If you’re shopping in the lofty world of all-carbon construction, semi-custom production, luxury-infused sailing cats, you owe it to yourself to check out the newly-launched HH Catamarans HH66. Designed by Morrelli and Melvin and built by Hudson and Hakes in Xiamen, China, these boats are not for the weekend warrior but they do fill a niche. If you breathe this rarified air and actually acquire one, you may become the most popular kid in the marina. Join us for a few moments aboard an HH66 we found at the Miami International Boat Show.
HHCatamarans draws on the strength of three differentiators: the brand appeal of renowned designer Gino Morrelli, the build expertise of Kiwi Paul Hakes (one of the Hs in the name and also the company president) and the significant financial resources of Hudson Wang (the other H in the name and a self-made manufacturing powerhouse). Wang has built an empire producing high-volume private label merchandise and has a separate factory that makes plastic-infused sports equipment, defibrillators, Yeti coolers, and about a million baseball bats a year.
The boatbuilding facility on Xiamen Island has seven buildings takes up nearly 345,000 sq. ft., and has several hundred employees include Chinese, Taiwanese, Kiwis, and Americans. And although the carbon cats are by far the main focus, other boats and parts are infused and built at the factory as well. Production is overseen by Bruce Livingston, a high-energy American who is introducing 5S organizational methodology to the manufacturing process and has done much to streamline the operation.
HH expects to build 10 boats per year in some combination of lengths (55 or 66 feet). The boats are comprehensively equipped. “We make sure everything is designed in from the start,” says Hakes. “Nothing is left to be bolted on as an afterthought.”
Seeing HH66-02 at the dock was a bit daunting. Her clear-coat carbon finish made an unapologetic statement. I don’t know if clear-coat is practical, but it sure is sexy. Named Night Fury (as in from How to Train Your Dragon) she even sported giant green vinyl eyes on her bows. When I asked Kenny, her Taiwanese owner, about the eyes, he said he wanted to the boat to look intimidating. A giant black catamaran with eyes closing in on you at over 20 knots would definitely do the trick.
The HH66 is an enormous platform, nearly 66’ by 29’ on deck, that weighs in around 36,000 pounds depending on equipment. The hull and deck are 100-percent carbon-fiber with a foam core sandwich. Hydraulics and electrics help with much of the gear including the mainsheet ram and the pre-preg C-shaped dagger boards, which were optimized with the help of America’s Cup data. The T-shaped foiling rudders as well as the Southern Spars mast, boom and longeron (spirit) are also carbon. Night Fury had a suit of Evolution sails, although HH works with North and Doyle sail makers as well. The sail plan is fairly versatile with a 125-percent solent, a square-top mainsail, and the option of a self-tacking jib controlled by a captive (below deck) winch. The self-tacker would be my choice for short-handed cruising.
The coachroof is fairly low, with long dark windows that reach about half way back. On Night Fury, a Bimini was added aft to accommodate the raised helm stations equipped with carbon steering wheels. The dash at each helm was well-angled and had twin B&G MFDs with an array of switches to the right and below the screens.
Instead of two exterior helms, the forthcoming HH66-05 will have a single inside steering station but will add a large tiller and a carbon bucket seat at each transom. With jib and mainsheet controls built into the tiller handles and a good view of the sail plan from either side, these may be the best seats in the house for anyone wishing to feel the wind and experience the excitement of direct steering.
Under power, the twin turbocharged Yanmar diesels (with Saildrive) will deliver 13 knots at wide-open-throttle, but a cruising speed of eight knots is more economical. I couldn’t even hear the engines as we glided out of the marina.
These boats are meant to be luxury suites on performance platforms—there is no roughing it. In fact, the HH66 takes interior luxury to a higher level than has been evident on other carbon cats to date. The layouts are spacious and everywhere there are nice touches like gloss finishes, exceptional joinery, and name-brand accessories including electronics, galley appliances and systems.
Multiple layouts are available, most of which are determined by where the helm is positioned. Once that is determined, the layout of the galley, settees and sleeping accommodations are designed around the owners’ needs. Each boat has a large aft cockpit with various furniture configurations, and a small forward working cockpit with winches and controls for the halyards, and reef and tack lines.
The navigation station on Night Fury took up the entire forward starboard corner of the saloon and was arranged in an L-shape. Twin B&G glass touch-screen displays were on the forward bulkhead with instruments and engine throttles along the side. With the engine controls and an autopilot control head mounted here, this effectively makes an inside steering station.
I noticed a button that stood off alone under the MFDs, which said “DUMP”. It’s a safety measure that releases the mainsheet in case the sail loads up excessively. Good to know.
Each of the finished HH66s has its own flare, down to custom paint mixes and carbon-fiber toilets. The emphasis is on lifestyle with function. There is a choice of three or four cabins and three or four heads with the placement of the stairways that access the cabins dictated by the layout of the saloon. The port bow can accommodate a double crew cabin while a large stowage compartment is in the starboard hull.
Flying the HH66
The HH66 is less of a forgiving workhorse and more of an intense thoroughbred, and it takes skill to sail one. Hakes expects most owners will have a captain or a professional crew of rock star racers, but with training (and help from the onboard hydraulics,) a couple could manage one of these on an extended cruise.
With winds piping up to 20 knots, we raced back and forth on the East Side Xiamen Waterway. Tacking in the narrow channel was more about rolling up the solent, turning around and then trying to get as much speed as possible heading the other way before running out of water again.
The day before we arrived, HH66-03 named Nala flew a hull at 16 knots of boat speed so that was our goal with HH66-02. However, Night Fury is heavier due to additional equipment like two gensets. We spent the first afternoon trying to fly before Morrelli realized that each time the windward shroud reached the magic load of 10,000 kilos, the built-in safety feature dumped the mainsheet, essentially de-powering the boat and preventing us from flying. With that disabled the next day, we tried again.
With the staysail and one reef in the enormous black main, we barreled along in 25 knots of true wind. At 85 degrees true wind angle we finally lifted a hull at around 21 knots of boat speed. At the wheel, I felt the boat load up and then get lighter and I realized what was happening only as Morrelli shouted, “You’re flying!”
It was as frightening as it was exhilarating. The boat got easier to steer when on one hull but this is nearly a 20-ton platform, so flying must be a much-controlled event. It’s not a move recommended for short-handed cruisers.
Like in any new venture, there’s been a learning curve and each successive boat either has new equipment or new options to improve performance and comfort. For example, Nala benefited from a revamp of the Jeffa torque tube steering system with the substitution of porcelain bearings. Instead of the stiff steering as on Night Fury, the subsequent boat’s wheel was smoother and lighter. The system was also retrofitted onto HH66-01 named R-Six.
The rig has also changed. Nala has a mast 10 feet higher and a longeron five feet longer. She is also 2,000 pounds lighter, making her a serious contender on the racecourse. The interiors continue to evolve, too, with CZone digital switching systems and new finishes available. The light maple on Night Fury was beautiful and her layout more user-friendly than on Nala. This kind of progression is a kind of catch-22, though. You can get in early and have just about any whim satisfied, or you can hang back and have the choices streamlined but perfected. I’d say most of the self-selected crowd who aspire to own one of these cats are looking for game-changers. With something new on the horizon, these buyers appeared, and quickly at that. Between the 66 and the soon-to-be launched 55, 10 boats were sold based on nothing more than drawings and models—which is rather mind-boggling.
Pricing has evolved too. It’s expected that with dual gensets, carbon sails, a clear coat carbon hull finish, line drivers for daggerboards, most interior appliances and niceties, and a really sexy custom carbon RIB tender, the HH66 will set you back nearly $4 million.
The lead time for a new HH66 is 10 to 14 months, so you could have one by the time the new year rolls over. But don’t expect to go incognito, because owning an HH66 is bound to get you noticed and probably garner honors at the finish line. You had better get used to the attention.
Other Choices: Currently, the HH66 has little competition. Such high-end carbon cats aren’t exactly production boats and Catana, Outremer and Sunreef aren’t really playing in the same space. With Gunboat on hiatus and McConaghy not yet in production on a comparable model, HH Catamarans is enjoying filling a niche while others run to catch up.
For more information, visit HH Caramarans.
|Draft||5'0" / 13'1"|
|Fuel capacity||200 gal.|
|Water capacity||160 gal.|