The Hunter 18

the new Hunter 18 replaces the Hunter 170, which for several years was a mainstay in Hunter’s line of small daysailers. Like the 170, the 18 can serve as both an easy-to-manage family daysailer and as a lively performance boat for those with more experience. At a glance the two boats look quite similar, sporting open transoms, centerboards and small sprayhoods forward. On closer inspection,
Author:
Publish date:
hunter18

The new Hunter 18 replaces the Hunter 170, which for several years was a mainstay in Hunter’s line of small daysailers. Like the 170, the 18 can serve as both an easy-to-manage family daysailer and as a lively performance boat for those with more experience.

At a glance the two boats look quite similar, sporting open transoms, centerboards and small sprayhoods forward. On closer inspection, however, you’ll see the 18 is a tad more performance-oriented, with two feet more of waterline length (compared to just one foot more overall length), a narrower hull relative to its length and an extra 20 square feet of sail area. The 18 also includes the option of an asymmetric spinnaker flown from a retractable bowsprit and sports some hard chines just above the waterline to increase stability and improve tracking when sailing at speed.

Yet another big difference between the two is in the construction. The 170 was built out of thermoformed Luran-S plastic, which reportedly sometimes cracked in cold weather. The 18 is simply a fiberglass boat, with a balsa-cored polyester hull and deck.

Picture%203

I sailed hull #70 on the Matanzas River in St. Augustine, Florida, with Steve Pettengill, who serves as Hunter’s unofficial Director of Destructive Testing. Given this job description and the weather forecast (winds building to 30 knots by afternoon) I expected we’d have an exciting sail. Working together, Steve and I commissioned the boat from scratch in less than an hour. Rigging a boat that’s already been fully commissioned takes only a few minutes and can be easily managed by one person.

By the time we were on the river the wind was gusting over 20 knots. I’d have been happy sailing under full main alone, or with the jib (which furls on its own luff) and a reefed main, but instead we set out under full working sail.

Though over-canvassed, the boat handled very well. Steering was precise, and we had no trouble keeping upright by playing the main when sailing on the wind. The controls are simple, effective and easy to handle. The high boom makes it unnecessary to duck when tacking, and a substantial centerline toerail and comfortably curved cockpit coaming make it easy to push your body out quickly to windward when heeling. The only thing lacking is a centerline hiking strap to hook your feet under, but this would be easy to retrofit.

Turning downwind on a broad reach, the boat tracked like a train and hit speeds of 7.5 knots over the ground stemming about one knot of tidal current. Steve then pulled out the retractable sprit and hoisted the spinnaker and things got busy. We survived the first gybe, but then broached as I was slow steering down in the first big gust that hit us. In the next big gust after we’d gotten ourselves straightened out again, I remained firm with the helm, and then the rudder snapped.

Almost instantly, Steve was on the phone with Hunter discussing this failure. Later he learned our test boat had mistakenly been fitted with a rudder off the old 170, instead of a proper 18 rudder, which has four extra layers of laminate.

I feel I can recommend this boat highly. Handled by sane people, it would be lots of fun to just knock around in. Obviously, it’s a blast to sail in the heavy stuff as well. And rest assured, if you ever decide you want to sail it as hard as Steve, your boat will be sure to have a rudder that is up to the job.

Related

emSelf-tacking-jib

Ask Sail: Are Self-trackers Worth It?

Q: I’m seeing more and more self-tacking jibs out on the water (and in the pages of SAIL) these days. I can’t help thinking these boats are all hopelessly underpowered, especially off the wind, when compared to boats with even slightly overlapping headsails. But I could be ...read more

01-LEAD-hose-leak-CREDIT-BoatUS

Know how: Is Your Bilge Pump up to the Job?

Without much reflection, I recently replaced my broken bilge pump with a slightly larger model. After all, I thought, surely an 800 gallon-per-hour (gph) pump will outperform the previous 500gph unit? Well, yes, but that’s no reason to feel much safer, as I soon discovered. The ...read more

190314-viddy

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta: A Source of Hope

The tagline for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is "serious sailing, serious fun." However, for the inhabitants of St. Maarten, the event is more than just a festival of great music and some of the best sailing around. Local blogger Angie Soeffker explains the impact the race ...read more

SPOTX-1500x1500_front

Gear: SPOT-X Satellite

Hits the SPOT The SPOT-X two-way satellite messenger is an economical way of staying connected to the outside world via text or e-mail when you’re at sea. As well as the messaging service, it has a distress function that not only alerts authorities if you’re in trouble, but lets ...read more

_8105684

A Kid’s Take on the Northwest Passage

Going North—and West Crack! Crunch! I woke with a start to the sound of ice scraping the hull of our 60ft sailboat, Dogbark. In a drowsy daze, I hobbled out of the small cabin I was sharing with my little sister. As I emerged into the cockpit, I swiveled my head, searching for ...read more

Nathan-Bates-San-Diego,-CA

SAIL 2018: Reader's Photographs

Are you out there sailing, cruising and living the sailing life? If so, we’d love to see it. Send your sailing photos to sailmail@sailmagazine.com And don’t forget to sign up for our free eNewsletter. Check back for updates! We set sail from Chicago on a crossing to Saugatuck, ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Let her breathe When the wind’s so light your cigar smoke goes straight up (or it used to, before having fun was banned) any well-designed yacht with a clean bottom will somehow keep on sailing if you ...read more