New designs from Hallberg-Rassy are always keenly anticipated. Does the new Hallberg-Rassy 372 live up to expectations? Chris Beeson spent 24 hours aboard to find out
In survey after survey, YM readers have voted a Hallberg-Rassy as their dream yacht. The brand means comfort, quality and reliability – yachts you can depend upon. When we saw the Hallberg-Rassy 372 at the London Boat Show, we were very keen to get the first UK test.
We arrived at Hallberg-Rassy’s yard in Ellös on the Swedish island of Orust, about 50 miles north of Gothenburg, to find the boat surrounded by inch-thick ice.
This wasn’t too surprising as it was -6ºC outside and we were seriously relieved to find the heating on and a warm welcome below. The heating stayed on for the duration of the test.
First impressions were very favourable. The Hallberg-Rassy 372 is a good-looking yacht and unmistakably Hallberg-Rassy, thanks to the trademark rubbing strakes, blue hull stripe and windscreen.
There’s no shortage of innovation, with five ‘firsts’ for HR. The coachroof has three huge, flush-fitting hatches, the furler and windlass are below deck level, control lines are ducted through the coachroof and the inner shrouds are bolted to chainplates inboard, allowing closer sheeting angles and a clear passage from cockpit to foredeck.
The Frers-designed hull is relatively full in the stern and the run aft is fairly flat for improved performance offwind.
Forward of the keel, the section is nearly semi-circular for a smoother ride upwind in a chop, so she’s a good all-rounder, betraying her purpose as a coastal cruiser.
She’s more than capable of crossing oceans but Hallberg-Rassy favours a centre cockpit and heavier displacement for bluewater cruising.
The figures suggest she’s not short of power and she’s comparatively light for her length, so she should sail well in light airs.
The ballast ratio suggests she’s stiff enough to wear her swanky laminate sails – built using Elvström’s new EPEX system – and the choice of a jib rather than a genoa promised simple tacking.
Breaking the ice
Our host was Magnus Rassy, son of HR’s co-founder, and Lars Thiellesen of Elvström Sails came along, too. Before casting off, Magnus gunned the 55hp engine full ahead and astern for a couple of minutes, to free the ice-bound hull.
We crunched through into open water, dropping lines and fenders into the huge cockpit locker to starboard.
There are also quarter lockers, a gas locker under the helmsman’s seat and a hatch in the transom.
Using the optional electric winches, we hoisted the mainsail up the three-spreader, fractional Seldén rig, unfurled the jib and bore away west down the Ellösefjorden towards the town of Gullholmen.
In a genuinely Arctic 10-12 knot northeasterly, we were broad reaching under main and jib at 120º apparent wind angle, making 6.4-6.6 knots in 5-6 knots of apparent wind, before hardening up to 90-100º apparent wind angle, making 6.6-7 knots in 5-6 knots of apparent wind.
As we left Ellösefjorden we headed north-west and hardened up further onto a close reach and she made 5.9-6.2 knots at 70º to the apparent wind, surging to 7.5 knots in gusts.
Then we set a course north towards Lysekil island. Beating at 30-35º to the apparent wind, with 14-18 knots across the deck, the Hallberg-Rassy 372 tracked upwind like a royal train at 5.5-6.4 knots.
Just south of Lysekil we bore away towards Malmön and Lars went to the bow to set up the furling gennaker on the removable stainless steel bowsprit.
With that unfurled and pulling, she reached at 60-70º apparent wind angle in 10-14 knots apparent at 6.7-8 knots. She has a good turn of speed and I had not expected her to be quite so lively.
The steering on the Hallberg-Rassy 372 feels deliciously connected – the rudder’s iron grip and the Lewmar direct link transmission deliver enough weight in the wheel to remind you that you’re in control. The high cockpit coamings, windscreen and dodger provide excellent shelter – much appreciated in these conditions.
Engine and windlass controls are on the binnacle, accessed either through or around the wheel, and the bow thruster is operated using foot studs, a neat hands-free solution.
There’s good bracing throughout the cockpit. The seat-level mainsheet track, just forward of the binnacle, means you can’t walk around the wheel but the trade-off is more precise control of the boom. The table, stowed in a cockpit locker, attaches to a bracket.
Control lines emerge from the coachroof into a bank of clutches either side. Aft of those are the electric-powered winches: Lewmar 40 secondaries and Lewmar 46 primaries.
This gives you options about which winch to use. From the wheel of the Hallberg-Rassy 372, you can reach the switches for both sets of winches but you can’t reach the secondaries or clutches to ease sheets.
Another slight problem if you’re changing sails, as we did from jib to gennaker, is that there’s no way to jam the jib sheet while loading the gennaker sheet on the primary.
We suggested a small lever jammer on the turning block but Magnus doesn’t like them because they disengage when the line is unloaded – it’s a fair point.
Replacing the secondary winches with another set of primaries would solve the latter problem.
Making the tea
I nipped below decks to make a warming brew. I’d prefer curved-up ends for the companionway steps, but they’re big, unvarnished teak steps with good grip, not too steep, with good hand-holds.
The Isotherm fridge is a sensible depth and easy to reach. This boat also has a freezer, which slides out on runners from a locker outboard of the sinks.
The gas switch under the two-burner stove and oven is a bit fiddly.
In the saloon, sideports and big hatches keep the space very bright and with 6ft 3in headroom, it’s a sizeable place.
Ventilation would be excellent, too, had we been mad enough to open a hatch in mid-winter.
At the chart table I checked our course on the screen, which was running NavNet3D software, linked to the Furuno MFD8 plotter on the binnacle.
The curved seat is comfortable, with a locker below, and there’s plenty of knee space. The switch panel uses a Cambus system that combines functions.
For instance, press the ‘Motoring at night’ switch and the navigation lights, compass light and steaming light come on – the Furuno FI-50 instruments automatically switch on at dusk.
I passed up the steaming mugs of coffee and went back on deck as we passed Malmön to port.
We headed west towards Kungshamn and Smögen, under the Smögenbron bridge, before dropping sail and motoring north up the man-made Sotekanalen, past the swing bridge, before coming alongside in the sleepy former fishing town of Hunnesbostrand, our berth for the night.
Supper and sleep
Magnus made good use of the galley’s workspace to rustle up a prawn bisque, followed by pasta with steak in oyster mushroom sauce.
Using both leaves of the Hallberg-Rassy 372’s saloon table, there was room for four, even six, to dine and admire the saloon.
The heating was a godsend, and she’s so well insulated that there was no condensation despite the 25°C temperature difference.
With the washing up done, we retired for the night. I took the forecabin, where there’s 6ft 2in headroom below the big forward hatch, but that drops to 5ft 10in with the night screen slid into place.
There’s abundant storage in hanging and shelf lockers and more below the 6ft 9in long by 6ft 5in wide berth.
The transducer has its own access panel in the cabin sole. The master battery controls, including a dead man’s switch, are below the starboard hanging locker.
The saloon has lockers and shelves either side and more stowage under the forward part of the U-shaped seating.
The fuel tank and two water tanks are below the settees and there’s a third water tank under the sole, set aft in the bilge leaving all 11 keel bolts accessible.
There’s also a screw head in the deep keel stub that you can remove from outside to drain the bilges after washing them on the hard.
Magnus and Lars opted for the saloon and Graham took the aft cabin. On the 6ft 8in long, 4ft 7in wide double berth, there’s a good feeling of space because you can sit up.
There is standing headroom but not much of it and Graham banged his head a few times on the cockpit moulding.
There’s an opening sideport and small hatch above, with an opaque cover for privacy.
There’s a big hanging locker, with a shelf and a locker further aft and outboard, and more below the berth with the charger and inverter, but it’s got much less storage than the forward cabin.
In the morning I made for the heads and had a shower. A plexiglass panel folds out to create a shower cubicle, not huge but big enough, in the forward part of the heads.
The pumps are up to the task – both the shower and the shower sump drain.
The door and mirror are protected by a shower curtain, but a slightly wider one of a heavier material would prevent water gathering in the base of the doorframe, and stop the curtain sticking to the mirror on the door.
With breakfast out of the way, Magnus cleared what ice there was around us in his diesel-powered way and we sailed back to Ellös.
The Hallberg-Rassy 372 had shown herself to be is a very impressive yacht. If she doesn’t pick up an award at next year’s European Yacht of the Year awards, there’s something wrong with the awards.
The 55hp Volvo is standard but the three-blade Gori folding prop is not. The prop has an overdrive setting, engaged with a quick blast of astern while moving forward. This adjusts pitch and delivers 7.6 knots at 1,700rpm instead of 6 knots without overdrive.
In normal mode the Hallberg-Rassy 372 cruised at 2,200rpm, making 7.4 knots and topped out at 2,900rpm, making 8.3 knots.
She turns in her own length going forward, and almost as tightly astern. There’s a fair bit of weight on the helm while running astern at 3 knots but she’s no wristbreaker.
Engine access is good, beneath the gas-strutted companionway steps and via the aft cabin by removing a shelf.
The hull of the Hallberg-Rassy 372 is solid laminate below the waterline and a closed cell foam core above.
Stiffness is supplied by two full-length foam cored longitudinal stringers, a half-bulkhead below the forward berth, laminated beams below the sole, all with limber holes except the engine bay, and there’s a stainless steel beam laminated to the hull that spreads the mast’s compression loads.
Bulkheads are laminated in place and the doors are mahogany veneer on a honeycomb core for strength and weight saving.
The deck is also hand-laid GRP, foam cored but with solid laminate in high load areas.
Deck and hull are laminated together and the join is teak-capped, with stanchions and cleats bolted through it.
The keel is lead and the semi-balanced spade rudder has a solid stainless steel stock and self-aligning bearings. The small skeg is non-structural, it’s there to regulate the flow of propwash.
First published in the February 2009 issue of YM.
She’s quick, easily-handled, comfortable and well fitted out.
Workmanship and attention to detail are top-notch.
She looks fantastic and feels great at the wheel. She’d take you around the world as many times as you wish and if, for some strange reason, you decided to sell, you’d get a big chunk of your money back, because with Hallberg-Rassy’s reputation she’s an investment.