Hunter Marine has combined contemporary styling, performance and very roomy interiors with very low prices to build a successful sailboat line. Their newest is the 33.5.

The Hunter 33.5

The Hunter 33.5

The sailplan shows this to be a handsome design with, by today's standards, moderate freeboard, short ends and a clean wedge-shaped house. Initially, I was struck by the tall fractional rig. Note that there are swept-back spreaders, as Hunter stays with the Bergstrom-Ridder rig.

Why use this rig? I think they save some money by only having to install one double chainplate port and starboard. The stiffness of this system eliminates the need for the added expense of a babystay, so you could consider that Hunter is both simplifying the rig and reducing the cost. With a fractional rig, the swept-back spreaders also help eliminate the need for runners. I'm not sure why they chose a fractional rig, but it may be that they were looking for smaller jibs for easier handling. The SA/D is 17.4.

Hunter is building its advertising campaigns around the slogan "Committed to better engineering." When you say something like that you had better be ready to deliver, and I think their latest ad, entitled "Proven," shows an excellent example of this commitment in action by outlining Hunter's testing of keel configurations.

Hunter designed four different keels: their own "bulb-wing," a deep fin, an elliptical (watch out for that word) wing keel and the Collins tandem keel. Polar plots were run for each of these keels, and it was determined that the deep find and bulb-wing were superior.

You have to be aware that there is a big faith jump here. It may be that the program for producing the polar plots was not sensitive enough to truly evaluate the tandem keel or the elliptical wing keel. If the program was heavily biased towards keel planform and VCG, I would guess that the fin and the bulb-wing would shine. Keep in mind that, while you can fool around with all types of foils appended to your keel, it may just be that getting the VCG down is a lot more important than smoothing out tip vortexes. Anyway, Hunter decided that the fin and bulb-wing were the two best keels. So they fitted two identical hulls with a deep fin and a bulb-wing and went out for some real-life sailing trials. (I think this whole exercise would have been far more productive if Hunter had also sailed a Collins tandem keel.)

The results of the sailing trials were that the bulb-wing showed slightly better performance in all conditions than the deep fin. I had the same experience doing my own keel testing on a 34-footer; and I used a "normal" zero angle of attack, starting at 60 percent wing. Note the tiny wings on the Hunter keel. This is consistent with the little wings on STARS & STRIPES. The bulb itself is a squashed ellipse. The winglets angle down at about an 8 degree angle. I wonder just how effective the wings are; so, I would like to have seen the winglets taken off and the boats retested.

This is the type of testing that all yacht designers like to be a part of. The bottom line is that they have developed a very efficient shoal draft keel. If draft keel is at all a problem, you don't have to fret anymore, just go with the bulb-wing.

The interior of the 33.5 features a dinette to starboard, a split headsink forward and a big double pushed back under the cockpit. The galley has also been pushed about as far aft as possible and I've had some trouble reading the drawing to get an idea of just where the cabin sole ends. There appears to be a wrap-around step of some kind that cuts across the galley. No problem, providing there is headroom to accommodate the extra height of the step.

The basic hull shape is pretty conservative. The stern is broad to help with sailing length, cockpit size and accommodations aft, although not necessarily in that order. I like the short bow overhang. I see a strange fillet about the rudder, but again, the drawing I have is so vague that I can't tell what's what.

Standard equipment with the Hunter 33.5 is a copy of Chapman's "Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling."

Boat Specifications
Displacement10,500 lbs.
Ballast4,000 lbs.
Sail Area522 sq. ft.


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.