Hallberg-Rassy builds cruising boats with uncommon style and quality. The boats are built in Sweden and their newest design comes from the Argentinian designer German Frers. You are definitely challenging a designer when you ask him to design a center cockpit boat under 40 feet, but Frers is awfully good and this new Hallberg-Rassy 39 proves it.
Center cockpit under 40 feet? No problemo. Okay if it looks like a stacked up wedding cake? Big problemo. You can solve all kinds of difficult design objectives if you don't mind having an ugly boat. Marinas are full of them. True, our tastes change and the low freeboard of today is the high freeboard of yesterday. It is right that we adjust our criteria so that we can balance function against form. But we must achieve the balance. Looks are important. Sailing craft, despite their function or gender inclination, should show a careful attention to proportion and eye appeal.
The Frers-designed 39 shows clean and unaffected lines with moderate proportions. It's not a classic beauty; but, like the Tartan, it has a masculine businesslike look and a comfortable balance to ends, sheerline and deck structures. You might be keen on windshields, but consider how many cruisers never take their dodger down. In Seattle, if you have a dodger it stays up year round. The windshield just makes for a much nicer dodger. It also adds some life to the straight lines of the cabintrunk and breaks up the bulk required to spread out the headroom in this design.
Studying the hull profile, we can see that Frers is determined to retain the elevated counter style that marks his IOR designs. But rather than being a carryover from a racing rule, I think that Frers just likes the clean and graceful look of the raised counter. From a functional point of view, you could argue that this feature may reduce the effective sailing length; and then you could turn around and argue that it prevents you from dragging the transom.
If you look at the port inboard profile, you can see how this shape change is achieved. Note the hull profile, the fair body, the aft of the keel. You can see that this line does not run fair to the counter. There is a little jig in this line just forward of the rudderpost. If you simply extended the fair body line from the keel to the transom, you would get a lot of additional volume aft and a transom that would bury the moment the boat heeled 10 degrees, creating what we call a cookie sucker.
The keel is a bulb-ish fin with a nice low VCG and outside lead. I am still a fan of outside lead. If you need a good bumper down there, you can't beat a big piece of malleable lead. The rudder is a semi-balanced spade on half a skeg. This half skeg allows a lower bearing to be used and reduces the required diameter of the rudder stock.
The D/L of this design is very close to my own Valiant 40, as are most of the other dimensions. Beam is exactly the same. For you numbers collectors, the exact D/L is 288 compared with the 265 of the Valiant.
The interior layout of the new 39 may be perfect. There are no curves or jaunty angles, but every needed component is there and is generously proportioned. In lieu of a lazarette, there is a large storage area adjacent to the engine space. If there is a benefit to center cockpit layouts besides the separation of sleeping areas, it is the convenience of designing a real engine room. The space below the cockpit sole is good for little else and allows the engine to be located where access is optimized.
I like the main cabin with its traditional layout. The galley is big, but my one complaint would be the size and accessibility of the ice box. The head does not have a shower stall, but it's better to have one large head compartment rather than two inadequate shower and head spaces.
The 39 is rigged conservatively. Again the center cockpit gives the designer the advantage of locating the traveler aft and at the end of the boom. There are fore and aft lower shrouds and a solid vang. While some owners would prefer a cutter option, I am in favor of keeping it simple and staying with the sloop rig. There is just not enough room in this foretriangle to cram in another stay with a staysail — although I'll be a bottle of glacier water if someone won't try. The end result of this would not be another cutter rig, but a clutter rig.
Hallberg-Rassy builds fine yachts that target cruisers who have been around a while. The Hallberg-Rassy 39 will offer owners comfort and Frers pedigree performance balanced to eliminate the air of obvious compromise.
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This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.