Yachts & Yachting

Yachts & Yachting Test (Dec 1992 By Peter Bentley)

Construction is of a universally high quality in terms both of materials and manufacture.” “…the Hawk makes a real step forward in Dayboat design. Rarely has the Yachts & Yachting test team been more impressed by a truly new design

We test the Hawk 20

Peter Bentley found this 20ft dayboat from a new builder impressive in almost every way.

There can’t be many 20ft dayboats designed by an ex-member of parliament and still fewer developed from a self-righting dinghy intended for a partially disabled man. The now almost fully recovered man and ex-MP are but one, in the person of Chris Hawkins. Now is not the time to tell Chris’s story (though it is an interesting one, spanning some ten years of British political life and a long career in the marine industry); suffice to say that a partnership with successful engineering entrepreneur, Mike Reid, has resulted in a new and in many ways innovative centreboard dayboat.

Unlike almost every other currently available boat of this type, the Hawk 20 is both self-righting and (in as much as can ever be the case) unsinkable. In place of the almost obligatory galvanised steel plate centreboard, the Hawk has a unique aluminium casting. Not only is it lighter than steel, (thus affecting the self-righting capabilities little whether raised or lowered) it is shaped to an efficient hydrodynamic section. Upwind performance should, in theory at least, be much enhanced.

So it proved. A short beat in light airs at the start of our test presented an ideal opportunity to put theory to the test. Not only was the boat commendably quick, she pointed high too.

As our sail progressed the wind slowly built and we were able to make an assessment of her capabilities in moderate winds and even a short Solent chop. Neither performance nor control were ever found wanting. Upwind the boat moves very comfortably, never once slamming in the modest waves found off Lymington. The ride is dry, with only the most minor spray making its way aboard during our test; unusually for a boat of this size we never once had to resort to wearing oilskins.

The helm, light at the start of our test, never loaded up substantially but always provided a good positive feel. When heeled violently (a hard thing to do) the rudder loses grip at much the same time as the lee rail starts to go under, effectively making it impossible to fill the boat. The rudder stock and tiller assembly – in common with every other detail – have been exceptionally well engineered, without the slightest hint of free play anywhere. Downwind, the spinnaker is simplicity itself. The pole is launched racing style with a single line. The kite rises effortlessly from a bow chute, much aided by an effective bow hoop. Gybing is simple and controlled; at no time does any crew member have to step out of the cockpit. Dowsing the spinnaker is simply the reverse of launching it. Steering under spinnaker is much the same as upwind; light, positive and most of all fun.

So where does a 20ft boat weighing in at 1,800 pounds find all this performance? Quite simply, through a generous sail area and massive stability. Without the need for decks or the interior fittings usually associated with this size of boat the centre of gravity can be kept low while still maintaining a reasonable displacement.

Full self-righting capability has been achieved through the use of snugly fitting cast lead ballast low in the bilge, which accounts for almost 50 per cent of the overall displacement. According to Chris Hawkins, the Hawk will self-right from a 90 degree knockdown with the cockpit lockers flooded and the plate raised.

Buoyancy is well provided for. In addition to a subdivided structure, there are sufficient closed cell foam blocks to keep the whole thing afloat even in the event of total flooding. The two forward bulkheads are both watertight and the space forward of the first one is fully filled with foam making the boat resistant to all but the most devastating frontal collisions.

Under engine (we had the benefit of a 4hp Mercury) performance is brisk. Wash in the engine well is tidily contained and never once did we see so much as the slightest splash enter the boat via this route. Once under sail, the well is closed by two blanking pieces, both easily enough fitted once the method of passing them around the outboard was explained.

Construction is of a universally high quality in terms both of materials and manufacture. The basic layout is clearly strong and perhaps even overbuilt in some places, but none the worse for that. The hull and deck are solid polyester/glass laminate, utilising modern stitched and unidirectional materials. The bulkheads are all substantially glassed-in plywood. Our test boat certainly looked as if it could take many years of use in a harsh sailing school environment without complaint.

Fittings have been the subject of much improvement over the course of a four boat development programme and are now almost universally from Harken. Chris tells us that production boats will be completely fitted out from this source. The result is a boat where everything works without effort or irritation.

Equally at home on a mud berth or swinging mooring the Hawk also has all the virtues of a true trailer-sailer. There are no frills, no concessions to cruising comfort that will never be used, just sensible performance in a safe, well built package. As such it rates more than a quick look by anyone searching for a dayboat, certain in the knowledge that they will never sleep aboard. Sailing schools and such like will undoubtedly view the Hawk with interest, but private individuals tired of marina costs and realistic enough to know the shortfalls of traditional cruising boats should also take a serious look.

There is talk of one-design racing, but the true role of the boat really lies elsewhere. At its best as a safe dayboat, equally able to accomplish long passages in safety or to take a young family creek sailing, the Hawk marks a real step forward in dayboat design. Rarely has the Y&Y test team been more impressed by a truly new design.


Review reproduced from Yachts and Yachting, December 4 1992