A boat that stands apart for its speed and power

SAIL - - New Boats - By Chris Caswell

Ihad no trouble find­ing the new HH55 cata­ma­ran: she stands out in a ma­rina of white plas­tic yachts like Hulk Ho­gan at a gar­den party. She is pur­pose­ful. No, pur­pose­ful is too wussy a word: she ex­udes me­nace. This is a cruis­ing yacht, after all, that can knock off 250-mile days with­out even breath­ing hard.


From the de­sign duo of Morelli & Melvin, who have cre­ated the cream of cats from Amer­ica’s Cup win­ners to ocean-cross­ing record set­ters like Steve Fos­sett’s PlayS­ta­tion, this is a yacht de­signed to get you some­where, any­where, fast and com­fort­ably.

Whether you call them axe bows, re­verse bows or wave-piercers, they give the HH55 a look of speed even at rest. This cat is far closer on the evo­lu­tion­ary chain to Amer­ica’s Cup foil­ing cata­ma­rans than the plain vanilla cruis­ing cats that fill the bare­boat char­ter fleets.

Built by HH Yachts in China, which spe­cial­izes in high-per­for­mance cats, the 55 raises the bar for con­struc­tion stan­dards, us­ing fe­male molds for min­i­mum weight, a thermo-formed core to in­crease strength and 100 per­cent car­bon com­pos­ite sand­wich con­struc­tion with epoxy in­fu­sion. Ad­di­tional car­bon fiber can be found in highly loaded ar­eas such as the chain­plates and stringers, and the ring frames are car­bon fiber as well. Sac­ri­fi­cial “false” bows add pro­tec­tion from col­li­sion, and wa­ter­tight bulk­heads seal off the bow and stern com­part­ments. The floors are struc­tural com­pos­ites, as are the in­te­rior cored pan­els ve­neered with stone and fine woods. The in­tent, says Gino Mor­relli, was to “kick it up a notch,” and they suc­ceeded.

Un­der­wa­ter, the HH55 is no less so­phis­ti­cated, with the lat­est gen­er­a­tion curved C-foil dag­ger­boards pro­vid­ing 15 per­cent of lift to the bow at 20 knots and rud­ders with T-winglets at their tips. Wave-pierc­ing hulls have been crit­i­cized for bury­ing, which can lead to pitch­pol­ing, but the de­sign team for the HH55 set the T-rud­ders at zero-de­grees, so if the bows ever try to drop (or fly) the rud­ders will ex­ert as much as one ton of force to counter the mo­tion. The team also added “flats” to the bot­tom of the bow sec­tions to add yet more lift and re­duce pitch­ing.

Of course, the pos­i­tive side to re­versed bows is a longer wa­ter­line and re­duced fore­deck weight, al­beit at the ex­pense of a wet­ter boat. The boards are in curved wells with bear­ings of Vesconite, a ma­te­rial that makes Te­flon seem pos­i­tively sticky.


2 Aloft, the huge 1,343ft main­sail is also quite un­usual for cruis­ing, from the square-top head that ex­tends hor­i­zon­tally from the mast­head to the wide slot­ted V-boom that serves to cap­ture the sail after it’s dropped. Swept-back spread­ers with Aramid up­per and lower shrouds pre­clude the need for a back­stay to support the furl­ing double-head­sail rig. The tow­er­ing 88ft mast is made by South­ern Spars, and at the base has the clut­tered but pur­pose­ful look of a sol­dier head­ing for com­bat.

A big part of this com­plex­ity stems from the fact that the HH55 we tested has a for­ward cock­pit for sail con­trol, with two doors lead­ing to

it from the sa­loon. Three Lew­mar 65 twospeeds pro­vide the “oomph” for things like rais­ing hal­yards. But be­cause the lines can’t be led neatly aft (for ex­am­ple, on the cock­pit sole as aboard many boats) the buck stops at the base of the mast, along with plenty of stop­pers, turn­ing blocks, fair­leads and a whole lot of other stuff. Un­til one gets used to the lay­out, have a road map handy.

That said, the HH55 is of­fered with two deck lay­outs: one with twin wheels aft on raised con­soles, the other with a sin­gle for­ward helm, as on our test boat. I like the in­side helm (an open­ing sun­roof pro­vides a clear view of the sails) be­cause the aft helms seem ex­posed for short­handed cruis­ers. How­ever, I fear that the for­ward cock­pit is go­ing to be un­in­hab­it­able when the spray is fly­ing. Your call.

Again, the fully bat­tened main drops neatly into a V-boom, led by lazy­jacks from near the end of the swept­back spread­ers (since fat­head

2 mains don’t like nar­row lazy­jacks). A self-tack­ing 446ft jib is on a furler,

2 as is the 2,032ft reacher, which is an ab­so­lute gig­gle off the wind. Both the longeron (fore-strut) and the cross beam are, of course, car­bon fiber, and also built by South­ern Spars. With Aramid stand­ing rig­ging there are no turn­buck­les, so the rig is ad­justed with a built-in mast jack.


The stan­dard plans of­fer ei­ther three-cabin (port hull as mas­ter-suite) or four-cabin lay­outs. How­ever, HH is quite clear that own­ers should pen­cil in their own de­sign. In the case of our test boat, Min­nehaha (hull #1), own­ers Deb and Doug went with a mas­ter state­room to port, an aft guest state­room with di­rect ac­cess to a head/large shower stall, and a for­ward state­room to star­board. How­ever, they also con­verted what would have been the head for the lat­ter into a work­shop, a good so­lu­tion for cruis­ers. While the hulls are slim (wa­ter­line beam for each is just un­der 5ft), the mas­ter suite in this lay­out is still large enough to in­clude a hid­den washer/dryer and nu­mer­ous lock­ers.

The sa­loon is where own­ers can, and should, wield the pen­cil most creatively, since the stan­dard lay­out fills the star­board side with the gal­ley, leav­ing only fore-and-aft ba­sic bench seat­ing to port like a sub­way car. Deb im­proved this by adding an L-shaped set­tee to cre­ate a con­ver­sa­tion area, and also opted for what ev­ery­one started call­ing the “Thanks­giv­ing Ta­ble,” a ta­ble that starts in­side the sa­loon, but which, with a filler leaf, can join to the cock­pit ta­ble when the slid­ing doors are fully open to seat just about ev­ery­one in the an­chor­age.

The nav sta­tion is for­ward to port, and there is a counter to star­board and two doors to tend the sails.

UN­DER SAIL Yee-haw! Let’s cut to the chase here: we were do­ing a steady 8 to 9 knots up­wind in 8 to 9 knots of true wind, and 10 to 11 with the reacher in, yes, 11 knots of wind. Re­ally. And that was through some Gulf Stream chop that the hulls didn’t even no­tice. Morelli says she can sail as high as 45 de­grees, but 48 de­grees is where she re­ally romps. I found the torque tube steer­ing a bit stiff. But she re­sponded quickly, and in spite of turn­ing a 27ft beam, she re­mained quite nim­ble, so that you can work her to wind­ward like a mono­hull.

UN­DER POWER Twin Yan­mar 57hp diesels with SD60 saildrives and three-bladed Gori fold­ing props shove the HH55 along at 12 knots on both en­gines or 6.5 knots on just one. Min­nehaha had the op­tional Quick re­tractable elec­tric bow thruster on the star­board side, which was in­valu­able when plant­ing this 55-by-27ft pack­age into its slip.


With its com­pli­cated rig­ging, tall sailplan and dag­ger­boards that must be raised and low­ered on each tack, the HH55 isn’t for the cruiser who wants two winches, a self-steer­ing vane and a case of Corona. On the other hand, this is a tech­ni­cally im­pec­ca­ble yacht through-andthrough, and, gee, the op­por­tu­nity for daily runs of 250-plus miles sure is a pow­er­ful aphro­disiac. s


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