BOAT REVIEW HH 50

July 2023 Sailboat Reviews
Words by Kevin Green. Photography by Kevin Green & Supplied.
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL HH 50
DESIGNER Morelli & Melvin
BUILDER HH, China
CONSTRUCTION E-Glass or carbon fibre versions
PRICE AS TESTED $POA
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 15.79M
LENGTH (Waterline) 14.89M
BEAM 7.44M
DRAFT 3.2M
DISPLACEMENT 16000kg
ENGINE 2 x Beta turbocharged with ST60 saildrive legs, Flexofold props
FUEL CAPACITY -3L
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Easy to manoeuvre inside the marina.
  • Good protection from the elements, including sun.
OBSERVATIONS
  • Powerful rig gives impressive performance under sail.
  • Smart technology aids sail handling.

Performance cruising catamarans can quickly swallow the miles of long passages, even in light airs – the HH50 is a good example of a new generation of these cruising speedsters.


The HH performance cruiser brand was launched in China during 2012 by Hudson Yachts. The Chinese yard had partnered with well-known Kiwi builder Paul Hakes to produce a range of grand prix monohulls before moving quickly into performance cats with its successful 66 model.

These players had been involved in the Gunboat 60, designed by Nigel Irens, but eventually went their separate ways and HH Catamarans was formed, making use of the ubiquitous Morrelli and Melvin design house. 

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I was duly impressed with their early models when racing against them in the King’s Cup in Thailand a few years ago, but the brand has rapidly progressed since then. Nowadays, models are available in both power and sail, the current range comprising seven models, from the 44 to the 88. These come in carbon and fibreglass versions. The large, modern yard is situated on the Chinese mainland opposite Taiwan. It has already produced several 66-footers, which are this year joined by the new HH52 and the 44.

The review boat was hull #6 of the full carbon HH50 Sport Cruising version, a boat a Queensland sailor took delivery of earlier this year thanks to the efforts of Multihull Central in Sydney, who report busy order books for these boats.

After a day of sailing the HH50, I can clearly see the attraction, assuming your budget is large enough.

Sheer elegance

The aesthetics of reverse bows with fine entries and tall curved topsides, cleverly offset by elongated windows and positive sheer, helped to disguise the muscle-bound grey hull of the HH50 at the Sanctuary Cove marina. Like all performers, deck space forward is mostly trampoline almost up to the saloon, where the deck-stepped mast in front of it dominates. This mast position both aids stability and maximises saloon space while near-vertical bulkheads further add volume and a lip around the outside provides sun protection.

Also sun safe are the twin helms with their custom hard biminis, redesigned by the owner, an architect by trade, who saw the need for better sun protection in our part of the world.

The sum is a striking looking vessel, decked out in Porsche battleship-grey paint. And the similarities with speedster cars doesn’t end with looks – it’s backed-up by a performance sail plan.

For boats like these, the challenge I’ve found is blending raw power with a sail-able package that won’t scare the living daylights out of owners and their families. Seasoned owner Gary wasn’t fazed though – his previous Lock Crowther 60-foot catamaran prepared him well. “But this boat does everything so much slicker!” he said.

Slickness in these large contemporary cats comes from smart technology, such as powerful electric winches for all running rigging, loadcells to manage the stresses and even a drop-down bow thruster to exit the marina without dramas. Hybrid engines are also an option. Other impressive specifications include deep (5.0m) curved daggerboards for maximum upwind capability, a carbon mast and high-aspect rudders for maximum control.

The HH50 can be ordered as an E-glass ‘Ocean Cruising’ version with mini-keels or a 100% carbon-fibre ‘Sports Cruising’ version with either dual aft helms or an inside helm forward, plus tillers with bucket seats – perfect if you want ultimate feel and very handy for race starts, something this boat will undoubtedly be used for. 

Accommodation is either three or four cabins, with the port hull a dedicated owner’s suite on this HH50.


Lightweight interior

First impressions revealed a pleasant blending of traditional – the dark walnut finish – with contemporary open-plan layout and hard-wearing Antico wood-effect flooring. The U-shaped galley is aft to starboard with a navigation station diagonally opposite, forward to port. Large skylights and vertical bulkheads each side, with gently sloping forward facing windows to maximise shade without compromising the great views impart a sense of airiness. Most importantly, a forward-facing window hatch provides good air flow.

The dinette is opposite the aft galley with another lounge bench orward. This avoids acres of empty floor space, which is a hazard at sea – something I was grateful for during a bumpy offshore sojourn – but, with the aft cockpit, leaves enough free space for entertaining.

Furniture is carbon-foam composite, including the wood-clad doors. Nearly all storage is near floor level, for a clean overall design. The U-shaped galley _ equipped with fiddles (yay!) – is surrounded by generous workspaces, and storage below. Its extensive equipment list includes four Vitrifrigo drawer fridge/freezers and a Miele electric three-burner hob and a rather strange oven – the owner has fitted a wine cooler instead. There’s a deep sink, with a Spectra 400C watermaker and renewable power is provided by 1,500-watt solar panels on the coachroof, plus a 5kVA generator, for the washer/dryer in the owner’s hull and the aircon.

Owner’s suite

Our review boat was the owner’s version with port-side suite and two guest cabins in the starboard hull, both hulls accessed via stairs on each side of the saloon. Again, the clean design philosophy provides a fuss-free finish throughout with wipe-down surfaces.

Viewing the owner’s suite and its floor hatches also allowed me to see the extensive structure of the hulls, which have wide longitudinal carbon stringers and ribs for stiffness.

The owner’s layout has the crawl-in queen bed aft with bathroom forward and the lounge/study in-between, with bench seating beside worktops. In the bathroom, a large shower cubicle with huge shower head will keep the watermaker busy.

Other classy finishes include matching carbon head and deep sink, again with opening hatches for air. Other good points included the large aft window – maybe too large, given it’s near the swim platform? – and portlights with skylights which circulate air. This boat also has five air conditioner units, should the humidity in Port Douglas where this boat will be based become too much. The other essential in all large sailing cats (and a CE requirement) is an escape hatch on the underside of each hull.

Moving to the starboard hull, I made a grand entry, thanks to the central two-way cascading stairway which also has a bulkhead containing twin heads with a single shower. The forward cabin three-quarter berth benefits from the large hull volume, avoiding stuffiness, and the aft cabin has the same good queen bed as the owner’s suite.

Cosy cockpit

Catamaran cockpits often are the selling point for cruising sailors, and the HH50’s doesn’t disappoint, especially with the locally sourced barbecue fitted against the transom. Beyond that the rigid inflatable is easily deployable from the sturdy carbon davits that keep it well away from the crocs of north Queensland. The sun bed on the starboard side has thick cushioning for comfortable seating, or allows two to recline – simply slide back the bimini skylights to let the sunshine in. There’s also good under-bench storage and an outside dinette with table for six.

The HH50 offers dual access to both helms – from the cockpit or from the sidedecks, with symmetrical helm controls that proved easy to operate, the essential items like throttles and B&G Zeus chartplotters replicated on each. All lines were controlled by electric Lewmar 65/55s with foot controls at
each helm, locked by banks of Spinlock jammers each side.


I gave another tick for the large rope bins integrated into each binnacle – capacious enough for the Dyneema double braided polyester covered halyards.

Moving along the flat sidedecks to the foredeck with support from the saloon top was unimpeded, aided by the flush hatches. The anchor fits below the longeron in a carbon box with the chain running to a locker behind the trampoline that houses a windlass with remote control. The ground tackle worked well when I operated it for our lunch stop at Wavebreak Island. The anchor location keeps the weight down nicely but makes access to the rode for the Rocna a wee bit tricky when the snubber is needed, or a bridal. Ideally, a second roller should be fitted for an emergency anchor, especially since this boat will live in cyclone territory.

Other notable features include the folding Antal cleats that have no edges (to catch flailing lines) when deployed.

Powerful rig

The rig is based around a fixed, tapered, deck-stepped Marstrom carbon spar with a Selden alloy boom held up by Future Fibres ECthree carbon stays. Stays have loadcells on their bases sending data back to the helms. The owner has had the mast extended half a metre “to increase the sail area-displacement ratio.”

The sail plan uses a cutter layout with small bowsprit for downwind sails – a Code 55/screecher was ready to deploy, acting as light wind genoa, so with upwind capability. The second bowsprit sail was a gennaker on a top-down furler, to allow deeper sailing angles. Then, inside the main beam was a yankee-style genoa able to operate from 5-25 knots with tweakers to aid its pointing with a removable self-tacking jib inside it. A storm jib could also be bent on here.

Looking aft from the bows, there were a lot of lines running across the saloon, including three for the triple-slab reefing system going to the starboard helm, with Karver hooks for the tack. These control the North 3DI mainsail, a cruise laminate version named Helix Ocean 700 that multihull specialist Ben Kelly from North Sails Brisbane made the final adjustments to after the yacht had been delivered on its bottom from China.

Looking aft, the mainsheet is also well controlled – a boom-end track running along the transom, controlled by an Antal line driver winch for the car.

Stiff hull

The carbon fibre hull is pre-impregnated with epoxy over a composite foam sandwich construction that is post-cured in an oven for maximum strength. Cross beams, longeron and a-frame/martingale are all pre-preg carbon, including the longitudinals and ring-frames in each hull, with watertight bulkheads at the bows and in the forward compartments. The deck is cored with Divinycell for insulation.

The high aspect spade rudders are carbon, including the shafts, connected to the twin steering wheels via Jefa linkages and gearboxes, to give the helm a direct feel. The rudder stocks protrude from the swim platform for the emergency tiller to slot into. Curved carbon daggerboards are cleverly built into the outer side of the hull to maximise interior space and are operated from the helms by an electric winch and line.

Opening the engine hatches revealed Beta saildrives, easy access to the steering linkages, and all electrics commendably high up. The well organised main switchboards are in each hull – DC on one side and AC on the other – while the small generator lives in a vented foredeck compartment.

The owner chose British Betas because they are low revving and economical. Alternatively, a diesel-electric hybrid arrangement is available with a large solar array on the cabin top and hydro-regeneration via shaft drives. Digital switching, by CZone, manage most electrics, with screen menus for each mode of operation (Harbour, Anchor and so on), also making fault-finding easy. The system can be over-ridden manually. 

Sailing the Gold Coast

A drama-free departure of Sanctuary Cove Marina was greatly aided by the drop-down bow thruster and a bit of fore and aft on the electronic throttles, before we sped seaward along the shallow Coomera River. Beyond its estuary the increased wind was hardly noticed as I sat behind the bimini’s wide Perspex window, the top of which also nicely shaded the B&G instruments. Our cruising speed was 8 knots, the 45hp turbo-charged Beta engines with triple-bladed folding propellers spinning at 2,200rpm. Just before heading out to sea, where a two-metre southerly swell was running, we prepared to hoist the mainsail.

The hoist was easily done, as all halyards lead back from the mast directly over the saloon to minimise friction, then on to the helms. This boat is designed for two-handed sailing – the owner and his wife – so working the halyard was a one-person job. Hoisting the mainsail using the electric Lewmar 65, guided by the lazy jacks, was easy.

Motor-sailing seaward, once clear of the breaking shoalwater of the Seaway, we turned into the 15-knot southerly wind to unfurl the genoa – again, smoothly done from the port helm, before speeding off on a beam reach. 

At the carbon steering wheel, only a light touch was required and the feedback from the spade rudders was instantaneous. Lumpy windward conditions don’t suit catamarans, even tricked-up ones, so the HH50 did well to keep some momentum between each of the large swells that ran under the tall nacelle. The sailing numbers showed 8.5 knots SOG hard on the wind at 34o apparent wind in a fading 12.2 knot breeze. Impressive with the self-tacking jib, given the conditions.

This setup also made tacking easy, with only an easing of the mainsheet required to turn us. Given each helm had all the controls, there was no need to swap sides. Changing sides was easy enough though, thanks to an inboard step/clearway across the transom to the other cockpit.

The only additional job for the tack was, of course, raising and lowering those large daggerboards via a button on each binnacle. The fading breeze prompted us to finish our windward leg and I put the helm down, eased the mainsheet, and hoisted the gennaker, its clew coming all the way back to the stern. In the now light breeze of 9.9 knots of true wind, the HH’s mettle was again tested. And it kept on delivering, making an impressive 8.0 knots of boat speed at about 131o – very near its polar chart figures.

But even such good numbers aren’t everything. After such an enjoyable helming experience aboard this vessel, I couldn’t help thinking about the many coastal voyages around Far North Queensland to come. My conclusion? It’s a mission for which the HH50 is eminently suited.

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