An Inside History of Hanse Yachts

Hanse 291

When we received the order confirmation for our new sailing boat from Hanse Yachts, I really wanted to write something about the quite fascinating history of the company and yard. After having done some research, though, I changed my mind. So many other people have done it much better than I ever could, so I decided to do something else instead. 

(Who are these people, you might ask! For an interesting interview with Michael Schmidt, founder of Hanse Yachts, I happily recommend: Hanse by Marianne Scott written for Professional Boatbuilder in 2004. Here is another great article: The Hanse Story by Peter K Poland written for Practical Boat Owner in 2015. Thanks to S&J over at myHanse.com for the tip!)

And what did I do?

Well, since this is a design blog and not a sailing blog (wait, what?), and since it’s always been much easier for me to emotionally connect with the look and feel of things, rather than the facts, here is my humble and completely biased take on the Hanse Yachts history, sitting at the lounge table, sipping on my drink and slowly travelling a quarter century back in history, all the way back to the year 1993.

1993

This is where it all starts. Hanse 291 is the name of the first boat. It’s cheap, they say, or good value for the money. Nevertheless, it’s the first, and what a proud moment that is.

1994

Coffee is served. Or will be in a moment. It was David Bowie’s “Electronic Period” in 1994, but I mostly listened to jazz. I keep staring at those upholstery stripes and waiting for them to move. The picture is from a Hanse 331.

1995

(No new models here.)

1996

This is the Hanse 292. I think the sleeping cabin in the bow looks adorable! As a kid, I’d want to sleep there and nowhere else. The patterns here are a bit mesmerizing as well, but now I’m thinking about the final scenes of Interstellar.

1997

It’s simple and tidy, and seems like a safe place to be. Ok, someone (Elton John?) left their sunglasses on the table. They look kind of cool. This is the inside of Hanse 301. Now let’s go outside and sail.

1998

Crazy green mattresses! This was the only interior picture I could find (on the Hanse Yachts site) of the Hanse 401, and I can’t stop watching the colour of the mattresses. I’m slightly colour blind myself, and maybe that’s why it’s so weird and fascinating.

1999

Here’s the first yacht Hanse made from scratch themselves (with designers judel/vrolijk & co), and it’s called Hanse 371.  The leap forward is quite dramatic, but I’m still sitting in a quite traditional yacht with traditionally dark mahogany and upholstery colours. (Someone left something in the salad bowl!)

2000

“In the year 2000” was a cool bit on the Conan O’Brien show, and here’s a cool boat, Hanse 311, that combines some of the old with some of the new. The mahogany parts are clearly from an earlier era (actual bookshelves with actual books!), while the white wall and the plainly designed sofas seem quite modern. The cups on the table must be some kind of Y2K bug, I think.

2001

Some red wine and pineapple, madam, and welcome to the Hanse 341! The rounded sofa corners and the glossier than glossy wood don’t feel very “Hanse”. It’s a bit crowded, I think, but the pineapple in the sink is funny.

2002

No new models this year. Hanse 300 and 311 get new high-gloss interiors. And the pineapple got some friends. (They’re clearly up to something. See them just waiting for me to look away!)

2003

Here’s a lounge where I’d be happy to spend the evening with some friends! When I think of the Hanse look in the 2000s, this is what comes to mind: spartan, minimalistic and square. Start out with no more than is needed, then add some, and sprinkle on some attitude. It’s a Hanse 531, the biggest Hanse so far.

2004

More of the beautiful minimalism. The jump from glossy mahogany to this is … well, enormous, and I’m ever so happy they did it. It’s a bit too cold for me, though, but after a few glasses of red wine, well, you know. I like it, but maybe not like it like it.

2005

This is the first picture where I can sense a strong desire to combine the elements from outside (light, sky, water) with the inside. I absolutely love that, and this is, to me, by far the most attractive interior yet. The boat is the legendary Hanse 400.

2006

Here’s another example of an interior that feels beautiful to me. It’s still clearly the lounge of a boat, but I think the move away from (what I might call) the Mahogany Cave Look towards the Trendy Flat Look is quite obvious. It’s for people who want to actually live aboard the boat, connected to the elements, as opposed to being primarily protected from the same. This is a Hanse 430.

2007

It’s the year before the global financial crisis and business is booming. This is the lounge of a Hanse 470, another legendary model.
This could well be a peculiar modernistic loft apartment, but it isn’t. It is a Hanse 540. It looks so empty, though, with its wide and open floor and funnily coloured furniture. Maybe the stock market crashed and people just left in a hurry? Maybe it’s something the children built, before they realized everyone had stopped playing?
The Hanse 630 completes the transformation from sailing boat to something completely different. This lounge feels like the VIP room of a nightclub, where some people go to get away from a crowd of other people, and maybe have a sobering moment and a brandy at the bar.

2008

(Global financial crisis. No new models. The whole boating industry is severely affected and Hanse Yachts’s turnover drops by 57% in one year.)

2009

Times are hard. It’s not so much the yacht (a Hanse 375) but more the photograph that seems so uninspired. There is wine on the table, but I don’t want any wine. I just want things to be better.

2010

A Hanse 545 and more of the uninspired and the wine that I don’t want. All the white makes everything look a bit cold and distant, and a bit disconnected.

2011

(The year when founder Michael Schmidt leaves Hanse Yachts and sells his remaining shares to investment company Aurelius.)

Ok. Hmm. What do we have here. Something fresh and new. A MacBook Pro on the table, and none of that wine but rather a cup of coffee! This is a Hanse 495 and I’m starting to get that good feeling again.

2012

Wow! Look at all those windows and all that light! This is a Hanse 575, and we’re back in business!

2013

The wine bottle is back again (but this time I don’t mind!), and the boat is a Hanse 505. The dark upholstery, French Oak furniture and Noce Nero floor create a distinguished atmosphere.

2014

This is the very first picture I ever saw of a Hanse yacht (a few years ago) and I fell completely in love with it. The soft pillows, the warm lights and colours, the windows, just everything (even the carpet!). It’s a Hanse 455, and I think one of the most inviting interior pictures I’ve ever seen.

2015

This is a Hanse 315 with the Classic Stripes floor and Canadian Chestnut furniture. It’s the smallest of the current Hanses, but doesn’t it look spectacular!

2016

A thoughtful combination of cool and warm colours with a lot of air and light. This Hanse 588 lounge, with French Oak furniture and Acacia floor, has a very Scandinavian feel to it. Funnily enough I speak Swedish, so I would feel right at home.

2017

A version of the yacht we’ve ordered, a Hanse 388 with Canadian Chestnut furniture and Classic Stripes floor. The union of light and matter is very attractive, indeed.

Back To the Future

It’s been fun for me to sit through twenty-five years of Hanse lounges, and quite amazing to see the development that has happened since the very beginning of the company’s history.

The Hanse yachts of today have, in my opinion, absolutely beautiful interiors, and I think the gradual move from sailing boat to sailing loft apartment is an excellent one. It should still be a sailing loft, though, that is able to take its residents safely and soundly through the waves, weather and other natural wonders it might encounter.

Good work and well done, Hanse Yachts!

Finally, I leave you with this picture from the future. Well, actually it’s not. It’s from 2014 and shows a Hanse 675 with a seriously spectacular interior.

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