By Sven Donaldson
It’s often said that timing is everything, and German businessman Michael Schmidt certainly appears to have his down pat. Hanse Yachts got off the ground in 1993 when Schmidt recognized an opportunity to revive a run-down shipyard in former East Germany shortly after reunification. The first Hanses were modest cruisers built in existing Scandinavian molds that Schmidt acquired through liquidation sales. However, these handsome 29- and 33-foot cruisers sailed exceptionally well and attracted many bargain-conscious buyers.
Having established a market foothold and brand identity, Hanse introduced its first entirely new model—the 371—in 1999, the same year the company built its first 40-footer. It proved an excellent time to start moving into larger boats, because the 21st century brought an increasing concentration of wealth in the upper echelons of (mostly) older boaters, at the same time sales of modest, entry-level yachts were dropping away. Within a few years, Hanse had created a completely new line of brawny, wide-bodied cruisers with the biggest (44 to 63 feet) garnering particular attention for their bold, edgy styling, and as before, exceptional value relative to cost.
The popularity of these second-generation designs and their successors has enabled Hanse to weather global financial turbulence in enviably good shape. The historic yard had recently been rebuilt into a state-of-the-art production facility and with the acquisitions of Dehler and Moody, Hanse cemented its position as world’s third largest sailboat builder after the Beneteau and Bavaria Groups.
The 575 reviewed here is the first example of a Hanse third-generation “super cruiser” delivered in the Pacific Northwest. Within 12 months of introduction, some 80 customers have ordered this new model, making it perhaps the fastest-selling sailboat over 55 feet in modern boatbuilding history. Naturally, I was curious to find out why the Hanse 575 is proving so popular, especially considering the turbulent economic climate in Europe of late.
Design and Construction Unlike its main competitors, Hanse has always favoured a single design firm: Judel/Vrolijk in Hamburg, Germany. This lengthy association is clearly based on more than just a loyalty to Schmidt’s former racing companions, because Judel/Vrolijk has a superb record of success in Gran Prix racing, custom megayachts and pretty much everything in between. Hanse’s cruising boat stable has a reputation for excellent performance, and the 575 falls right into line, thanks to a deep T-keel (or heavier L-shaped shoal version), sail area/displacement ratio of 20.1 and displacement/length of 156.
Basic hull design for the 575 appears to have evolved from the 2010-vintage 545—a model which no longer appears in the Hanse line-up. Hull length has grown by just two feet and the already imposing freeboard of the 545 was extended even higher, so the sheer line is now almost at eye level for the average dockside viewer. The new design has also expanded laterally with a max beam of 17 feet, tapering only slightly back to the vertical transom.
Like previous big Hanses, the 575 almost flaunts its muscular, square-cut styling, but now a parallel theme has emerged—an ultra-clean, minimalist look reminiscent of quite a few recent megayachts. The perimeter of expansive deck now sports a prominent bulwark (15 cm tall) which strengthens the hull/deck joint, enhances on-deck security, and helps make the coach house less visually prominent. Control lines leading from the mast are hidden under neatly integrated fibreglass shrouds, which also serve as bulwarks to improve footing when working on the coach roof, and as handholds when traversing the side decks.
The Hanse 575 boasts 14 large skylights and overhead hatches including a pair that wrap around the aft edges of the coach roof (made possible because all winches and clutches are located on the cockpit coamings). All this natural lighting makes for one of the brightest interiors imaginable, but it will necessitate a bit of extra care to avoid the “slippery spots” when the working decks are wet with spray.
Not long ago, Hanse used pre-preg epoxy and corecel structural foam to build the hulls in all its larger yachts, and even offered this lightweight, premium construction as an upgrade for models down to 37 feet. But although epoxy is still the spec for Hanse’s flagship 63e, lukewarm customer response hasn’t justified continuing this expensive technology for other models.
Accordingly, the 575 hull is hand-laid with a blister-resistant vinylester outer layup and balsa-cored topsides. The balsa-cored deck gets a vinylester-skinning layer with ortho polyester beneath.
Rig, Cockpit and Dinghy Garage Self-tacking jibs have always been a Hanse trademark, and in the case of the 575, the concave jib traveller is elegantly recessed to lie flush with the coach roof. Like many contemporaries, the 575 has outboard chainplates and extra-long spreaders. This is a major benefit because it greatly widens the shroud angles and reduces mast compression loads dramatically. As a result, a substantially smaller mast section can be safely fitted, ultimately making for a lighter, faster and more stable boat.
With close to 16 feet of beam at the transom, the Hanse 575’s cockpit is truly immense. There’s room here for side-by-side cockpit tables that can also fold flat to support a king-sized sunning pad. All sailing functions, including the double-ended “German” mainsheet, are handled from the back half of the cockpit, so the forward area becomes exclusively a passenger zone.
When the transom grid swings down, it reveals an space beneath the elevated cockpit sole that is large enough to house a very serious RIB. An ingenious arrangement of arms and rollers should make it feasible to deploy and recover the dinghy, even when the mothership is rolling around a bit. All in all, it’s a very desirable feature, and an excellent justification for “buying up” to 57 feet.
Onboard Systems Standard power for the Hanse 575 is the 112 horsepower Volvo Penta D3 turbo-diesel with conventional shaft drive and a three-blade, geared folding prop. By contrast, the earlier 545 got 72 hp, and while I’m not generally a fan of “overpowered” sailboats, I believe that this one is better off with the extra grunt. Those towering topsides create plenty of windage, and at times it may be necessary to power upwind in stormy conditions.
With the 112 hp D3 turning 2,000 rpm the 575 cruised at 7.9 knots with a sound reading of 76 dBA in the middle of the saloon. Full throttle delivered 9.6 knots at 2,670 rpm with the sound level up to 82 dBA. These readings are slightly louder than today’s norm, but well within the acceptable range.
Retractable bow and stern thrusters are optional on the 575. The test boat had both, and it certainly helped to ensure that a tight docking stayed uneventful.
The engine compartment offers good, all around access for routine maintenance, but it’s relatively snug, and would likely seem crowded if an optional genset is installed above the propulsion engine. This would only be necessary to operate power hungry options like aircon, washer/dryer and dishwasher at times when shore power is unavailable. In many cases, the main engine alternator and two standard 165 ah house batteries should be adequate.
With ample space throughout the big 575, there’s easy access to pretty much all the plumbing and electrical equipment. Generous compartments beneath the floorboards serve as storage lockers in some cases, and as sumps in others. There’s even a separate sump at the base of the mast should the deck seal start to leak—a useful feature rarely found in other boats.
Interior Amenities Hanse gets great marketing mileage from their “individual customization” system that enables buyers to select from several different arrangements for each of the four main interior zones. Multiply by three choices of woodwork, two flooring options, a couple of countertop choices and literally dozens of upholstery alternatives, and the scope for customization becomes truly staggering.
The test boat was ordered with a four cabin owners’ layout: two aft cabins extending beneath the cockpit, a twin bunk cabin adjacent to the companionway to port, and ahead of the main bulkhead, a sumptuous suite with an island berth and ensuite head. Other possible arrangements provide up to five sleeping cabins, or three heads instead of two.
The companionway steps aboard the 575 slope only 50 degrees—gentle enough to safely negotiate while facing forward. Upon entering the saloon, the most prominent feature is a huge nav station/office extending transversely nearly half the width of the boat. Ahead of this desk to starboard is an equally out-sized dinette—big enough to seat at least eight in comfort. The linear galley opposite the dinette offers sufficient working space and ample storage (especially if a large cabinet at the aft end of the galley is used as a pantry rather than to house optional, built-in appliances).
Interestingly, I found the interior styling of the 575 to be a little more subdued and conservative than I’d expected. The daring, ultra-modern look that Hanse pioneered in the early years of the 21st century has been softened just slightly—perhaps with an eye to enhancing appeal in the increasingly important North American and Australian markets.
On the Water Sailing off Sidney village on a sunny autumn afternoon, we were lucky enough to hook into a puffy little northerly which peaked at about 11 knots. This was just enough pressure to get the big Hanse powered up nicely, delivering up to 8.3 knots sailing close-hauled in a true wind of 10.9 knots. Hard on the wind, the 575 could point impressively well once it got rolling at six knots or better; and although there’s no main traveller in the standard deck layout, windward mainsail sheeting isn’t as important with the non-overlapping jib. As always, the self-tacking feature is a major boon that single-handers and family crews will greatly appreciate.
The dual wheel, cable/chain steering system by Jefa of Denmark felt a bit stiffer than ideal, but this may well have been a matter of tuning. Helm ergonomics and visibility are first rate, whether driving from the windward or the leeward side. With a little more breeze, this boat will spend a lot of time at eight to 10 knots.
A Winning Formula Virtually all yachts on the scale of the Hanse 575 will be ordered with numerous options, so the exact price will be largely dependent upon the buyer’s preferences. The rather lavishly outfitted test boat could be duplicated for about $850,000 Canadian at time of writing, while a relatively more spartan version might come in as low as $650,000. Either way, over 80 sophisticated buyers have decided that there’s very good value here, and the Hanse plant in Germany has been working extra shifts to keep up with demand.