The HR evolution
Practical Boat Owner|October 2021
Hallberg-Rassy’s reputation for building quality bluewater cruisers evolved from its early 31-38ft models. Peter Poland reports
Peter Poland

Hallberg-Rassy has been in the same family ownership since Christoph Rassy bought Harry Hallberg’s boatbuilding business in 1972 and formed Hallberg-Rassy. And 49 years later it’s still going strong and still owned by the Rassy family.

This success story can be attributed to the Rassy insistence on top quality products combined with an uncanny ability to evolve and develop the HallbergRassy range in line with some (but by no means all) modern trends.

While performance has been improved with the latest Frers-designed models, at all times quality build, comfort, easy handling and seaworthiness hold sway.

To assess the HR design evolution it’s interesting to compare HR models of around 34-38ft from the 1970s to today.

Early success: Hallberg P28

Harry Hallberg opened his first yard at Kungsviken on the Swedish island of Orust in 1943 where he built wooden boats before leading the field with his first GRP yachts in 1963.

Having designed and built the elegant P28 in wood, he made a GRP hull mould and went into high volume production, retaining the boat’s classic looks by making the deck and cabin roof in wood.

Well over 500 P28s were built, requiring Hallberg to move his business to a new boatyard, and although many of the first 100 were exported to the USA, few if any made it to the UK – more’s the pity.

Bavaria-born Christoph Rassy served his boatbuilding apprenticeship in a German yard then moved to Sweden in the early 1960s, where he ended up in competition with Hallberg after buying Hallberg’s old yard. Initially Rassy concentrated on one-off yachts. Then in 1967 he commissioned a revolutionary design from Olle Enderlein and named it the Rasmus 35.

With its elegant sheer, graceful long keel, centre cockpit, separate aft cabin, spacious sea-going accommodation and fixed windscreen, the Rasmus 35 established many successful new trends.

Having built the first two boats in gleaming mahogany, Rassy then made hull and deck moulds and the Rasmus 35 took off with a vengeance. Its revolutionary features combined with robust and high quality GRP mouldings and interior finish meant the boat sold in large numbers.

In 1972 Hallberg retired just as Rassy was outgrowing his Kungsviken yard. Rassy jumped at the chance to buy Hallberg’s business in Ellös and thus the Hallberg-Rassy brand was born.

Rassy’s Rasmus 35 was rebranded as the Hallberg-Rassy 35 and a staggering 760 of this classic centre cockpit Enderlein design were sold between 1967 and 1978. This was a lot for any GRP production boat at that time, let alone a 35-footer which was thought to be a large GRP production yacht in the late 1960s. At the same time, it established Rassy’s reputation for providing solid, well-finished cruisers with moderate sail area/ displacement ratios (HR35: 13.7), generous displacement/LWL ratios (244.7) and high Comfort Ratios (28.5).

Some HR35s were also finished in the UK by Freeman Yachts from Rassy’s mouldings and sold as Nab 35s. These had a more solid wheelhouse in place of the fixed windscreen.

In 1974, two years after the launch of Hallberg-Rassy, Enderlein again struck gold. The HR Monsun 31 began its eight-year production run, selling a total of 904 boats by 1982. This is the all-time top-selling HR model – but again, few made it to the UK.

In addition to the trademark fixed windscreen, the aft-cockpit Monsun 31 had a long keel, conventional sea-going layout, amidships heads and a fixed chart table. There are five berths and plenty of space thanks to a beam of 2.87m.

According to the Hallberg-Rassy website: ‘She is a no-nonsense sturdy long-distance cruiser that has never been modern and will never go out of fashion.’

Proving this point, Kurt Björklund completed three circumnavigations in his Monsun 31 Golden Lady after retiring in 1982. Since then, many a Hallberg-Rassy owner has taken his pride and joy on an extended post-retirement cruise.

The three eras of Hallberg-Rassy

After the conventional-looking, successful and attractive Enderlein-designed Hallberg-Rassy 41ft ketch (105 built between 1975-81), subsequent models can be divided into three eras. First came the nine Enderlein models – often designed in collaboration with Christoph Rassy – starting with the HR 38 in 1977 and carried on until the HR 382 in 1984.

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