Largely because she’s not the most trendy boat of her size, a new Hanse 388 was the clear choice for an owner moving up from a 32-footer. David Harding finds out why

Product Overview


Hanse 388 review: a comfortable and elegantly styled yacht

Price as reviewed:

£200,000.00 (from)

When buying a new boat, it might be tempting to choose the most up-to-date model you can find within your size and price range. Why not take advantage of the latest in design and styling and, at the same time, give yourself the maximum future-proofing?

That’s not how everyone sees it. There’s a good range of boats in the more traditional or conservative style that most of us would recognise as distinct from the products of the (arguably more fashion-conscious) mainstream production builders. Boats such as Arconas and Rustlers, for example – though hardly comparable with each other in many ways – are from builders who cater for owners with a different set of priorities from those homing in on a Beneteau or a Dufour.

Even within the mainstream builders there are different approaches. While some have embraced chines, twin rudders, ultra-wide sterns and open-plan interiors, others have kept things a tad more traditional.

Take Hanse, for example. The German giant has never been one to stand still and has continually updated its models. I tested the new Hanse 460 in the October 22 issue of Yachting Monthly and there’s no doubt that it’s as up-to-the-minute as a cruising boat designed for popular appeal could possibly be.

Further down the size range, the Hanse 388 is based on a hull that was designed for the 385 back in 2012. The deck, cockpit, keel and accommodation underwent changes when the Hanse 385 became the Hanse 388 a few years ago, but the hull worked so well that it was left alone.

The 388’s hull is the same as the 385’s, but it has large hullside windows and a deeper keel. Photo: David Harding

This is the boat that appealed to the owner when he was looking to move up from the Dufour 325 he had owned for 10 years. ‘I wanted something between the racy racers and the heavy cruisers,’ he explained.

‘I looked at a Hallberg-Rassy and would have loved an Arcona because they sail beautifully, but I don’t do enough serious sailing and couldn’t justify the money for the amount of use I would give it.’

Lines from the mast are led aft under mouldings along the outsides of the coachroof. Photo: David Harding

Choosing a compromise

Having sailed since childhood and spent his life as a naval architect working principally on the design of superyachts, the owner knows a thing or two about boats. He’s well aware of the fundamental differences between boats from the smaller, more expensive yards and the ‘general production builders’ and was prepared to accept them. At the same time, he also knew what he was and wasn’t prepared to accept in a boat (‘and this will be my swansong boat’) from one of the latter.

A large cockpit with twin helms and a central table provides plenty of seating and space to move around. Photo: David Harding

As an existing Dufour owner, he naturally looked at the Dufour 390 as well as the equivalent Beneteaus, Jeanneaus and Bavarias, among others. What put him off in many cases were the twin rudders. ‘They’re good if you’re doing lots of long, windy reaching legs,’ says Tony, ‘but much harder work for manoeuvring in marinas, even with a bow-thruster. I prefer a deep single rudder.’

Open-plan or semi open-plan interiors were something else he didn’t like. He regularly sails with members of his sailing club on short trips around the Solent, so privacy and separate cabins are essential. That’s one reason why he chose the three-cabin version of the Hanse even though, in a boat with a hull length of 11m (36ft), it entails compromises elsewhere.

Sail controls are handled by a bank of clutches and a self-tailing winch each side by the helm stations. Photo: David Harding

Some sportier alternatives were rejected because they didn’t provide enough living space for his crew, and his choice was further narrowed by the build quality. ‘It was a matter of finding a boat that had good performance combined with the space and the volume downstairs. I like the better quality of the German boats; the joinery and the fittings. All the deck gear is hefty. If you look at some others, it’s much smaller, and so are things like the boom. The Selden rigs are better finished with nicer fittings.’

Flexiteek is an option on the decks. Large hatches and windows let light down below. Photo: David Harding

More than skin deep

Skin fittings in composite polymer also appealed to Tony, as did the chunky boarding ladder, among other features.

Having now sailed the boat for a couple of seasons – recording the trips on his phone via the My Hanse software – he is happy with his choice. As you would expect, the extra size makes a big difference compared with the smaller Dufour. ‘The old boat was 10m long and this one is 11m’, he says. ‘It gives a lot more space – the cockpit is huge’.

He particularly likes the twin wheels, which make it easier to walk around and give a greater choice of seating positions. ‘It’s much more sociable when you’re sailing downwind, having two people sitting by the wheels rather than one at the helm and one forward,’ he says.

A wide range of colours for the upholstery, veneer and sole boards can be combined to create the desired ambience. Photo: David Harding

Such are the benefits of a bigger, more modern design with a wider stern and more space all round. More speed is another benefit – a result of a waterline that’s also 1m longer than he had before. The owner can see that his average speed on passages has increased from five knots to six.

When we went for a sail from Lymington, we had enough wind – a good 14-18 knots and occasionally more – to make sure we clocked well over 6 knots most of the time. Being from the northwest it gave us nice flat water too. Not so nice were the torrential downpours, which encouraged us to put the sprayhood up again once I had taken the photos and video from the RIB.

The self-tacking jib is an important feature for Tony, as is the large sprayhood. ‘In the Solent you do a lot of tacking. I can just sit in the shelter back here and tack so easily.’

The master cabin is in the bow, complete with hull ports and a large deck hatch. Photo: David Harding

When winching is called for, the electric primaries – among the upgrades on Scribble – also help to make sailing easy. The two Lewmar self-tailers handle all the lines, including the split mainsheet and the jib sheet, that are led to a bank of clutches just forward of the wheels. The arrangement perhaps works less well if you have an active crew, but it’s designed for short-handing and in that context it makes sense.

One way in which the Hanse 388 stands out is in making you reluctant to give up the helm. It makes a world of difference if the feel is precise and direct, if the boat and the rudder are both nicely balanced and if the boat responds to what you do.

The Hanse 388 continued to respond even when asked, most unfairly, to bear away from hard on the wind, fully powered up with the sheets pinned in. That’s one of my standard tests and a big ‘ask’ for any boat. The single deep blade does its job very well.

At the helm you have a good perch outboard on the side deck or, if you choose to sit inboard, on a hinge-up seat. Instruments can be mounted in a swivelling pod on the aft end of the cockpit table.

The mainsheet is anchored to strong-points on the coachroof, forward of which is aqspace to stow an inflatable dinghy. Photo: David Harding

Performance plus

In terms of performance, the Hanse leaves little to complain about for a cruising boat. We clocked between 6.3 and 6.6 knots on the wind and tacked through 80° in the flat water.

The log climbed to over 7 knots when we cracked off a few degrees, though self-tacking jibs instantly twist out too far. Unless you rig up barber-haulers or have the cruising equivalent of a Code 0 ready to go, that’s a compromise you have to accept.

The Quantum tri-radial laminate sails on Scribble were ordered as upgrades from Hanse. Combined with the clean bottom and folding prop (the owner changed the supplied two-blade folder for a three-blader), they let the boat show what she could do. That said, with simple sail controls and no mainsheet traveller, scope for tweaking is limited.

The hull of the 388 is balsa cored, with an inner subframe moulding. Photo: David Harding

It would have been more limited with in-mast reefing. While the owner has sailed on a lot of in-mast boats and accepts that Selden has some good systems now, he still prefers a conventional mainsail – fully battened in this case. He has marked the halyard and reefing pennants to make reefing as slick as possible.

Stowing the sail as it comes down is a bigger challenge, largely because of the large sprayhood, long boom and absence of a traveller to move the boom across to one side. Two crew plus a helmsman liberated by an autopilot can usually manage; otherwise tidying it up can be done in the berth.

With a mainsail contained by lazyjacks, opening the clutch and letting the halyard run is normally an option if you’re in a hurry. The problem is that some of the Dyneema halyards, once compressed on initial use, became too small in diameter for the clutches to grip, so they were changed from 10mm to 12mm and no longer run as freely as they did. It’s hard to find the perfect answer, but the owner has been very happy with the support and after-sales service he has had from the Hanse dealers, Inspiration Marine.

Stowage space is a bit limited. Photo: David Harding

Below decks

Accommodation was an important consideration in the purchase of Scribble. The owner spends a lot of time aboard and sails at least once a week, often more.

Choosing the second double cabin in the stern, to starboard, means trading the full-depth cockpit locker for one of half-depth. It’s supplemented by two under-sole lockers aft, one for a liferaft.

In the Hanse style, the interior is light and airy. The Hanse 388 has many more deck hatches than the Hanse 385, and ports in the hullsides too.

The owner chose the colours of the veneer, the sole boards and the upholstery to create a modern feel, and the grey upholstery is not a world away from the grey/blue of the gelcoat (‘I went against all my better instincts and got a coloured hull’). Whatever Tony’s misgivings might have been at the time, the result is rather elegant.

Features that he likes include the rounded forward end of the heads compartment. Finished in vinyl rather than veneer, it’s inconspicuous compared with many. As he says, ‘On a lot of boats you have a big, blocky, square-cornered toilet box sitting right in the middle of the saloon.’

Also on the list of positives are the big fridge (with front and top access), the drawers (even though they’re plastic), the size of the saloon (‘we can accommodate the crews from another couple of boats’), the accessible seacocks, which pass through solid laminate where the balsa core is ramped down to a single skin, the good lighting and the hinge-down touch-panel at the chart table for the lights and systems. ‘Everything is coded and labelled,’ says Tony, ‘but it’s still not easy for DIY. The wiring on modern boats is getting quite complicated. I would need help if anything goes wrong.’

His relatively small number of niggles include the lack of provision to keep the heads door open (you can’t leave the window open when it’s raining), a chart table with no fiddles, joinery with un-sealed end-grain, and the fact that all the interior joinery is veneered. ‘There are no solid edges. If you knock something, you can’t sand it out – you have to buy a whole new section. It’s just as with new cars: don’t repair – replace.’

Domestic batteries and the electrics are neatly laid out forward of the chart table. Photo: David Harding

The expert view

Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, Marine Surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA)

The Hanse 388 is a relatively new vessel and because of that, not many have come on to the used boat market until now.

I’ve looked at several Hanse 388s, usually while carrying out damage inspections abroad and for yards. Matching some of the gelcoat pigment colours can be a challenge.

Looking carefully around the topsides in good daylight is a prudent move and will show up any previous damage.

When buying any newish second-hand boat, it is worth approaching the original dealer and asking what, if any, model callbacks or modifications have been suggested since the model was launched. From asking one of the UK dealers, he wasn’t aware of any for the Hanse 388.

It is always important to check deck fittings, especially any retro fittings which have been fitted by an owner. Take a good look at the gas hoses for signs of wear and pay careful attention to the seacocks, especially if the boat is over five years old.

The Hanse 388 came with a Yanmar SD25 saildrive, the smallest of the Yanmar sail drive range. It requires a service every 100 hours, compared to the bigger units that do 200 hours.

If you are a sailor who tends to clock up a lot of hours in a season, then you need to be very aware of the service criteria, as it will mean the boat will probably have to come out of the water so oil can be drained from the lower leg drain plug fitting. The sail drive seal should also be replaced every seven years.

Thanks to Tim Stickley of West Solent Sea School for providing a RIB for the photography

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Boats tend to become a major part of any owner’s life, and it’s easy to understand why that has happened with the owner and Scribble. A great deal of thought and experience went into all of Tony’s choices, from the boat itself to every aspect of the specification and colour scheme. The result is a comfortable, elegantly styled and lovingly maintained boat that covers the ground swiftly and without much effort on the part of the crew. As the owner says, ‘You have to find the right compromise. This really fitted – it did most of the things I wanted. There’s not a lot I would change.’


LOA:10.99m/36ft 1in
LWL:10.40m/34ft 1in
Beam:3.90m/12ft 10in
Draught (Standard fin):2.06m/6ft 9in
Sail area:72.0m²/775 sq ft