DEHLER claim legendary success for the historic 34 which was launched more than 30 years ago as a production performance cruiser which sold over 1,300 units worldwide. It was a popular and good looking boat which certainly did well in areas of Europe where the brand was strong, but forgive me, I never really considered it a classic. Cult status? Granted, writes YL boat test editor Andi Robertson.
For the new Dehler 34 the German marque stick with Judel/Vroljk. The result is a sweet looking, beautifully proportioned small to medium sized cruiser racer. With respect to performance it’s a bit of a blank sheet of paper. You can spec it how you want, from an off the shelf, simple cruiser which I am sure will do well on the domestic club scene, simply because it seems quite quick all round and easy to sail, or it can be turbo’d up with a T-shaped iron lead bulb keel, tiller steering, carbon mast and boom, rod rigging, and laminate film sails.
Since it was first shown at the Southampton Boat Show, the boat really only came on stream in August, Inspiration Marine at Hamble have sold three of these new Dehler 34s and have a list of test sails to get through as and when the weather permits this winter.
I think this new model fits a really neat niche and should sell itself. It has a good level of interior space without compromising in either direction, so the hull volume really is moderate in all areas built on modest waterline beam and stern sections.
There are virtually no overhangs. Instead it is a sharp, plumb bow and flat transom to really maximise the effective waterline length. But, whisper it, there is enough accommodation and space inside that there are Dehler buyers who will go 34 rather than 38!
The interior has been developed by Dehler using a new 3D software package more often used in aircraft development. This has optimised the internal proportions and shapes.
The deck and cockpit layout are kept super simple, but again without compromise. The Dehler brand is synonymous with performance, selling favourably in Britain against X-Yachts and Arcona at more competitive price points, for those who are keener of value over prestige.
Sail controls are all as they should be to maximise speed and ease of handling. Hence there is a full width mainsheet track recessed in the cockpit floor. The A-style mainsheet is to hand on both sides of the cockpit for the trimmer and the 48:1 backstay is powerful and easily accessed.
There is ample space for the helm behind the wheel and it is interesting to see the tiller steered version has the recessed mainsheet track behind the helm, something not all grand prix helms are keen on.
The cockpit shape, proportions and layout are all good. The seats are long enough to lie out on in the sunshine in cruising mode, protected nicely by the deep coamings, but also they have a good toe hold and draining channel. The teak facings on the floor, cockpit seats and deck inserts are smart and practical. There is one big, commodious locker to port and two behind the wheels under the floor.
I liked the simple, drop down transom. Weight conscious racers will take it off, but it is great in port and at anchor.
Forward of the wheels there are a matching moulded instrument binnacle mounts which are good; not too obtrusive and well sited.
All the way through the set up of the sail controls and the small details, it is easy to appreciate the exacting influence of Karl Dehler, son of founder Willi who started the Dehler brand some 60 years ago. He races the Dehler racer cruisers in his native north of Germany and is always taking and acting on practical feedback from customers at the many regattas and events he attends.
The carbon rig is more than 50kg lighter than the aluminium version and sets 6sq.m more upwind sail area. Dehler claim the net saving in weight and extra power is worth 20 seconds per nautical mile faster.
The Dehler hull uses their carbon cage chassis grid system. Longitudinal and lateral box section stringers form a strong and stiff hull, optimising the spread of the keel and rig loads.
The Dehler 34 was quietly impressive. In 10-14kts of breeze and flat water it was fast and handled beautifully. It was one of those test sails which you left wearing a little smile of satisfaction.
There was no big excitement, neither was there any one thing that the boat did especially well, but it just went through its paces doing everything I hoped it would.
Upwind it was sprightly and powered up evenly in the gusts, but there is excellent grip on the rudder and the 34 responded positively when pressed. There was a good balance between stiffness and feel, there is ample stability built in, but it is also rewarding to be able to feel the trim and helm differences.
Sadly there was no kite action, but the Dehler 34 was smooth and untroubled reaching, leaving a clean wake and always answering the small changes in the helm. I do think Dehler would do well to have a boat out competing in a few regattas soon.
Inside, the ambience is carefully understated. The rounded linear locker faces and the gentle curves add up to something more than a stock, production interior. There is some good attention to detail around the galley, saloon table and nav station.
There are three wood finish choices, mahogany, teak and cherry and three more for the flooring, light coloured acacia, noce which is dark and a classic striped.
The galley has good work surfaces, excellent space with a top opening cool box as well as small forward opening fridge. Aft of the galley is the big double aft cabin which has a full length shelf outboard, and has good standing headroom at the entrance.
The heads shower compartment deserves special mention with a good, large sink and excellent shower space.
In general, the interior is well appointed with plenty of natural light, making a real virtue of simple, clean lines and good space.
Overall, the Dehler 34 is without doubt one of the best examples of a well thought out, fast and simple cruiser racer which has left a lasting positive impression.