The Hylas 54 proved to be one of the most successful 50-foot plus cruising boats ever built and continues to set a standard for a couple’s ultimate cruising boat. Yet, the design is now a decade old, and both design and styling trends have evolved among forward-looking builders around the world.
So when Dick and Kyle Jachney, owners of Hylas Yachts, decided to add a new boat to their line in the mid-50-foot range, they had the interesting challenge of taking what was best in the 54 and melding it with the latest thinking in cruising boat design and construction. The result is the new Hylas 56, which bears a strong family resemblance to the 54 but is also a confident step forward.
I got to sail the new 56 last fall after the Annapolis sailboat show. The weather had turned decidedly fall-like, with an easterly wind blowing sheets of rain descending on the Chesapeake Bay. It was a good big boat day when we could really see how the new boat sails and handles the square waves that were building.
As we motored out Back Creek, we put the 56 through its paces in forward, reverse and turning. The boat is driven by a 150 hp Yanmar diesel, which is a good size for a hull that displaces 50,200 pounds. Going from a dead stop to full speed took just under a minute, and the boat stopped when thrown into reverse in under three boat lengths. With the large rudder mounted on a half skeg, the boat circled on itself in about a boat length and half. All of this indicated that the 56 is handy under power, and—with the bow thruster engaged—simple to moor and unmoor, even in the gusty breeze we had that day.
Out in the bay we rolled out about two-thirds of the mainsail and set the roller furling staysail instead of the genoa. This reduced sail plan was perfect for the wind conditions, and the 56 was quickly close-reaching at 8.5 knots. As we trimmed and brought her close to the wind, the angle of the waves sent lots of spray onto the foredeck, but we did not get wet in the cockpit behind the dodger, and deck wash drained quickly aft. She settled down at about 48 degrees true off the wind and maintained 8 knots while heeling at about 15 degrees. Sighting aft, we appeared to be making very little leeway despite the waves and the strong breeze. And, the ride was remarkably stable and comfortable.
By the time we had thrown the 56 through a series of tacks, we were out in the middle of the bay and had a good angle for reaching back toward Back Creek. We rolled up the staysail and rolled out the genoa; with the added horsepower and the broad reach sailing angle, we started to fly. The speedo jumped to 10 knots, and occasionally we’d see 11 in the stronger puffs. The helm felt positive but light and the boat tracked well even though we had square waves rolling under the broad transom.
Off Back Creek, we rolled up the genoa and then turned into the wind to roll up the mainsail. With electric winches and furling systems, handling the big sails in the strong breeze was no problem at all. The 56 proved to be a very able boat under sail and power. She is stable, solid and inspires confidence while still turning out good speeds at all angles of sail. The design has a limit of positive stability of 125 degrees. For passagemaking, the new design will provide fast and comfortable passages anywhere in the world and will look after you when it gets bouncy out there.
The Jachneys have been building cruising boats for a long time, listening to their customers every step of the way. It is interesting to note that they seem to have tapped into the young CEO market of sailors who are looking for a luxury cruising boat with offshore capabilities at a competitive price. These guys do their homework, and when they compare a Hylas 56 to other boats in that size range, they have a hard time beating the combination of traditional styling, solid construction, seakeeping qualities and value.
Value is an interesting word that can connote low price or a lot for the money. In the case of the Hylas family of boats, which are built in Taiwan, the value lies in getting a lot for what you pay. And you will find it in the 56’s details.
The Frers-designed hulls are engineered for strength and durability instead of lightness. They are laminated of hand-laid glass fiber with alternating layers of Twaron, a carbon aramid fiber, in vinylester resin. The gel coat is an isophthalic resin for ultimate blister resistance. Below the water, two barrier coats of epoxy resin are applied as insurance against blisters.
The hull has two watertight bulkheads. The aft bulkhead seals off the rudderpost, so even with the rudder and post missing, the boat will still float. Forward, a collision bulkhead ensures that even a direct hit on a submerged container won’t violate the main hull.
Instead of using a balanced spade rudder, all of the Hylases designed by Frers have skegs that are integral with the hull laminate. This prevents flotsam damage underway and prevents rudder damage during a grounding. If you are venturing far afield, this extra level of rudder strength and protection is a real boon. The lead keel is a modified cruising fin with a small bulb that helps lower the center of gravity. For those who can’t work with the standard seven feet, four inches of draft, a keel-centerboard that draws only six feet, four inches with the board up has been designed.
The rig has been set up for long haul sailing with a minimum number of crew. Both the mainsail and the genoa have primary and backup halyards. Instead of using the single lowers made popular by masts with aft swept spreads, the 56 has fore and aft lowers that add extra support to the middle of the mast—particularly important when battling headwinds under a reefed main and staysail. The mast has discontinuous Hasselfors standing rigging with mechanical Sta-Lok end fittings, thus ruling out the dangers of going to sea with a cracked swage fitting.
The anchor locker is divided for two complete anchor rodes and there are two permanent anchor rollers at the stem head. The 56 is meant to be cruised far from the marina, so it needs to be securely and easily anchored by a couple.
A lot of thought has gone into the 56’s basic engineering and systems. The 150 hp Yanmar diesel is fitted with an easily used manual crankcase oil pump, so changing the engine oil every 100 hours is not a chore. That means you will actually do it, adding thousands of hours of life to your engine. Plus, the fuel system has two Racor filters that can be linked together or set up so one bypasses the other during maintenance. Finally, the engine compartment is fitted with a complete set of sensors and alarms, so any malfunction will be made known almost instantly.
You can tell a displacement cruising boat by its tanks. Not going anywhere? Small tanks. Exploring the world? Big tanks. The 56 has tanks for 280 gallons of fuel and 275 gallons of water—enough for four people, who conserve fresh water, for a month. And, it will power at low revs at about 6 knots for close to 1,000 miles.
One final detail: The 56 comes standard with four AGM 8Ds, which provide 840 amp hours of house battery storage and separate starting and bow thruster batteries. Such an ample reserve will mean you can run all of your systems with confidence.
The 56 was conceived as a passagemaking cruising boat for a family of adventurers. The saloon is open with ample headroom and will easily accommodate a party of 12 for cocktails and a family of eight for dinner at the dinette to port. The settee to starboard is a great place to lounge and will make a good sea berth.
The galley has been placed in the long passageway from the saloon to the master stateroom aft. The stove, fridges and several storage cupboards are mounted below the counter outboard, while the sinks are mounted above the engine compartment on the centerline, where they will drain on both tacks.
The master suite aft has a raised centerline double berth that will be easy to make up and comfortable to climb in and out of from both sides. There is ample storage space and hanging lockers for a couple living aboard in a variety of climes, and with opening ports on both sides and a large hatch overhead, ventilation will be great in the tropics. The master head is huge, with lots of lockers and a true separate shower stall.
Forward of the saloon, there is a snug upper and lower cabin to port that will work well for crew or children. Across from it lies the forward head, which also has a separate shower stall. The large guest cabin forward is virtually a second master cabin since it has a double centerline berth, a large hanging locker, and plenty of drawer and cabinet space.
One of the design touches we like aboard the 56 is the command center just aft and down a step from the dinette to port in the saloon. Here, you have a wraparound desk or chart table where you can install a full computer, run your laptops, operate the SSB, talk on the Iridium and navigate with your side-by-side multifunction displays. Or, if you are not headed to sea, you can run your company virtually from this executive suite of a nav station.
The new 56, like the recent Hylas models, is fitted out with teak panels, solid wood doors, teak or bamboo floors, and off-white overhead panels. The large wraparound windows in the saloon provide plenty of light without too much heat.
Furniture is built with traditional care. You will find louvered doors, solid door panels, fitted solid wood corner posts, and nicely handcrafted laminate pieces in the heads. Underfoot, you can have a traditional teak and holly sole or opt for more modern-looking bamboo floor panels. It is worth noting that all floor pieces have positive latches, so they won’t move or get loose when things get bumpy at sea.
A thoroughly warm and inviting interior is much prized by families living aboard for any length of time. The cabins offer great private spaces, while the saloon and large center cockpit provide plenty of room for socializing.
The new Hylas 56 is a lovely evolution from the 54. And, like the earlier design, this 56-footer has the legs to take you anywhere you might want to sail.
Hylas 56 specs
Draft (deep) 7’4”
Draft (shoal keel/cb) 6’4”/10’
Displacement 50,200 lbs.
Ballast 20,200 lbs.
Sail Area 1821 sq. ft.
Water 275 gals.
Fuel 280 gals.
Mast height 73’0”