A turn at the Phuket King’s Cup aboard the Hanse 545 showcases a comfortable cruising yacht that still has plenty of performance
My first impression of the Hanse 545 is the high freeboard. This made it a hard scramble aboard from the long-tail boat that brought me out from the beach. But that high freeboard is also what allows Hanse’s newest family member so much room below decks while keeping her sleek, low deck profile.
Once aboard, things get easier. The 545 sticks to the German builder’s concept of modern looks combined with operating ease. The 545, designed by the Judel/Vrolijk naval studio, looks fast and expensive. At 16.2 metres, or nearly 54 feet, she is a big yacht. But she sails as easily as a boat ten feet smaller thanks to a self-tacking jib, aft-led lines and electric winches. The 545’s most striking feature is her low coach roof with vertical sides, which creates wide side decks while allowing excellent visibility from the saloon.
She has some features that you normally only find on larger boats, such as a deck-accessed crew cabin in the bow and a hydraulically operated transom hatch that stows a dingy and doubles as a swim platform. These features make her ideal for charter, but her reasonable basic sail-away price and easy-to-handle rig mean that the 545 is also within reach for many couples or families as a very stylish live-aboard cruiser.
I’ve been invited aboard Odin as a guest of Yacht Pro, a Phuket-based charter company, on the last day of the King’s Cup Regatta. Odin is used primarily for charter, hosting corporate outings and private parties. Today, she’s racing in the Premier Cruising class with Yacht Pro’s Rob Williams at the helm.
We’re racing in style. The self-tacking jib leaves everyone free to enjoy cold drinks and lunch. The generator keeps the air conditioner humming below decks, but the cockpit is the place to be, where a large bimini keeps everyone in the shade. The cockpit is designed for coastal cruising and entertainment. The floor is dropped down slightly from the helm area, but even so the cockpit feels a bit shallow and exposed for ocean cruising given its size.
Yacht Pro made a few modifications as soon as the yacht was delivered, such as a set of sturdy stainless steel guards forward of the dual helm positions that protect the helm and offer a great handhold. Without, anyone walking aft is likely to grab the helm itself to steady themselves. Yacht Pro also designed their own stern and boarding ladders to compensate for the boat’s high freeboard. They added a stowaway Sparcraft bowsprit that improves the efficiency of the downwind sails. Odin is set up with an in-mast furling main with vertical battens, as well as a furling Code 0 to get the boat moving off the wind.
The helm provides clear open views of the sea and the acres of open teak deck. The hatches are flush with the deck – a nice touch to create additional sunbathing space – and all the lines are covered all the way aft, creating additional open deck space.
The dual, stand-alone padded helm seats, which open up for storage, are a clever idea. This creates a place to sit while leaving the stern area open and spacious. The helm position also features a fold-up brace on both sides, creating a comfortable helming position from the cockpit cowling during for when the boat begins to heel.
All of the sailing action aboard the 545 takes place at the very stern, which is handy for the guests, but a bit cramped for those doing the work. There are only two winches aboard the boat, both of which are electric. This works with the self-tacking jib and all sails on furlers, but it leaves precious few options to sailors that want to play with the sail plan a bit. And it means that sheets must be clutched when not actively being trimmed. Anyone who wants to sail the 545 in a more serious way, whether on long cruises or weekend races, will want to add more winches.
That idea of leaving the crew work to a very few the very back of the boat continues with the electronic displays, which cannot be seen from the cockpit. They are small for a yacht of this size, and their placement, on the cockpit cowling next to the winches, means they’re often covered by sheets.
There are plenty of critics of the self-tacking jib, but it’s hard to argue when two people can sail a boat of this size, tacking cleanly and without any fuss. But what you gain in ease of handling is lost in performance. The self-tacking jib does not offer many shaping options, and it reduces the boat’s upwind performance.
Rob gambles at the start and takes us further out to sea than the rest of the fleet, giving us a good angle to fly the Code 0, which is on furler and is quick and easy to hoist. The 545 has a keel-stepped mast that reaches nearly 25 metres above waterline, carrying about 156 square metres of sail, and she does well in the light winds despite her size.
The 545 has a modern, fairly flat bottomed hull shape that delivers good cruising speeds. The hull is made with epoxy-based vinylester resin for strength and lightness. Bulkheads are laminated to the hull and deck, making her quite stiff.