Dehler Yachts recently turned 50 and treated themselves to a new 38-footer, which also marks a new beginning: The Dehler 38 is the first model to be completely designed and built since the manufacturing moved from Dehler’s original location in Freienohl to Greifswald, where Hanse is headquartered.
The model by long-time designer Judel/Vrolijk & Co. is being built alongside other brands, including Moody, Hanse, Fjord, and Vairanta. What’s left of identity and independence? How does Dehler differentiate itself? What’s different on the new 38 compared to the Hanse 385?
One who should know these things is Karl “Kalle” Dehler, who left his father’s yard to join RV-manufacturer Hymer, but has been a designer at Hanse since 2004. When Hanse’s founder Michael Schmidt took over Dehler in 2008, thus saving the company from bankruptcy, operations followed Kalle to the coast.
The engineer, who is an experienced and successful sailor, is happy about the new opportunity to revive the old DNA of a sporty, well-appointed and a cleverly outfitted yacht. “We’ve got 3D-design programs, five-axis CNC routers, and the latest laminating technology. In a technical sense, that’s tops in the world, whereas in Freienohl it was the 1980s.”
The new 38 is an important vessel for Kalle Dehler for another reason, too: He ordered one for himself and wants to continue a tradition of racing with a family crew.
The difference between the Dehler and Joe Cruiser’s standard fare is evident by looking at other yachts in the vicinity. Hanse, Bavaria, or Oceanis by Beneteau -- it doesn’t matter: The Dehler appears slimmer, lower, and more delicate. Even without comparison she simply looks good, sporty, and elegant, distinguished by long windows topped by aluminum rails. Looking at the high sail-carrying capacity in the base version, it’s evident that this boat’s competition comes from performance cruisers like the Dufour 36, Grand Soleil 39, Solaris One 37, XP-38, and Salona 38.
An important attribute of the Dehler 38 is her versatility. The boat can be ordered in various different performance packages. The test boat was the standard version with aluminum stick, 2-meter keel and stern hatch. A 1.6-meter shallow-draft keel is offered as an option. And then there’s the hot Competition model with carbon fiber mast, a deep keel of 2.2 meters, and light cloth lockers in the bow and the stern. This saves weight, as dooes the omission of the stern hatch/swim platform. The difference in performance between the two models is tremendous: The standard version has an ORCi rating of 631 seconds per nautical mile, while the Competition version is pegged at 605 seconds. In other words, the hotter boat finishes a 35-mile trip about 15 minutes faster.
That’s all theory and as gray as the sky above Marseilles on a frosty day in late winter.
The optional 38-hp Volvo Penta engine impressively pushes the boat off the dock, but in the aft cabin the sound meter shows elevated readings. Other observations include 8.2 knots under full throttle, which is plenty, just like her 7.9-knots cruising speed. Regardless, it’s nice when the sails are up and the engine is off.
Within the first few meters under sail it’s evident that the deck layout, with six winches as standard equipment, is a success. The German (Admiral’ Cup) style mainsheet system runs to two aft winches that are within reach of the helmsman. The sheets are led through horizontal Spinlock jam cleats, so the jib sheets can be led to the aft winches as well. If needed, the mainsheet can be handled from the windward side, which makes the boat perfect for singlehanded operation. The crew also should be pleased by functional workstations. The mainsheet trimmer can sit comfortably on the slanted and wide coaming to operate the winch that is right next to him. There’s even room for another body and both sailors can brace their feet in the molded coves of the cockpit seats. For the helmsperson there are wooden slats that come with the boat, but have to be installed by the dealer to match the length of the legs and customer preference. Aft of the coaming there are ergonomically designed spots for sitting and standing, without being disturbed by the backstay, as it is all too often the case on other boats. That backstay has a 24:1 purchase and works very well. The two-spreader Selden mast can be bent effectively, so the main can be flattened as desired.
A strong showing
Flattening the main was necessary at times during the test that saw 10 to 15 knots of heterogeneous breeze, sometimes more, including shifts of 100 degrees plus. Not necessarily the best conditions for a test. However, the performance predictions by Judel/Vrolijk were at least partially verifiable. Tacking angles of approximately 80 degrees were achievable, and upwind speeds of more than 7 knots. On a reach under the colorful nylon gennaker, she scooted along, accelerating quickly as she approached double digits on the speedo.
The Dehler 38 appears to be very stiff, which is pleasant for cruising. Even with an induced heel of more than 25 degrees there was no hint of detached flow on the rudder. Says Kalle Dehler: “That aspect was important to us, which is why we played on the computer with the rudder’s position and area.” And successfully so. “The hull shape is well balanced; even at great heel the trim won’t get bow-heavy, so [the boat] remains under in control under pressure,” says Torsten Conradi, managing partner at Judel/Vrolijk &Co.
And something else: The boat steers like a dream, the wheels (optionally in fiberglass) operate with little friction through chains and wires, with a turn and a half from full port to full starboard. That’s direct enough, so lifting one arm while steering upwind is all it takes. This makes sitting sideways and steering simple and comfortable.
Something else that’s noticeable while underway is that the preliminary 3D-design work on the computer paid off in several respects. All the lines move without friction and disturbance. Main and genoa sheets are led parallel to the coach roof and the cockpit coaming, so they don’t need tunnels. Yet the halyards run concealed inside ducts. The cleats also are lower, and can be folded down when not in use. All discharge ports are also flush with the hull surface.
The 105-percent genoa is rolled away on the standard model with the furling drum above deck. However, mounting it below deck as on the Dehler 41 would suit this sporty boat better. The sails, on the other hand, were a very good fit for the test boat, made from high-end FCL (Fast Cruising Laminate) by Elvstrøm. The tri-radial cut canvas was properly shaped, with a clean profile, and was well adjustable for the various wind conditions.
Operability and performance of this boat are good. Speed is not the top priority on a boat that should be suited for cruising too. It’s the compromise that counts, and on a performance cruiser that also starts on deck. The swim platform closes off the stern and creates simple access to the water or the shore when open. The 2.16- by 0.95-m fiberglass hatch also enlarges the cockpit effectively when at anchor. It is operated with a pulley that’s supported by gas-filled pressure cylinders. A large fold-down table compartmentalizes the big cockpit and also offers a good place to brace, hold on, and mount the chart plotter. Stern hatch and cockpit table are both extras, and would be somewhat counterproductive on the Competition model.
A concession to cruisers is the standard flat aluminum rubrail. For an extra 1,590 euros it can be replaced with one from stainless steel, which also is a bit stronger, thus offering more protection.
Belowdecks the return of rounded shapes surprises, with a contoured saloon table, a trapezoidal nav desk, rounded cupboards, and a clean finish of all the edges. The furnishings are a stark contrast to the straight-edged interiors of the sister brand Hanse Yachts. But Dehler adopted the best attribute of the cruising line, which is its variety. Customers can select from three types of veneer (mahogany, teak, oak), two types of floor (striped or black), various fabrics and colors for upholstery, and different types of mattresses. More importantly, they can choose between a two- or three-cabin layout. Aft there can be two cabins or just one to starboard and a large lazarette to port. The cabins are noise-insulated by double longitudinal bulkheads. Between them there is room for storage. The two berths are differently sized; the one to starboard is 1.50 meters wide, while the one to port measures only 1.33 meters.
A nifty detail is the access to the cabin through the head compartment, which is equipped with the same floorboards as the saloon. Shower and toilet are installed in a small separate compartment that is closed with a door.
The designers’ creativity is also visible in the saloon, where the nav desk can be moved forward and aft on a rail. In the forward position it creates space for a second seat. The navigator looks forward and the desk could also serve as a dinette. Moved all the way aft, this mobile desk slides up against the head, thus creating a 1.90-m long berth that turns into a sea berth with the use of cushion insets. The moveable nav desk also ensures that the settee to port can be reached when the saloon table is unfolded.
The galley is generously sized and well-appointed with a stove and oven, two sinks, and a 130-liter reefer that can be accessed from the top and the side. To expand the work surface, the stove and stowage area can be covered with boards, a good and simple solution.
All in all, the boat’s finish seems to be done well, which adds value. Even though there were spots on the prototype where caulk was too generously applied and not all the floorboards fit with precision, it probably is a minor matter that the yard will get a handle on. In addition to the general look and feel there are other pleasant details, including finished edges in areas that are not immediately visible, vent holes under the seat cushions, robust hinges, and gas cylinders for the cupboards. The 80-page boat manual documents all installations on that boat very well, showing Dehler’s bent for quality.
Many years of practical experience are also manifest in convenient details like cubbyholes near the companionway, solid handrails that won’t interfere with headroom, or drawers under the settees that make the tedious lifting of cushions obsolete. Another delight is the lighting system, with spotlights, reading lamps, and indirect lighting that can be dimmed centrally.
Ventilation is handled by the forward and the center hatches and opening ports in the coachroof. The aft cabins each have one deck hatch and one hull port. While racing these openings are most useful to make the tails of sheets and halyards disappear.
|Draft (std/deep/shoal)||2.00/2.20/1.60 m|
|DSPL (std/deep/shoal)||7.1/6.7/7.3 t|
|Ballast (std./deep/shoal)||2.2 t/1.9/2.5 t|
|Ballast ratio (std./deep/shoal)||31/28/34 %|
|Genoa (105%/race)||36/37 m2|
|Holding tank||40 l|
|Price (base version, ex factory)||153.510 euros|
This boat is built at considerable expense. High-value vinylester resin is used for the laminate, which should guarantee against osmosis. The floor structure, with closely spaced stringers, is made of fiberglass and glued to the hull, which results in a more homogenous structure than a steel frame inside a fiberglass hull. Deck and hull are hand-laid sandwich laminate with a balsa core, which improves resistance against bulging and provides thermal and acoustic insulation.
Construction, operability, comfort, performance under sail, design, and styling are all good if not very good. It’s a complete package that’s available for a fair and attractive price, even though the slightly smaller Dufour 36 and the Salona 38 cost a bit less. Clearly more expensive are the slightly longer and more comparable Grand Soleil 39, XP-38, and Solaris One. However, interested buyers should put together their desired package with a closer look at details, since the higher prices of the competition are in part justified by better equipment. Regarding the 153,510-euro price, it’s important to know that Dehler is offering an anniversary deal: The carbon rig is reduced to half price and the FCL sails are thrown in for free.
For more information, visit Dehler Yachts.
This story originally appeared in YACHT magazine, and is republished here by permission. Translated by Dieter Loibner.