This German builder of quality performance cruisers, part of the larger Hanse Group, made its name in the mid 1980s with the original Dehler 34. This was based on a hugely successful raceboat design that took the top four places among the best teams in the world at the 1984 Three Quarter Ton Cup. The design was then thoroughly revamped as a well-mannered performance cruiser with a lower centre of gravity keel than was fashionable at the time, top-notch sail handling systems and a quality interior. It was an instant hit, with some 1,200 sold over the decade and helped define the company’s brand and has since become something of a classic.

Dehler currently has a range of six models from 29-46ft, with the new version of the Dehler 34 and the Dehler 42 being the most recent launches. So how does the company’s new 34 footer compare? Watch our First Look Video below.


Key attributes

Although the original Dehler 34 was a ground-breaking boat in its day, yacht design has advanced hugely over the past three decades. For instance, although the new boat has more or less the same hull length as the original, waterline length is a whopping 1.3m longer. Maximum beam is also 20cm greater and is extended further aft. The result is a significantly bigger and more sophisticated boat, yet one that also has radically more stability thanks to both the modern hull shape and a deep draught bulb keel.

The extra stability translates directly into four key advantages – comfort at sea, ease of handling (because response in gusts is tamer), safety and the ability to carry more sail. The latter points to a further difference between the two boats – despite its more restrained styling and more refined handling this is a significantly faster boat than the old one. The difference is as large as that between a mid 1980s car and an up to date Audi or BMW.

Dehler has always made good engineering a key selling point and continues to do so with the new boat. The floor structure, for instance, is reinforced with uni-directional carbon fibre at strategic points, creating what the company calls a “carbon cage”. It’s claimed this increases the rigidity of the floor structure by 20 per cent and the mast base by an impressive 50 per cent.

Dehler 34 carbon cage

Good engineering has always been a feature of the Dehler range - here we can see the Dehler 34's carbon cage.

Dehler 34

The Dehler 34 aims to emulate the success of its forebear.

Below decks

The interior has a well proportioned, quality feel. The layout provides for two large cabins, while the salon has two comfortable settees, an excellent L-shape galley and a small navigation station. The heads compartment is equipped with Dehler’s Uni-Door concept in which one door separates three areas, providing maximum privacy when space is limited. Interior options include a semi open plan forepeak in lieu of the standard separate cabin and weight saving furniture aimed at buyers for whom performance is a key criteria.

Dehler 34 interior

The standard layout of the Dehler 34.

On deck and performance

The new Judel / Vrolijk design has retained sporty sailing characteristics, with a hull shape that promotes higher maximum speeds than the earlier boat. Karl Dehler, chief developer of Dehler, says: "The new Dehler 34 was developed as a luxurious performance cruiser, with an incredible amount of space, headroom and tank volume. Performance oriented sailors can upgrade the 34 with everything – and I mean absolutely everything – that leads to more performance.”

The deck layout includes a German style mainsheet system, with a 2:1 purchase tailed to winches each side of the traveller. In addition to the performance oriented features that make it easy for a small crew to sail the boat close to the maximum performance potential, there’s also a fold down bathing platform and really automatic stowage for the washboards.

Equipment and options

The boat was conceived with a wide range of options that enable it to be configured to owners’ exact requirements. For instance, you can choose tiller steering or twin wheels and three keel types are available: a competition T-keel with 2.10 m draught and two L-shaped keels with 1.95 m and 1.55 m draught. Other external options include a bathing platform and a fixed bowsprit that’s used for both anchor handling and for Code 0 and other asymmetric spinnakers.

Dehler 34

The Dehler 34 blends comfort with fun sailing.

What it does best

This is a boat that blends comfort with a design that will clearly be a lot of fun to sail. While there are boats of this length that offer more interior volume not all of them use that space to full advantage, nor can they match the Dehler’s refined sporty handling.

Compromises and alternative boats

Building a boat to this standard and with this level of deck gear is inevitably more expensive than one that’s trimmed down to the minimum equipment necessary. Nevertheless, the base price of the new boat is still competitive and in real terms, allowing for inflation over the past 30 years, is significantly lower than that of the original Dehler 34 when it was first launched. Given how much of a superior boat the new model is, it’s clearly excellent value in those terms.

There are fewer performance cruisers in this part of the market than in previous years. The most obvious alternatives are the Arcona 340, while the 36ft J/112E is also aimed at a similar part of the market. Alternatively, the new Bavaria 34, while more of an outright cruising boat than the Dehler, has an efficient keel that will help to promote good performance and handling.

Dehler 34 specifications

Overall length: 10.70m
Waterline length: 9.60m
Beam: 3.60m
Draught: 1.55m (shoal keel) 1.95m (standard keel) 2.1m (deep T bulb keel)
Sail area: 65sq m (standard rig) or 71sq m (tall carbon rig).
Engine Volvo Penta 18hp diesel

Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.