Hallberg-Rassy 44: Best Midsize Cruiser Under 45 Feet

Cruising World Judges named the Hallberg-Rassy 44 the Best Midsize Cruiser Under 45 Feet for 2020.

Hallberg-Rassy 44
The Hallberg-Rassy 44 boasts multiple features, such as its signature windshield, that are carried through the entire line.Jon Whittle

The battle for supremacy in the Midsize Cruiser class came down to a clash between builders from two nations: France and Sweden. The French were represented by two boats from longtime builder Dufour—the 390 and the 430—and the Swedes by the latest offering from the renowned Hallberg-Rassy yard: a 44-footer. Unfortunately, due to extreme conditions in the Chesapeake (see “A Little Bit of Everything,” page 67), the smaller of the two Dufours was unable to make its appointment for sea trials. The 430 performed admirably, though, with judge Ed Sherman especially impressed by how quiet it was under power.

Calendar year 2020 is going to be a very interesting one for Dufour. The company is now in the stable of the growing boatbuilding conglomerate Fountaine Pajot, and it’s making a fresh commitment to the brand, with new—and bigger—Dufours soon to be introduced. It promises to be intriguing. Stay tuned.

Dufour 390
It’s difficult to tell the two new Dufours apart once they are on the water; the lines, profiles and hull treatments of both the 390 (above) and the 430 are very similar. Both boats come from the board of naval architect Umberto Felci, longtime Dufour designer.Jon Whittle

However, for the 2020 BOTY contest, nobody was going to deny the all-around oceangoing excellence of the sweet Hallberg-Rassy 44, which was unanimously named the Best Midsize Cruiser Under 45 Feet.

There’s no question that the Hallberg-Rassy benefited from a test sail conducted in truly sporty conditions, with gusts in the 20-knot range and a substantive seaway running, which the yacht purposefully muscled through. The 44 is built to Nordic standards for North Sea conditions, and it showed.

Dufour 430
Both the 390 and the 430 (above) boats come from the board of naval architect Umberto Felci, longtime Dufour designer.Jon Whittle

“It’s just a solidly built boat,” Sherman said. “We had the pleasure of sailing it in a pretty strong breeze, and it just went through the water with no effort. It was just doing its thing and loving it. All the equipment they use is Grade A. My only gripe is that if I were to buy the boat, I would spec out a steering wheel that was about 4 inches smaller in diameter so that I could get around it a bit more easily in what is a fairly tight cockpit. Plus, it’s so easy to steer, I don’t believe you need the leverage of a larger wheel. That was my only complaint.”

Judge Ralph Naranjo concurred with his colleague’s assessment. “Externally she’s a sound, ruggedly constructed vessel,” he said. “But more to the point, there’s integrity to how the systems are installed. Looking over how the autopilot goes in, for example, the bracketing can be as important as the selection of the autopilot itself. It’s very well-situated because the bracket is secured to both a transverse and longitudinal member. There’s no shoehorn effect.

“We had the pleasure of testing the HR 44 in a strong breeze, and it performed well.”

“In fact,” he continued, “you lift up the aft bunk and look at all the other equipment installed in that space. It’s almost as if there were laboratory testing going on there, and you have access to all of it. The entire boat is like that. Everything from the bow thruster to the anchor windlass showed that same attention to detail. And to me, the integrity of the builder showed through in the quality of the product.”

“Yes, the quality construction was mainly what got my vote,” judge Dan Spurr said. “We didn’t find any real shortcoming. Everything seemed well-done. The joiner work was tight. The woodwork inside was beautifully done. It sailed well. And I like the Hallberg-Rassy windshield. The vast majority of sailboats have a canvas dodger with vinyl windows. Eventually, the canvas wears out and the vinyl gets cloudy. The supposed virtue is that you can put them down, but nobody ever does, it seems. With the windshield, you can add a canvas top, but it offers protection in a more permanent way. I appreciate that utility. The little things added up here.”

And the finished product was a winner.

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