The Hylas 56
The Hylas 56 is the logical successor to the popular passagemaker, the Hylas 54. Introduced in 1999, the 54 proved that big, powerful cruisers could be efficiently handled by shorthanded crews, and several 54s have since logged circumnavigations. Why add two feet? For several reasons. The 56’s cockpit is longer and more refined, the aft cabin has more headroom, the rudder is farther aft for better steering downwind, and there’s even more space below.
Taiwan-based Queen Long Marine has been building Hylas yachts for many years and is today one of the world’s premier yards. The new 56’s hull is composed of a super-tough solid fiberglass laminate alternating with Twaron. The deck is cored, except in high-load areas where it is solid laminate. There is a watertight collision bulkhead forward with an independent overboard drainage system, and another watertight bulkhead aft, incorporating the lazarette and stern locker bulkheads. The lead ballast is fastened to a robust keel stub with massive 35mm stainless bolts.
You feel secure the moment you step aboard the Hylas 56. There is a solid stainless steel stern rail from the lifeline gate just forward of the cockpit all the way aft. Meanwhile, the raised saloon deck has impressive stainless steel handrails at just the right height for easy grabbing. Another long rail on top of the lower house continues well forward. The side decks are wide and easy to navigate, even in heavy going, although the nonskid could be a bit more aggressive. The robust double bow roller and cleverly designed split anchor locker can handle some serious ground tackle. I especially like the large forward sail locker/garage that can gobble up extra sails, a rolled-up dinghy and other deck gear as well.
Our test boat was fitted with Seldn in-mast roller furling and Furlex furlers on both the headsail and staysail. A Harken traveler system, located just aft of the cockpit, is easy to reach and provides efficient end-boom sheeting. All sail controls are led aft, where two-speed electric self-tailing Antal winches do the heavy lifting. The view from the helm is superb, despite the raised saloon.
The first thing you notice when you drop below is the light. Natural light floods in through the wrap-around saloon windows, and a bamboo cabin sole with teak inlays contrasts brilliantly with the extraordinary teak joinery that is a Hylas trademark. The nearly 7ft of headroom in the main saloon certainly provides a profound sense of spaciousness, although it does make the overhead grabrails difficult to reach. In fairness, there are plenty of handrails throughout the boat.
The L-shaped navigation station to port has a two-tiered desk that can handle both an open chart and your laptop. Panels for repeaters and an expansive electrical panel make it likely that you’ll spend plenty of time in the comfortable swivel chair.
The galley is located in the starboard walk-through and includes more than 7ft of counter space and plenty of headroom. The stowage above and below is impressive. Best of all, the cook has support on either tack, making this a truly sea-going galley.
The saloon features a foldout table to port and a settee to starboard that can be extended to form a sea berth. The tanks are located below the sole, so the space below the settees can be used for stowage, pumps, compressors and other components.
Continuing forward, the port cabin is surprisingly roomy and the head to starboard includes a separate stall shower. The spacious forward cabin has an island queen berth that is 6ft 6in long. This cabin would make a magnificent owner’s stateroom, but the aft cabin is even bigger.
The master stateroom aft, which can be reached via both port and starboard walk-throughs, is stunning. This is where the extra two feet of hull length seems to find its way into the interior. The centerline king berth is nearly 6 feet wide and comes with a split mattress, so you can transform it into a sea berth when necessary by rigging a centerline leecloth. The ensuite head, with a stall shower, also houses a washer/dryer.
We had great conditions for putting the Hylas 56 through its paces. A cold front was in full force as we cleared Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The wind was steady at 25 knots, gusting to 30. We unrolled the full Doyle main and 120 percent genoa and cracked off on a close reach. We were a bit over-canvassed, but watching the GPS/plotter ratchet up over 9 knots and flirt with 10 was impressive. The helm was remarkably balanced considering the load, a testament to the new hull shape and the boat’s Mamba steering system. The fact that we were able to fly full canvas in these conditions made me wonder about the 56’s light-air performance.
Shortening up the jib was easy with the power winches, and the 56 felt better as we drove her hard on the wind. Even in lumpy Gulf Stream conditions we didn’t pound, and although we were kicking up spray, the cockpit was dry. We executed several tacks, plus a well-controlled gybe, despite the blustery conditions.
The boatyard was well up the New River, which gave us an opportunity to see how the 56 handled under power. A 150hp turbocharged Yanmar diesel is standard. Six bridges later I was impressed with how well the boat maneuvers, and we only used the bow thruster a couple of times. The engine can be accessed from both sides and from behind the companionway steps.
The Hylas 56 is a worthy successor to the 54. It is powerful, spacious and robustly constructed. The systems are well designed for access and reliability, a key feature on a serious cruising boat. And like all Hylas boats, the 56 represents an outstanding value. I suspect this will become the new standard, the go-to boat for serious world cruisers.
HEADROOM 6ft 11in
BERTHS 6ft 6in x 6ft (fwd); 6ft 7in x 5ft 10in (aft)
LOA 56ft 4in
LWL 50ft 5in
BEAM 15ft 10in
DRAFT 7ft 4in (deep); 6ft 4in (shoal)
SAIL AREA 1,565 ft2 (100% FT)
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (gal) 555/500/54
ENGINE 150hp Yanmar turbo diesel
ELECTRICAL 150AH (engine); 4 x 210AH plus 3 x 225AH (house)
DESIGNER German Frers
BUILDER Queen Long Marine; Kaohsiung, Taiwan
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR Hylas Yachts; Marblehead, MA; hylasyachtsusa.com
PRICE $922,000 base
• Secure handholds on deck
• Spacious, bright interior
• Proven design and solid performance
• Solid systems installations
• Nonskid could be grippier
• Might suffer sailing in light air