Sailing Today

Sailing Today Test Report (April 2001)

Her fine entry, the stiffness of the boat and the aerofoil rudder section work together to provide excellent close-hauled performance. Hove-to she lies comfortably across the wind making only a half-knot of drift. On all points of sailing we found her to be well balanced with enough weather helm to give positive control of the tiller, and if you let everything go she rounds up without a problem At almost £17,000 with the trailer this day-boat is pricey, but she’s certainly popular. Over 200 have now been sold. David Parker went along to find our more about this unsinkable, sea-going trailer sailer.


The Hawk 20 may, on first view, seem an expensive day-boat, but take a closer look and you see a one-design with some unique features. She’s self-righting, unsinkable and very quick. The first time we sailed one of these she had no problem overtaking 25ft and 30ft cruisers but, with her medium displacement and 48 percent ballast ratio, she’s also very stable. And she’s still light enough to plane – owners report reaching speeds of up to 12 knots.

A purpose-built trailer makes launching simple

Your reaction to the price may well be: “But I could buy an offshore cruiser for that.” And so you could, but part of the ethos of her design is that a large proportion of cruisers are used as day-boats. They are much more expensive to maintain and berth than the Hawk 20 – and a lot less fun to sail. The Hawk is also built to a very high quality. Avoiding gear failures has been a prime consideration of the design team. The concept behind the boat first saw the light of day as an 11ft dinghy designed by ex-MP Chris Hawkins. A heavily ballasted dinghy was too heavy to be practical but potential was spotted in extending his design. It took two years for the designer, in partnership with the Reid family, to get the Hawk right by the time she was launched at the Southampton Boat Show in 1993. Originally the plan was to sell six Hawks to cover the cost of the moulds – but there are now 200 Hawk owners, and these boats have been exported all over the world. As Mike Reid points out: “We sell them faster than we can build them.” The Reids are a sailing family based in Christchurch, and their main business is steel fabrication. Test sails usually take place from their own private slip at the bottom of the garden of their elegant home on the edge of Christchurch Harbour. That’s where we met up with Mike’s son, Peter, for our test sail.

Easily trailed and sailed

Weighing 816kgs the Hawk can be towed behind the average family car. From the purpose-built tilt-back trailer she was straightforward to launch and retrieve on this gently sloping slip. For retrieval Peter has a trick where he lowers the centreplate to act as a brake and keep the boat in position while he winches her up. This centreplate is epoxy-coated aluminium alloy and has a ‘secret’ aerofoil shape – so it’s an expensive stick in the mud, but Peter’s trick works, and the alloy is very tough. The cockpit’s long enough to host a reasonable game of skittles, but there’s no accommodation. There is, however, good stowage space with port and starboard amidship lockers. These lockers measure 1.23 x 0.5m at the base, with an opening of 0.91m x 0.335m, so are large enough to stow the short shaft engine. Buoyancy compartments are located fore and aft of the lockers under the seats, also under the side decks, fore and aft decks and floor.

The engine sites in an outboard well, sited forward of the rudder so the prop wash over the blade gives good manoeuvrability under power. When not in use the engine can be swung clear of the water, and two closure blocks are used to seal the well, improving hull shape for sailing and to prevent water sloshing about. The outboard compartment can then be covered by a hatch. The cockpit is self-draining and so the Hawk can be left confidently on a mooring with no cover. The seats have drains and the sole is above the waterline, so bums and feet keep dry. We should note that the seats are very comfortable on this boat. They’re 2.75m long, 0.46m wide at the centre tapering to 0.39m aft. With the base of the cockpit measuring 0.74m there’s plenty of knee room. In the right weather, longer passages wouldn’t be a hardship with this spacious cockpit layout. More stowage space is available in the port and starboard dry lockers in the sealed bulkhead just aft of the deck-stepped mast. The steering compass is conveniently positioned just under the mast, and this bulkhead also offers an ideal position for siting any other instrumentation, such as the Tackstick Sail Master. On the foredeck itself is a large stowage locker which is accessed by a hatch measuring 0.49 x 0.36m. The locker is 0.91m deep and incorporates the spinnaker tube. The spinnaker lives permanently in the tube and is quickly set and retrieved through the stainless steel guide ring on the stemhead.

Under sail

The Hawk has a seven-eights Bermudan rig with split backstay tensioners. Winds on the day of our sail were light, varying between 6 and 10 knots, but we were impressed at her windward and off the wind performance. All the deck gear is Harken and has been thoughtfully positioned. For example it’s easy to flip the jib sheet out of the cam cleat even when sitting on the far side of the cockpit. We had 5.9 knots reaching in a variable 7 or 8 knots or apparent wind. When the wind dropped to 6 knots our boat speed was 4.8 knots until we hoisted the spinnaker, and she climbed back up to 5.8 knots. Using the spinnaker chute and Spiro self-launching pole, getting the kite up is remarkably neat and aggravation free. You don’t need to leave the cockpit when setting or recovering the spinnaker. (The spinnaker itself is an optional extra, but the chute and launching system come with every boat.)When we put the kite away we were making 4.8 knots boat speed close-hauled in about 10 knots of apparent wind. Then we furled the fore sail and she made between 3.7 and 4 knots under main alone. A single-line reefing system is used on the Hawk, with the option of fitting two reefing lines. Peter tells us you can sail her up to a Force 6 without reefing. For out test purposes we tried the first reef in the main and, using the foresail, achieved approximately the same speeds as sailing close hauled with just the mainsail. Weather helm is, of course, heavier under main alone, but there’s little loss of her windward performance/ During our test she sailed at 35º to the wind. Her fine entry, the stiffness of the boat and the aerofoil rudder section working together to provide excellent close-hauled performance. Hove to she lies comfortably across the wind making only a half-knot of drift. On all points of sailing we found her to be well balanced with enough weather helm to give positive control of the tiller, and if you let everything go she rounds up without a problem.

Under power

Motoring in and out of Christchurch harbour we found that she comfortably takes the lumpy seas breaking over the bar. The hull is easily driven under power, and the Yamaha 5 outboard gives maximum hull speed of 5.5 knots at full throttle, with a more-comfortable and less noisy 4.8 knots on half throttle. Locking the engine in position and using the tiller, we found that the Hawk can comfortably turn in her own length. We also tried her with a long shaft Mariner 4 and found this engine gives better ‘bite’ on the water, stopping her quickly when in reverse. However, despite the increased manoeuvrability, with a lower pitched prop we found we had a slower maximum speed.