by George Day
Blue Water Sailing
The new lightweight Hanse 400 packs a lot of sailing agility and plenty of comfort
Hanse 400 The Chesapeake morning broke cool and clear as the rain of the night before was blown offshore by a clearing northerly wind. We picked up the new Hanse 400 in Annapolis Harbor and motored easily out the channel and into Chesapeake Bay with the 40-horsepower diesel driving the saildrive and folding prop with little vibration or sound.
The large-diameter destroyer wheel drives a direct rod steering system, so the feel on the helm is direct and tight. At full throttle, the boat did not squat visibly as many do; instead, it accelerated nicely and leveled off at just under eight knots.
When we threw the transmission into reverse, the prop gave a solid shudder and then the 400 came to a stop in about two and half boat lengths. Given the tight turning radius and the ability to power up quickly and stop surely, the 400 handles like a sports car.
We hoisted the main and trimmed the halyard for the 12 knots of steady breeze and then rolled out the 100-percent jib. With the engine cut, we trimmed in the jib and then the main for a long upwind board toward the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The 400 is remarkably stiff and close winded. With 16 to 18 knots of apparent wind, the boat stood up nicely under her full working sail and settled down to a comfortable 18 degrees of heel while making a steady 6.5 knots.
The mainsail has a mid-boom sheeting system that runs to a traveler on the cabintop forward of the dodger. The sheet itself leads forward along the boom and then aft to a winch on the cabintop.
The jib is self-tacking and sheets to a sliding traveler forward of the mast. The sheet runs from the traveler on the forward side of the mast, back down to the deck and aft to a winch by the companionway; this is a lot of turns for a headsail sheet, but there was very little friction and the sail is small enough to make it simple, in most cases, to trim it by hand around the winch.
Tacking this rig is simplicity itself. If you have the main traveler set up amidships, then all you have to do is throw over the helm and the 400 spins neatly through the eye of the wind and falls into the groove on the new tack. No winch grinding, no fuss, no bother. All you have to do is make sure that you don't spill the drinks as the boat changes heeling angle.
The power in the rig lies on the big mainsail while the ease lies in the self-tacking jib. After making a few tacks toward the bridge we fell off and broad reached across the bay toward the Eastern Shore.
As we did, the apparent wind decreased to under 10 knots yet the speedo and the GPS were steady in the 7.3 range. Not bad. Playing with the mainsail trim, we found that it was hard to overpower the big rudder, even in puffs. The boat sailed quickly, yet did not feel squirrelly. In that breeze, a cruising chute, which tacks down to a small retractable bow sprit, would have really made her fly.
As we fell off farther from the wind, we noted that is was hard to keep the jib filled; the main blanketed the headsail when sailing below 160 degrees apparent.
When running downwind with a self-tacking jib, you need to lead lazy sheets to the clew so you can trim the sail outboard of the shrouds and aft in order to open up the top of the sail and maintain its best sailing shape. We did not have lazy sheets so we opted to jibe downwind at angles that allowed us to keep the jib full and drawing.
We spent all morning out sailing, which was enough to get a handle on how well the boat behaves in a moderate breeze with a fairly flat sea. We did not take it offshore nor did we test it with a challenging breeze. From our test, we can report that the 400 is quick, nimble through tacks and jibes, remarkably stiff for a lightweight cruiser and a lot of fun to sail.
THE DESIGN CONCEPT
Hanse 400 Deck
Yet the hull form, the low center of gravity and the fairly narrow beam (length-to-beam ratio of 2.68) mean that the hull is easily driven and stiff in a breeze. The underwater blades - keel and rudder - are modern cruising designs that are a useful compromise between pure performance and cruising comfort. The bulb keel places the mass of lead five feet below the waterline, thereby greatly enhancing the boat's stability and giving it an easy motion in cross swells or when running downwind; the 400 will roll fairly slowly and will not corkscrew badly in quartering seas. The fairly high aspect rudder is large enough to offer plenty of bite and sure control even when power reaching; and because the stern is relatively narrow by modern standards, the rudder is not likely to cavitate or lose its grip in puffs.
The 400's sail area-displacement ratio with 100-percent working sail is 21.76, which is like having a turbocharged six-cylinder engine in the family touring car. Yet, with the low center of gravity, the boat can carry this amount of sail area in normal breeze. In winds over 20 knots apparent, you will throw a reef in the main. As the wind builds, you will either continue to reduce the mainsail with a second or third reef, or roll the jib away. We did not test the boat under mainsail alone, but we anticipate that it will handle well with just the main and expect that in rough conditions this may be the way to reduce sail.
Judel/Vrolijk is well known in Europe and has built a reputation for designing boats that are "right." By that we mean that their designs look right, sail right and behave right in a wide range of conditions. The Hanse 400 has this J/V pedigree in every aspect of the design.
On the Hanse website you will find that each boat can be laid out using a simple template. All you have to do is click on the buttons as you design your own custom interior. Once you know more or less what you want, you can go to Hanse's newest innovation, the Yacht Configurator.
Using the Yacht Configurator you can select the cabin arrangement you want, the hull colors, the sails and deck equipment, electronics, even the fabrics and color scheme below decks.
After sailing the 400 we went through the Yacht Configurator on our computer and sent the specifications off to Don Walsh, Hanse's North American Distributor. A few hours later, we got an e-mail back with a complete price breakdown for all of the options, upgrades and electronics we had ordered. The price did go up by about $60,000 (from a base of $189,900), but we could see exactly how much everything would cost. Even better, the Yacht Configurator offers the ultimate in instant gratification for those shopping for a cruising boat.
If you like to mess about with boats, layout options, and gear and equipment configurations go to www.hanseyachts.com and you can have some fun. And if you get serious, a real live quote is only a click away.
The galley to starboard had a two-burner propane stove while the large head with a separate shower lay to port.
The saloon configuration had the L-shaped dinette to starboard and two swiveling easy chairs with a table between them to port. This is the chart table and doubles as a good place to play cards and so forth. The desktop is not large enough to roll out a standard size chart; but in the age of chartplotters, few Hanse owners will be marking off their progress with parallel rules and a divider.
The Hanse interior styling looks very Euro-modern with a lot of square corners, open spaces, light colors and an elegant minimalism. Furniture has been kept simple, low and uncomplicated; no doubt this is a style decision, but it also appears that form follows the function of making the interior easy to build on a production line.
At the Strictly Sail boat show in Oakland last spring we observed an American couple stepping off a Hanse 37 after a thorough inspection below decks. "So, what did you think?" the man asked. The woman just said. "Wow. That's really different. And I like it." The 400 carries 75 gallons of water and 35 gallons of diesel.
These aren't voyaging quantities but will suffice for long summer cruises and trips to the islands and back. Most of the storage below decks is under the bunks and settees. Beneath the floorboards there are small compartments, but because the boat has a shallow hull form, you will not find a voluminous bilge in which to stow cans and other gear. The floorboards fit snuggly into their floor frames and do not have latches for lifting them; instead, Hanse supplies a rubber suction cup lifting tool.
The ambience of the Hanse 400 we sailed was pleasant, modern and stylish. We can picture a family or a couple cruising aboard comfortably for extended periods. For those going on a long cruise, the two-cabin layout leaves the port quarter open for storage, which will be most welcome.
Using the Yacht Configurator, and by standardizing the options list to only the quality of equipment that fits the Hanse line, the builder can maintain the costs basis and pass along saving to buyers.
Even though the dollar has sagged against the euro in the past few years, Hanse has managed to maintain a good value position in the U.S. market. And with a base price of $189,900 the new 400 is not the least expensive boat in the harbor, but it is certainly not the most expensive either.
Hanse boats and the 400 are designed for sailors who like to sail well, who are looking for a fast cruising boat that is easy for a couple to handle and for a modern, elegant floating home that will take them over the horizon if they wish to go.
A fine cruising boat at a fair value, the new Hanse 400 is a thoroughly modern performance cruiser from a company that is making real waves in Europe and now in the U.S.