Slim, pretty and a slippery performer, this evolution of the very first Hanse from the 1990s still makes an excellent fast family cruiser-racer, says David Harding
Hanse 292: an excellent fast cruiser-racer
Anyone who has bought a second-hand boat will know that looking for the right one can be a time-consuming exercise – especially if, as is often the case, it involves travelling hundreds of miles to look at a lot of ‘wrong ones’ first.
So if a suitable boat appears on your doorstep, the decision is easy: save yourself all the traipsing around, buy locally and start sailing.
That’s exactly what happened when John Barton was in search of a successor to his twin-keeled Seawolf 26.
On his short-list were the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 29.2, the GK 29 and the Hanse 292.
John sailed from Chichester, so when a Hanse 292 appeared on the books of a local broker, he had to go and see it.
Then, when he learned that the boat’s name was Tellina, the decision was as good as made.
During a career with Shell, John had been responsible for a fleet of tankers whose names, all beginning with ‘T’, were those of sea shells.
Since Tellina just happens to be a type of shell (‘a widely distributed genus of marine bivalve molluscs’, according to Wikipedia) it was, as John put it ‘a happy coincidence’.
Moving up to a Hanse 292
Moving up from a 26-footer to a 29 might not seem a very big leap to some people, but John had his reasons.
‘The boat has to be manageable by myself and my wife’, he says, ‘and sometimes I have to be able to do it all myself. Anything much bigger would be getting too much – and, once you get over 30ft, the costs seem to go up disproportionately’.
John has been more than happy with his choice, mostly cruising locally and around the Solent.
Anyone who does want to race a 292 (or the earlier 291, or the later 300 or 301) will probably be very happy with the way they go, because they’re quick boats.
I tested the 291 in 1995 when it appeared in the UK as the first offering from the then-still-new Hanse yard.
Michael Schmidt had acquired the moulds of the Aphrodite 29, which had been built in Sweden by Rex Marin, and put it into production in Greifswald on the Baltic coast of what had been East Germany.
This was an inexpensive way to start in boatbuilding, and the boat was offered at a remarkable price: you could buy a new Hanse 291 for less than £20,000.
The fact that the design, by Carl Beyer, was well known in northern Europe did it no harm either.
Schmidt’s next move was to buy the moulds of the Finngulf 33, so he had two slim-hulled Scandinavian designs in the range.
At prices that made everyone sit up and take note, they sold like hot cakes. One reason for the low price – apart from factors such as low labour rates and grants to encourage business start-ups east of the old border following German reunification – was the 291’s very basic specification.
It really did come with the essentials and nothing more.
If you liked the boat but wanted to get the best from it, as Andy Hind did with his 291, White Mischief, you had to add a good deal of deck hardware.
Even then you still got a lot of boat for your money. Andy’s efforts and outlay were rewarded with several top-10 finishes overall in the Round The Island Race, including a close second place in 2014 that won him the Silver Roman Bowl.
These boats were competitive – and they can still be today.
I raced with Andy a time or two on his 291 and, a few years later, popped over to Dublin to pace two 292s alongside each other.
One was owned by Philip Watson, a sailmaker and Ireland’s Hanse dealer, who had made some top-grade sails, fitted plenty of go-fast extras and raced with much success as well as cruising around Ireland.
The other was closer to a standard boat. It made an interesting comparison.
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Evolution of the species
In Germany a few years earlier, it hadn’t taken Schmidt long to realise that bargain basement pricing would only get him so far.
The Hanse 291 was a small boat for her length, with pretty flimsy woodwork and limited creature comforts below decks, so he increased the freeboard, moved the heads aft and turned the 291’s quarter berth athwartships to create what almost passed for an aft cabin.
That was the 292, after which the same hull was used for the 300 and 301 before Hanse started commissioning new designs from Judel/Vrolijk in 2006.
Having sailed a few Hanses over the years, including the 291 and 292, 315, 342, 350, 371, 508, 548, 460 and, most recently, the 388, I was looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with one of the very earliest models.
John has owned Tellina – built in 2003 – for six years and has been delighted with the extra mile-swallowing ability.
‘It’s night and day compared with the Seawolf’, he said. ‘There’s so much more scope for getting around the Solent.’
Going up a few feet in length and moving from twin keels to a fin would be expected to make a significant difference, and the fact that the Hanse is a slippery boat helps too.
On the day of our sail in Chichester Harbour we had a breeze that started at around 12 knots before building to half as much again.
I remembered the Hanse 292 being thoroughly agreeable to sail, and Tellina certainly was.
Our speed over the ground (SOG) was around 4.5 knots against the tide as we beat from Itchenor towards Hayling Island, then up to 7 knots when we rounded the corner and bore away up the Emsworth Channel with the tide under us.
Referring to my notes from 22 years ago, I saw that we had clocked 5 knots upwind in a seaway in the boat with standard sails and up to 5.3 knots with the upgraded sails which also gave us several degrees more height.
The biggest difference between those boats and this one was that Tellina’s sails were a little fuller and the draft had moved aft, and on a boat as responsive as the Hanse that inevitably made the helm heavier in the gusts than I remembered.
Sails can be changed, but the basic design of the boat can’t. So it was pleasing to find that it still felt pretty good.
At the helm you have a comfortable perch on the coamings, even if their proximity to the guardwires means that you can’t lean back far to keep your torso inclined outboard as the boat heels.
Anyone who chooses to sit on the cockpit seats will find a comfortable leg-bracing width between them (unless their legs are on the short side), and you have a good view forward over the coachroof.
Sailing the boat from the coaming using the tiller extension, you feel as though you’re on a boat that’s designed to be sailed.
The Hanse 292 is crisp and responsive, and light on the helm too (aforementioned caveats notwithstanding).
You have to push pretty hard to get the rudder to lose grip and, when it does, you’re only punished by a gentle broach; not one of those point-back-the-way-you-came ‘French’ broaches, as I used to call them.
For a relatively narrow boat with a sizable rig, the Hanse 292 carries her sail well.
Even though the keel is not bulbed, and is longer in the chord at the root than at the tip, the fact that it carries around 37% of the boat’s weight helps keep her on her feet.
If you were to fit a bulb keel and a modern rig to a Hanse 291 or 292, you would find yourself with a real rocket ship.
Importantly on any boat without a full racing crew, and especially one that’s fun to sail and rewarding to keep tweaking, the mainsheet is within easy reach of the helm on a traveller just forward of the tiller.
It’s only a 4:1 purchase for a sizeable mainsail, however. Adding an extra 4:1 to give a 16:1 fine-tune would make a big difference.
Similarly, the backstay tackle could do with a lot more power and some crews might find that the Lewmar 16 primary winches call for a bit of grunt with an overlapping headsail.
Moving forward from the cockpit, you find side decks of a generous width.
The chainplates for the swept-back caps and lowers are close to the coachroof, making it easy to walk outboard of them and reminding you that the design goes back a few years.
Tie-bars below decks are a further reminder, though they’re unintrusive.
Nothing else on deck stands out. Stanchion bases look secure and sit atop the slotted aluminium toerail – as do chunky bow, stern and spring cleats – and in the bow is an anchor locker, a single bow roller and a split pulpit.
Rather basic hardware excepted, there are no obvious signs on deck that this was built as a budget boat.
The mouldings looked fair and showed few signs of crazing.
During his ownership, John has upgraded and replaced a few bits. His first big job was switching the original 10hp Volvo diesel engine for one twice the size.
10hp is on the small side and was fitted by Hanse to keep the price down.
The new engine still drives a two-bladed folding prop, because a fixed prop would be sacrilege on a boat like this.
Apart from a few replacement skin fittings, that has been about it.
As a naval architect – he worked for the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors before joining Shell – John knows a thing or two about boats in general and makes sure that he keeps on top of the important jobs, though he has no particular desire to emulate his father, Robin, who built a couple of boats including a cold-moulded Albacore.
The family later had a Kingfisher 20 and John remembers trips across the Solent. Trips around and across the Solent are primarily what Tellina is used for now.
John often goes to Bembridge overnight, then anchors in Chichester for a spot of paddleboarding the next day before heading home.
Verdict on the Hanse 292
As a fast, good-looking performance cruiser just under 30ft that’s fun to sail and easy to handle, the Hanse 292 has a lot to offer.
Below decks she’s surprisingly roomy considering the slim hull, and the aft heads and open-plan saloon/forward berth give her a much more modern feel than the original 291.
For many years, when people asked me which of the hundreds of boats I had tested I liked the most, I explained that it was a 29-footer of Swedish origin now built in eastern Germany.
After all this time, the Hanse is still right up there as one of my all-time favourites.
The last word has to go to John. ‘The boat came with standing headroom and a lovely layout’, he says.
‘You can take it wherever you like to anchor and go paddleboarding. You can also go around the island. It’s got everything. We like it!’.
Expert Opinion on the Hanse 292
Ben Sutcliffe-Davies is a marine surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA) www.bensutcliffemarine.co.uk
I can remember the launch of the Hanse 292, and being surprised by the price, although as David points out, that low cost was for a basic offering.
When looking at the deck, it is quite important to check fittings that have been added after build.
Make sure they are properly fitted, sealed and supported. I’ve had a few 292s with very wet core issues, especially around the mast step; I recommend walking around the deck slowly to ensure it feels firm.
Look carefully by the mast step too for any deflections to the location where the shoe is located and look for any moulding distortion issues.
From the ones I’ve surveyed, I would recommend looking very carefully at the main bulkhead security and methods of tabbing in.
Likewise, the security of the keel matrix moulding that supports the keel needs scrutiny, especially with the wing keel as the loadings are higher and some will have been grounded. Most keel matrices were pasted down.
David notes the engine on Tellina has been replaced. The standard 10hp engine is a bit underpowered for those looking to sail further afield, where you may need to motor longer.
If the engine has been replaced, check the installation.
If the Hanse 292 you are looking at has the original engine, then be mindful that it might need replacing, which is a large chunk of the boat’s value. Some may even use the opportunity of thinking of fitting an electric motor!
Alternatives to the Hanse 292
One of the first Elans to be designed by Rob Humphreys, the 295 helped establish Elan in the UK.
Earlier models had been designed by J&J, Elan’s near neighbours in Slovenia, and mostly sold within the Adriatic.
Although the Elan 295 was aimed at a broader market, the local influences remained to some extent.
For example, the distance between the mooring piles on the Istrian Peninsula meant that the beam had to be kept within 3m (9ft 10in).
That’s narrow by modern standards, and perhaps less than Humphreys would have chosen.
Accordingly, the boat needed a reasonable ballast ratio (around 33%, with a bulb on the keel too) and weight aloft was minimised by use of a slender, double-spreader rig, though it is stepped on deck.
Combined with a long waterline, reasonably light hull and generous spread of sail, it led to a boat that sizzled along very nicely.
Like the Hanse 292, the Elan 295 is fast and fun to sail.
As a more modern design, she has the rigging taken outboard and uses a minimal-overlap headsail.
In 1999 I had a chance to test the 295, just shortly after she came to the UK.
In good conditions she will readily crack along at 5.5 knots hard on the wind, even without a racing crew on the rail.
I raced on a Elan 295 for several seasons and had the opportunity to see how she went in a good range of conditions.
From the racing perspective she can be a challenge in strong conditions because, with that slender mast, you need a lot of rig tension to keep the forestay tight and maintain a straight mast laterally.
And she’s not at her best upwind in light airs and a chop. She’s still a competitive all-rounder, especially if you choose one with a lead keel.
It is also worth having an engine larger than the 9hp Yanmar that came as standard.
Down below she’s nicely fitted out and uses few internal mouldings, with the bulkheads bonded directly to the hull.
Westerly GK 29
Westerly is not a name widely associated with race boats, but the company did have a relatively brief foray into the racing world in the late 1970s.
First came the GK 24 in 1976, followed two years later by the J/24 – which Westerly built under licence – and then the GK 29.
Whereas the GK 24 was designed by Chris Hawkins and Laurent Giles, the 29 was attributed to Laurent Giles and Michael Pocock.
She was built as a club racer-cum-fast cruiser, with a masthead rig and iron fin keel, or in racing guise as a Half Tonner with a deeper lead keel, a taller mast and the option of a fractional rig.
She had some success on the race course but never really broke into racing circles as Westerly had hoped.
As a fast cruiser to buy now, she has much to offer: good performance, a remarkably spacious interior and, on the whole, pretty solid construction, though there are a few points to look out for including corroded mild steel tanks and flexing around the keel.
Engines were usually Petter Mini Twins, which were on the small side and will mostly have been replaced by now.
GK 29s will still outsail many larger boats, but can develop a heavy helm if not reefed in good time.
Bear in mind that, as is the norm with older designs, the heads is between the saloon and forecabin and, in the fashion of the day, the genoa is relatively large.
Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 29.2
This design by Jacques Fauroux came with a range of options including tiller or wheel steering and fin or lifting keels (the latter with twin rudders).
The centreplate retracts into a ballast stub to give a minimum draught of 0.75m (2ft 6in), but most 29.2s are tiller-steered fin-keelers.
The cockpit is designed to accommodate the relatively small wheel anyway, so even with the tiller you have seating that extends across the stern to make full use of the cockpit’s length.
As with the Elan and the Hanse but not the GK, you also get a sugar-scoop transom.
As you would expect from a Fauroux design, the 29.2 sails nicely, though she places more emphasis on interior volume and is perhaps a little less sporty than the others.
The rig is a bit of a betwixt-and-between, with a fairly even split between mainsail and foretriangle areas and the cap shrouds taken outboard, while the lowers are anchored to chainplates on the inboard side of the narrowish decks.
Some additional hardware would be needed to get the best from the boat. Below decks you will find the most stylish layout of this particular quartet.
She was designed in the days when boats still had chart tables, so you get one of those opposite the galley.
Then there’s a saloon with settee berths, a separate forecabin, an enclosed heads abaft the chart table and a sizable double cabin in the stern