AMONG new racing boats, all the action just now seems to be in single-handers, which appeal to time poor sailors who want to sail whenever the chance comes, rather than just when a crew is available, writes Alan Henderson.
The latest arrival is the Hadron H2, designed by Keith Callaghan, a man whose Merlin heritage shines through all the boats he designs.
So it is with the Hadron, which first saw the light of day back in 2011, as a chined wooden dinghy with a remarkable resemblance to a single-hander version of a Merlin. Over the next five years, the Hadron went through a metamorphosis, to emerge as a round bilged dinghy made in carbon, with just one chine, and looking much more like a singlehander. Its rig too, has had considerable development.
Now, as the Hadron H2, the production dinghy is here in its final form, and it first went on sale at this year’s Dinghy Show.
Designer Keith Callaghan explained his view of the H2, as ‘a singlehander for a generation of people who were keen dinghy sailors in their youth, but then got out of sailing as such things as career, children and mortgages took precedent. Then, years later, they find that the mortgage is paid off and the kids are off on their own, so time to get back into dinghy sailing!’
‘That generation may not be as fit as they used to be, and have put on a little weight perhaps, but they have a lot of sailing experience and know a good boat from a duffer. They can’t be bothered with the hassle of finding and keeping a good and reliable crew, so it’s a single-hander for them – but what is there in the marketplace which comprehensively satisfies their needs? NOTHING.’
This experienced generation of sailors is currently prominent in the dinghy world, with many older sailors willing to splash the cash on a quality boat which meets their needs.
Solos are popular with this group of sailors in the UK, while the much more expensive Finn fulfils this niche internationally. But could a modern, faster, boat appeal to many of these sailors?
The Hadron H2 is certainly quicker than these two venerable classes, while compared with other recent single-handers, the H2 has good beam to help provide righting moment, and has considerable room onboard. It is a boat you sit in, rather than a shallow beach boat which you sit on.
The H2 has a carbon rig, with an upswept boom, and a fully battened laminate sail, giving a modern look. The taller topsides and room inside add up to a boat which could suit older buyers well.
So that is an introduction to how it looks, but how does it sail?
The Hadron H2 is lively but surprisingly stable. The sail looked good, giving the best demonstration of square top opening up I’ve seen. Square tops are currently in fashion, and little square tops are even found on the top of jibs. In many cases however, they are more fashion statements than of sufficient substance to make a difference to your sailing.
Not so in the case of the H2’s sail. Its square top is sizeable and supported by angled battens, so you can easily see the top of the sail opening up as it is designed to do, spilling wind automatically in the gusts.
The sail was developed by HD Sails, and is the product of extensive testing, going through a number of versions before HD perfected the final design. At 9.3sq.m, the sail is quite generous in size compared with most competitor single-handers, and contributes to the H2’s lively performance. The sail is set on a Superspar carbon mast, with matching carbon boom.
The mast is deck stepped, with shrouds and a forestay adjustable from the cockpit. Shrouds are on pins. Four sail controls are led to each side to the helm; the usual kicker, cunningham and outhaul, plus the forestay. Designer Keith Callaghan told Yachting Life that he opted for a stayed mast, stepped on the deck, given his considerable understanding of these rigs with Merlins.
The rig as well as the hull has evolved considerably. The first wooden Hadron weighed in at 93kg, and had a 10sq.m sail. Since then, the hull shape has changed, and construction is now of the latest high tech materials, so a generous 17kg has been chopped off the boat. That has allowed the sail area to reduce to 9.3sq.m, and this sail area, on a much lighter hull gives the H2 a performance better than most competitors.
The foils are made by Simon Hipkin, Callaghan’s partner in the marketing of the H2, and Hipkin also fits out the hull after build by White Formula. The hull is carbon/aramid/corecellfoam/epoxy composite.
Both foils, like the boat, are designed to be easy and safe to use, so the H2 has a centreboard, and a lifting rudder. Both are of carbon construction. As well as being easy to lift, the raking centreboard will allow the owner to balance the rig when the helm chooses to rake the mast. The upswept boom makes it easy to get under when tacking, and will continue to give room when the mast is raked.
Inside the boat, the layout is a little different to most. When tacking, there were a couple of things to note. The first was the layout of the boat in the helm area, including the central buoyancy compartment or tunnel, and the second was that the H2 has a classic centre main, whereas many boats have either an aft traveller or an aft bridle.
But the first tack reminded me that I should not tack Laser style, with the tiller extension in front of me, but should instead tack in classic centre main style, with the extension behind your back. While the extension does not look particularly long, it’s just a little too long to tack in front of you, Laser style. However there is loads of space under the boom, unlike in the Laser.
As for the tunnel, you quickly get used to that, and in fact it soon became a positive, allowing you to use the tunnel as a kick out to your hiking position on the new tack. Hiking position was extremely comfortable.
Gybing was good, with the H2 powering up nicely out of the gybe, with the battens all popping easily in the 8-15mph winds on test. The H2 felt quick on the reaches. On the run, with a stayed rig, it is not possible to sheet out as far as you can in unstayed single-handers, so you will have less reverse flow than in say, Lasers. However it is a comfortable boat to sail downwind, and is also comfortable on the knees, whereas some competitors need you to kneel on the floor downwind. Instead on the H2, sailing downwind straddling or sitting on the tunnel was comfortable.
For fore/aft positioning, the H2 generally allowed you to take up the best position either upwind or down, though there may be some occasions when you’d prefer to be a little further forward, such as during tacking, and on runs when pushing your luck.
Designer Keith Callaghan’s estimate of PY is around 1040, which is perfectly credible based on the test sail; it is a fun boat to sail.
I did not capsize test the H2, but the septuagenarian Keith Callaghan kindly put on an unprompted demo, and amply demonstrated a simple recovery from capsize.
The H2 floats low on the water making it easy for the helm to get onto the centreboard. The H2’s buoyancy compartments are designed for easy capsize recovery.
The central tunnel keeps a good proportion of the total buoyancy on the water and this, plus the flooding side tanks, also aim to make the boat less likely to invert, and easier to get into from the water.
The transom is also open, so the helm can enter the boat from behind if he has difficulty getting over the gunwhales. The H2 can also be fitted with righting lines. The buoyancy layout is also designed to make the boat fairly dry when you right it, thus allowing you to return promptly to sailing the boat fast.
The designer has paid an unusual degree of attention to capsize behavior, something which should be applauded, especially since he expects many sales to be made to older sailors. These points will allow older owners to fully enjoy the H2’s performance on windy days, without being afraid of capsizing.
How does the H2 stand out against its competitors? Well I would say that it is the first single-hander to be designed with such a strong focus on the needs of an older demographic. So the H2 offers fast but stable sailing, a boat which an older generation can really enjoy without any fear factor of getting into difficulty with a capsize.
So it is much more fun to sail than a Solo, and much more comfortable on the knees than a Phantom, and offers far better capsize performance than its competitors.
No doubt many sales will be to the older generation for which it is designed, but the H2’s sailing qualities also give it plenty to offer to younger buyers. Price is £8,995.
• Test sail courtesy of Keith Callaghan.