If you truly loved catamarans, if money were no object, if you wanted high performance but also wished for a boat that you could actually sail as a couple, if state-of-the-art carbon-fiber construction were something you could really understand and appreciate, what would you buy?
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the HH55.
Built in China to exacting standards, and created by the renowned multihull designers and partners Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin, the HH55 looks and feels like something conceived and launched in a future time and place, and deposited here in 2018 as if by time machine. Tellingly, the naval architects, Morrelli and Melvin, and one of the principal boatbuilders, New Zealander Paul Hakes, were all involved in the development and evolution of the original Gunboat brand. With the HH55, they’ve taken that concept and run with it.
The 55-footer certainly looks and feels like a next-generation Gunboat. The hulls maximize the waterline length and boast what might be called a reverse sheer line, and the bows, which look slick and pierce waves, are swept slightly aft. And there are definitely some overlapping features to a Gunboat, the most prominent being the forward steering station inside the central saloon (though you can also opt for twin wheels aft) that opens up to a forward cockpit where all the sheets, halyards and reefing lines live. It’s clean, functional and has withstood the test of modern times.
The materials and technology incorporated in the HH55 would not be out of place on Starship Enterprise. Carbon fiber is employed throughout in a sandwich laminate that incorporates infused epoxy resins and Core-Cell foam cores, which makes the boat lean and strong and also provides sound and heat insulation. Rod rigging is eschewed in favor of light, durable aramid fibers. The fractional spar and V-shaped boom are prepreg carbon that’s baked in an autoclave. A CZone digital control and monitoring system, linked to a B&G Hercules central processing unit, provides a seamless electrical interface among all electronic components and state-of-the-art autopilots and sailing instruments. It’s all powered by lithium-ion batteries.
In the interior layout, customization is both available and encouraged. On the model we tested, the owners suite spanned the length of the entire port hull, with a comfortable double berth aft and a large head with an enormous shower stall, forward. The starboard hull housed double cabins in the ends, with separate heads. The main cabin is airy and equipped with an ample galley, dedicated nav station and spacious dining area; sliding glass doors open up to create a vast, seamless space between the interior saloon and the outdoor aft cockpit, which features a second dining table, sun bed, wet bar and barbecue. Luxurious is the word that readily leaps to mind.
Not surprisingly, the bloody boat sails like a witch. The curved carbon daggerboards maximize the performance and control. The helm is as smooth and silky as can be. During our test sail on Chesapeake Bay, in about 11 knots of true wind, the HH55 slipped through the water like a hot knife through butter. During our Boat of the Year contest, only one boat surpassed the 55’s sailing prowess, its bigger, more powerful sister, the HH66 (see “Hook In and Hang On,” opposite).
Our BOTY judges were smitten by the yacht. Bill Bolin was impressed with the arrangement and functionality of the galley: “I thought it was exceptional. It’s U-shaped and very deep. The crew would be out of the way of the traffic patterns, with people moving around and going in and out of either hull or the staterooms or heads. It was very well thought out.” Ed Sherman said, “I like the way it’s laid out. The builders have demonstrated that they can build a cruising-oriented boat that offers a good turn of speed and performance, but a couple can run it without outside assistance. It’s a really cool boat.”
Of course, with a price tag over $2.5 million, it better be. But for those well-heeled enough to afford it, it might just be a bargain. It’s hard to imagine more fun at any price.
Herb McCormick is CW’s executive editor.