BOAT TEST: HUNTER E36
Hunter’s upgraded model range now includes the new, broader-stern e36. ALLAN WHITING reports
Hunter's 21st century hull shapes are characterised by more pronounced hollow bow sections and broader sterns. The aim is to mimic the hydrodynamics of longer waterline length and has been carried a stage further in the new 36 that carries an 'e' prefix to denote the 'extended' effect. Our test boat was a pure-cruising e36 whose hull-speed potential was limited by an all-furling sailplan, shoal-draft keel and fixed prop, so we can't vouch for the designers' performance improving endeavours, but the wider stern certainly made a big difference to aft space, above and below decks.
The most impressive way to step aboard the new Hunter e36 is via a huge, dropdown swimplatform, before entering the spacious cockpit. An optional folding wheel makes that entry more gracious.
Cockpit seating is generous, with ample room for eight people, plus a pair perched on pushpit-mounted, wooden-slat seats. The boat is ocean-rated for 10 occupants. Enhancing the impression of cockpit space is freedom from sail control lines, thanks to rope bins aft of the cabin-top winches and the ability to flake sheet and traveller lines onto the helm station sole. The test boat cockpit was all-white-FRP-finished, for a wedding-cake effect that could be broken up by optional teak-look surfaces on sole and seats, or cockpit cushions.
A whopping portside cockpit seat locker opens to reveal enough space to store spinnaker, genoa, fenders, lines and water toys. What looks like another locker to starboard is actually a lift-up rain cover over a huge hatch in the aft cabin.
Most Hunters are ordered with bimini and dodger, plus a zip-in infill panel that means the entire cockpit area is shower-proof. The test boat was so equipped. Fit and finish of the canvas bits was good and clears provided a view ahead of the boat and through the bimini for mainsail checking.
Hunter's moulded deck anti-slip is kinder to bare flesh than some, but isn't as grippy as we'd like. The sidedecks on the e36 are narrow, but there's a moulded toerail that's reassuring.
BACK ROOM BONUS
Going below is easier than on most yachts, because the companionway runs at a shallow angle and the steps are wide enough to descend staircase-fashion. Wider stern sections have allowed the e36 to boast a huge aft cabin with no fewer than five opening ports and a head with separate shower recess. The galley's Corian surface area is also large for a boat of this size, with stainless steel rail fiddles that double as handholds. Hunter's exclusive crockery-drying cupboard, with integrated fan, is retained on the new e36.
The test boat was fitted with a face-to-face dinette, seating four, rather than the customary five-place, U-shaped style. Bonuses are a much larger table surface and more cupboard space beside it. A double vee-berth fills the forward cabin.
The chart table/electrical nerve centre is designed so that the aft section of the port lounge doubles as a chart table seat.
Plank-look cabin soles have good foot grip and plenty of lift-up access panels. Hunter has retained deep bilges on the e36, so there's plenty of under-sole storage space. The companionway lifts to reveal an engine that's easily inspected.
Poking around inside cupboards and behind panels reveals a high-standard of fit and finish. Hunter uses a state-of-the-art manufacturing process that involves partial assembly inside a 'dummy' hull before the interior is dropped into the real hull.
Standard equipment levels are quite high, but most buyers opt for the Mariner Package that was fitted to the test boat: electric anchor windlass; in-mast Selden furling; folding steering wheel; ST-60 upgrade; galley fridge; AM/FM/CD stereo system; gimballed two-burner stove with oven; and, traveller track with control lines on the TravelerArch.
ON THE WATER
When motoring from US Yachts' Darling Harbour base into Sydney Harbour, we were surprised by the strong prop-walk effect on steering: unless the wheel was given heavy counter pressure the boat steered strongly to port. There was also an odd steering lull effect at times when sailing, as if the rudder stalled out temporarily. The test Hunter e36 felt like it needed a larger or deeper rudder, but the plan drawings indicate a reasonably sized blade. Maybe the boat would have steered better with more side grip than that afforded by a 1.5m-draft keel.
With its shallow keel and large-diameter, three-blade fixed propeller, we didn't expect the test boat it to be a sailing-performance whizz, however, with sheets cracked off to a tight reach it powered along sweetly under 10 to 13kts of southeast breeze. We saw 7kts-plus on the GPS in the puffs.
The new Hunter e36 cockpit layout certainly gave the helmsperson plenty of seating and standing options, with broad seating on the coamings, on the transom and even on the top edge of the fold-down swimplatform. When steering from the coaming perch it was a bit of a stretch to the wheel rim, but the Performance version comes with an easy-reach, larger-diameter wheel. This very interesting Performance version should suit cruisers who want to indulge in some club racing (see box).
Mild headsail overlap, fairly wide jib sheeting angle and flat-cut, in-mast furling mainsail limited the test boat's windward ability, but the Hunter e36 certainly has the ability to claw its way off a lee shore. The plus side of wide jib sheeting is ability to set the heady wing-a-wing downwind, without the need to fiddle around with a spinnaker pole.
Hunter's patented TravelerArch solves a multitude of short-handed sailing problems. This sturdy twin-tube structure mounts an optional traveller that has control lines led down the tubes to the helm station and the double-ended mainsheet leads to an aft jammer, fitted to the Arch, adjacent to a sheet winch and to a cabin-top winch. Easy.
The designers at Hunter aren't dopey, but for some reason the company's early 1990s global racing DNA hasn't filtered through to its recent boats. Surely Hunter knows that many people who want an easy-to-sail cruising yacht also like to try their hand at club competition and the company dabbled with the concept when it produced the 27X club-racer version of the cruising 27. However, larger Hunters have been exclusively cruisers, until now...
Along with the new hull design employed in the new Hunter e36 is a performance option that exploits the advantages of the B&R rig. With its long, swept-back spreaders and no backstay the B&R rig allows heavily-roached, fully-battened, multi-hull-style shapes that have been incorporated in Hunter non-furling mains, but the performance option on the e36 takes that a stage further, with the adoption of a square-topped, high-aspect-ratio main. In conjunction with a flattish, furling headsail the 12 per cent larger sailplan should do wonders for windward performance. The spec' doesn't list a jib barber hauler, but that shouldn't be hard to rig.
Also part of the Performance Package are an upgraded ST-60, Lewmar 46 sheet winches, 2m-draft lead-bulb keel, larger-diameter steering wheel, retractable bowsprit and asymmetric spinnaker gear, solid vang, folding prop and open-transom stern. Ballast goes up to 2288kg, from 2046kg, but displacement is hardly changed, thanks to some weight-saving alterations, including deletion of the swimplatform.
We'd love to have a play in one of these!
A spacious, well-made, cruising-oriented, mid-sized yacht that's as easy to sail as possible, with accommodation for four to six people - all at an attractive price. A Performance version should increase Hunter's appeal to club sailors.
(Facts & figures)
AT THE HELM
Hunter has redesigned the 36-footer, with styling similar to that of the 39 and 50 models. The result is a much cleaner look, with flowing, harmonious lines around the coach house and cockpit. More importantly, traditional ease of handling has not been compromised. The steerer can operate jib and main sheets, and the traveller, without moving from the wheel. Chartplotter, autopilot and engine controls are also at hand and everything is sheltered under an optional bimini.
PRICE AS TESTED
$249,000 (introductory offer)
Autopilot, Raymarine C90W with internal GPS, epoxy barrier coat and antifoul, instrument pod extension at helm, in-mast furling, mainsheet traveller, fridge, two-burner stove and oven, ST60 upgrade, sound system, folding wheel, electric anchor windlass, three-blade prop, spray dodger, bimini, and cockpit cushions
MATERIAL: FRP monolithic and balsa sandwich hull and plywood sandwich deck
LENGTH OVERALL: 10.64m
HULL LENGTH: 10.49m
WATERLINE LENGTH: 9.47m
DRAFT: 1.5m (1.96m and 1.98m optional)
BERTHS: Two doubles
HOLDING TANK: 114lt
Sail area: 59.9m ²; 63.6m² (with vertical battens); 79.5m² (Performance version)
Asymmetric spinnaker optional
MAKE/MODEL: Yanmar diesel
RATED HP: 29
PROP: Fixed two-blade (three-blade and folding props optional)
US Yachts Pty Ltd,
Sydney By Sail Festival Pontoon, Darling Harbour,
PO Box Q1195, QVB, Sydney, NSW, 1230
Phone: (02) 9281 4422
Fax: (02) 9280 1119
The Hunter e36 should handle four-up comfortable cruising and entertaining up to 10 day trippers. Fit and finish is excellent and the deep-bilge design provides more storage space than can be found in flat-bottomed yachts. The unknown quantity is the Performance version, with its larger sailplan and deep keel.
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