BBA Breakthrough Launch winner, HH Catamarans on how its new 44 has transformed its business

Kim Hollamby
Thursday, 16 May 2024

Last November HH Catamarans picked up the coveted Breakthrough Launch of the Year award for its new HH44 at the 2023 Boat Builder Awards organised jointly by IBI and METSTRADE and held in association with Raymarine. We talked to company president Seth Hynes about the impact of the award and how the HH44 has transformed its business.

The HH44 was praised by the BBA judges for creating a new niche in the crowded cat market. What makes it special?

We were very excited about the award, and frankly, appreciative that others were seeing what we see as the way forward, especially for cruising catamarans. We are ahead of the curve being early adopters of this new technology.

The HH44 is a hybrid electric propulsion boat. There are lots of people that have built hybrid electric boats before – what’s different about the HH44 is that it was conceived from the ground up. Most builders have taken existing designs and tried to ditch the diesel engine and put in a hybrid – but it doesn’t really work that way. For instance, you need all the solar that you can fit on the coach roof. If you have a bimini, or deck gear and lines over the roof you cannot fit enough solar panels. Engine placement is critical too. This system needs a shaft drive – you can’t just swap out a traditional diesel with saildrive – you need to design the boat with the engines a little bit more forward amidships – so you can have a shaft drive with hydro-regeneration system. To us it makes so much sense and we think inevitably the industry will move in this direction.

What’s the impact been like with consumers?

The HH44 is the first in our second generation of boats. Our first 66 was a breakthrough boat and we launched the 55, and then the 50 – they were all Boat of the Year boats and very interesting, but they had more appeal to a specialised, limited market – the price points were high, the production runs were low, it was a very customised operation. The HH44, however, has proved a tipping point for the brand and the company. We’ve had 37 customers buy the boat just based on renders alone. We’ve been recognised by the BBA and nominated for five or six Boat of the Years with two more pending – so a lot of people are recognising that this is the way forward. We’re going to adopt this concept to our whole line moving forward. Our new 52 follows the 44 concept and launches at Annapolis in October.

How has production been impacted by the glut of orders?

Before the H44 we only had one production facility in Xiamen, China. We’ve outgrown that facility now and we’ve seen our lead times extend out to three years. There’s been so much demand for the boat that we’ve now added a brand new second facility – wholly operated by HH – in Cebu, in the Philippines. Xiamen will be for the 50, 55 and our larger boats. We’ve moved all the 44 and 52 production to Cebu. We have 10 HH44s and 2 HH52s in production there and the first 44 will launch next year. That will bring our production time to within 2 years. It takes us about 20 months to build the boat because of the amount of labour hours we put into them. It’s a very high-quality build. So far we’ve sold 40 HH44s.

How do you define the typical HH customer?

They have typically done quite well and looking to retire. They feel they have one life to live and want to spend the next 5-10 years spending part or full time on a boat. The living space a cat supplies is very appealing, especially with a carbon epoxy boat that we are building. It means you can bring the weight down but still have the living space. You get the best of both worlds – a luxury apartment on the water but one that sails well. It’s a great combination. That’s our sweetspot – buyers who want comfort but also enjoy sailing.

We also get complete novices who are avoiding the mistake that I made when I bought my first cruising cat. A lot of people go to boat shows and they go on what we call ‘condomarans’ and it’s very appealing – the house on the water – but they’re not out on the water, seeing the boat sail, understanding why construction techniques and materials matter, why weight matters, while naval architecture and the design of the hull matters, and they very quickly realise that maybe they have made a mistake.

We train novice customers. We have several people who had never sailed before and have now sailed half-way around the world. That is exciting for us. 

Entries now open for the Boat Builder Awards 2024

IBI and METSTRADE are pleased to announce the continuance of their decade-long collaboration with headline sponsor Raymarine to produce the globally unique Boat Builder Awards for Business Achievement. It will cast a spotlight on another year of remarkable industry advances across 11 categories spanning design, innovation, collaborative working, environmental responsibility, marketing and personal achievement. Culminating in a celebratory dinner under the starlight canopy of the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam on Wednesday 20 November.

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