When you have a large, extended family of boaties, the best way to celebrate special occasions is on a comfy, spacious platform that accommodates everyone’s needs. The Leopard 43’s a sleek solution.
Debuting in late 2017, Hanse’s handsome 548 quickly became a hit in our waters. Three are now owned by New Zealanders – and it’s not hard to see why the yacht resonates with discerning cruisers.
Viewed from the dock you quickly appreciate that the 548 is ‘large’ in multiple ways. At 16.2m LOA with a beam a shade over 5m, her imposing presence is accentuated by high topsides. And the sense of scale continues when you hop aboard and take in the broad, open cockpit with its twin helms and expansive settees – and the clean, sweeping decks that seem to go on forever.
There’s no confusion about the 548’s DNA – Hanse’s trademark plumb bow and transom, with the topsides curving gracefully to the wide stern – it’s obvious. Access to the vessel is via the beautifully-engineered, drop-down transom, operated by remote control from the marina dock. In an anchorage, this also serves as a very generous swim platform, and it has a very slick boarding ladder built into the structure.
The 548 replaces Hanse’s earlier 545 – but she’s more than a simple upgrade. She is, in fact, a completely different vessel with a new hull and deck mould. Hanse effectively pooled its experiences and learnings with the 545 and started from scratch. This is a new generation of boat.
For example, for the first time the manufacturer now offers the optional fibreglass hard dodger – appropriately named a T-Top which is fitted to this boat.
Also new are twin electric headsail furlers – one for Hanse’s standard self-tacking headsail, the second for a larger, overlapping genoa. And the other significant addition is the aft VIP cabin – large enough to boast a side settee and its own ensuite. They all add up to very distinctive package.
I particularly like that T-Top cover over the cockpit. While everyone has a view on aesthetics, I think it’s a great enhancement. I’m a great fan of a cockpit shelter that enhances the cruising experience. New Zealand’s weather is often variable and it makes sense to have decent cover. With the clears set in place the all-round visibility remains excellent.
The T-Top’s best feature is its fold-away central ceiling panel. When it’s retracted the sun pours into the cockpit – and it’s deployed in seconds for the passing shower. The headroom in the cockpit is ample – even for my 6’5” frame – and the recessed overhead LEDs offer elegant lighting for al fresco dinners.
It’s also worth noting that the T-Top is engineered to shoulder the load from the mainsheet – its multi-purchase system runs to a point on top of the T-Top. This, of course, helps to keep the cockpit free of sheets.
Twin helm stations sport identical instruments each side – this 548 is fitted with the optional Navigation package which includes B&G Zeus displays and instruments. Included are controls for the retractable stern and bow thrusters, a welcome addition when entering/exiting the marina in frisky crosswinds.
Large Lewmar electric winches are mounted handily close to each helm station, with the attendant jammers for locking off halyards and sheets. This layout underscores Hanse’s ‘easy-to-sail’ mantra. As the owner of this boat volunteered, despite her size the 548 is an exceptionally easy yacht to sail single-handed. It helps that all sheets and halyard tails are neatly stored under the side cockpit seats, keeping them away from the helmsman’s feet.
The wonderful sense of room on the beamy 548 is accentuated by the clean, uncluttered decks. The synthetic teak looks sharp and should wear well relative to its natural cousin and, with flush, recessed hatches, there’s little chance of stubbing your toe.
Halyards run neatly in covered channels – from the base of the mast all the way to the rear winches. I also like the retractable davits mounted on the transom. They disappear into the rear cockpit locker when not in use – a very tidy solution.
The 548’s available in various layout options and even then there’s an element of customisation for you to tailor your preferences. This boat has three cabins – the master up front, the VIP cabin (aft to port) and a third, smaller double cabin with ensuite to starboard, aft of the galley.
Descending the wide companionway steps you arrive in a large, light-filled saloon. One thing Hanse does well is internal décor. Together the finish, colour and lighting create a very pleasant environment. And the large hull windows – a feature of Hanse yachts – offer great views of the action outside.
The galley – to starboard – is behind a separate island containing the sink. Both the sink and three-burner gas cooker are equipped with Corian covers matching the bench tops. This creates is plenty of room for food preparation. I like the fridge and freezer pull-out drawers, and the fact that the microwave is at eye level. At our age we shouldn’t have to stoop!
To port is a small navigation station, with its access to the CZone software control system, as well as a table suitable for a folded chart. It has a nifty fold-down seat, strongly anchored to the floor, and firm enough to support you in a seaway.
For me, the 548’s standout feature is its VIP cabin, aft to port. Hanse has incorporated a settee under the cabin window. The designers accomplished this by moving the cabin wall past the boat centreline – making for a cabin that’s only marginally smaller than the master cabin up front.
The VIP cabin’s large ensuite has dual access – it can be configured as private access off the cabin, or via another door the main saloon. For this yacht’s two owners, the VIP cabin was the deal maker – in a shared ownership arrangement, both couples have great accommodation when sailing together.
The master cabin forward has extra soundproofing in the hull lining, and with its island double berth and ensuite it’s a very appealing space indeed. Again, the signature hull windows provide plenty of light and views.
Plenty of easy access storage areas are to be found throughout the boat – and one notable feature is the friction hinges on the saloon’s overhead lockers. Great for holding the lid open at any angle.
This yacht’s fitted with 560 amp-hours of lithium-ion batteries. The owners like the idea of being able to cycle the batteries down to 20% of their capacity – providing a much wider ‘usable window’ than conventional AGM or GEL batteries. Large solar panels on the T-Top have eliminated the need for a genset – and this has also created space for an additional fridge/freezer located in the cockpit locker.
As it turned out we experienced the 548 in a range of conditions for sailing. Leaving the marina the wind was very light – less than 10 knots – but it picked up as we swept around North Head. Withthe in-mast furling mainsail and large overlapping genoa deployed, we hardened into a tight reach – and the boat quickly displayed her abilities. She’s stable, well-mannered and very quick.
Powering along at 10 knots with the sun, white clouds and blue sky providing the perfect backdrop – well, what more could you want? The wind continued to build and with a good 20 knots from the west, the surf boiled off that plumb bow.
Turning for home we furled the big genoa in favour of the smaller, self-tacking headsail. It certainly removes the stress from climbing upwind – you find yourself wondering why every yacht doesn’t have one!
On a yacht this size, the sense of speed is deceptive. With 24 knots apparent wind the GPS reeled off a consistent 8.2 knots on the large B&G displays, and the steering system provides great feedback to the wheel. With the boat on a reasonable angle of heel the partially balanced rudder offers a positive amount of weather helm.
Three keel options are available – medium, shallow or deep. This one has the medium version – a 2.55m draft. The others are 2.2m and 2.8m respectively.
Back near the marina entrance, rolling up the sails required simple coordination between the electric furler and releasing the sheet. The 110hp Yanmar diesel, driving a three-blade folding propeller, is smooth and quiet and delivers about 8.5 to 9 knots at 2,000rpm.
Hanse’s 548 is an imperious lady – she delivers comfort and well-appointed accommodation with great sailing performance. Best of all, she’s easily handled by one or two crew thanks to those electric winches, the self-tacking headsail and bow and stern thrusters.
A pleasure to sail./>