By Paul Grimes
Used Boat Review: Hobie 33
Hobie Alter's 33 foot monohull was far ahead of its time, and the reasonable costs of buying and maintaining one make it a great value.
Owners of Hobie 33′s are likely to hear incredulous comments like, “Hobie made a monohull?” or “I didn’t know Hobie made catamarans that big.” Hobie Alter did develop a monohull sailboat in 1982, an innovative refinement of the ULDB (Ultra Light Displacement Boat) concept that started in California. It is a fantastic boat to sail, especially offwind.
Hobies love to reach, and their slim hulls allow them to keep sailing fast, even with some heel. This can be a shock the first time you bear off from close-hauled and the speed jumps from 6 to 9 knots – the speedo’s not broken, it’s just reporting the great news. Hobies are the type of boat that drives PHRF rating committees nutty – fairly predictable in medium air upwind and straight downwind, but capable of rating-smashing performance in light and heavy air.
The design’s only fault could be that it tried to combine too many boats into one. A boat with an 8′ beam and 48″ headroom was never really going to be a cruising boat. Hobies are sportboats, and don’t let the symmetrical spinnaker fool you.
As long as you aren’t expecting the versatility of an average 33 footer, you will not be disappointed. The boats have raced downwind from California to Hawaii, and shorthanded from Newport to Bermuda, but they’re not upwind ocean racers. And Hobies can be cruised, but they’re not cruising boats. Their design was far ahead of its time, and the reasonable costs of buying and maintaining a Hobie make it a great value.
Design – Light weight (around 4000 lb.), long waterline (30.5’), slender, bulb keel, plenty of sail, not much holding it back.
Symmetrical spinnaker – Very versatile, no need for multiple asymmetrical spinnakers. Not old-fashioned on such a light boat.
Well built, foam core in hull/deck – Usually no moisture intrusion issues.
Portable – Stores on trailer, launches from a hoist or ramp, deck-stepped mast can be raised anywhere, likes to go south in the winter.
What the Hobie 33 does best
One Design Racing – Fun boats attract fun people, and the class is still going strong. The easy trailering helps get the gang together.
PHRF racing – Great for evening racing – especially on courses with reaching legs . . . See ya!!
Distance racing – a good, entry level shorthanded boat. Not very comfortable , but the narrow hull and bulb make Hobies surprisingly seaworthy. Daysailing
Fun for a small group – especially in lighter conditions.
-Smaller than the 33 ft. length might lead you to believe.
-The 48” headroom limits use of the interior
-Deploying the engine is difficult when underway
-The cockpit is a bit cramped
-A tender boat – must shorten sail quickly in breeze upwind.
Tough and wet going upwind in rough conditions.
Things to watch for when buying a used Hobie 33
-Older masts with tired fittings.
-2-part rudder shaft can get loose with age.
-Moisture in rudders – as on any boat
-Crushed deck core between the mast step and the compression post.
-Lift keel vs. fixed keel – If you don’t need to ramp-launch, the fixed keel is simpler, allows an uninterrupted cabin sole, and allows access to the bottom and the keel for maintenance when the boat is on the trailer. The lift keel is well designed, but check for cracks at the ends.
-Sails – always important for a racing boat.
Rudders – some owners have substituted larger rudders for heavy air, offshore use. (Not class legal.)
-Masts – Ballenger Spars has made some double spreader masts to replace the original, single-spreader rigs. (Nice, but also not class legal.)
Where to learn more
Current owners – always a great source.
Class website and forum. Hobie 33 Class website
Santa Cruz 27 – a little smaller.
Express 27 – a more all-around performer.
Editor’s Note: Paul Grimes is an engineer and marine surveyor living in Portsmouth, RI. He is also a former Hobie 33 owner.