Hanse 540E

by George Day

Blue Water Sailing
April 2008


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Combines fine performance with advanced building techniques

Hanse 54The new 54-footer from German builder Hanse combines fine performance with thoroughly modern styling and the world’s most advanced building techniquesWhether you see the boat for the first time at the dock or out sailing, you more than likely will stop in your tracks and wonder, “what is that?” And when you have a chance to climb on board, walk the decks, inspect the cockpit, the lockers, the interior accommodations, you will know that the 540 is not like any other cruising boat you have seen before. The new Hanse 540e is so thoroughly modern, in a chic Euro style, that you can’t help but feel that here is the future.

Built in Germany in a facility that ranks as one of the most modern fabrication plants in all of boat building, the Hanse 540e and the rest of the Hanse line of racer cruisers, are the brainchildren of Michael Schmidt. A yacht broker who had built an international business by the early 1990s, Schmidt got into the boat building business in 1993 when he was able to bring together an under-used construction plant in the old East Germany with a Swedish 29 foot racer cruiser design. Schmidt took his first Hanse 29 to a big German boat show that year and came away with 30 orders. By offering a boat that sails well, was well equipped, was built using modern technologies and at a very fair price, Schmidt had found a successful formula. Hanse Yachts was born.

Since 1993, the company has grown and prospered incredibly. Working with German yacht designers Judel/Vrolijk, the company has continued to pioneer new design concepts, new interior layouts, new construction techniques. In an entirely new facility in Germany, Hanse has integrated robotics and laser guided production-line technology to make their processes more efficient and to make the final products standardized to a very high degree of quality. By continuing to build in efficiencies to the manufacturing process, Hanse has been able to maintain its dedication to the original formula that launched the first 29 footer 15 years ago.

Knowing that all consumers are not alike and that choice among interior layouts is important to many buyers, Hanse has introduced a unique system of multiple interior schemes for each boat. From a combination of three or four layouts for the forward cabins, two or three for the saloon and two or three for the after cabins, you can mix and match until you get the combination that suits your needs. Moreover, you can do this all on the Hanse website where you can design your own boat, select the cabin arrangement you want, run through and check the options lists and then submit your boat for a quote from the nearest Hanse dealer. It is just like spec’ing out a luxury car online.In recent years, the company has gone public, has bought and reintroduced the Moody brand with an entirely new Bill Dixondesigned cruising boat and has bought and developed the ultra modern motorboat company Fjord. Hanse is an incredibly dynamic company that is steadily and confidently moving into the future. One good look at their boats—the 540e in particular—and you’ll never look at more conventional cruising boats quite the same way again.Style and substance in 54 feet The 540e is a big boat, even among 50 footers. The Judel/Vrolijk design has 16 feet of beam, and nearly flush decks so the topsides have to be quite high to accommodate the interior accommodations.

The bow is nearly vertical and has a narrow entry for an easy motion in head seas while the stern is quite wide, which makes the hull powerful when reaching. The stern has a folddown, opening transom that opens a garage under the cockpit large enough to store a 10-foot inflatable dinghy. The hull is molded using the most modern resin infusion systems, prepreg fiberglass and a Corecell core for strength, lightness and insulation. Hanse builds all of their larger boats with epoxy resin, the “e” in 540e, which makes the hulls lighter, stronger and more durable. It also eliminates any possibility of water ingress into the laminates.

Three keel depths are offered and two rudder sizes, so you can tailor the boat to fit the thickness or thinness of the water you normally sail. The propeller is driven by a straight stainless steel prop shaft that exits the hull via a robust molded bracket. On deck, the cockpit is huge with twin wheels and pedestals. The coamings are quite high and wide, which makes them comfortable to sit on and which explains why there are no seats right behind each wheel. The cockpit table is sculpted of stainless steel and plastic and will seat six for lunch. With a dodger fitted, there is plenty of protection in the cockpit for all the crew.

An electric Lewmar 54 self-tailing winch is mounted just forward of the starboard helm and all control lines and halyards run back to it via deck organizers and line stoppers. So, from one place on the boat one crewmember can hoist the main, roll out the jib, trim both sails, and adjust the boom vang. And, since the 95-percent jib is self tacking, you do not often need the second Lewmar 54 on the port side.

The 540e’s coach roof is low and streamlined. The main traveler runs across it forward of the companionway hatch and there is a flat area forward of that for lounging. The foredeck is flat with deck hatches installed over the cabin below. A large locker for sails, docking lines and fenders is built in forward with the self-contained chain locker and windlass in the bow. The anchor roller is retractable so the anchor and the roller can be folded away into the large bow locker when not in use. All of the deck cleats are also retractable, so they lie flush to the deck when you are not using them. Teak decking is standard and finished with a high degree of detail work around the cabin, hatches and lockers. The builders and designers have made every effort to streamline the 540e’s deck layout and to remove any obstacles or visual impediments. This commitment to design details, which is common on custom Wally Yachts and other very high end cruisers, is unique to Hanse among the production fleet of cruisers.The 540e’s rig is tall and powerful with a large fully battened mainsail and a small selftacking jib. Because the company is committed to the performance of their boats, they do not offer in-mast roller furling for the main sail. An in-boom roller furling system could potentially be added as a retrofit but it is not offered as an option. The large mainsail, small jib configuration is great when beating or reaching but suffers a bit off the wind so most owners will carry downwind sails such as a reacher or Code Zero both of which can be hoisted on the spinnaker halyard to the mast head on their own roller furling systems. And, for fast running, an asymmetrical spinnaker in a snuffer will really add knots to your boat speed.

The 540e is a fast-sailing cruiser that has the potential for serious high end speed for those who enjoy piling on sail and pushing the envelope. But even for more conservative cruisers, the boat will be easy to sail and will achieve excellent average speeds in all conditions.

Less is more
The interior of the 540e, as noted above, can be tailored to a high degree by an owner by using Hanse’s “individual cabin concept.” Without going through all of the possible iterations, it is safe to say that many owners will choose an interior with a large master cabin forward and twin quarter cabins aft. The forward cabin will have a walk-around double berth on the centerline that is easy to get in and out of and easy to make. Plenty of storage is built into the lockers and cabinets and there is ample hanging locker space. The private head is compact but will work extremely well.

The twin after cabins have twin single berths with just enough space between them to make getting in and out of bed easy. Both of the cabins have en suite heads so your guests will be completely self sufficient. The saloon has an L-shaped dinette to port that seats eight with four on the bench settees and four on small folding chairs that can be stowed away when not in use. Across from the dinette owners can have twin easy chairs with a small table between them or a short bench settee.

The nav station is to port and has plenty of room in which to mount computers, radar, a chartplotter and all of the repeaters for the wind instruments and autopilot. The galley to starboard has a three burner stove and oven, Corian counters with integrated double sinks, a large top loading fridge and a smaller side loading freezer. The cabinets are large enough for all daily supplies. The styling of the interior has a kind of minimalist Euro feel that makes the most of the hull’s large volume not by cramming in a lot of heavy furniture but by keeping all of the surfaces and cabinetry simple, quite low and unobtrusive. The effect expands the saloon and cabins so the boat feels very open and airy below decks.

Bulkheads, the overhead panels and the molded parts of the heads are white, so the interior is bright. Furniture is built of mahogany with a satin varnish finish, which looks rich and attractive. All of the furniture is quite angular so you don’t have sweeping curves in the dinette or curved tops to doors and lockers. Cherry veneers for furniture are available as an option.

The layouts and interior design that Hanse has evolved over the last few years as the company has grown so quickly is definitely having an impact. You will see several European and American competitors adopting a more modern furniture style and making an effort to deliver something new and something better to customers. All this innovation has to be good for sailors and there is little doubt that right now Hanse is leading the way.

Hanse 540e
LOA 52’10”
LWL 47’11”
Beam 16’1”
Draft (deep) 9’2”
Draft (moderate) 8’0”
Draft (shoal) 6’5”
Displacement 41,226 lbs.
Ballast 12,804 lbs.
Sail area 1,445 sq. ft.
Water 182 gals.
Fuel 100 gals.
Hanse Yachts
Annapolis, MD 21403


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