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Re: A blue water sailer that can go in light winds
Ideas that are used by one builder, if thought successful, are often copied by other builders. That is in many ways more marketing than build quality.
Hunter - and Catalina - are not designed and built to be offshore boats and I think neither Warren Luhrs or Frank Butler would overbuild a boat designed for coastal/weekend use with additional materials - it's not a cost effective plan - they are built well enough for their intended purpose.
Beneteau in my opinion is a better built boat. I think the European attitude is different for one thing. But as I work on many boats I get to see how they are put together, and I see the parts some owners never get to. My big complaint of Beneteau is access, not lack of strength. This is due to the liner and grid that seems to cover the entire interior. When you look at all the hidden corners of a Beneteau what you see is an incredible simplicity of construction tailored to a mass production level. The wood is well done but there are as few pieces as possible. There is never a rough edge of fiberglass or evidence of sloppy work in the most hard to get to corner. Both Hunter and to a lesser extent Catalina have some rough edges. The equipment layout on a Beneteau is well thought out and easy to access. I was on a 36' Hunter a few weeks ago and I can't say the same about it. Important items like pumps were hard to access and a nightmare to replace. I would definitely regard Beneteau as more refined.
Here is a link to an interesting interview with Jim Bohart of Hunter. It is well worth reading. HunterOwners.com - Hunter Q&A
He gets asked a lot of tough questions about items that are never mentioned in magazine reviews.
I've read that interview and linked it here several times as well. It was actually conducted by our very own Jeff_H. Great stuff.
As for Hunters not being designed and built as an off-shore boat....
CWBB It has been pointed out that Hunter has received the highest level of the EU's new seaworthiness ratings. This rating category indicates that the vessel is designed to withstand conditions of approximately 40 knot. winds and 12-foot seas. Hunter's ads, however seem to suggest that the rating implies that the boats are designed to take anything that they might encounter in open ocean cruising. Are Hunters designed for the kind of conditions they might encounter in some of the nastier areas of the world, such as the major Capes or a North Atlantic passage?
JB All current Hunter boats 34' and larger built for European delivery are certified by IMCI to be in compliance with the relevant parts of the Recreational Craft Directive 94/25/CE. The CE mark means that the craft meets or exceeds all current standards and directives of the International Organization for Standardization in effect at the time of construction. All Hunters 34' and larger comply with the CE A design category. Those built for US delivery would have to have a serial number change that is not accepted by the US Coast Guard documentation service and lack various safety placards, stove shielding, and VHF radio specs required by the IMCI. Otherwise the construction is identical. The specific language used by the IMCI is: "Category A Ocean: Craft designed for extended voyages where conditions experienced may exceed wind force 8 and include significant wave heights of 4m, for vessels that are largely self sufficient." The key you're missing is the word "exceed." Yes, we believe the boats capable of rounding the major capes and of North Atlantic passage; several have. All our boats delivered over the past 5-6 years to our Cape Town South Africa dealer have been on their own bottoms. The skill of the captain and crew, proper preparation, appropriate safety equipment are of course essential to safe sailing and are not included when the boat leaves our plant but can be added.
Though I definitely respect the fact that you actually work on these boats, I'm just saying there's plenty of evidence out there that contradicts your position. Like you I prefer Benes. But I have nothing against and even like the Hunters, even though they, like any other boat, will have their flaws.