Hylas 56: A Good Thing Made Better
Using the popular 54 as a starting point, Hylas ups the comfort factor for its 56.
It was the first full day of autumn, and a 10-knot, late-afternoon southerly kept the sailboats moving out on Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. Soon, I’d be out there, too, on the new Hylas 56, which had arrived from the Queen Long Marine yard in Taiwan just in time for the Newport International Boat Show the weekend before.
I looked forward to this particular assignment. I’d already toured hull number one during the show with Kyle Jachney, Hylas’ vice president, and came away impressed by the purposeful center-cockpit deck layout and the level of finish on display in the living space below.
As we approached the boat in the anchorage, this latest design from Germán Frers looked big, elegant, and graceful with its raised deck saloon and gleaming stainless-steel hardware accentuating the white hull and the deck with its tan areas of nonskid. Stepping aboard from the dinghy, I found secure handholds on either side of the wide swim platform, right where they belonged.
The 56 evolved from the popular Hylas 54, which was first launched in 1999, when it won Cruising World’s Boat of the Year honors as Best Full-Size Cruiser. Since every Hylas has basically a semicustom interior, it’s hard to quantify how the 2 extra feet play out below, but on deck it means that the cockpit is 2 feet longer and 8 inches wider, the aft cabin top has been tweaked to allow for more headroom beneath, the skeg-hung rudder is moved 9 inches aft, and the lines of the hull have been redrawn from the keel back to allow for a fuller body and slightly more room in the interior.
Sail-control lines lead aft from the Seldén rig with in-mast furling, and there are an adequate number of two-speed, electric, self-tailing Antal winches installed in the correct places to easily sail the boat with a shorthanded crew. The sail plan features twin headsails—a 135-percent masthead genoa and an inner staysail—on Furlex mechanical furlers. The main is sheeted to a beefy Harken traveler just behind the helm. Genoa sheets are led to primaries just forward of the wheel, making tacking a one-person job.
Moving about, I liked the feel of the steel-tubed, 32-inch-tall stern pulpit that extends past the cockpit to nearly amidships, where double lifelines take over, and I appreciated the handrails running the length of the cabin top.
At the bow, the beefy stainless-steel stem and bow-roller hint at the cruiser lineage of the Hylas brand, as does the split anchor-rode locker and large sail locker just aft of it with a wide, flush hatch that can accommodate bulky gear that needs to be stowed. There are watertight bulkheads at both ends of the interior living space.
The Queen Long yard has a long history with Hylas, and the resulting attention to detail is evident throughout the 56. The hull is solid Twaron-reinforced glass laid up with vinyl-ester resin and isophthalic gelcoat. The cored deck has solid glass where strength is needed for winches and other gear. Systems—and there are a lot of them—appear both accessible and well installed.
Belowdecks, an additional 2 inches has been added to the already considerable 7-foot headroom, increasing the sense of roominess, though it makes the overhead handholds a stretch. The nearby dining table to port, though, offers firm support just a step or two from the companionway, and there are shoulder-high grips the length of the saloon along the coach sides.