Hunter 39

By: Allan Whiting, Photography by: John Ford

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The telltales point to a Hunter, but the 39’s extended hull, cabin and deck are a break with tradition

Hunter 39
Hunter 39
  • High quality finish
  • Spacious accommodation
  • Easy sail handling
  • Value for money
  • Euro-like styling

The Hunter 39 is a replacement for the 38, but is better styled and more functional.

The 39’s deck lines frame an elliptical deckhouse window, and the hull incorporates fixed cabin ports. The clean deck lines are complemented by recessed handrails, flush-fitting hatches and sail-control lines that are led under the main deck. Another nice touch is a flush-mounted solar panel to keep the engine starting battery topped up.

The 39’s cockpit has twin wheels behind small pods, anti-slip helm seats, cockpit seating and a centrally mounted drop-side cockpit table complete with compass mount, an icebin and drinkholders. A swivelling mount for Raymarine’s new widescreen chartplotter display is fitted below the compass.

The new swim platform provides a broad boarding area, and two huge water-toy storage bins are located under the helm seats. There’s a pair of "batwing" doors in the walkway between the wheels.

A redesigned, swept-back traveller arch keeps the mainsheet and traveller lines out of the cockpit. The arch posts are inboard, providing walking space along the deck, outboard of the arch. There’s no need to step into the cockpit to walk from foredeck to stern. Also, the helmsperson can set the autopilot and walk forward, without disturbing cockpit dwellers.

Building blocks

The Hunter 39 hull is balsa sandwich above the waterline with solid FRP below and two layers of Kevlar in the forward sections for extra impact resistance. The structural grid-shaped inner moulding is hand-laminated in a single piece and fused to the hull, with most of the interior components already assembled in place. The plywood-cored deck laminate is stuck to the hull using an outward flange joint, sealed with 3M 5200 and mechanically fastened.

Hunter yachts employ unique standing rigging, with external chainplates. The chainplate area of the hull is reinforced with additional laminations and a belt of reinforcement runs around the hull, from chainplate to chainplate.

The deck gelcoat is Maxguard that is said to be more flexible than most finishes and also highly UV-resistant. The interior gelcoat is MicroBan, incorporating an anti-bacterial agent, and the outer hull skin is Ashland AME-5000 modified epoxy.

Hunter uses winged-bulb keel shapes to concentrate weight as low as possible without the compromise of draft that’s excessive for a cruising boat. The 39 can be ordered with shoal-draft 1.52m keel, or a 1.98m deep-draft keel. Both keels are high-antimony lead bulbs, cast around stainless steel frames, with integral threaded rods.

Hunter standardised on the Selden B&R rig back in 1993. The shrouds and the forestay are disposed at 120-degree intervals, triangulating the mast support and doing away with the need for fixed or running backstays.

On the Hunter 39 conventional diagonals run between the spreaders, but the lowers anchor at inboard chainplates, separate from the shroud chainplates. In addition, four reverse diagonals run upwards from the mast to the spreader tips.

Below decks

The 38’s two-cabin, single-head layout was very good. Wide, comfortably angled companionway steps lead to a large saloon, with a house-sized L-shaped galley to starboard and a navigation station to port. Two front-opening fridges – one can be run as a freezer – flank a two-burner stove with oven. The deep double sink has a mixer tap.

A U-shaped dinette featuring a twin-pedestal table with drop-side leaf and opposite settee could comfortably seat the rated capacity of 10 people.

Forward of the saloon is a cabin with a double vee-berth and ample hanging and shelf space, plus under-bed storage. A vast bunk nestles below the cockpit floor and also in the aft cabin are a large seat, dual wardrobes, ample drawer and shelf space, plus a door into the head.

The return under the companionway steps lifts when the step section is raised, exposing the starboard side of the engine as well as the front end. A nice touch is an engineroom blower that runs when the engine does, pumping warm air out of the boat via a small grille on the transom.

The floors lift easily for access to the boat’s plumbing and wiring.

Eager to please

The Hunter 39 has its engine switches and instruments beside the port helm station. The lever is located high up on the wheel pod thanks to the mainsheet and traveller blocks being on the targa bar.

Hunter’s new 39 comes standard with in-mast roller furling, as well as a roller-furling headsail. Mainsail control is a breeze, thanks to traveller clutches on both sides of the targa bars, in conjunction with a mainsheet clutch at the port helm station and another mainsheet fall that leads through a clutch to the portside cabin-top winch.

The 110 percent headsail unrolled and sheeted with very little effort. The sheet winches are within easy reach of the helmsperson and the winch location allows sheet handling from the cockpit seats, but the winches are angled outboard, so grinding them is difficult.

The main appeared out of the Selden mast roller with easy winching effort and there was plenty of boom length to adjust foot-tension from almost flat for upwind work, to cambered for reaching and running. The main can be trimmed from the port helm, using the sheet winch, or from the cockpit, using a cabin-top winch, enabling singlehanded sailing from the wheel, or trimming from the cockpit while the autopilot is doing its job.

The test boat was fitted with an unbattened main that had a slightly hollow leech and an adjustable leech line. A main with some roach and short vertical battens is an option, as is a mainsail with a high degree of roach that is slab-reefed and stowed in a boom bag. A headsail with more overlap and a spinnaker are also available. Pads for spinnaker sheet and brace winches are installed and there’s a radial-cut rebate in the coaming for the turning blocks.

Even with the smallest sail-area package installed, the new Hunter 39 was no slouch, provided it wasn’t pinched excessively to windward. However, the boat pointed in the high 30-degree apparent zone and went upwind at around half wind-speed in 8kts to 12kts of Sydney nor’easterly breeze. Off the wind, the 39 picked up speed, bolting away. Once the sails were adjusted, balance was excellent on and off the wind, with only light helm pressure and small wheel movements needed.

In the rigging

The swept-back spreaders and cap shrouds of the signature B&R rig obviously restrict boom-out geometry, but the 39 ran dead-square, wing-a-wing, with eased main foot-tension and no need to pole out the jib. We didn’t score an accidental jibe, but a boom preventer could easily be rigged for extended downwind legs.

Rolling up the sails wasn’t quite as easy as unfurling them, because the jib needed considerable winch effort, even with the sail luffed.

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Construction FRP monolithic and balsa sandwich hull and plywood sandwich deck
LOA 12.01m
Waterline length 10.57m
Beam 3.94m
Draft 1.52m (1.98m optional)
Weight 8391kg
Berths Two doubles (tri-cabin layout optional)
Fuel 136L
Water 284L
Holding tank 94L
Water heater 19L
Sail area 92.07m² (standard); 78.5m² (mast-furling main): 83.98m² (mast-furling main w/ vertical battens)
Asymmetric spinnaker Optional
Engine make/model Yanmar diesel
Type Shaft drive
Rated hp 29 (40 optional)
Prop Fixed two-blade (folding optional)

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