The Hans Christian Story
They don’t build boats like that anymore. Yes they do!
Mention the name Hans Christian and you conjure romantic images of days gone by when yachts were built to perfection, by highly skilled craftsmen using the finest quality timbers and fittings.
What most people don’t realize is that Jack Hall, a Hans Christian romantic has them in general production again. Jack is using the same specifications and time honoured methods, employing many of highly skilled craftsmen that cut their teeth on earlier Hans Christians.
It is actually the very first time that Hans Christian has its own safe, secure manufacturing home. “Unlike our Hans Christian predecessors we own the land and yard where these vessels are built” said Jack.
The man who inspired the Hans Christian phenomenon was an American, Mr. John Edwards. John Edwards was a man of vision, but not necessarily adept as a boat builder. In the 1980s he got into financial trouble when he tried to take on the production side of the boat building process. “Taking the moulds from Taiwan to Thailand, he could not cope with all the pitfalls that a foreigner is often confronted with in this part of the world” said Jack.
The Hans Christian story began in the 1970’s with John Edwards naming his line of yachts Hans Christian to suggest “timeless beauty” in the association with another maker of fairy tales; Hans Christian Anderson.
Inspired by 16th century Dutch “jaghts”, traditional Scandinavian double-enders, John Edwards re-created a timeless classic design that is still as practical and appealing today as it was four centuries ago.
John Edwards engaged renowned naval architects Harwood Yves and Scott Sprague to design the vessels for seaworthiness. Offering more than just Old World charm, like Nordic vessels built for the North seas, Hans Christians are built to cross oceans. They are strong and powerful little ships.
The number of Hans Christians that are still out there circumnavigating the world is testament to their suitability for blue water cruising today. Many websites have been set up by owners with creating their own tales of their adventure.
John Edward’s legacy lives on though he passed away about 10 years ago, in his early seventies.
Mr. Francis Mertens from Belgium took over the assets in 1996 when John Edwards business floundered. Prior to 1996 Francis had been the Hans Christian dealer for Europe, selling some 40 vessels. Francis retired in November 2004 passing the Hans Christian baton to his New Zealand born manager Jack Hall.
The Hans Christian yard was already under Jack Hall’s guidance. Jack had been working as general manager of the boat yard since 1996, and is still using the same moulds and plugs, the original specifications, and many of the same highly skilled craftsmen, carpenters and engineers to build Hans Christians today. The change in ownership was a mere technicality but has led to reinvigoration of the Hans Christian fairy tale.
“The most popular Hans Christians are the 41T and 48T” said Jack “and we are still building these models exactly as they have always been built, with solid teak interiors and decks, lead ballast, custom bronze deck hardware and so on. There are no substitutions in any facet of material or construction, they are true Hans Christians.”
The 33T will also be back in production. The highest level of craftsmanship is incorporated into the production process. All fittings are fine quality. Winches, portholes and many of the deck fittings are manufactured in quality solid bronze. Interior woodwork is also solid teak.
Jack’s passion for sailing was ignited during his childhood in Auckland where he had the opportunity to cruise around on a neighbor’s 52 foot yacht and a friend’s Herreshoff. Sadly the Herreshoff owner responsible for fostering Jack’s life long affair with yachts passed away recently.
At the age of seventeen Jack undertook a five year Ship, Yacht and Boat Building apprenticeship with the well respected Salthouse Brothers. Jack’s experience and expertise in Fibre Glass construction is truly exceptional.
Jack is constantly upgrading the yard to allow for more effective, quality production. At present his rear shed, with 800sqm floor space, is full with a HC48T in production for a German client, another 48 well under way for a Canadian, as well as a 41T, machinery and two large moulds taking up the remaining space. When the roof on the main 2,400sqm shed is complete Jack will be stepping up a gear as the largest sailboat manufacturer in the region.
Graham Stephens of Yarra’s Edge Yachts says “Hans Christians are the type of boat you buy and keep for life. These classic designs are timeless. Many of the new plastic fantastic designs fall short when it comes to true blue water sailing. Motion at sea is a quality that is often unmentioned and this is where Hans Christians excel.”