Hunter vs. Beneteau
(A continuation of the above)
Hunter is the most maligned and controversial of the big three. Hunter Marine marches to the sound of their own drummer and a lot of people don''t like the tune. Their aesthetics are very much and acquired taste and to many of us, who grew up with more traditional designs, would prefer not to buy their look. They tend to be over sold and many of us are somewhat put off by the implication of the "Goes the Distance" motto.
Still looking at them objectively they are reasonable performers for coastal cruising. They offer a lot of accommodations and features for the money. They tend to be sold amazingly well equipped. According to the surveyors that I have talked to Hunter does an excellent job at designing and building boats that meet the various safety standards. The two boats in question have a CE ''B'' Classification which means that they are not certified for open ocean useage.
On the flip side, few builders seem to draw the heavy fire in the court of "common knowledge". Some of this is just plain unwarranted but quite a bit reflects the reality of these boats. They are designed for a very specific clientele. These are not the circumnavigators but a family that is going to weekend and overnight. They are not really set up with sea berths or offshore galleys but the interiors work well on the anchor. They have narrow side decks and rigs that are at their best reaching but give up a bit beating (headstay sag due to no backstay) and running (the mainsail ends up plastered against the shrouds). The fractional gigs are easier to tack and are easier to deal with in changing conditions.
Things I dislike about Hunters; I really do not like the huge plastic port lights. This will deteriorate (my experience about 10 to 14 years in Maryland) and these big panels will be become unsafe and in need of replacement. That will be very expensive. I don''t like the rolled out hull deck joint. While it provides a nice rubrail, it is highly vulnerable and from an engineering standpoint has the most bending stresses and highest strains compared to almost any other kind of hull deck joint. (my current boat has this kind of hull deck joint and frankly it is the probably one thing I really don''t like about my boat. It is one thing to do this on a Kevlar boat like mine and an entirely different thing to do on an all glass boat)
I don''t like the B&R backstayless rigs. I have spent a lot of time on fractional rigs and masthead rigs. To me a fractional rig really makes a lot of sense for cruising but only with a backstay adjuster. Ideally, Fractional rigs can carry considerable larger working sail plans because of their ability to increase backstay tension and quickly depower the sailplan. This means few sail changes and few reefs. BUT the B&R rig does not use a backstay so rapid depowering is not an option. In that case much of the advantage of a fractional rig is lost. Their interiors also tend to be more sterile.
Lastly if you buy a Hunter you have to deal with the emotional issues about them. There are absolutely rabid Hunter haters out there. You can not under estimate the vehemence of their hatred. Then there are rabid Hunter lovers and defenders out there. They can be almost as bad. This roiling controversy results in a situation where you are left either defending the boat to detractors or defending you lack of defense to the rabid defenders.
(to be continued)