Boat Review: Hunter 50AC

Long a major force in the boatbuilding world, Hunter Marine Corp. just seems to keep getting better and better at building sailboats. The latest Hunter to hit the water, the 50AC, demonstrates that despite its success the company refuses to rest on its laurels.
Author:
Publish date:
hunter_int1

Long a major force in the boatbuilding world, Hunter Marine Corp. just seems to keep getting better and better at building sailboats. The latest Hunter to hit the water, the 50AC, demonstrates that despite its success the company refuses to rest on its laurels.

Under Sail
Sailing in 8-10 knots of wind on Miami’s Biscayne Bay, the 50AC behaved like a perfect cruising platform. Despite being equipped with an in-mast furling main and a 90-percent self-tacking blade jib, the boat quickly accelerated to 5-plus knots on the wind at an apparent wind angle of around 35 degrees.

I put the boat through a series of tacks, and it turned easily through the wind, losing minimal way as it did so. With its self-tacking jib—the standard headsail on the 50AC— and the mainsheet overhead on Hunter’s trademark tubular mainsheet arch, the boat was easier to maneuver than many boats a fraction of its size.

Off the wind, we could have used more sail as the apparent wind shifted aft. A 110-headsail with adjustable tracks and a spinnaker are options, as is a staysail for hunkering down when the wind pipes up. For my money, though, the self-tacking jib is the way to go. Coupled with the boat’s beamy hull, it makes the 50AC an excellent choice for taking your non-sailing friends and family out for a fun, comfortable daysail.

On Deck
Complementing the boat’s ease of use (a central tenant of Hunter Marine’s boatbuilding philosophy) is a deck and cockpit layout well suited to both sailors and passengers. The boat’s twin wheels allow you to steer comfortably from well outboard so you can keep an eye on the telltales. They also permit easy access to the transom swim step when on the hook. Like the rest of the Hunter line, the 50AC sports a backstay-free B&R rig, so there’s no wire to get in the way either.

Winches for the headsail and mainsheet are close at hand (electric winches are an option), and the cockpit features nicely angled seatbacks for comfortable lounging and a bridgedeck to keep water out of the saloon. The raised base of the cockpit table also serves as an effective cleat for bracing your feet when the boat is on its ear—an excellent example of the smaller touches that make the boat so user friendly.

hunter_int2

Along these same lines, the leading edge of the cockpit coaming includes a sculpted curve, specifically designed to direct green water outboard away from the helmsman. The boat’s “teak” benches, swim step and transom seats are, in fact, PlasDECK, a synthetic teak substitute. In addition to being essentially maintenance free, PlasDECK looks good and serves as an excellent nonskid material. Some claim it gets too hot in direct sunlight, which may be the case if used over a large area—say an entire sidedeck. But the deck temperature underfoot, in 80F weather off Miami, seemed fine during our test sail.

Moving forward there are sturdy stainless steel handrails running along the top of the cabinhouse. The sidedecks are good and wide, with the chainplates out of the way (set either outboard for the cap shroud or along the deck-cabinhouse joint for the lowers), allowing unimpeded access to the foredeck. One thing I didn’t like was the strip of angled ports running from about the mast step aft. These look good and provide lots of light below, but I kept inadvertently stepping on them and getting tripped up. Something about the angle, especially when the boat was heeled, made my foot just naturally want to fall on them.


Construction
The hull of the 50AC is comprised of a fiberglass-balsa sandwich above the waterline and solid fiberglass below. The layup includes a modified polyester/epoxy mix and a layer of vinylester throughout to prevent blisters. The deck is also a fiberglass-balsa sandwich. As is the case with much of the Hunter line, the layup below the waterline includes Kevlar from the stem to the keel stump to provide extra strength should you ever collide with a submerged object.

The hull-deck joint is through-bolted and glued with 3M 5200 adhesive on an outward-turning flange encased in a sturdy rubrail—another Hunter trademark. The hull includes a structural grid to help carry keel and rig loads, and the boat has a surprisingly deep sump, so water that finds its way in won’t immediately slosh up over the cabin sole.

The rig is aluminum and a long double-anchor roller/bowsprit is standard. Weighing anchor with a sprit is crucial aboard a boat like the 50AC, which doesn’t have much bow overhang. Otherwise, the hook inevitably bangs up the stem. One thing I really like about the 50AC is that all through-hulls are located in the same place, so you can check them quickly and easily in the event of an emergency.

Down Below
Plenty of room is what you’d expect aboard a 50-foot Hunter, and plenty of room is what you get aboard the 50AC. Over the years, Hunter has continually improved the quality of its joinery work, and the varnished cherry belowdecks on the 50AC is impressive, especially given the boat’s affordable price point.

hunter_int3

The spacious saloon is comfortable and well lit, thanks to those same portlights that I found irritating when I was on deck. Like all Hunter keelboats, the 50AC includes an abundance of hatches in the interest of good ventilation.

Two basic layouts are available—a standard three-stateroom layout, or a four-stateroom layout with twin double cabins up in the bow. A layout with a combination workbench and office can also be specified. The galley is excellent, with plenty of counter space, including an island counter alongside the companionway that is great for bracing yourself when cooking or cleaning underway. Although the tubular stainless steel fiddles will keep big stuff from ending up on the cabin sole, they may not contain smaller stuff, like eating utensils.

Under Power
With its high topsides—the price for all that room below—I wondered how the 50AC would maneuver at slow speed. The answer: fine, thanks. Near the end of our test sail, I spent a few minutes doing loops in reverse, then shuttling forward and backward with the wind on the beam. The boat responded beautifully. A bow thruster is one option I suspect pretty much everyone will choose, but it won’t be necessary most of the time. We didn’t use it at all making the dock back in the marina. At speed, the boat easily did just over 10 knots at 3,400rpm. (The test boat was equipped with an optional 110hp Yanmar, as opposed to the standard 75hp engine.) Throttling back to 2,500rpm, we still did 9 knots. We did 7.5 knots at 2,000rpm.

Conclusion
The Hunter 50AC is easy to sail, provides excellent performance, is well built and has the systems, deck layout and accommodations needed to take good care of its crew. Sounds like a heck of a cruising boat to me.

Specifications
LOA 49ft 11in
LWL 43ft 10in
BEAM 14ft 9in
DRAFT 7ft (std), 5ft 6ft (shoal)
DISPLACEMENT 32,813lb
BALLAST 11,216lb (std), 12,500lb (shoal)
SAIL AREA 1,161ft2 (furling mainsail, blade jib)
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (GAL) 150/200/52
ENGINE 75hp Yanmar
DESIGNER Glenn Henderson
BUILDER Hunter Marine Corp., Alachua, FL
PRICE $369,990 (standard boat)
Ballast Ratio 34 % (std)
Sail Area-Displacement Ratio 18
Displacement-Length Ratio 173
Performance 9

Related

Before-and-after-1_silo

Know How: Cleaning Stainless

Without a doubt, the best way to “clean” stainless steel parts is to have them electropolished. Electropolishing is an electrochemical process that cleans the stainless and removes any surface iron particles, leaving a shiny and far more rust-resistant surface. The downsides of ...read more

catstory

Cruising: Sailing With a Young Family

The dark is alive when you are surrounded by water. Black is tinted blue and silver, and sky meets surf with electricity and the lapping sounds of silence. Inside our 36ft catamaran, moored off Cooper Island in the BVI, the raw nature outside, just now settling down from a late ...read more

IslandPacket349

Boat Review: Island Packet 349

After years of quiescence in the wake of the Great Recession, iconic Island Packet is back with its new 349, a re-boot of the old Estero that not only looks great, but takes the Island Packet style of sailing performance to a new level. Design & Construction First among the many ...read more

190219NEEL51

Video Tour: Neel 51 Trimaran

At this past fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, SAIL magazine had a chance to corner Neel Trimarans founder Eric Bruneel and have him give us a tour of the accommodations aboard the new Neel 51, winner of the “Multihull over 50ft” category in the 2019 Best Boats contest. For a complete ...read more

IMG_0173

Electronic “Flares” for Cruisers

The United States Coast Guard requires that all boats operating in coastal waters or on the high seas carry a selection of visual distress signals. Almost invariably, such signals include the pyrotechnic type, either handheld or fired from a flare pistol, but surely there are ...read more

M2-HOOK-TOP-AND-CHAIN-1

Gear: M2 Chain Hook from Mantus

Stay Hooked Chain hooks on anchor snubber lines tend to fall off when you least want them to. Not so this latest example from Mantus. The M2 Chain Hook is secured to the chain by a simple elastic strap, so it won’t come off when the snubber loosens. Made from corrosion-resistant ...read more