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Why a Hunter 49?

When I told my brother Peter that I had ordered a new Hunter 49, his first response was "why didn't you buy a real boat?". Peter is an engineer, he has built and sailed his own boats, and for fifteen years he and his wife Linda have sailed the North Atlantic, the Caribbean and the South American coast in their Cape Dory 30 cutter, designed in 1975 by Carl Alberg. He is a traditionalist.

Past owners, present owners and want-to-be owners of traditional offshore sailboats are a rather opinionated bunch. Many are stuck in a mindset that seems to ignore the advances in yacht design and construction in the decades since their full-keel, heavy-displacement, cramped-accommodation wallowers were designed.

When I first started researching the purchase of another sailboat, I was following the traditional mindset of buying and refitting a used boat that was on the traditionalists' list of "suitable offshore boats". The more I looked, the more I realized that I had grown tired of accepting decades-old concepts of what worked, tired of making do with old technology, obsolete design ideas and poor sailing performance. I started wondering why the traditionalists so-called "suitable boats", even though built of fiberglass, still mimic the lines imposed by the limitations of wood construction. I was reminded of a Henry Ford quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." The idea of buying a new boat began to take shape.

During my initial research of new sailboats, I had ignored Hunter based on the traditionalists' scuttlebutt perceptions about the offshore suitability of some of Hunter's previous models. However; among the lessons I had learned in building and operating a one-man multi-million-dollar company was that old data and old perceptions do not show current quality or suitability. Many great opportunities are missed by following the flock along the ruts of old thinking.

So, wanting to be thorough in my research, I did eventually look at Hunter's current offerings and the more I saw and learned, the more I liked. I liked Glenn Henderson's new designs and the fact that the 49 was the concluding step in his eight-year redesign of the entire Hunter keelboat fleet. I liked that it was designed for offshore passagemaking and that it is easily single-handed. I liked the deep bilges beneath the cabin sole, with the engine, generator, batteries and tankage all kept low and the through-hulls grouped together in two easily accessible places. I liked the layer of epoxy under the gelcote and the layers of Kevlar cloth in the lay-up from the keel stub forward. I liked the high-tech engineering, the computer-assisted economies of the production line and the dedication of the workers instilled by the employee ownership program. I liked the abusive sea trial testing done by Steve Pettengill on Hunter's new designs and I liked the significant price advantage from the huge purchasing leverage of the Luhrs Marine Group, which besides owning Hunter, also owns Mainship and Silverton. I liked the Hunter 49 enough to order one.

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Seemingly as a confirmation that I had made the right decision, in December 2007 Cruising World named the Hunter 49 its 2008 Boat of the Year - Best Full-Size Cruiser. Then in January 2008, Mike Harker completed a circumnavigation in his new Hunter 49, logging over 26,000 miles in eleven months and spending nearly six of those months in port. He logged many 200-mile plus days, had a 1396-mile week and averaged 150 miles per day on the way around. Not a bad feat for an able-bodied crew, but Mike did the voyage solo, and he is a paraplegic. Mike's results with his Hunter 49 in the 2008 Caribbean 1500 are equally impressive.

Last Updated on 27 October 2009

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