Boat Review: Hylas 63
In the ranks of dedicated bluewater boats, a few names crop up time and again that are synonymous with solid construction, reliable engineering and good seakeeping. One of those names is Hylas, whose stable of cruisers, from first Sparkman & Stephens and latterly Germán Frers, have an enviable pedigree. The latest in the line is the Hylas 63, a powerful and handsome ocean crosser. Hull #1 made its debut at last year’s Annapolis show, and we sailed her soon after.
Hylas builds its hulls conservatively, favoring no-nonsense old-school solid laminates laid up by hand. In the 63’s case, blister-resistant vinylester resin binds together layers of e-glass alternating with the aramid fiber Twaron, and the matrix is vacuum-bagged to ensure a strong laminate with a high fiber-to-resin ratio. The deck molding is also vacuum-bagged, glued to the hull with 3M 5200 and through-bolted. A 3/4in balsa core provides stiffness in high-traffic areas. Otherwise the laminate is solid.
Bulkheads are glassed to the hull and deck, and a collision bulkhead separates the large sail and anchor locker in the bow from the accommodations. Aft, the stern lazarettes and garage are similarly separated from the interior by a full collision bulkhead.
The triple-spreader Seldén rig is keel-stepped, with the standard specification including hydraulic furlers for the mainsail, genoa and staysail, the latter backed up by PBO running backstays. Rod rigging, spectra-cored halyards and a Doyle sail package round out the rig.
The center-cockpit concept comes into its own on a yacht of this size, where the elevated coamings and superstructure can be made to flow in a way that’s not possible with smaller designs. I’ve sailed many smaller center-cockpit boats where the helmsman feels perched atop the boat rather than being part of it. This is not the case on the Hylas.
Here, the cockpit is long and wide, with benches ideal for sleeping or just lounging, and a pair of curved, well-padded helm seats that will make watchkeeping a pleasure rather than a chore. It is an easy walk from the companionway aft between the twin Lewmar Mamba pedestals to the after deck, where there is a pair of capacious lazarettes. Coamings are high enough to provide good lumbar support, and access to the wide side decks is easy and safe.
Halyards and most other sail control lines are handled by a pair of winches at the mast, and since all the sails are set on hydraulic furlers, there is only the vang, genoa sheets and mainsheet to tend. The latter is a simple two-part affair handled by a pair of winches. All winches are by Antal, and six of them—the genoa, staysail and mainsheet winches—are powered. In total there are 10 winches on board, six of them powered by 24-volt motors.
Side decks are wide and uncluttered, with good handholds on the long cabintop to ease your passage along them. The expanse of cabintop forward of the mast is ideal for sunbathing in port on or passage, and leads to a wide foredeck bounded by hefty toerails that install a sense of security for those handling anchor duty.
In typical Hylas fashion the anchor handling system is a showcase of the stainless steel fabricator’s art, a gleaming, solid double bow roller housing a brace of 90lb anchors. The customer gets to choose the make of anchor, but Hylas supplies the rode—the primary comes with 300 feet of 7/16in chain, the secondary with 100 feet of chain and 300 feet of 3/4in nylon rope, all handled by a 24-volt Maxwell windlass.
Hylas’s boats are customizable belowdecks to the extent that you’ll scarcely find two that are alike. Hull #1 was typical in that its two owners put their own stamp on it from the get-go. The stock layout, as drawn by Germán Frers, has four cabins and four heads. Hull #1 has two cabins forward, and a large owner’s stateroom aft. One of the owners of this boat has a small child, and specified a passage cabin with bunks be installed which decreased the space available for the en suite heads, which can be accessed from either of the two cabins. The living quarters at either end of the boat are generous in area and beautifully fitted out, with plenty of storage for owners and guests in lockers, drawers and shelves.
With nearly 7 feet of headroom in the saloon and light streaming through large wrap-round windows—they’re too big to be called portlights—to illuminate the teak trim, the 63’s interior is inviting and functional. To port, an L-shaped settee long enough to make a good seaberth can seat six to eight people comfortably around a big table, with a pair of folding chairs to hold the overflow. There is another settee to starboard, which can be swapped out for a pair of armchairs. Nowhere in the boat is headroom less than 6ft 4in.
The forward-facing nav table has plenty of room for instrument displays outboard and is backed up by a huge switch panel; opening this panel revealed row upon row of neatly secured, fully labeled wires, a joy to behold for any systems geek.
The boat’s systems are reasonably complex, but by no means unusually so; all electrics are 24-volt bar the VHF radio and sailing instruments. The engine drives a 24V alternator feeding a bank of eight LT16 AGM batteries housed below the cabin sole amidships, two 8D batteries forward powering the bow thruster and windlass, and two more 8Ds aft for the stern thruster. There are 12 volt starting batteries for the engine and 12Kw Northern Lights generator, and a third 12V battery for general domestic needs. That’s a grand total of 16 batteries. All lighting is LED.
To port, the galley is a sea cook’s dream. There is more worktop space than in many a shoreside kitchen, and enough stowage and refrigeration to keep a crew well fed and watered on lengthy ocean passages. Not only is there a roomy top and front-opening Frigoboat freezer with dual compressors, but two more Frigoboat refrigerator units provide ample redundancy and a never-ending supply of chilled drinks. The test boat was also equipped with a dishwasher, a wine conditioner, an icemaker, a microwave and a washer/dryer—all the comforts of home, and then some.
We took the Hylas 63 out on a Fort Lauderdale day that delivered plenty of sunshine but little in the way of wind. We unrolled the sails in 7-8 knots of true wind, and I was somewhat surprised by how quickly she gathered way; soon we were making a good 4.5 to 5 knots to weather. Light-air performance is to be treasured in such a big boat, though not surprising in light of her performance ratios, which indicate an easily driven hull. Given its design pedigree, I have no doubt this boat will be capable of impressive passage times.
She felt light on the helm and went about like a smaller boat. All the sail controls were within easy reach of the helmsman, and since sail handling is largely a matter of pushing buttons in the right sequence, this boat—despite its size—is a breeze to handle solo.
One quirk of center-cockpit boats is the blind spot to leeward under the jib, the helmsman often being too high up to see under it. Thanks to the reasonably high clew on the 135 percent genoa, though, I had no trouble seeing under it when seated. The staysail would be used in heavy weather when sightlines are most challenged.
We did not heel enough to test out the cockpit ergonomics, but there are plenty of handholds both above and below deck, though such wide open saloons will always be a concern in truly heavy weather; owners of such boats often string ropes along the centerline to help crew who are too short to reach the grabrails overhead.
So quiet was the big 220hp Yanmar diesel that had it not been for the rev counter I would scarcely have known it was running. It inhabits an engine space of enviable proportions, laid out so that all essential pumps, filters and other maintenance points are easy to inspect and service. Diesel is split between four tanks holding a total of 384 gallons, set low in the boat.
A pair of 24-volt Sidepower thrusters at bow and stern ease the often nerve-wracking business of handling a big sailboat in tight quarters. Out on open water, I found the 63 spun in its own length without their assistance, forward and astern. With practice, you could get this big boat into some really tight quarters. A fixed four-blade propeller comes standard, and drives the boat at an unfussed 8-knot cruising speed.
For those lucky enough to be in the market for a high-end cruising yacht at a good price point, the Hylas 63 is worth a long, hard look. It has the feel of a boat that can suck up everything a tough bluewater cruise can throw at it and still get its crew places in comfort and style.
HEADROOM 7ft (max)
LOA 63ft LWL 57ft 9in
BEAM 17ft 8in
DRAFT 7ft 4in
DISPLACEMENT 73,900lb (light ship)
SAIL AREA 2,077ft2 (100% FT)
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (GAL) 650/384/115
ENGINE Yanmar 6BY3 220hp diesel
ELECTRICAL 680AH house bank, 2 x 130AH cranking batteries
BALLAST RATIO 36%
SA/D RATIO 20 D/L RATIO 188
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNER Germán Frers Jr