HARDY 65 TEST
A boat like this deserves a proper test, so with snow on the decks, we round the Isle of Wight in a Force 7 to see what it’s made of
A bruising 24 hour test shows just how tough and comfortable this all-weather cruiser is
We have unfinished business with the flagship of the Hardy range. Back in 2013, we joined the original version of this boat – the Hardy 62 – on a trip from Southampton to Ipswich in an attempt to give it a proper test in what would hopefully be some challenging conditions. As it transpired, we left the Solent, crossed the wash of one tanker and then didn’t see another wave for about 200 miles. The boat performed beautifully, topping out at 33 knots, but the millpond conditions offered nothing to challenge the boat’s seakeeping.
Fast forward to March of this year and I am standing on a pontoon in Gosport that is covered in about four inches of snow and a howling wind is blowing flecks of the white stuff across the marina. Someone has built a mini snowman next to the shorepower outlets. The Hardy 65 has a snowy blanket draped over its broad shoulders and the bathing platform is like an ice rink.
The plan is to take the boat over to Guernsey early the next morning before she heads to her final destination of Jersey to meet her owner. The forecast is a world away from what we experienced on the 62, with winds mid-channel of F7-8 gusting
to 50 knots, 3.5m seas and temperatures barely creeping above freezing. Skipper Nick and I pore over the ominous predictions for the next day’s conditions, conscious that our planned route would take us through the teeth of a strengthening mid-channel gale. Will the boat cope? Without question. Is it sensible to head into weather of this nature and potentially endanger the boat, ourselves and anyone who may have to rescue us if something goes awry when the trip is entirely avoidable? No. The decision is made to head to Poole instead, but going around the south side of the Isle of Wight to poke the bow into the rough stuff and get a brief taste of how the boat deals with it.
A NEW DIRECTION
Though it’s loosely based on the 62, the 65 feels a world away from its ancestor in nearly every department. In the dimly lit marina basin it cuts an imposing figure, towering over the pontoons with its prominent bow and lifeboat-like inwardly raked front screens. The warmly illuminated interior extends a toasty hand and pulls me inside, and this is where the biggest changes have occurred over hull No.1. Gone is the bland woodwork and blue carpets, replaced with rich walnut cabinetry and white oak detailing. The silver carpet is plush underfoot and classy grey upholstery has added pop from tastefully bright scatter cushions. The layout is vastly improved too. The galley is now on the main deck, directly opposite the dinette, which works well on a boat where you may well be cooking when you’re on passage. The old helm arrangement included three raised seats located centrally, which was great if you were driving but robbed the saloon of valuable light from the windscreen and made the entire area feel cramped. There is no longer an internal staircase to the flybridge – a shame, but the helm layout is much better.
Below, larger hull windows amidships have transformed the master ensuite, which is as beautifully finished as the saloon and has space for a lovely ensuite and walk-in wardrobe.
Mine and photographer Richard’s cabin for the night is the VIP, which has a pair of twins that slide together to become a double (we left them apart) and a spacious ensuite of its own. The 65 has all the style and warmth that the original interior lacked. With steaming mugs of tea in hand and the heating doing its thing, the 65 is a fine refuge from the cold outside.
Even when split in two, the berths in the VIP are comfortable and – joy of joys – there are two charging points right above the bed and a handy fiddle to store glasses, books etc. Despite the wind screeching through the surrounding halyards, we sleep well, knowing that morning will bring a test for craft and crew alike.
Scraping snow off the decks and through the scuppers is an interesting way to begin a sea trial, but that’s what faces us before we set off. Decks cleared and engines warmed, Nick negotiates the tight network of pontoons and eases the boat out past the fuel pontoon. Portsmouth Harbour looks benign given the doom-filled forecast but a glance at the flags whipping around their poles at the entrance tells another story.
We edge into the Solent, which is eerily placid, but as we push east towards Bembridge the waves begin piling up, roaring up from the aft quarters with foam whipping off their tops. There is a steep following swell of around 3m which sends the bow barrelling downwards before we meet the back of the next wave, the foredeck rising gracefully towards the sky. At the lower helm, we are safely insulated from the dreadful conditions as the boat dutifully chugs on without hesitation. It’s whisper quiet, with sound readings barely reaching the mid-60s, a crucial asset for such a long-distance cruising craft. The Sleipner fin stabilisers are doing a fine job of keeping us level – no mean feat on a boat that weighs around 45 tonnes and is being subject to an awkward quartering swell. So detached are we from what’s going on around us that Nick is able to pad around the saloon in his slippers.
The 800hp MAN i6 motors push us through manfully as the swell yo-yos our speed over ground between 12 and
In the dimly lit marina basin, the 65 cuts an imposing figure, towering over the pontoons
26 knots. The 65 is packing 400hp less per side than the 62, which had the 1,200hp MAN units and a top speed well into the thirties. This 65 has a heavy specification including half a tonne of Corian alone. Add stabilisers, air con, a hydraulic bathing platform, crane, a tender with a 25hp outboard, a potential fuel load of 6,100 litres and 1,000 litres of water and the motors have their work cut out to shift the boat’s bulk. They struggle at times, especially heaving the boat out of deeper troughs, where the 1,000hp units would make easier work of it.
A SOLID CONTENDER
As we round the island, it offers some protection from the wind and conditions ease, so we up the speed. We top out at 22.4 knots but it feels like the boat is barely moving given how smooth the ride is. Ease the throttles back to settle at 1,200rpm and the 65 slips along at around 10 knots, returning just shy of 1mpg and a range of over 1,000nm. It’s built to go places. The kettle goes on as we approach Ventnor and we relish the relative calm away from the seething seas left behind. We plan to make a photography pit stop in Yarmouth, aware that it could be quite tasty inside the harbour given the rising tide and direction of the wind. The Hurst narrows are a confused mass of boiling chop, green water dashed with foam that fidgets and spits as we carve through. We edge into Yarmouth with the wind gusting to 40 knots. Nick eyes up the fuel pontoon at the southern end of the basin but the prospect of having to heave the 65 off the pontoon with that breeze on the beam isn’t a pleasant one. We abort the plan and Nick wrestles with the throttles to turn the boat within its length and get clear of the harbour – next stop Poole.
We regain our composure and set a course west, passing back through the Hurst narrows and down the north channel around the Shingle Bank. In the lee of land, the conditions ease off again so we relax into a 16-knot cruising speed. The layout of the lower helm is tuned towards passagemaking and the ergonomics are superb. The single Besenzoni helm seat is fully adjustable and allows you to slide yourself close enough to the dash that everything from the wheel and throttles to thruster controls and chartplotter buttons are no stretch. Though the Raymarine MFDS are touch sensitive, the panel of proper buttons between the wheel and throttles mean you don’t have to lean out of the seat to use them. The view forward through the battleship windscreens is excellent and on the leg to Poole, I sit in comfort with all the boat’s crucial information being fed to me via the various screens split between the dash and a panel overhead. For long journeys, it’s ideal. The only action needed is to adjust the autopilot as we approach one of many lobster pots strewn across the bay. A camera in the engineroom means the skipper can keep an eye on the machinery but this doesn’t stop Nick and his slippers popping down to peer through the watertight door to ensure all is well.
A full-height door in the cockpit leads down a steep staircase to the lazarette, if you can call it that. It’s more of a workshop-cum-storeroom with standing
So detached are we from what’s going on around us that Nick is able to pad around the saloon in his slippers
headroom, a sink, lots of storage and room for extra fridges, a watermaker and the washing machine. The machinery space is similarly practical; the engines are mounted a good distance away from each other with masses of space to inspect around all sides of both motors. The four aluminum fuel tanks feed into a fuel-polishing system and a suite of Racor fuel filters with clear bowls for quick inspection. There is a changeover system that means you can quickly bypass and clear blocked filters on the move.
The sea has a final tantrum as we pass down the main channel into Poole with breakers angrily sweeping across the banks of Hook Sands. The Hardy remains unflustered, ploughing on with the quiet
determination that it has demonstrated throughout our five-hour passage.
We trickle through the narrows and into the sanctuary of a chilly Poole Harbour with an icing sugar-coated Isle of Purbeck as our backdrop. We may not have crossed the Channel, but the flicker of satisfaction after completing a tough journey is still present. The 65 has barely broken a sweat in ironing out some truly horrendous conditions and it has proven its ability to travel serious distances while cosseting its crew in total security and comfort. The only real question mark is whether the 800hp engines are the best match for the boat and I’m inclined to suggest that, with a spec this heavy at least, the 1,000hp units would offer the extra potency that is so welcome in the conditions we experienced.
The 62 proved that Hardy could build a boat of this size and dynamic capability, but it lacked the finesse that anyone willing to part with over £2 million would expect. The 65 is a different beast altogether, still immensely capable and a true oceangoing Category A cruiser but with the high-class, top-quality interior that it so richly deserves. Contact Hardy Marine. Tel: +44 (0)1473 694674. Web: www.hardymarine.co.uk
The 65 has barely broken a sweat in ironing out some truly horrendous conditions