Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hunter 490

In 1977 I bought a kit Hunter Europa from Hunter Boats of Rochford, and fitted her out for cruising and club racing.* (See Small ‘Zeta’ – Hunter Europa 19 in the Links section) At that time Hunter Boats ceased producing their Hunter 490 which was a brilliant small cruiser/racer. She had a proper drop keel, but the internal housing for it somewhat restricted the accommodation. Although she had little more than sitting headroom, she was a very good boat for single-handing. Stowage space wasn’t up to much, but there was enough for solo weekending.

She was a trailer sailer that could be left on a mooring if need be, without fear of her capsizing. Her high aspect Bermudan mainsail and Genoa gave her a good turn of speed. All lines for working the boat were led back to her spacious cockpit. She was vice-free and she had a well-balanced, sensitive helm. Her performance to windward was above average, partly due to the tight sheeting angle of her foresails. This was achieved by mounting the shrouds on chainplates attached to the sides of her cabin trunk. Racing crews could sit her out, if somewhat painfully, by perching on her raised coamings, but not if a pushpit was fitted.

Peter Poland, the man in charge of Hunter Boats at the time, decided to move on and produce the Hunter 19 followed by the Europa 19, all designed by the legendary Oliver Lee. I felt it was a shame Hunters stopped making 490s, but in terms of good business, they were proven right. I will add a footnote that bigger is not necessarily better. The problem is commercial viability.


Built between 1972 and 1977 – 80 reputed, but between 40 and 50 more likely

LOA 4.9 m
LWL 4.26 m
Beam 2.01 m
Draught 0.46 m up 0.99 down
Displacement 454 Kilograms
Sail Area Main 6.5 sq m
Jib 4.65 sq m
Genoa 9.29 sq m
Spinnaker 15.6 sq m
Berths 2 (Advertised as 3, but no way)
Engine Outboard 2 – 3 HP

Text for the Day

Matthew 6:34 ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’


Hunter Association

490 Under Sail

Hunter 490

Hunter 490

*Small ‘Zeta’ – Hunter Europa 19


Unknown said...

The Hunter 490 was the first boat I ever owned. Having moved from Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, to South Benfleet, in Essex, I joined the Thames Estuary Yacht Club. Here I was able to joining members on their dinghies if they needed a crew (albeit an inexperienced rookie!). After a year I was chomping at the bit to own a boat. The older members were really patient with me when I discussed the possibility of building a 30 ft yacht from plans!
But some other members were thinking of graduating from racing dinghies to keelboats.
One Sunday, when we had some friends visiting for the weekend, I took the male friend to the yacht club for a drink and a look round. On arrival at the club jetty I found a chap called Malcolm McKeag who was showing off a pretty little yacht - the Hunter 490 - and offering test sails in it. I didn't hesitate. What a thrilling little boat she was. Perfect for a first boat. So on Monday morning, after a brief discussion with my wife, I turned up at the Hunter factory at Rochford where I met Malcolm, Peter Poland, Derek Chardin and his father John Chardin. And I placed a deposit for a 490, to be fully completed by them (my work commitments didn't leave time for building a boat!).
When I told the club members what I had done, there was considerable interest. So much so that Hunter Boats received a further 7 orders for 490s from the club. It was agreed that all were to be launched on the same day with a little naming ceremony being performed by Peter Poland and our special guest, Nicolette Milnes-Walker (

This was the start of some excellent sailing days and racing in our ready-made fleet. We even had our own cruiser class at Burnham Week!

William Serjeant said...

Hi David,

Thanks for your comment. I happened to buy Nicolette's record-breaking Pioneer 9 'Aziz'. I would have loved to meet her.

You can find mention of 'Aziz' in the blog by entering the boat's name in the search box.

I wonder what happened to all the 490's at the Thames Estuary Yacht Club?