There are gray, misty, nearly windless days that no sailboat deserves. Four knots is all the forecast promises. That’s in between a light breeze and a mere draft. And that simply doesn’t cut it for a heavy cruising yacht like the Hallberg-Rassy Mk III.

hallberg-rassy mk III

The Hallberg-Rassy Mk III replaces the MK II in this sailboat builder's line-up.


On top of that, the boat I tested, hull number one, is kitted-out for long-range cruising, including gen set, watermaker and washer, plus a tank that was topped off with 100 gallons of diesel. Instead of 12.7 tons (28,000 lbs.) the vessel displaced 14. That’s a boat for the Atlantic or the Pacific, not for the Bay of Lubeck that resembled a quiet duck pond on test day. The test of the previous model, the Mk II, was conducted under more appropriate conditions, in the Skagerrak, between Denmark and Sweden, in a stiff breeze and seven-foot waves—which made the boat shine. And spending two days on the Hallberg-Rassy 55 at least we had 12 to 14 knots of breeze. But now?

One has seen company president Magnus Rassy in a better mood than the day we were surveying the conditions. “Not good”, he quietly snarls. That’s putting it nicely. But as soon as the heavy Elvstrom offshore sails are hoisted, this stately lady heels a few degrees. Somewhere up there near the top of the mast, there must be a breath of air. The barely audible 75-hp Volvo Penta diesel shuts off with the push of a button, just like main and genoa were unfurled a second ago. And right away, there’s this quiet ripple that signals the hull is moving through the water. There’s a trail of bubbles in the wake.

Instead of being stuck on the lead-gray surface, the Mk III 43 marches along at four knots in barely five knots of breeze. It’s an electrifying sensation, not for the speed, but because it doesn’t reflect the conditions or the 13 year-old hull lines that are not screaming performance, with a rudder that’s hung on a half-skeg and a relatively long keel. As the breeze increases to eight knots and even 10 in the puffs – which still is considered light air for this vessel – the Rassy consistently logs five or six knots to weather. That’s not breaking any records, but it’s still decent for this kind of yacht. While reaching without spinnaker or A-sail, nobody is tempted to fire up the diesel, because the Mk III still does five knots without demanding a lot of attention for fine-tuning the trim or steering.

The 66’ high Selden rig is the same as the predecessor’s. It’s held upright with the help of three nearly straight spreaders. That’s increasingly rare these days, but like the whole boat, it’s suitable for long-distance cruising. The main can be eased out without the cloth getting poked by the spreader ends. Just what’s needed on those long downwind passages in the trades.

The yard offers an optional cutter stay that’s removable. It attaches to a stainless-steel bar on the mast step, which gets it out of the way without fuss and clatter. When properly rigged on the foredeck, which is accomplished in a few minutes, a small working or storm jib can be flown from it. Because such a sail is set close to the mast and thus also close to the center of lateral effort, the HR43 sails nicely balanced even in heavy weather.

A good fit for this arrangement is the protected center cockpit and the practical ergonomics on deck. Deep seats with high coaming behind them provide a feeling of safety for the crew. On shorter trips when the boat’s docked in port they also make for a pleasant stay in the cockpit. The positioning of the winches enables nearly unrestricted single-handed operation, especially when they’re powered (which adds a bit over $15,000 to the boat’s price tag, and takes it just over the $700,000 mark).

mk iii

Most of the changes on the Mk III occurred below deck.

A good improvement on the new HR 43 is the nearly level entrance of the companionway, which required the cockpit floor to be lowered by about a foot. However, the original level was retained by insertion of a solid teak grating, which creates an invisible bridgedeck. If the cockpit gets doused, the water doesn’t immediately enter the saloon, but instead is moved outboard through two massive discharge pipes.

Rassy promises “nearly two additional feet of living space” spread across the entire vessel, in the cabin. That’s the salesman in him talking. Sure, there’s more space, especially in the owner’s cabin aft, where one can find a hand’s width more useable space. Without a doubt, the Hallberg-Rassy 43 always was sufficiently spacious for her size. But more than half a meter of additional space?

What’s definitely noticeable, and perhaps explains how Rassy’s statement should be read, are the additional windows that make the boat visually bigger below deck. Especially the two windows in the saloon, which now are mounted flush, and also the four hull windows. Even when it’s overcast and misty like it was early on the test day, feelings of claustrophobia or darkness do not arise down below. That’s partially due to these windows, which don’t alter the natural light unnecessarily as it is the case with common flush deck hatches with mirrored or nearly black tinted glass.

The interior fit and finish is impressive down to the detail, which is also typical for Hallberg-Rassy. The continuous grain pleases the connoisseur as does the pleasant fragrance of wood, the safe footing in a seaway, and the fundamental solidity. Except in the saloon, the size of the berths is good or very good, and there’s also sufficient headroom throughout.

hallberg-rassy 43

Both the level of detail and the available space in the staterooms are above par on the Hallberg-Rassy 43.

There is, as with any boat, room for improvement: the separation of the shower in the owner’s head is not high enough, and in warmer climes cross-ventilation in the saloon will be missed, because the windows cannot be opened.

By contrast, the list of delightful details is much longer. The equipment satisfies the highest expectations both in terms of quantity and quality. Extras like the teak deck or a 5-kW diesel heater catch the eye. Beyond that, all the gear found on board will be appreciated by experienced cruisers: AGM batteries with deep discharge and 460 amp hours of capacity that provide autonomy for several days; Delrin through-hulls; a highly efficient water-cooled compressor for the icebox; and an electric high-capacity bilge pump. In addition, there are numerous line items on the options list for kitting out the HR 43 to individual taste—and there’s also plenty of space to fit in all these extras properly.

Space limitations can be found only on deck, in two stowage compartments aft, in the lazarette on starboard and in the anchor locker. Here, totaling just two cubic yards, the Swedish yacht offers scarcely more space than a 37-footer. Installing davits for the dinghy might be a necessity.
Sail Area2,210
Displacement28,000 lbs
Fuel capacity104 gal.
Water capacity172 gal.

In the past few years Hallberg-Rassy got considerable competition in the luxury segment: the Contest 42 CS, the Najad 440, the Sunbeam 42.1 and the XC 42 by X-Yachts all are vying for the same clientele and have a fresher design. However, in her latest incarnation the Hallberg-Rassy Mk III 43 satisfies, in part, because her hull and rig stayed pleasantly conservative.

Other Choices: The Contest 42 CS is a good start, and the Outbound 44 is another sailboat worth looking into. The Hanse 415, which was named one of the Top 10 Sailboats of 2013, will also be of interest.

See Hallberg-Rassy 43 listings.

For more information, visit Hallberg-Rassy.

yacht-logoThis story originally appeared in YACHT magazine, and is republished here by permission. Translated by Dieter Loibner.