally boat since leaving the Chesapeake and overtook them before sunset. Other boats in the rally reported breakdowns and crew fatigue; however, we were comfortable and felt like we could continue like this for days, a testament to the HR 62's design success. Before we finished, the breeze increased to a steady 40 to 45 knots with 12- to 15- foot seas. Sailing under the full cutter and half the main, the helm was balanced, the crew was comfortable, and we made better than 11 knots.
When the wind was steady at 25 knots, we easily made better than 200-mile days, as did other boats in our size range. However, we found that when the winds and seas built, we were able to make 220-mile days while our fellow ralliers dropped down to 180-mile days. The HR 62 out shone the rest of the fleet inheavy weather. She maintained her performance and seakindly motion, keeping the crew well rested and thus alert. It was quiet down below. You could hear the water rushing by the hull, but there was little creaking. We found that we could keep the genoa up until 30 knots, above which the cutter staysail was better suited.
Seven days after departing Hampton we sailed across the finish line at Beef Island and entered Sir Francis Drake Channel in the B.V.I. to win our class in the Caribbean 1500 Rally. However, when we went to start the engine, nothing happened. It turned out we had a lot of water in the muffler. We had been sailing on a port tack with large following seas for four days and had ignored the basic rule of thumb to start your engine every day. Even though the HR 62 has an eightfoot rise in its exhaust line, it seems that over four days water backed up either in the line or in the muffler and the starter couldn't overcome it. We hove-to for the night off of Road Town, Tortola. After draining the muffler and recharging the battery, we were able to get the engine started again and made the mental note to start the engine at least every day on passage.
In less than two years Tom and Diane Might have logged 10,000 miles on Sheets in a variety of offshore conditions and cruising destinations. Asking what they would change if they could do it over again, they paused, then concluded, "the cupholders, definitely," they are not big enough for water bottles and cocktail glasses. For me, after 1,500 miles, I would put a foot brace in the cockpit grate. The minutia of these detail changes speaks volumes to the well thought out design and construction of the HR 62.
The Hallberg-Rassy 62 sets a new standard for bluewater boats. She promises luxurious liveaboard comfort in a boat that will be heralded by all as a proper offshore passagemaker. We especially liked the Might's choice of a hard dodger and permanent cutter staysail and found this added substantially to Sheets' versatility. The Hallberg-Rassy 62 comes with an impressive package of standard equipment, including generator, hydraulics, electric winches, bow thruster, folding prop and redundancy on important pumps and systems. This is a blue-water boat as it should be, and we would gladly go anywhere on it.