Hanse 461

The Hanse 461 can't conceal its racing attributes. For performance cruisers, this is a good thing

It didn’t take long, that gray, blustery day last fall, for us to realize we had a greyhound by the tail. For a brief time after we’d raised the Hanse 461’s sails, the near-plumb-stemmed vessel wallowed unimpressively in the Chesapeake Bay cross chop. But as the full-battened main and self-tacking roller jib were trimmed, there was the distinct sense that the boat was being lifted onto a track–as though by hydrofoils, I recall thinking–and in 15 knots of true wind, the knotmeter shot up to 7.66. The connecting-rod steering of the twin wheels and the spade rudder felt balanced, smooth, and sensuous to the touch.

Not for nothing had Cruising World nominated the German-built Hanse 461 to the Performance Cruisers Over 45 Feet division in the 2006 Boat of the Year competition. The new model was designed by Judel/Vrolijk & Co., the principal architect of the Alinghi designs that won the 2003 America’s Cup as well as other recent Hanse models. Polar diagrams from the design office show that this boat will reach at 8.5 to 9.5 knots in 10 to 20 knots of wind.

The 461’s displacement/ length ratio of 167 indicates a light-displacement form that will move through the water with a minimum of fuss, creating fewer and smaller waves with reduced hull resistance. Its sail area/displacement ratio of 22.56 explains the other key to its speed: It’s amply canvased in relation to its displacement and therefore easily driven in light air. Thus the 461, especially the shoal-draft version we sailed, is a good choice for Chesapeake Bay, while a deeper-draft version would be well-suited to areas where depth isn’t an issue. Either seems a likely candidate for racing as well as fast cruising.


An interesting comparison can be drawn to the new Swan 46 (see “Swan Lands in Familiar Waters,” March 2006) and its racier sister, the Swan 45. In the case of both performance ratios, the Hanse’s are much more in line with the 45’s than the 46’s. They are also similar to several other racer/cruisers from Europe, such as the Salona 45 and the X-46 (see “Crunching the Numbers,” January 2006).

The Hanse’s ballast/displacement ratio is .29, relatively low in comparison with others in its class. Its wide hull and powerful stern sections provide good form stability, but it seems likely the 461 would have to shorten sail earlier than some boats to make the best of high winds and seas.

In examining the boat’s profile, if you opaque the house from the forward window aft, then squint your eyes, the 461, with its tall rig, short ends, and canoe underbody, has the outboard profile of an Open 50, and in a solid breeze, a performance-oriented crew might feel they’re sailing one. I tried to pretend I was one of the above and chimped around the decks to evaluate them as a work platform, and generally they came up aces. The laid-teak decks and cockpit seats and sole are wide and clear, with six retractable docking cleats and a recessed anchor windlass. Footing and traction on these surfaces was solid, even though the teak was saturated with rain and spray.


The cabin top, on which one spends time furling the main, has, as the builder points out in its brochure, “partly nonskid surface on the coachroof.” Those slippery spots on the cabin top, surrounded by aggressive tread that give a false sense of security, are a pet peeve because one often puts his weight on them when he’s least expecting to fall. However, the cabin top is broad and uncluttered, so in comparison with many boats, there’s also less to stumble over, and the area is cleared even more by low-profile hatches and by halyards and reefing lines that are led aft. Deck organizers lead these control lines through conduits to banks of six clutches, port and starboard, that are just forward of the primary winches on the coaming and accessible from the helm. The mainsheet, also on the cabin top, can be led outboard to one of these winches as well.

The cockpit is spacious and comfortable. The seats are just the right height for comfort and the backs are at the optimal angle, and most fiberglass edges are rounded to present a forgiving surface to fall into or brace yourself against. A significant exception was the neat-looking translucent, sea-foam-green cockpit table, which, while apparently strong enough for windward cockpit crew to brace their feet against, presents sharp edges that might hurt if a sailor were thrown against it in rough seas.

Broad helm seats, wide enough for two in light air, are aft of each wheel, and between them the teak deck–the lazarette lies beneath–continues to the transom swim platform. Visibility for the helmsman is excellent, and the twin wheels really open up the midships section of the cockpit. I’d envision the shorthanded sailor engaging the autopilot and easily moving forward to any of the controls or making a quick trip below. Convenient for ventilation, two ports open below from the cockpit, and these will also ease communication between on and off watches.


To get below, the off watch will have to negotiate six steep companionway steps, but full-height stainless-steel posts on either side of the bottom of the stairs are strategically positioned to steady the weary sailor. Fiddles on the furniture do double duty, serving as grabrails as you move fore and aft.

The interior saloon and cabins have a nice mix of varnished solid and veneered mahogany, and white bulkheads that allows the accommodation to be light enough to be cheerful but dark enough to be warm and inviting. A variety of layouts (two- and three-cabin) are available and can be viewed at Hanse’s website.

We sailed the two-cabin version; on it, directly to port of the companionway, is the U-shaped galley, with sinks inboard and two-burner gimbaled stove/oven and front- loading fridge outboard. Galley counter space, with pots, pans, and utensils stowage beneath, is excellent, with high, seamanlike fiddles. At the forward end of the sinks, a small flip-up table without fiddles extends the inboard counter space when more than one cook is preparing a meal in harbor. The galley is amply ventilated by the companionway hatch, an opening port over the range, and a small hatch over the sinks.


To starboard of the companionway are a door to the huge aft cabin and one from the saloon to the aft head’s dedicated toilet room, with sink and medicine cabinet, which on passages can double as a hanging locker for boots and foul-weather gear. A small hatch ventilates this passageway. The aft cabin has an island double with six large cabinets on either side. Odd-shaped bins with fiddled tops add stowage space both to port and starboard between the berth and the sides of the boat. Forward, to port, is a side-by-side hanging locker/ three-shelf cabinet with two lockers beneath. Access to the shower stall is forward and to starboard. Six opening ports, including the ones in the cockpit well, and two non-opening ones guarantee lots of light and air.

Forward of the galley, amidships, is a barebones nav-station arrangement (common to all layouts) that will frustrate the navigator who craves the traditional sit-down lift-top desk. However, for the cruiser sailing in familiar waters or the around-the-buoys racer navigating from a cockpit chart plotter and remote instrument readouts, this setup may be just fine. The chart table, which is billed as a “multifunctional chart table,” can serve many purposes in port; it’s a small, fiddleless flip-up table faced with fore-and-aft plush chairs, the outboard legs of which are pinned between stainless-steel rails bolted to the sole. In harbor, these pins can be removed so the chairs can be positioned at the dinette, but crew must repin the legs to avoid having a chair and its occupant tip over in a seaway. Forward of the table is a VHF radio; above it, a door flips up to reveal a chart plotter.

So it’s a nontraditional nav station, yes, but the tradeoff is that it opens up a sitting area for two and space enough for numerous cabinets with swing-down doors. And the fiddled tops of these cabinets hold a minimalist stainless-steel corral, to restrain small items, and a mahogany wine locker.

Opposite the nav station, the comfortable L-shaped dinette has an adjustable-height table without fiddles, which would come in handy at sea. The port-side cabinet/ corral/wine locker arrangement is duplicated over the dinette, but with the addition of bookshelves and a table with drawers aft of it. Above the cabinets to port and starboard, the attractive mahogany-framed oval ports are fixed.

The forward cabin on the model we sailed had a double berth to starboard and a remarkably efficient aft-facing desk/credenza arrangement to port. Above the desk, which is suitable for a notebook computer, are three seagoing barred bookshelves and a flexible-neck chart light. This is a fine workspace for someone who wants to stay current with business demands while cruising far from the office, and it’s a fine sit-down nav station for route planning when in port, although it’s too far forward for a kindly motion and easy communication with the cockpit when under way.

Just forward of the credenza are port and starboard hanging lockers. The private head/shower for this cabin is even farther forward.

All told, this is an interesting boat with lots of innovations, and while it will raise the North American traditionalist’s eyebrows, its powerful sailing abilities and its contemporary styling are winning hearts in many parts of the world. Like other larger Hanse models, the 461 is built of an epoxy laminate and has a steel grid for its structural backbone. In Europe last year, a jury of magazine editors gave the 461 an award as the most innovative yacht of the year; however, as the builder told us when asked for the 461’s mission statement: “The boat may be difficult to define since it can’t be pigeonholed.”

We came away with the same feeling, and while I’ve pointed out a few shortcomings worthy of remedy, the Hanse 461 is a very fast boat, quite easy to sail, and it’s cheerful and spacious (with accommodations for up to seven) below. For sailors interested in both racing and cruising–perhaps an upwardly mobile couple with young children, lots of friends, and a penchant for speed–the 461 deserves a serious look.

Nim Marsh is a CW contributing editor.


LOA 46′ 6″ (14.20 m.)
LWL 41′ 3″ (12.60 m.)
Beam 14′ 7″ (4.47 m.)
Draft (standard) 8′ 5″ (2.60 m.)
Medium Draft (optional) 7′ 5″ (2.30 m.)
Shoal Draft (optional) 6′ 4″ (1.95 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 1,247 sq. ft. (116 sq. m.)
Ballast 7,584 lb. (3,443 kg.)
Displacement 26,300 lb. (11,804 kg.)
Ballast/D .29
D/L 167
SA/D 22.56
Water 104 gal. (400 l.)
Fuel 70 gal. (265 l.)
Mast Height 80′ 2″ (24.4 m.)
Engine 54-hp. Yanmar diesel
Designer Judel/Vrolijk & Co.
Base Price $345,000

Hanse Yachts US
(410) 626-1493


Editor’s note: In Cruising World’s Boat of the Year coverage (“Crunching the Numbers,” January 2006), one judge criticized the Hanse’s lack of a sump in the bilge and a system that required a sailor to remove several square floorboards with a suction cup, then vacuum water from a number of compartments. This month, we invited Hanse to explain the system and to respond to other points made in our reviewer’s evaluation.

We thank the editors of Cruising World for the opportunity to explain the Hanse concept.
Michael Schmidt, the founder and driving force at Hanse, says that the bilge system on the Hanse 461 was designed so the cruising yachtsman could better pinpoint a leakage source from an isolated bilge area rather than find a full bilge with the water above the floorboards as the first indicator of a problem.

Rarely will water be found in the bilge of the 461, especially with a saildrive system, but in such rare cases, this does entail manually moving the pump suction to the individual chambers. (In our rush to commission the 461 for last fall’s boat show, which had monsoon-type rains, we were remiss in not ensuring the watertight integrity of the mast boot.)

In addition, the innovative design of the maple flooring squares allows easy access to each of the bilge areas. All Hanse models use the special suction cups supplied with the boat to lift the flooring, removing the need for failure-prone mechanical lift rings.

Hanse’s philosophy and its “crossover-design” concept establishes a symbiotic relationship between maximum speed, highest living comfort, and the easy handling of a modern sailing yacht and the expression of the very personal individual lifestyle of the yacht owner.

Donald F. Walsh
North American Sales Manager
Hanse Yachts US