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A Stylish German cruiser

Hanse Yachts sure have come a long way since they first appeared in North America in the late '90s. Back then, I thought the boats were small and unremarkable except for the fact that they were built in the former East Germany. But I soon learned that Hanse’s founder and chief visionary Michael Schmidt had big plans. Since then, Hanse Yachts has indeed evolved into one of the highest volume builders in the world. And as I found out during a test sail of the Judel/Vrolijk-designed Hanse 495 on a spectacular late fall day in New England, there are plenty of reasons why Hanse Yachts continue to propagate.

The 495 has striking lines – the bow is plumb, the topsides are tall with oversized hull ports, the coach roof is low slung, and the stern is wide. Stepping aboard (several fixed steps on the dock made it easy to get up through the lifeline gate), I liked the easy-to-navigate side decks, though I’d liked to have seen a longer coach roof grab rail. I was also impressed with the spacious cockpit centred around a large, sturdy table with dropdown leaves. The cockpit seats are wide enough to be comfortable, long enough to stretch out on, and the stainless steel framed table provides excellent hand-holds and brace points. The transom drops down to reveal a large swim platform and clever life raft storage. Access through the stern area is excellent due to the boat’s dual helm configuration. Lines led through a bank of stoppers to winches mounted close to the helms making sail trim from both helm stations a snap. The double-ended mainsheet and self-tacking jib make it extremely easy to sail single-handed, but there
is no traveller. The only way to depower the main is with the vang. On deck storage is available in the good-sized cockpit lockers under the seats and a large sail locker forward.

The accommodations plan is impressively customizable for a production boat. Three very different basic cabin layouts are offered. The boat I tested had the master cabin forward, two guest cabins aft, and a large sail locker forward, but many different variations, including choices of wood veneers (Mahogany, cherry, or teak) and upholstery colours are available. No matter what version you choose, the main salon will be open and stylish with a spacious, Euro-style galley, a large settee, and significant (6’ 10”) headroom. The main salon is bright thanks to well-designed hull ports and well-ventilated by four opening ports and two large opening hatches. There’s also room for a proper, forward facing nav station with a large chart table and a good-sized head.

Hanse pitches the accommodations design as “loft style.” This is readily apparent in the master cabin forward. It has a legitimate walk-around “bed,” generous storage, and an ensuite “bathroom” that you might actually find in a small city “loft” instead of the triangle-shaped bunk that you often find in forward cabins on many boats. An equally well-proportioned and well-equipped master cabin aft is also available, but I’d opt for the superior light and ventilation available forward. The guest cabins are much less “loft-like,” but still have enough berth and storage space to be comfortable.

I test sailed the 495 off Manchester, Massachusetts, under crisp sunny skies in about 8-12 knots of breeze and flat water during a highly unusual warm spell last fall. Now while it wasn’t the best day to see how the boat would handle a blow, I can report that it handled the light stuff extremely well. The helm was light and well balanced. I appreciated the tactile feel of the steering and the way the hull cut a clean wake through the water. Visibility to leeward and of the jib telltales was excellent from each of the helm stations and the seats were comfortable though they felt a little exposed. I also liked the easy visibility and access to the chart plotter mounted on the back of the cockpit table, and that the crew could both trim and reef without ever needing to go forward.

Upwind, in the slightest of puffs, I was able to get boat speed to just touch seven knots, briefly, and to tack the boat through 80 degrees. But speeds in the high 5s and 6s were the norm in the mostly single digit winds. Still, pretty good considering this is a 30,000 lb., 50-foot boat. The 495’s excellent light air performance is really not too surprising considering the low-drag hull was drawn by the go-fast guys at Judel/Vrolijk, the L-shaped, 8,830 pound keel draws almost seven feet, and even with the self-tacking jib, sail area totalled 1,272 sq ft. And it was easy to sail too. Once the in-mast furling main and self-tacking jib were trimmed for sailing hard on the breeze, all I needed to do was put the helm over and sail to where the telltales told me to go. And if we did need to trim, a powered winch was there to provide the muscle.

The standard 72 HP engine provides plenty of power and the deep rudder and L-shaped keel provides plenty of manoeuvrability, but we didn’t really need any of that to get off the dock due to the dual retractable thrusters our test model was equipped with; all we needed to do was deploy the thrusters, and push the joystick (both thrusters are controlled with a single joystick) to the right. The ability to simply power sideways out of a tight spot is cool, but you must to remember to retract the thrusters before accelerating or they will be damaged. There were no surprises once we were powering out of the harbour. Boat speed under power was in the 8-9 knot range. Engine noise was noticeable but acceptable down below.

The hull is built of solid, hand-laid fibreglass below the waterline and the deck and the hull above the waterline is cored with balsa. The hull is stiffened with a solid fibreglass grid. Both the hull and deck are laminated with Isophtalic gelcoat and vinylester resin. Both the standard T-shaped, and the optional L-shaped keels are cast iron. Overall construction quality was good.

If you ever use words like classic, or traditional, or transom overhang, to describe your ideal cruising boat, the Hanse 495 is not going to be your cup of tea. But, if you’re looking for a spacious, stylish, well-designed boat that’s fun and easy to sail, AND will turn heads on any harbour tour, the 495 may be right in your wheelhouse. It combines attitude and elegance with performance and function beautifully.

By Bill Springer

To see if this boat is available, go to www.boatcan.com to check listings!