Duncan Kent takes the Hanse 400 for a sail and discovers that this popular modern performance cruiser is quick and powerful but easy to handle
Voted European Boat of 2006, the J & J-designed, Hanse 400 still has all the attributes of a modern performance cruiser.
Founded in 1993, Hanse became Germany’s second largest production sailing yacht builder after extending its Greifswald site in 2005, and now produces 750 yachts annually including the Moody, Dehler and Privilege brands.
Since 1999 all Hanses have been designed by Judel and Vrolijk, a renowned team of performance yacht designers with America’s Cup heritage.
Hanse yachts aren’t just modern flyers, they have all the comforts needed for extended cruising as well.
The look of the 400’s interior isn’t particularly to my liking, with its sharp edges and unusual design statements, such as pea-green Plexiglass panels, but you can’t fault the layout’s flexibility and the intelligently thought-out key areas such as the well-appointed galley and heads.
Where the Hanse 400 scores over other more conservative performance cruisers is in the sailing stakes.
With dinghy-like performance, she’s just so easy to drive that you positively long to go out sailing alone, just to prove you can.
I love the idea that a 40ft yacht can be sailed quite safely single-handed – it gives you a fantastic confidence boost, meaning you’re more likely to take her out and sail her every chance you get.
Design & constructions of the Hanse 400
The Hanse 400 is sleek-looking with plumb ends, low freeboard and a long waterline.
With shallow underwater sections and a broad beam, they were designed to be quick and easily handled, and strong enough to cope with rough conditions offshore.
The hull is reinforced using a rigid floor framework and laminated foam stringers, while weight is minimised by incorporating a balsa core above the waterline.
For a little more money, the Hanse 400 was also offered in epoxy (400e), which not only reduced its displacement over the polyester/vinylester model by being a thinner layup and having foam sandwich below the waterline, but also increased its impact strength and flexibility, and virtually eliminated any risk of osmosis.
The Hanse 400 is unashamedly modern.
The high-gloss finished furniture is all a bit square and slab-sided, with stainless steel grab rails and the occasional green Plexiglass panels.
When buying from new, Hanse offered up to 16 different layouts and 99 options, so few ended up identical.
The interior is split into three design sections, each of which had several different available styles, such as a choice between one or two aft cabins.
The long, straight saloon settees make good sea berths and there’s stowage underneath.
Headroom is a generous 1.95m/6ft 5in, but the table will only seat four in comfort.
The chart/coffee table option comprised a small table between two seats on the saloon’s port side with shallow stowage inside for folded charts.
The locker containing the electrical panel has limited instrument space, which isn’t ideal as the doors have to be closed at sea.
The sensible alternative is to go for the straight settee, use the saloon table for passage planning and house most of the sailing and navigation instruments up in the cockpit.
The galley is large with plenty of stowage in numerous lockers and drawers, a full-size gimballed cooker with oven and a voluminous top-loading fridge plus a separate, smaller drinks cooler below.
Opposite, the heads is roomy with 1.83m/6ft headroom and separate shower stall with seat, under which are housed all the pumps and filters.
All the seacocks are neatly arranged and clearly labelled beneath the sink.
The aft cabins boast 1.98m/6ft 6in-long berths, 1.88m/6ft 2in headroom, a dressing area with seat and a large clothes locker.
The portside cabin has a slightly wider berth than the starboard one and is adjacent to the aft heads.
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Beneath the port berth is the calorifier, while the fuel tank is under the starboard berth.
Hull sides could be smartly wooden panelled for extra insulation.
The forecabin had the most layout options and was clearly intended to be the owner’s cabin.
Though long, in the pullman version the offset berth is only 1.00m/3ft 3in wide, which is narrow for a double.
The vee-berth option gives you more, but you lose the locker forward.
The choice then was whether to have a second wardrobe, a small ensuite heads/shower, or a desk/dressing table.
On deck & under way
The cockpit is wide and spacious, with straight seats cutaway around the large single wheel.
Initially, the transom had an open gate as standard; later a ‘drop in’ one became optional.
Either way, a fold-down transom platform provides room for showering and boarding from a dinghy.
Stowage is good, although better in the single aft cabin model, which has a full-depth cockpit locker to starboard.
The Hanse 400 has a 150mm-high companionway threshold and, cleverly, the one-piece Plexiglas washboard stows conveniently on top of the sliding hatch cover.
The mainsheet track is on the coachroof as standard and its sheet, together with all the other lines, are led back to the cockpit via neat rope garages.
A mainsheet across the cockpit, just forward of the wheel, was optional and popular with racers or those regularly cruising shorthanded, but it did mean sacrificing the fold-up cockpit table.
Clear access along the side decks is enhanced by the inboard shroud plates and genoa tracks, although the handrails are tokenistic.
The toe rails are a solid alloy extrusion with integral fairleads, and all six cleats are a good size and well positioned.
The foredeck is clear of obstructions, the anchor chain being fed under the locker lid to a windlass below decks.
The chain locker is absolutely vast and able to hold an armful of fenders as well as 80m or more of chain.
The single bow roller is offset to clear the bowsprit and to enable the forestay to be attached well forward, thus allowing space to have the largest jib possible.
Rig & Sails
The Hanse 400 sports a high-aspect, 9/10ths fractional rig with twin spreaders and noticeable pre-bend.
Her backstay bifurcates above the cockpit and has a powerful six-part adjuster, while her standing rigging is discontinuous.
She comes with a fully battened, slab-reefed mainsail and lazyjacks.
This, plus her self-tacking jib and primary winches right beside the helm, makes short tacking in confined spaces simple, even single-handed.
For lighter airs there was an optional 140% gennaker, using the tracks and travellers already provided, and downwind a large asymmetric can be set on the short, retractable bowsprit supplied with the gennaker kit.
The Hanse 400 has a tall mast and generous sail area, making her a quick and powerful boat, despite the relatively small headsail.
Close reaching, she is well balanced and quick, pointing high thanks to the tightness of the jib sheeting angle and ploughing her own groove with little or no input required from the helmsman to keep her on course.
A little further off the wind and she truly flies, with the log remaining above 8 knots in a constant Force 4 plus.
The rod-link steering is light but sensitive, providing plenty of feedback, and the helming position is excellent, offering a clear view forward over the low-profile coachroof.
Her streamlined underwater profile results in little wake and swift, but effortless tacking through 75° or so with little loss of momentum.
Under power, the standard 40hp Yanmar diesel provides plenty of oomph for quiet, economical cruising, while spinning so deftly about her keel that manoeuvring into tight marina berths without a bow thruster is a cinch.
Fuel capacity of 140 litres is a bit limiting, however.
Hanse Yachts Owners’ Forum: www.myhanse.com
Owners’ Experience of the Hanse 400
S/Y Dashzani (2011, HN 814)
Andrew (54) and SWade (49) Pickersgill bought Dashzani, a three-cabin model, new at the Southampton Boat Show.
They added composite wheels, a bimini/cockpit tent, a Flexifold prop and extra anchor chain.
They’ve since replaced the lighting with LEDs, installed a new battery charger and added 300W of solar panels plus a battery monitor.
Recently, they’ve fitted a second chart plotter and instrument repeater at the chart table as well.
They’ve had a few minor faults, such as nav light failures, defective wind transducers, a faulty skin fitting and a leaking engine oil seal, but nothing structural other than beefing up the boom vang fitting.
Andrew says: ‘I have sailed all my life and spent more than 20 years chartering in the Solent, West Scotland or the Med with my wife. After buying this, our first yacht, we spent four years cruising the UK south coast, northern France and the Channel Islands, before giving up work to sail. We joined the ARC Portugal across Biscay and then carried on down to the Med, where we spent three seasons cruising Corsica, Italy, Sardinia, Sicily and Greece, before basing ourselves now on Menorca in the Balearics.
‘Dashzani is surprisingly quick under sail once the wind reaches 10 knots. The self-tacking headsail makes tacking a doddle, but the large mainsail needs reefing at around 16 knots true wind. She is well balanced and her helm light, making handling easy for a couple, but she doesn’t like light winds or beating into short choppy seas. In the past, racing crews have commented “It’s almost like helming a dinghy”, although not now with all our liveaboard kit onboard.
‘Downwind is fun, especially with the Parasailor spinnaker. Our fastest recorded speed is 14 knots, with 30 knots of wind behind us.
‘Though I’ve not sailed her single- handed, it shouldn’t be a problem and the bow thruster certainly makes manoeuvring under power easier.
‘We love the comfort and usability and, having lived onboard for 10 months of the year for five years, find her ideal for two people cruising. There’s ample room
in all cabins and the cockpit tent provides excellent entertaining space. The transom platform extends the deck, making her feel much larger and providing almost step-free access when moored stern-to.
‘If travelling further afield we would prefer a larger battery bank to accommodate a freezer and water maker. However, the impact on storage space would probably steer us towards a larger yacht. ‘Being able to use her for extended periods has allowed us to enjoy her more than we could have imagined. Dashzani has ticked all the boxes (and more), from winning silverware in the Solent to sipping martinis on deck in the Med’.
S/Y Grey Goose (2005, 400e)
Owner, Mark Johnson, says, ‘My wife and I bought Grey Goose as second owners in 2012 and she has been exceptional. I’ve sailed 12,000 miles in other boats but the 3,000 miles in her have been the best. Our best 24-hour run so far is 187 miles crewed, and I have nearly equalled that solo.
‘When we bought her, she had a suit of rather aged Dacron sails, including a 130% genoa and self-tacking jib. They survive to this day, however a new offshore set
has replaced them, providing a significant increase in performance. An asymmetric was an early upgrade for cruising, plus we added a spinnaker pole and track, though they’re mainly used for poling-out headsails as we rarely have sufficient crew to fly the spinnaker. After heavy weather experience, she now has a trysail and storm jib on an inner forestay too. Though the self-tacker and third reef are great high into the 30-knot wind range, I’d like to be able to change down a further gear when things get truly interesting!
‘My joy is sailing Grey Goose single-handed, which is ridiculously easy. One powered primary winch enables swift mainsail hoisting, the other controls the mainsheet while simultaneously helming. She has a big rig for a 40ft boat – 108m² (1,163sq ft) upwind with the genoa hoisted. The single-line reefing is simple to use too, although you do end up with a copious amount of line in the cockpit. ‘Like all high freeboard designs, berthing in unfavourable winds can be awkward, although I sailed her happily for four years without a bow thruster. When we did add one, together with a Featherstream prop, the two were a great upgrade for slow speed manoeuvres under power.
‘Grey Goose makes a great second home. My wife loves her and I’m pleased to say, on the occasional trip with crew, they’ve also found the accommodations comfortable. Build quality is great; after 16 years there are some gelcoat stress cracks, but they’re only in non-cored deck areas and are mostly ‘wounds’ inflicted by crewmembers dropping winch handles or similar. The epoxy hull is very sound and strong. We did get an issue with the fairing covering the cast iron section
of the keel, but that was lobster pot impact induced!
‘The internal woodwork has held up very well but she is getting a mid-life rig refurb and upgrade this year. It will, however, leave the rig stronger for
future Atlantic crossing plans. After eight years I still don’t hanker after another boat. She’s the perfect fit for us as a cruising couple and a good balance of initial cost, versus passage making capability and running costs.’
What the experts say about the Hanse 400
Nick Vass, Marine Surveyor B,Sc B,Ed HND FRINA MCMS DipMarSur YS
The Hanse 400 had a conventional GRP hull made from polyester resin, strand fibreglass matting and woven fibreglass cloth, stiffened by a foam sheet sandwich core.
The 400e had a more sophisticated composite hull that was built using epoxy resin and glass fibre cloth pre- impregnated with epoxy resin which was cured under pressure provided by a vacuum-bagging technique.
This process allows the same foam-core sandwich stiffening material to be bonded onto the inside of the hull under pressure, which results in a better bond and helps reduce the possibility of delamination where the layers of the laminate come apart.
Using epoxy instead of polyester resin also reduces the possibility of osmosis, which is just as well as I have found osmotic blistering on smaller Hanse yachts.
Dry laminate can also be an issue.
This is where not enough resin was used, resulting in the glass fibre matting being left starved of resin, making the structure weak.
Using pre-preg techniques helps ensure that the resin-to-fibre ratio is precise and that the resin infuses all of the fibres without missing patches.
The epoxy hulls were lighter as less resin was used. This is because only just enough resin needs to be mixed in.
Hanse has never made any pretence that it is anything other than a builder of modestly priced yachts and so one must expect a little cost-cutting.
Deck mouldings can be thin, but they represent good value, are good looking and are fun to sail.
A Hanse 400 was fitted with a Jeffa rudder, which had aluminium stocks. I find the stocks to be corroded and rudder post bushes can wear prematurely.
However, many German- and Scandinavian-built yachts also use this make of rudder.
The stock can become pitted just above the blade, sometimes due to galvanic corrosion caused by dissimilar metals in contact with each other.
Conventional antifouling contains a lot of copper as a biocide, which also reacts with the aluminium.
The trick is to insulate the stock with epoxy resin or use a copper-free antifouling such as International Trilux, which is designed to be applied to aluminium saildrives.
Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, Marine Surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA)
The Hanse 400 and 400e didn’t have a long production run; the ones I’ve surveyed were all ex-charter fleet based abroad.
Commercial operation will often notch up high engine hours and wear to sails and running rigging, so check the yacht’s history and consider instructing a surveyor.
The Yanmar is a pretty bomb-proof engine but, like all modern engines, they do need regular servicing. Be aware of tachometers that have been replaced or frequently lose their digital readouts.
One of my clients had a yacht with 500 declared engine hours; on research it had over 4,500 hours.
The Hanse has a sail drive, so check when the unit’s hull sealing ring was last replaced and that the oil has no contamination.
Poor or a lack of servicing of the gearbox drive cones can often lead to a replacement unit so check servicing records.
Like Nick, I have also had issues with pitted rudder stocks and tubes.
The cockpit deck finish was teak and many yachts will now need this replacing, especially those used for charter abroad as boat decks are often washed down with a pressure washer!
As with many modern cruisers, laminates are much thinner than some older builds.
Although they are generally quite reliable, if damaged, items like the keel matrix do need proper inspection.
Alternatives to the Hanse 400 to consider
Bavaria Cruiser 40
Until it launched the Cruiser series, Bavaria yachts were known for their practicality.
In 2009, Bavaria employed BMW to give their yachts a more modern look, inside and out, with help from the Farr design team.
The result was a notable improvement in sailing performance with ‘love it or loathe it’ contemporary styling.
Construction methods remained broadly the same. The hand laid-up hulls continued to combine waterproof isophthalic polyester resins with chopped strand and woven matting, reinforced in high load areas with unidirectional Kevlar rovings.
They also had a rigid GRP/foam floor frame and Airex foam sandwich above the waterline.
The cockpit is roomy and functional, with high coamings and a large drop-leaf table.
The twin-wheels allow easy access to a large, fold-down stern platform, ideal for deck showering or for boarding.
Unlike the bigger C45, 50 and 55, the C40 only had a single, deep spade rudder instead of twins.
The two-point, double-ended mainsheet arrangement works well, but the lack of a track limits the ability to drop the traveller down to leeward in gusty conditions.
The jib sheet tracks are on the coachroof, which keeps the sheeting angle tight, but the sheets lead to winches mounted forward in the cockpit and cannot, therefore, be reached by the helm.
Below, a two- or three-cabin layout were available, the latter sporting two spacious aft double cabins with shared heads, as well as a decent owner’s cabin forward with optional ensuite heads.
The linear galley isn’t ideal for cooking under way, but the seatback to the central bench provides a bum support.
Six can dine in comfort around the saloon dinette.
A good-size, forward-facing nav station is opposite the rear heads and close enough for easy communication with the crew.
Under sail she is spritely and responsive.
The steering is light and positive, and requires little effort to keep on course, even when pushed hard.
The hull cuts a much cleaner swathe through the water than its predecessor, meaning less slamming and spray when beating to windward, and off the wind she flies with an asymmetric chute set on the optional bowsprit.
Winner of the European Yacht of the Year 2010 (family cruiser category) the Dufour 405GL was penned by Italian designer, Umberto Felci.
With full-length Twaron-reinforced stringers, criss-crossed by strong frames that spread the rig loads down to the keel, and injection-moulded, balsa sandwich decks, the Dufour 405GL is very robust.
Below, the Dufour has a traditional warm and woody interior with one or two aft cabins.
The former has an L-shaped galley aft and a chart/coffee table between two saloon seats, the latter a linear galley and forward-facing navigation station.
Both layouts have two heads with an ensuite forecabin and the headroom is excellent. In the cockpit, a sturdy drop-leaf table and grab bar helps the crew to move around safely under way, while the wide transom gate and drop-down swimming platform makes boarding easy.
Her generous beam provides wide decks and the foredeck is clear thanks to a recessed windlass and cavernous chain locker.
A short alloy bowsprit can be added for an asymmetric sail.
Like the Bavaria C40, she has twin wheels but only a single spade rudder.
The helmsman has easy access to the primary winches but all other sail controls and halyards are on the coachroof.
Her 9/10ths fractional rig came with semi-battened mainsail, though in-mast furling was popular. Her stem is almost plumb and she sports a long waterline.
Her deep, semi-balanced rudder offers a good grip on the water and, with the bulk of her cast iron ballast at the bottom of her keel, she remains stiff in wind.
Under sail, she is delightfully well-balanced and fun to handle, especially once trimmed up. On a close reach she’ll top 8-knots easily.
The Polish-built Delphia 40 went through several marques, but the differences between the models are fairly insignificant.
All had deep, shoal or swinging centreboard options. Delphias are built to Germanischer Lloyd’s exacting quality standards and are conventionally laid up by hand from solid polyester laminate below the waterline.
With a choice of a 2/3/4 cabins the Delphia 40.3 provides comfortable accommodation for extended periods.
The raised coachroof has large windows, and the 3/4 cabin models include a dinette and linear galley, whereas the latter is larger and U-shaped in the two-cabin version.
The saloon is pleasantly woody, without being gloomy, and headroom is 1.98m/6ft 6in.
The forward-facing chart table is small but adequate, with a hinged instrument console and a tray for plotting gear.
There are two heads, both of which have generous headroom and full moulded inserts.
The ensuite owner’s cabin forward boasts a generous V-berth with ample dressing area and stowage.
The berths in the aft cabins are equally roomy.
In the four-cabin version an extra twin-bunked cabin takes the place of the forward head, with the displaced head moving to the other side in place of the dressing area.
The Delphia’s cockpit is spacious, with comfortable seatbacks.
The Delphia 40.3’s shallow underwater sections, moderate beam and generous waterline make her quick and agile for her size, with no impact on stability.
She tacks briskly, even in light airs, and accelerates back up to speed in seconds. She tracks well off the wind with little to no helm adjustment needed.