Skip to main content

Boat Review for the VAR 37 Cruiser from Hanse Yachts

One of Schmidt’s last acts before selling the company a couple years back was to introduce the Varianta 44, which has now been followed by the 37—a pair of no-frills cruisers based on a couple of older Hanse hulls and priced to attract buyers who would otherwise be looking at smaller
 A no-frills boat that offers plenty of thrills

A no-frills boat that offers plenty of thrills

Germany’s Hanse Group may be a boatbuilding powerhouse, but it began in the humblest of fashions, by repurposing other builders’ discarded molds. I well recall seeing Hanse’s first boat, the Hanse 291, at a boat show in 1993. In its previous life it had been the Aphrodite 291, a fast and well-mannered 1980s Swedish cruiser-racer. Hanse founder Michael Schmidt built the boats by the score in a derelict furniture factory in the former East Germany, where cheap labor and a bare-bones inventory allowed him to undercut every other production builder by a hefty margin.

So successful was the 291 that Schmidt was able to commission Judel & Vrolijk to draw the sporty Hanse 311, which set the tone for all the Hanses that followed with its bold styling, powerful fractional rig and self-tacking jib.

One of Schmidt’s last acts before selling the company a couple years back was to introduce the Varianta 44, which has now been followed by the 37—a pair of no-frills cruisers based on a couple of older Hanse hulls and priced to attract buyers who would otherwise be looking at smaller—or secondhand—boats. In other words: it was back to Hanse’s roots. Varianta has been a hit in recession-struck Europe, but how will it fare here? I sailed the first Varianta 37, renamed the VAR 37 by its importer, Martin van Breems, in an effort to find out.

 The VAR 37 may be minimalist in its approach, but everything you need to go sailing is there

The VAR 37 may be minimalist in its approach, but everything you need to go sailing is there

Construction

The VAR 37 employs the hull and (modified) deck molds from the long-running Hanse 370/375, a 2005 Judel & Vrolijk design. However, where Hanse’s hulls are sandwich construction, the VAR’s is a simple but robust solid laminate, with a vinylester skin coat to ward off blistering. Bulkheads are tabbed to the hull and deck, and a stiffening grid pan is bonded to the hull. The deck molding is foam-cored. The rig is similar to the 375’s, but with a slightly overlapping jib as opposed to a trademark Hanse self-tacker.

Despite the heavier hull construction the VAR 37 ends up considerably lighter than the 375, thanks to its stripped-out interior. Combined with the deep cast-iron T-keel and spade rudder of the 375, this tranlates to an excellent turn of speed.

The VAR looks very stark and white, lacking even a cove stripe to soften those high topsides. Aside from the (optional) teak on the cockpit seats, there’s not a splash of color. There’s also little in the way of deck gear—only four mooring cleats, for instance—although that’s all you really need to sail the boat. It also makes the 37 an easy boat to move around. Side decks are wide and clean, with the jib sheet tracks mounted on the cabintop. As standard, halyards and the sheets for the 109 percent jib come back to clutches and a pair of Lewmar 40s on the cabintop, but the sheets on the test boat were led aft to a pair of Lewmar 45s right by a big wheel. The mainsheet tackle is clipped to a padeye on the cockpit sole in front of the helm. Van Breems is planning to offer a self-tacking jib as an option, which will make this boat super-easy to handle. Meanwhile, the small jib is hardly burdensome.

 The look in the saloon is basic, but very functional

The look in the saloon is basic, but very functional

Accommodations

The VAR 37 is an odd mixture of high-quality and just-good-enough. No shortcuts have been taken with basic construction, which is to a good standard. Nor with the rig—tapered Seldén spars are installed on the boats bound for the United States, with single-line reefing and a solid vang. Belowdecks, however, it doesn’t take long to realize where the real cost-cutting has taken place. This is a bare-minimum boat. There are no reading lamps, precious few overhead lamps, and the electrical installations are minimalist. Everything meets Germanischer Lloyd standards. It’s just that there’s not a lot of it.

Interior joinery is about as simple as it comes, angular fabrications of formica-faced marine ply that reminded me of the early efforts of the East German Hanse furniture makers-turned-boatbuilders. It all looks sturdy enough; it’s just not what you are used to seeing. And it’s practical too. I’d rather see large bins outboard of the settees where I could stuff a seabag or a bagged sail than a row of lockers too small to take anything larger than a loaf of bread.

A two-cabin layout is standard, though the boat I sailed had the optional three-cabin configuration. Berths are all sensibly sized and well upholstered. The linear galley has plenty of stowage, though it’s unorganized, and is equipped with only a two-burner stove and a small fridge (which will be increased in size for U.S. buyers).

Savvy Euro-sailors have been buying these boats, gutting them and having custom interiors installed, in the process saving thousands over of the cost of a competing production boat. The U.S. importer is similarly offering a number of upgraded joinery packages to be installed by local boatyards. It’s a novel concept that just might work.

Under Sail

If simplicity is a virtue, then the VAR 37 is unimpeachable. There’s no looking for the correct line to tweak on this boat, because there are so few to choose from. Belowdecks and above, this is a blank sheet upon which an owner can sketch out a boat the way he or she really wants to—or it can be left as-is, thereby providing an uncomplicated, perfectly satisfactory sailing experience.

I sailed a boat equipped with the standard deep keel on a quiet day on Long Island sound. Its sporty nature was evident as soon we set the sails. It was not a day for high top speeds, but we had enough to hint at the boat’s potential, with the GPS indicating over 6.5 knots hard on the breeze (12.5 knots apparent), on both tacks.

The Jefa steering, with its roller rudder bearings, was feather-light, and the boat was a delight to steer. We tacked through less than 90 degrees and could have done better with practice. The Hanse 375 was no slouch, and this boat is some 600lb lighter. I have little doubt she’ll gobble up more than a few 40 footers, if you’re into that kind of thing. Under Power

The test boat was equipped with the optional 30hp Volvo diesel swinging an optional Flexofold folding prop—a 20hp engine is standard. The Volvo made its presence felt without being unduly noisy, though better sound insulation would not hurt. The easily driven hull cruised at over 6 knots in flat water. The standard diesel would suit most buyers.

Conclusion

If you’re the kind of sailor who values simplicity and efficiency and enjoys fitting out a boat, the VAR 37 offers excellent performance at a bargain basement price point. The rest is up to you.

var37Plans-em

Ballast RATIO 37% SA/D RATIO 19 D/L RATIO 134

What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios

DESIGNER Judel/Vrolijk

BUILDER Hanse Group, Greifswald, Germany

U.S. DISTRIBUTOR Sound Sailing Center, Norwalk, CT, 203-838-1110, varyachts.com

Related

Ulysse Nardin promo photo

The Ocean Race Names Official Timekeeper

With just under one year before the start of The 2022-23 Ocean Race, Swiss watch manufacturer Ulysse Nardin has been named the official timekeeper of the race. The Ocean Race, formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race and before that the Whitbread Round the World Race, announced ...read more

Arthur Daniel_RORC Maserati - RORC Transatlantic 2022 - Jan 15th -Social Media-4

Fast Finishes for the RORC Leaders

Over the weekend, the first finishers of the 2022 RORC Transat made landfall in Grenada, led by Giovanni Soldini’s Multi70 Maserati, which was awarded line honors with a corrected time of six days, 18 hours and 51 minutes. Maserati finished ahead of Peter Cunningham’s MOD70 ...read more

Background-02

Notice to Mariners: A Blog from the SAIL Editors

As a teenager, I stumbled across a copy of Derek Lundy’s Godforsaken Sea in the back room of a used bookshop. I had never heard of the Vendée Globe and frankly found all the boat-speak in the first 50 pages a little difficult to get through. But Lundy’s storytelling and the draw ...read more

Screen-Shot-2022-01-13-at-9.26.59-AM2048x

VIDEO: Celestial Navigation Episode 2

Celestial navigation is an invaluable tool for all kinds of sailors. In episode two of the celestial navigation series, learn the basic elements of navigation and the sight reduction process using declination and GHA to determine the Geographic Position and navigate using a ...read more

Film-poster

Cruising: Year of the Sea Shanty

Along with other timeless pursuits, like baking sourdough and gardening, singing sea shanties surged back into popularity during the recent lockdown, thanks, in part, to the app TikTok and its “duet” feature, which allows singers from around the world create music together. By ...read more

Book-Cover-9780712353700

Book Review: Sailor Song

Sailor Song is the ultimate guide to the music of working sailors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The book includes lyrics and sheet music for 50 of the most beloved sea songs with fascinating historical background on the adjoining page. Chapter introductions provide ...read more

Screen Shot 2022-01-12 at 10.42.33 AM

Race Update: RORC Transat

With the fleet leaders about halfway to Grenada, the 2022 RORC Transatlantic is shaking out to be a tactically interesting one. The race, now in its 8th edition, began on Saturday with 30 teams ranging from 70-foot catamarans to a 28-foot JPK 1010. Early in the race, light winds ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_1585

Experience: Fire Down Below

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, local racing had resumed with household crews only. My wife, though, while always up for a pleasure sail, was not up for this kind of thing, so, for the fifth time in what was any measure an unusual sailing season, I found myself singlehanding my ...read more