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The Dehler 38 is justifiably an award winner because it is very much a sailor’s yacht but comes with sufficient refinements to bridge both sides of the cruiser-racer formula.

Since being taken over by Hanse (the German Dehler plant was shut and production moved to the new owner’s ultramodern production facility in Greifswald) the company has invested strongly in performance yachts, with the recent 38 and the upcoming 46.

Similar to the Dehler 41 yacht that I enjoyed racing and reviewed a couple of years ago, the Dehler 38 is built with the discerning sailor in mind, but more interestingly it is the transition yacht for the new in-house build at Hanse that was managed by the founder’s son Karl Dehler.



Dehler continue to offer a wide choice of fitouts in standard or competition package, so you can really customise your preferences as the owner of this review boat clearly did. Our test hull #35 had just been delivered to an ex-Hanse 370 owner who wanted to move up a notch in performance, so he’d gone for the competition package comprising deep lead keel, plus a carbon rig to reduce weight aloft making this version about 500kg lighter than the cruiser.

The other attraction to this style of boat for the aspiring racer is the favourable handicap rating compared to a dedicated raceboat. In this case the IRC TCC for our boat was 1.051, with nine crew allowed. Under the newer ORCi rule, there have been wins both inshore and offshore in Europe, so I’d expect the two new Dehler 38s heading for Sydney Harbour to do some damage. Plus, this style of boat regularly wins the Sydney Hobart on handicap, so for those with silverware in mind read on.




The standard layout has a double fore berth with another aft, but a three-cabin layout is also available on the Dehler 38. A distinguishing feature is extensive rounded Alpi mouldings in the interior, which not only look stylish but have the practical purpose of not bruising crew in a seaway.

Furniture makes up a large part of any yacht’s weight and I was particularly impressed by the cloth wardrobes and hull pockets for stowage in the aft cabin which saves 100kg. Not so good are the poky rectangular portlights which are so small as to be irrelevant – I’d enlarge or eradicate them, as competitor Bavaria did.

But there is plenty to like in the saloon on the 38. The large folding dining table includes drawers with U-shaped seating for a full crew and ample lounge space to port. The sliding chart table moves to allow crew seating around the main table and one of those lovely curved lockers hides the B&G Zeus plotter, although bulkhead space for extra gear is rather minimal. I also didn’t  like the electrical box bolted beneath the hull topside, in case of deck leaks.

Adjoining the navigation station is the large bathroom which impressively has the shower divided off, while behind it is a large lazarette for storing the kites and other race accoutrements.




On deck, twin wheels and a large, open cockpit distinguish the 38 as a cruiser-racer but there’s provision for a table in cruise mode, along with a folding swimplatform. However, I can’t see where a cockpit plotter would fit.

Ample locker space lurks under the side benches as well, with room for a liferaft for those Category 1 and 2 races. I particularly like the composite Carbonautica steering wheels for fine control and the binnacles placed within easy reach of the German mainsheet and traveller lines when shorthanded. The backstay also runs through there as well. But in race mode, the ergonomics feel awkward for the dedicated trimmer to turn the Harken 46.

There are no such problems with the primaries though, which have a standard position midway along the cockpit benches. The same goes for the halyard winches, where two banks of jammers guide all lines to the Harken winches, including barber haulers.

The main hatch gets my vote as best-in-class thanks to adjustable washboards, surrounding handrails and there’s even a strong-point to clip on to. Moving around the deck there’s little to impinge as you go forward, with lines in gutters and even the moulded toerail has retractable cleats.




The standard sailplan has a conventional genoa with optional asymmetric setup on the 9/10 alloy mast, but our test yacht came with the competition package plus tapered carbon rig held up by a stainless steel rod. Supplied by Pauger of Budapest, Hungary, the carbon spars also include a carbon vang and pole for the symmetrical masthead spinnaker. Pauger are reasonably well-known having supplied high-performance masts to the competitive Class 40 fleet among others. This rig gives an extra 7m2 to the sailplan, while saving about 100kg aloft.

Taffeta-coated North 3DL moulded sails had been bent on the spars with a twin-foil Harken track for the jibs. As this boat was very much in regatta mode the shallow chain locker was bereft of windlass but there’s space for it with the addition of a bowroller.




The overall outline of this Judel/Vrolijk design shows a low-profile saloon with tall, upright topsides for living space and beam carried to the transom where the flat aft sections should hasten deep reaching and kite runs.

Owners have an extensive choice of options. These include a deep lead keel bulb, while a keel-stepped alloy rig is standard. The deep spade GRP rudder hangs on an alloy shaft but you can option-up to a stronger stainless steel shaft model with elliptical-balanced performance blade, as this owner did.

Overall hull shape reflects the trend toward a more traditional rounded form (as opposed to hull chines), with plenty volume throughout, including the plumb bow and flared topsides to create more internal space, reflecting a sober rather than radical approach taken by Judel/Vrolijk. As those boffins at the IRC might say, the Dehler 38 has a fairly regular "hull form factor" with minimal overhangs. The hull build is handlaid GRP sandwich construction with end-grain balsa core for strength, while rigidity is aided by glassed-in bulkheads and floor beams laminated into the hull to distribute keel weight.



Casting off on a fickle-looking Pittwater proved a good test of the Dehler 38, which motored along at a speedy 7.8kts at 2150rpm without any vibrations on the wheel from the folding propeller, as I chased some wind pressure on the calm waters.

I nudged our bow into the light breeze as my host John Cowpe from Windcraft pulled on the main halyard to reveal the North Sails taffeta 3DL sail, which slid up easily on the Harken mast track. Pulling out the number one jib from the aft sail locker, it was slid into the Harken foil and hoisted without dramas – all easily done from the two coachroof halyard winches. I stood comfortably at the helm watching our hoists with a handful of mainsheet as we sped off toward the famous Basin holiday spot on West Head.

DEHLER 38 SAILINGUnlike the cruiser I’d tested in similar conditions the previous week, acceleration was the first noticeable plus-point on the Dehler 38. Sure we were paying for it with pricey North 3DL sails but boy, did it feel good and on start lines this would make the difference in light airs, putting you out in front.

Enjoying the rod rigging and that exotic carbon spar, I climbed high with the Dehler, winding in the mainsheet from my seated position on the coaming while the jib was tightened up with the barber haulers to nicely close the slot to the mainsail. At my knee, the B&G Triton readout gave the numbers clearly: 6.1kts as the telltales levelled off at 35 degrees, yet the true wind was only 6.4kts.

As I’ve often said, light winds are a tough test for yachts and so far the Dehler 38 was doing very well, and in fact continued in that vein as we went through a series of tacks. These were easily done as I spun the lightweight, large-diameter Carbonautica wheels for some very tight tacking angles of about 80 degrees. Demonstrating its shorthanded abilities, I ran the primary sheet back to the binnacle so that I could take-on as John released for a couple of tacks, which also went well.

Next was the symmetrical kite, which was poled out and hoisted with the aid of our third crewman Rick and kept the Dehler 38 moving in the very light airs. Its conventional sheeting layout, running through Selden blocks on the aft quarters, ran smoothly as did the kite retrieval with a sizeable forehatch available.

Finally, with that sun crescent deepening, we cranked up the Volvo to speed towards the yacht club and end a very enjoyable outing on what promises to be a successful cruiser-racer. 



  •  Overall design
  •  Practical deck layout
  •  Quality fittings throughout



  •  Small portlight windows
  • Shallow windlass locker







Deep keel with lead bulb and optimised rudder, carbon rig, North Sails Taffeta 3DL sails, Harken deck gear and jib foil, B&G Zeus/Triton electronics and more







TYPE Keelboat

LENGTH 11.3m

BEAM 3.75m

DRAFT 2m standard; 2.3m deep; 1.6m shallow




WEIGHT 7000kg standard; 6600kg race; 7300kg shallow

BALLAST 2250kg standard; 2000kg deep; 2550kg shallow

WATER 300lt

FUEL 160lt



MAKE/MODEL Volvo Penta D1-30

RATED HP 28 saildrive (40hp optional)



TOTAL SAIL AREA 79.3m² standard; 82.4m² racing


FURLING JIB 35.6m² standard; 36.4m² (105%) racing




Bayview Anchorage Marina, Waterfront Office 2, 1714 Pittwater Road,

Bayview, NSW, 2104

PHONE +61 2 9979 1709



See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #451, April / June 2014. Why not subscribe today.

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