A smart, elegantly simple design from Germany
Hanse Yachts is currently updating its entire line, and the latest model to get the treatment is its mid-range 388, previously known as the 385. As you might guess, the hull of the new boat is very similar to its predecessor, being built in the same mold. However, the improvements that have gone into creating the 388 are more than just skin-deep.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
Although Hanse is based in Germany, its hulls are built at a dedicated factory just over the border in Poland. Layup there is much as it has always been—good old-fashioned manual work with a roller in one hand and a laminate plan in the other. That said, Hanse’s extremely efficient production line system has got this process down to a fine art, with boats typically needing around 10 days in the mold before they are shipped to Germany, where the rest of the boat is assembled.
The hull of the 388 has a first layer of more expensive vinylester resin, in the interest of blister resistance, as well as a balsa foam core for supe-
rior stiffness and lighter weight. Around the chainplates, there is some carbon reinforcing, and an intergral bulwark/toerail both stiffens the hull-to-deck joint and provides additional safety when going forward.
Although the boat’s plumb bow and stern remain the same—the better to scrape every available inch of waterline length out of the design—naval architects Judel/Vrolijk have also made a few tweaks. For example, they have replaced the bulky helm seats that previously closed off most of the transom with folding thwarts that can be clipped up vertically whenever you want full access to the water. The drop-down transom also now includes a built-in telescopic bathing ladder in gleaming stainless.
Up at the bow, the stem fitting includes a pair of twin rollers, as well as a useful teak step (handy for Scandinavian-style mooring) and an integral tack point for a Code 0 reaching sail. Keeping the boat upright is a hefty 5,247lb L-shaped keel, which is 400lb heavier and 3in deeper than the previous model to help counterbalance the 13in taller mast. There is also a shoal-draft option. The sheer acreage of glass in this new boat is immediately noticeable. For what is—let’s face it—a smaller design by today’s lavish standards, this boat has packed in six hull lights, three flush hatches and, in a major update to the 385, glass panels on either side of the companionway. It all gives the boat a very modern look and lets the light simply flood in below, a key part of the boat’s appeal.
Beyond that, the configuration has changed little since the 385. The
main choices below are whether you want two or three cabins, and a short or extended L-shaped galley to starboard. You sacrifice a hanging locker with the bigger galley, but both versions offer a good-sized refrigerator, with top and side access, plus a two-burner cooktop and oven. Whether you choose two or three cabins, there is a single head with a shower to port just aft of the chart table.
The main cabin is in the forepeak, where Hanse has brought the head of the V-berth slightly out from the hull, to give a hint of it being an island with some side access. All berths are good and deep, with the saloon settees offering two additional sea berths if necessary.
Finish quality throughout is good, and Hanse recently expanded the number of options available for internal joinery and upholstery, so that there are now four wood and three carpet choices for the sole, five woods for cabinets, 22 fabrics and nine leathers—surely enough to keep even the most finicky owner happy.
The design team has also been busy with the interior lighting and the installation of digital switching throughout the boat, which allows you to control things via a proprietary touchscreen. Select from different moods in each cabin, or reprogram the system to suit your own particular preferences. Hanse also specs some good-quality red/white lighting to help preserve night vision while on passage.
Like all Hanses, ease of handling is part of this boat’s DNA. With that in mind, all sail controls come back to the helm, with a German mainsheet system providing stress-free trimming on either tack. For once on a production boat, the helmsman can also get a good purcahse on the twin Lewmar 40 primaries from behind the wheel for trimming the headsail.
Our test boat came equipped with the “performance pack,” which includes secondary winches on the cockpit coaming, positioned with a clear run aft to the spinnaker blocks on the quarter. You won’t find any spare halyards or barber-haulers on this boat, since the rig, with its selftacking jib, is designed to be a minimal one. However, the boat works well in its simplicity, and “Fast Cruising” laminated sails are available for those in search of a speed edge.
With a top breeze of around 6 knots, the boat fell into an easy slot around 40-45 degrees off the true wind, keeping up an effortless 4 to 5 knots. The polars suggest she can cruise upwind at 6.5 knots, and broad reach at close to 8.5 knots, but we weren’t able to verify this. That said, when I sailed her larger sister, the 418, she managed an easy 6.5 knots in similar reaching conditions under gennaker. Since the hulls between these two boats are almost identical, my expectation is that the 388 would prove a decent passagemaker, and very much toward the faster end of the cruising spectrum.
The 27hp Yanmar engine is ample for everyday requirements. There is also an option for a larger 38hp engine, which would make a decent investment if you are planning to cruise intensively. In our chop-free waters, the boat managed an easy 6 knots under power, with some throttle to spare. The saildrive, combined with a nice deep single rudder, means that she responds quickly ahead and astern, without discernible propwalk. That same nice big rudder makes backing into a tight berth about as easy as parallel parking. Access to the engine is good.
Hanses are built with limited options using a very efficient industrial technique. The finish below is good, with some really stylish design touches and great functionality, borne of years of solid seamanship. The 388’s hull is slippery enough for good passage times, while handling is fantastically simple, with sails easy to launch, trim and recover. She would make a great boat for family cruising.
BULWARKS EASILY HANDLED RIG PLENTY OF PORTS
Plentiful ports and hatches let in lots of light; finish is good