When the wind shifts you have two options: follow it, or tack. In 2017, Hallberg-Rassy tacked and launched the Hallberg-Rassy 340. Has the change of course paid off?
Hallberg-Rassy 340 review: 2017 model put to the test
At first glance the Hallberg-Rassy 340 is not a Hallberg-Rassy as we know it. Twin rudders, a deep fin and bulb keel, square ends and a bowsprit give her a sharp, contemporary look. She promises sporty performance, but not necessarily the gentle character of an offshore cruising boat.
Shortly after departing Copenhagen though, I was reassured. We were close hauled under full sail making steady progress down the Oresund when a 30-knot squall hit. With a narrow channel and shipping around, there was nowhere to go. We needed to reef, and avoid being set to leeward on a sandbank.
Some modern boats would have rounded up uncontrollably, made huge amounts of leeway and drifted out of the channel. Aria Legra feathered the wind at about 25-30° apparent, making 3 knots in the right direction as we scrambled to throw a reef in. It wasn’t pleasant, but she dug in just when we needed her to. ‘Phew,’ I thought, followed shortly by ‘phwoar’ – that was quite impressive.
Following on from the Hallberg-Rassy 44, the Hallberg-Rassy 340 was the second Rassy to have twin rudders, a bowsprit and almost full-length waterline. The beam is carried most of the way aft, maximising interior volume. From the outside, the emphasis on performance is striking, and a 38% ballast ratio, fractional rig and 48:1 adjustable backstay give credence to the claim.
Look beyond the bold bow and twin rudders though and there’s a careful balance of old and new in evidence. The rubbing strake, generous teak coaming and touch of sheer keep a line of continuity with her predecessors. She’s also heavier than many of her direct competitors, with a slightly deeper forefoot.
The design may be new but Hallberg-Rassy construction techniques are tried and tested. The hull and deck are Divinycell cored, giving stiffness, sound and thermal insulation without the pitfalls of balsa. There’s a structural grid laminated into the bottom of the hull, a substantial ring frame to distribute the mast load and a solid stainless steel rudder shaft.
The level of craftsmanship is immediately obvious: the decks are perfectly flush, and there’s a generous toerail and a nice teak grabrail on the high coachroof to give confidence going forwards. The split shroud base gives almost unimpeded passage along the sidedecks. Like all the best inventions, it solves a problem that hadn’t been noticed until it disappeared.
Integral scupper drains keep the topsides clean and classy. The chunky stainless midships cleats would look at home on a 50ft yacht. Performance yes; stripped out racer: no.
The bowsprit itself serves several functions. Primarily for setting a code zero or gennaker, it also houses the anchor, keeping it clear of the topsides and provides a platform for bows-to moorings. Although it’s a great addition when sailing, sprit anxiety can make manoeuvring somewhat more stressful. The 372 has a retractable sprit, which is a bit more versatile.
The split pulpit is a necessary feature of the foredeck arrangement and makes it much easier to set a sail beyond the forestay, but it does leave you feeling exposed when working on the foredeck in a seaway.
The coachroof is relatively high and rounded which allows for plenty of headroom below, but from some angles it is a little bulky and somewhat out of keeping with her sharp lines. There’s quite a camber to the top which I was sceptical about at first, but the non-slip coating is excellent. It falls off steeply just forward of the mast to give a huge flush working area on the foredeck, a luxury which can only be truly appreciated when grappling with a gennaker which has gone wrong (don’t ask!).
It’s big enough that we sailed along quite happily with a 2.4m dinghy lashed on top. The under-deck furler and windlass positioned inside the chain locker keep the area clutter free. The chain locker itself is deep and spacious, with room for a few fenders and plenty of chain.
The cockpit of the Hallberg-Rassy 340 is large for a 34ft yacht, extending all the way aft to the transom. At the companionway end it’s just narrow enough for a 5ft 6in shorty to brace her legs across, but further back it becomes quite a stretch.
Originally designed for a tiller, the twin wheel option is far more popular. She’s a small boat for twin wheels and, as elegant as the 48:1 backstay purchase system is, it sits right between them impeding movement especially when fully kitted.
The helm position itself lacks foot blocks, and becomes uncomfortable when heeled for long periods. The seated helm position is crammed into a corner with no proper legroom unless you perch on the rather narrow coaming.
After about half an hour we tended to resort to the autopilot which is a shame on a boat which is so much fun to helm. If it were me I’d seriously consider the tiller option.
The Hallberg-Rassy 340’s transom is enclosed by the bathing platform, but like most boats with this configuration this makes it impossible to have a proper pushpit. Standing so far aft on the wheel with little between you and the almighty blue felt precarious on occasion.
On the plus side, all the controls are located near the helm, including engine start panel, furler, mainsheet and a switchboard with essentials like nav lights.
The Hallberg-Rassy 340 was a dream on solo watches, the only thing missing was a coffee machine. Most lines are led aft to port and starboard halyard winches. A recess in the coamings keeps the halyards tidy and provides handy stowage.
Carol Wu is one of the few owners to opt for slab reefing instead of in-mast furling, which is done from the mast as the main halyard and reefing lines terminate there.
Beneath the starboard bench is a vast cockpit locker which houses the dinghy, outboard, liferaft, lines and fenders.
I’m totally converted to the Hallberg-Rassy windscreen. It quickly converts to a full spray hood when you need it. The large surface next to the companionway also doubled as a workstation where Carol keeps her charts in a waterproof case and binoculars; essential items in the intricate Swedish archipelagos.
There’s also a generous gas locker under the deck just forward of the backstay, which Carol adapted for slightly larger bottles.
Hallberg-Rassy 340 below decks
Step down the companionway and there’s a much more traditional feel than there is on deck. I was relieved that she still felt like a boat and not an apartment. There was the high-quality finish and lovely woodwork you’d expect from her Nordic builders.
The saloon is bright and airy thanks to two overhead hatches (one opening forwards and one aft – very clever), big portlights in the coachroof and two in the hull. Head room is 6ft 3in, so for many the high coachroof is a price worth paying.
The omission of a nav station allows for a more spacious saloon but means that the saloon table is the only work space, whether for your charts or laptop.
Two long benches make good sea berths, and you can raise the seat-backs to make wider bunks in port. One cost of the bright, spacious feel is stowage. The hull portlights, though lovely, take the place of what could otherwise be lockers. The lifting seat-backs make for a quick bunk conversion but are poor for stowing as everything tumbles out. Carol has fitted lee cloths behind them to make better use of space.
Tanks occupy most of the space under the seats, so despite the large interior volume, you need to be creative. The galley is another area which is sacrificed in favour of an open saloon space. It’s aft-facing and tucked in next to the companionway.
Although well-appointed with a deep fridge and generous lockers outboard, it was difficult to use under way. On port tack gravity draws you down towards the hob and it’s a struggle not to be pushed into it when you’re washing up. It means in certain conditions you can’t use the hob and the sink simultaneously. A rail across the cooker would help, although it would eat into a narrow space.
Beyond the saloon bulkhead there’s a heads compartment, wet locker, and attractive master cabin. The wet locker impresses, with a dual-function door which can close off the master cabin.
The heads is bright, well-ventilated and just the right size. On a 34ft yacht, who wants to prioritise space in the loo? Not me. One niggle was that when heeled on a port tack the Dometic loo didn’t empty well, we had to luff up for a flush.
The vee-berth is 6ft 8in long and 6ft 6in across at its widest point. A useful shelf runs the length of the berth and you can store plenty of gear under the bunk. There’s a bedside table and small locker on both sides. A slight gripe is that the foredeck hatch is quite small for pushing sails in and out of, and it doesn’t fold down flat, so it’s not a handy place to store sails.
The Hallberg-Rassy 340 aft cabin has another huge bunk, two big lockers, four opening portlights and one in the hull. It also gives access to the steering gear and back of the engine which sits under the companionway steps.
Access to the Volvo Penta D1-30 is adequate. The day-to-day stuff is easy to reach from beneath the lifting steps of the companionway. The oil filter is more difficult as you need to go through a cut-out in the locker under the sink. Hallberg-Rassy prides itself on installing its engines after the boat is built and not building the boat around them. For big jobs you’d probably make use of this feature and take it out. There was plenty of power available under engine. At 1,500rpm she made 4.8 knots in flat water and she made 6.6 knots at 2,500 rpm.
With her saildrive and deep fin and bulb keel the Hallberg-Rassy 340 spins on a sixpence and responds promptly with steerage in reverse. However, like many modern boats, there’s more above the waterline and less below the waterline so she suffers from windage in gusty conditions.
The twin rudders mean there’s no immediate steerage from a burst of forwards, as water is thrown between rather than directly over them. Carol is one of the few owners not to have opted for a bow thruster and although not necessary, I can see why it would be useful.
Hallberg-Rassy 340 under sail
It’s under sail where the Hallberg-Rassy 340 stands out from her predecessors though. In six days of cruising we covered 300 miles with a good range of conditions.
There’s no doubt about it, she’s a fast boat. In three passages of over 80 miles we averaged 5.5-6 knots. On a close reach in flat water she made almost 6 knots in little more than 6 knots of wind under code zero and full main.
The long waterline pays dividends upwind. In a slight chop sailing around the north coast of Öland we made 6.4 knots in 15 knots apparent wind, just off close hauled. The helm was finger light, it was like holding the reins of an impeccably-trained racehorse: one which is probably too polite to win the race, but will give the jockey a thoroughly good time.
The fractional rig and small triangle means that there’s a surprising amount of work behind those headline boat speeds though. The modest genoa is easy to handle when beating, but it doesn’t give much oomph off the wind. A quick switch to a code zero or an asymmetric is required as you bear away. Although furling gear can make these headsail changes quite controlled, the process isn’t always as effortless as it sounds.
Carol is an energetic sailor and is quick to make the changes, but not everyone likes the foredeck as much as she does!
Although the Hallberg-Rassy 340 didn’t slice through the waves as a more traditional vee-shaped hull profile would, she didn’t slam as some boats of her type might. For a yacht of this kind, she coped well with the typical short, sharp seas of the Baltic shallows and she excelled in the intricate leads of the archipelagos, where her lively turn of speed and light airs performance were admirable.
What makes her a rewarding coastal sailing boat might prove tiring on long passages though, as there’s no off-button to her joie de vivre. There are other Hallberg-Rassys which are better adapted for ocean sailing: the huge saloon, lack of stowage, small galley and no nav station all point to different priorities in the Hallberg-Rassy 340.
But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t safely cross oceans in her. Equally, there are other performance cruisers which will be faster. But what the Hallberg-Rassy 340 does particularly well is to blend spritely performance with bluewater build quality and good old-fashioned manners.
As we neared the end of my time on board we found a secluded anchorage amongst the islands of the Blue Coast, south of Stockholm. We had one other boat for company: a seaworthy-looking 35-footer. The owner proudly told us that it was the Rasmus 35, the very boat which kickstarted the Hallberg-Rassy dynasty in 1967. And despite their obvious differences, what they share is that they’re built to stay the course of time. Where will Aria Legra be in 50 years’ time? Who knows, after all, opposite tacks converge as well as diverge.
Expert Opinion on the Hallberg-Rassy 340
Ben Sutcliffe-Davies is a marine surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA) www.bensutcliffemarine.co.uk
The Hallberg-Rassy 340 hasn’t been around that long as the production run started in 2017. Some potential buyers may think that a survey is unnecessary, however I would always urge buyers to have a survey no matter how new the vessel. I’ve not surveyed a 340 in the flesh, but have surveyed plenty of Hallberg-Rassy’s.
I discussed with CEO Magnus Rassy issues on other models which could apply to the 340. Structurally, the 340’s laminate schedule has a good, well consolidated layup that uses woven rovings. These have long filament runs which don’t generally suck up moisture like chop strand mat does, so you should not see osmotic blistering.
With regards to the decks, the 340 now comes with the cap rail, decks and cockpit in Eco deck, an alternative to teak. Older 340s were built with teak, and this should be carefully examined. Although Hallberg-Rassy uses the best available teak, not all owners understand the care that it needs. Look carefully at the wear and thickness, where possible, around fittings and deck lockers.
The 340 comes with a Volvo D1 engine which is very reliable if properly serviced. Check the service records. The sail drive O-ring seal needs replacing every seven years. Make sure you check seacocks as anything over five years old is best replaced.
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