Phillip Ross finds the push for compactness growing - now 27 is the new 36.
Three years ago, Australian Sailing published a review of the new Hunter 27. The initial design concept was for a “27-footer with a big-boat feel and look”.
Its growth in popularity since then proved it passed the test. The current resurgence in the under-30 foot market called for a check to see if the Hunter 27 still fulfills its initial concept.
Hunter yachts are unmistakeable with their pronounced hull/deck join which provides obvious proof of their claim to strength in construction.
That Hunter ‘look’ may also give potential owners a reassuring feeling, almost like a favourite sailing jumper. Certainly the Hunter’s sales figures are testimony to that.
Hunter founder, Warren Luhrs, also desired a boat that was easy to handle and forgiving. This idea was to open the concept of sailing to a wider audience that may have previously been more interested in caravaning than sailing.
The concept worked so well that world wide sales of the 27 footer have been very strong. Here in Australia the Hunter dealer, US Yachts, says interest has been reignited as new owners look for a downsizing from the previous boat size preference of between 36 to 42 feet.
The Hunter “feels” a lot bigger than its 27ft and with a base price of just over $100,000 landed in Australia, it offers a lot of boat for the dollar.
Hunter’s efficient modular construction technique provides a strong but inexpensive build. It allows the company to provide this low base boat price, and each new owner can add an extensive list of options to customise their craft. From bimini’s to bilge pump alarms; from racing fitout to Raymarine electronics, the options on a Hunter are legendary.
The provided test boat included a leather folding steering wheel, bimini, dodger, in-mast furling, a cute cubby hole for a 12 volt plug-in cooler esky, Raymarine depth and speed, a stereo radio/CD player plus another 13 optional extras. All of which added only $7000 to the base price.
Built to last
As mentioned, Hunter Yachts use a modular construction which is similar to the manufacturing processes used on other products. Various parts of the boat are computer cut, pre-constructed and connected at various times during the build, resulting in the least amount of waste and ensuring a perfect fit each time.
The hull is a sandwich panel laminate, achieving maximum stiffness without adding unnecessary weight. The resins are special mixes developed over the years to resist UV damage, crazing, osmosis and blistering, while maintaining an excellent gloss.
The interior gel-coat is treated with an anti-bacterial agent to inhibit the growth of mildew and other odour-causing bacteria.
The very wide, swept-back spreader rig allows the shrouds to run to the outside of the hull as opposed to bolting through the deck. A reinforced strap of fibreglass incorporated in the hull glass matrix ensures the strain from the rig loads are spread throughout the hull.
Most prominent of all is Hunter’s hull-to-deck joints, incorporating the out-turned flange that mates the hull and deck.
When joined, this flange is bonded and through-bolted to the deck continuously around the hull with stainless steel bolts, washers and nuts to ensure strength and water-resistant integrity.
It is then covered with a continuous, hard-vinyl rubrail and stainless steel capping running completely bow to bow around the hull, including the transom.
This protects the topsides from any rough scrapes inevitable during a boat’s normal lifetime. The protruding flange joint has been in use for more than 30 years, ensuring an almost incomparable hull/deck joint strength.
Big boat feel
Out on Sydney Harbour, our test boat was easy to get under way with its in-mast and jib furling. The owner, Robbie Von Hombracht, intends to cruise single-handed so he was willing to sacrifice sail shape for simplicity.
In a light 10 knot breeze we were easily reaching along at over six knots. Robbie had ordered the deeper keel and the Hunter tracked nice and easily once it had heeled and settled on its beam.
Its easily-driven hull form and high topsides gives the Hunter 27 its big boat look and feel. It is quite deceiving that she is reaching such speeds. Crack the sheets and she slips quietly along.
Crank them onto the wind and it is a little different, however, due to the less-than-ideal shape you usually get from roller-furled sails. But it is still quite a speedy machine, certainly good enough to give any new owner a thrill while getting to their destination in speed and comfort.
The light breeze made feel-back on the wheel almost non-existent, but direction change response to the helm was immediate. Robbie requested the traveller just forward of the binnacle and this appears to be a good option as it made mainsail trimming easy for improved direct boat control. Certainly the boat feels like it could spin on a sixpence, which is not a big boat characteristic.
Such light breezes made it difficult to test how forgiving is the Hunter 27. The ease with which it tipped in the light breeze and its ability to spin quickly gives it a distinctive dinghy feel, despite the deep keel. Robbie delivered the boat from Sydney Harbour to Lake Macquarie in 30 knot southerlies and found it quite “tippy and dinghy-like” in the more extreme conditions.
Possibly where the boat most deserves its big boat moniker is down below.
Its got the look
The whole idea of the pocket cruiser is to provide a boat that does not lose much space down below when compared to its larger sisters in the 36 foot and over range.
The trick, again, lies in Hunter simplicity.
A generous 6’2” headroom on the Hunter 27 is a good starting point. Its v-shaped companionway and hatch, just forward of the deck-stepped mast support, provides plenty of light along with the cabin top windows.
Hunter Yachts use a laminated marine plywood throughout that also illuminates a cheery interior.
A sweep-around saloon becomes the ubiquitous extra double berth with the saloon table. And a compact galley does not encroach on the large central cabin area.
The starboard-side galley comes with its own set of dishware ready to go in its own hanging storage bag; plus a single burner butane stove. Alongside is the icebox and stainless sink. A popular extra option is the removable 37 litre cooler box under the sink that plugs into the 12 volt system and can be taken off the boat at the end of the sail.
Aft of the galley is the owner’s double berth cabin with lockers, shelves and opening hatches.
The open forward cabin has a convertible double V berth with useful side storage.
The port-side head is enclosed with toilet, vanity basin and shower
All corners are nicely rounded with a hardwood trim.
With so many “big boat” features on a 27 footer, there was bound to be one problem area, and it’s the engine access. The 10 kilowatt Yanmar diesel sits like most other engines behind the companionway steps. These steps are connected to gas struts to lift out of the way providing access to the engine. Unfortunately, the struts can only lift the steps approximately 90deg, creating little access space to the engine. The steps are permanently attached, requiring a bit of effort to gain greater access.
Up on the roof
Back on deck, movement is easy with the shrouds based so far outboard. The wide spreaders are well swept-back, allowing for another Hunter trademark - no backstay. This makes it easy for swimmers to get on and off the transom swim platform.
The cockpit is shallower than other similar sized yachts, which usually have higher topsides than the Hunter, but the coamings make up for any concern regarding safety. The wheel binnacle is certainly capable of handling any falling adult.
In his desire for an easily-handled boat, Robbie took the winch option and has all sail controls close to hand on the coachhouse roof.
He also swapped the two-bladed propeller for a three-blade. For him it was a trade-off between the prop or a larger engine to get the margin of safety he was after.
The Hunter 27 still delivers on its initial design concept, packing a big boat into an affordable small boat price. As the trend grows for under-30 foot boats the Hunter is certainly suited to fulfil that market for entry-level boat owners and small families.
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