Test: Dehler 38

By: Kevin Green

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Dehler 38 So that's where the skipper hides the refreshments. Dehler 38
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Dehler 38 The open cockpit ensures good crew work and all lines, including backstay adjustment, are easily to hand. Dehler 38
Dehler 38 Harken deck gear and Selden blocks ensure the carbon pole and spinnaker hoisted easily on the Dehler 38. Dehler 38
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Dehler 38 Sliding nav table gives flexibility and the B&G smarts are nicely hidden in the lockers. Dehler 38
Dehler 38 Curved laminated woodwork sets off a practical saloon, offering plenty of comfort with seagoing sensibilities. Dehler 38
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This refined cruiser-racer is a very enjoyable yacht to sail, both on and off the racetrack, reports Kevin Green

The German Dehler company celebrated its 50th birthday by winning European Yacht of the Year in the cruiser-racer category with its 38-footer.

Since being taken over by Hanse (the Dehler plant was shut and production moved to the new owner's ultramodern production facility in Greifswald) the company has invested strongly in performance yachts, with the recent 38 and the upcoming 46.

Similar to the Dehler 41 that we enjoyed racing a couple of years ago, the 38 is built with the discerning sailor in mind…

Why buy a cruiser-racer?

The attraction to cruiser-racers is not limited to aspiring competition sailors but also for the discerning yachtie who wants a boat that can sail really well, rather than a more sedate cruising vessel.

Our test hull #35 had just been delivered to an ex-Hanse 370 owner who wanted to move up a notch in performance, so he'd gone for the competition package comprising deep lead keel, plus a carbon rig to reduce weight aloft making this version about 500kg lighter than the cruiser.

The other attraction to this style of boat for the aspiring racer is the favourable handicap rating compared to a dedicated raceboat. In this case the IRC TCC for our boat was 1.051, with nine crew allowed. 

Dehler 38-20

Curvaceous interior

The standard layout has a double fore berth with another aft, but a three-cabin layout is also available on the Dehler 38. A distinguishing feature is extensive rounded Alpi mouldings in the interior, which not only look stylish but have the practical purpose of not bruising crew in a seaway.

Furniture makes up a large part of any yacht's weight and I was particularly impressed by the cloth wardrobes and hull pockets for stowage in the aft cabin, which saves 100kg. Not so good are the poky rectangular portlights which are so small as to be irrelevant.

But there is plenty to like in the saloon on the 38. The large folding dining table includes drawers with U-shaped seating for a full crew and ample lounge space to port. The sliding chart table moves to allow crew seating around the main table and one of those lovely curved lockers hides the B&G Zeus plotter.

Adjoining the navigation station is the large bathroom which impressively has the shower divided off, while behind it is a large lazarette for storing the kites and other race accoutrements.

Both sets of coachroof windows open and, sensibly, one window is beside the galley stove-oven. The top-opening 130lt fridge that has a stainless steel vertical door, while the double sink and deep fiddles lend practicality to the composite worktop, which is only marred by the glass splashback (potentially hazardous in race mode).

The only questionable item is the battery that unusually is above the engine, which does keep it away from bilge water but elevates weight.

The 38’s Functional deck & rig

On deck, twin wheels and a large, open cockpit distinguish the 38 as a cruiser-racer – but there's provision for a table in cruise mode, along with a folding swimplatform.

Ample locker space lurks under the side benches as well, with room for a liferaft for those Category 1 and 2 races. I particularly like the composite Carbonautica steering wheels for fine control and the binnacles placed within easy reach of the German mainsheet and traveller lines when shorthanded.

The main hatch gets my vote as best-in-class thanks to adjustable washboards, surrounding handrails and there's even a strong-point to clip on to. Moving around the deck there's little to impinge as you go forward.

The standard sailplan has a conventional genoa with optional asymmetric setup on the 9/10 alloy mast, but our test yacht came with the competition package plus tapered carbon rig held up by a stainless steel rod.

As this boat was very much in regatta mode the shallow chain locker was bereft of windlass but there's space for it with the addition of a bowroller.

Dehler 38-14

A good light-wind performer

Casting off on a fickle-looking Pittwater proved a good test of the Dehler 38, which motored along at a speedy 7.8kts at 2150rpm without any vibrations on the wheel from the folding propeller, as I chased some wind pressure on the calm waters.

Gazing down on us was a watery sun surrounded by a crescent of haze, undoubtedly heralding an afternoon storm, so we had to be quick.

And quick we were. I nudged our bow into the light breeze as my host John Cowpe from Windcraft pulled on the main halyard to reveal the North Sails taffeta 3DL sail, which slid up easily on the Harken mast track.

Pulling out the number one jib from the aft sail locker, it was slid into the Harken foil and hoisted without dramas – all easily done from the two coachroof halyard winches. I stood comfortably at the helm watching our hoists with a handful of mainsheet as we sped off toward the open sea.

Acceleration was the first noticeable plus-point on the Dehler 38. Sure we were paying for it with pricey North 3DL sails but boy, did it feel good.

Enjoying the rod rigging and that exotic carbon spar, I climbed high with the Dehler, winding in the mainsheet from my seated position on the coaming while the jib was tightened up with the barber haulers to nicely close the slot to the mainsail.

At my knee, the B&G Triton readout gave the numbers clearly: 6.1kts as the telltales levelled off at 35 degrees, yet the true wind was only 6.4kts. Light winds are a tough test for yachts and the Dehler 38 did very well.

Meanwhile, it performed equally well as we went through a series of tacks. These were easily done as I spun the lightweight, large-diameter Carbonautica wheels for some very tight tacking angles of about 80 degrees.


  • Overall design
  • Practical deck layout
  • Quality fittings throughout


  • Small portlight windows
  • Shallow windlass locker

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