In 1943, Harry Hallberg opened a boat building yard at Kungsviken on the island of Orust in Sweden. He built wood folkboats. Harry’s real success came with the switch to fiberglass. In 1963, he designed and introduced the P-28, their first series production GRP boat. The P-28 became a success in Sweden, and by 1965, he needed to expand to larger yard. Hallberg moved to Ellös, a city ten kilometers to the southwest on the same island of Orust. Harry sold the original yard to a young German named, Christopher Rassy. Christoph began building one-offs, the first being the Rasmus 35 designed by Olle Enderlein. This 35-footer was larger than most designs, had a dodger, and center cockpit. In 1972, Harry Hallberg retired. At this time, he was building the P-28 and 24, 32, and 33-foot Enderlein designs. Christopher Rassy purchased Hallberg’s company forming “Hallberg-Rassy.” The first Hallberg-Rassy was the 31-foot Monsun in 1973 which became a prolific production boat with 900 hulls built up until 1983.
In 1982, they introduced an Olle Enderlein designed 49-footer, the subject of this review. The Hallberg-Rassy 49 was the flagship of the Swedish boating industry. The 49 became another successful model designed and built for world cruising with rugged good looks. They produced 89 hulls according to the Hallberg-Rassy website until 1997. While most of the early 49’s were ketches, the later ones were almost exclusively sloops. During this period Magnus Rassy, Christoph’s son, became involved in the company. In 1983, he built an experimental 26-foot boat named “Rassker” which had a external lead keel and swim platform. In 1988, German Frers became the main designer. Frers, famous from Hylas and Nautor Swan among other builders, brought in a new era of Hallberg Rassy that continues to today.
The Hallberg-Rassy 49 has an angular look. As much as the Tayana 47/48 has a roundish aura, the HR 49 has the opposite: a jarring, sharp style. Her sharp, proud bow rises aggressively forward. Amidships, her hard dodger has rough edges and an ostentatious angularity. The toerail aftmost abruptly turns inward above a boldly chined transom. The overall sharpness gives her a rugged cruiserly look, a toughness. The other characteristic the 49 defines is a minimalism. Her flush deck forward invites you climb aboard and go sailing. The bow and stern pulpits hardly wrap along the sheer. She leaves off the unneeded dressings of culture and cuts to the bare essentials.
The early ones had ketch rigs with a double spreader main while the later ones are sloops with triple spreaders. The ketch has a rather small yawlish mizzen. I recently previewed a late model sloop. The sloop has a single backstay two forestays and three shrouds to support the deck stepped mast. You could rig her as a double headsail sloop. The traveler is aft the center cockpit for end boom sheeting. Hallberg-Rassy used a white gel coat and dark blue cove stripe painted across six somewhat randomly orientated portholes. The randomness of the porthole location gives her that beauty that perfection misses. She has a thick molded rubrail with stainless striker. Underneath, her deep rounded forefoot and long low aspect keel give her serious offshore capability. The propeller is on a vestigial skeg, and a full skeg supports the rudder. She is pretty drafty at 7’3″ according to the manufacturer specifications. This depth limits and rules her out for many Caribbean cruisers.
Hallberg-Rassy is world renown as a quality yard. The 49 is a proven example of this global capability. Her hull is solid hand laminated glass of alternating woven roving and strand mat in Isophthalic polyester resin. Under the standard Bangkok teak decks, the fiberglass is cored with a polyvinyl cellular plastic material which adds strength and insulation. The joint is a bulwark style fastened together from above through a teak caprail and tabbed below. Tankage is tabbed integrally with the fiberglass hull which has pluses and minuses. While integral tankage is efficiently and securely placed, blistering can create a serious problems. A gridwork of floors and stringers stiffen and typify the impressively strong construction techniques of these fine yachts. The skeg hung rudder has a stainless steel rudder shaft and bronze fittings.
Hallberg-Rassy uses female molds supported by steel girders in their Swedish factory. These molds come in two pieces lengthwise. Because of the massive molded rubrail, they separate the two pieces of the mold to remove a finished hull. Workers glass and fasten on the deck at the main factory and then trunk the finished shell to a local commissioning yard. Here all the equipment goes in through the companionway.
The masts are somewhat surprisingly deck stepped. While traditionalists prefer and expect a keel stepped mast on world cruisers, Hallberg Rassy challenged this assumption. Below deck, a solid wood compression post in-line with the main bulkhead supports the mast along with the extra shrouds on deck. The deck step mast aesthetically opens up the interior and lessens leaks but is more difficult to engineer. The internal ballast is lead encapsulated in a slurry of mat and resin and fiberglassed over.
Sailors seem to have strong opinions of flush decks. I like the look and freedom of them. The 49’s flush foredeck opens her up for ease of movement. The minimalism starts with a short, low bow pulpit forward. She has a sail locker with a single portside door. Five hatches and three dorades sprinkle the foredeck with obstacles. The absence of a cabintrunk removes the organization while freeing up movement. The shrouds seem haphazardly places along what would be the side deck. The deck stepped mast is on the same level as the rest of the hardware. Slanted genoa tracks run towards the cockpit. The aft deck has one hatch and two more dorades. The stern pulpit is similarly minimalistic to the bow. The cabintrunk runs a fair ways aft, so the 49 does not have a completely flush deck. Lazarettes are port and starboard aft. Aft of the cockpit here is the traveler for traditional end boom sheeting.
The angular, hard dodger is somewhat low but does not run abaft to cover the helm. The teak lined cockpit has a little wave in the aft seating for an ergonomic helm. The cockpit benches are long and slightly raise two thirds back from the companionway. The combings are moderate for pretty comfortable seating for a more modern than expected cockpit. Lockers are under the benches port and starboard. The companionway has a single louvered slat. The companionway sill is low and vulnerable to a wave in the cockpit.
When I saw her flush deck, I expected somewhat low headroom. I was pleasantly surprised with great 6’5″ headroom in the saloon, even greater forward, and only slightly less aft. The above average freeboard and sharply increasing sheer forward raised up flush deck to a welcome height. Christoph Rassy and Olle Enderlein knew what they were doing. The sole is teak and holly while the joiner work is a very light African mahogany. Overhead is a white vinyl with mahogany trim headliner. There is not a molded liner insight on this quality built Swedish design.
The layouts vary with three choices. I previewed a 49 with the standard layout which has the navigation station portside and galley starboardside of the companionway. A “Caribia” (I have no idea what this means or what language it is. If anybody knows, please fill me in.) layout has an enlarged galley swapped with the portside settee. Finally, a charter layout has a centerline queen aft and captain’s berth with the galley moved to portside forward of the navigation station. All layouts have a V-berth, guest stateroom, and guest head forward. The master stateroom aft has a separate head and shower whether the berth is a split twin or centerline queen.
Comparing to similar yachts, the HR 49 is a pretty heavy displacement cruiser at nearly 40,000 pounds. A Hylas 49 is rated at only 27,700 pounds. To help while a Hylas 49 comes standard with a 75 HP Yanmar, HR 49’s have 143 HP Volvo Pentas. The main access is from the portside walkthrough which has lower headroom from the cockpit sole. Hallberg-Rassy touts their construction techniques particular that all their equipment comes through the companionway hatch. “All equipment like tanks, engine and joinery will come down through the companion hatch. Everything that goes down in the boat can go out without having to take the boat apart.” Re-powering should be relatively easy. The one I previewed had a new Volvo and new genset both of which looked great. Through heavy, once she gets going, few can match her speed and smoothness. With her sharply increased sheer forward and hard dodger, this is one dry center cockpit yacht.
The Hallberg Rassy 49 is a quality built rugged cruiser with a flush foredeck. If you like her style, she is a worthwhile sailboat to take you anywhere except shoal draft area with 7’3″ keel. Few are on the market and even fewer in the USA with only one at near $300,000. That makes these passage-makers rare finds.