Dehler celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new 38-footer. We expect good performance, but are there any other surprises? Chris Beeson finds out
What’s she like to sail?
It probably helped that we had near-perfect conditions for this test but she was enormous fun to sail, completely joyous and every bit as good as the Dufour 36 Performance (YM Summer 2012) that won European Yacht of the Year 2013. Standing behind the wheel or sitting outboard on a lowered coaming seat, views forward are perfect and she feels sensational. Obviously she’s designed for performance cruising but she’s not at all fussy to set up, offering the helmsman a wide, comfortable ‘groove,’ and with the high aspect rudder relatively far forward, almost between the wheels, it stayed immersed and we stayed in control. There are plenty of sail controls to play with and spent the test using them all – half a turn on the mainsheet winch, dropping a couple of inches of traveller, a foot of backstay, easing the jib car back – and you could feel the effect of each tweak. In that respect she’s a tremendously engaging boat to sail. Add to that a secure cockpit and effortless passage speeds of over seven knots in most conditions, and she becomes a compelling proposition for those looking for a performance cruiser.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
I really like this new saloon styling – clearly recognisable as the interior of a yacht, it doesn’t look like any other boat. The curved lockers and table fairing, colour combinations and discreet lighting lend it a sophisticated air. It’s also entirely practical in terms of natural light and ventilation, stowage and sleeping arrangements, and moving around securely under way. In the heads, using one door for two functions by way of a magnetic catch, is a clever solution, though how it works in practice we’ve yet to see. OK, the chart table is barely worthy of the name and compared to the one on the Elan 400, it doesn’t disappear with quite the same, er, élan. But it’s there when you need it and slides away like an occasional table when you don’t. The only fragment of thoughtless design is the water pump under the head of the owner’s berth forward.
She can anchor overnight, but it’s not her raison d’etre. If you’re planning lots of that, then you ought to consider upgrading the stemhead and deck hardware. The cockpit table and twin wheels ease your movement fore-and-aft, to and through the drop-down transo. The two-cabin version has abundant deck stowage.
Would she suit you and your crew?
Her ballast ratio looks a little low, but ballast is deployed as a T-keel so she’s considerably stiffer than the numbers suggest, not at all tender, and the STIX number backs that up. She not grand prix twitchy, so two reasonably competent sailors can take her out and have an absolute hoot on the water and rest in style afterwards.
Potential owners could be a couple who have enjoyed dinghy sailing for years and want to buy something that they can either enjoy alone or share with family or friends. They’ll be cruising weekends primarily, perhaps a dash over to the Continent, with a week away during the holidays and the odd race series or regatta thrown in to keep things interesting. Maybe you own a smaller performance cruiser and are looking for extra room and a bit more pace, or downsizing but don’t want a slower boat? However she ends up on your shortlist, the Dehler 38 is a cracking-looking boat, delightful and thoroughly engaging, yet easy to sail. She’ll help any cruiser release their competitive urges or make short work of long passages, without having to compromise on comfort or style.