When searching for information on the Nordic-20 vs Halman-20, a request for information was sent to Mr. Colin Starratt who kindly responded with a great deal of personal experience in a Halman-20 that he owned for many years. The story he tells about his choice of boats is certainly humorous and interesting reading for all of us.
The boat we had was a Halman, not a Nordica. The "Nordic" appellation in the sales literature referred to its design roots in the boats found in the North Sea area of Europe ... heavily rigged double enders (two lower shroud sets, canoe stern) with a full keel and a small cockpit. The Halman was certainly a lovely boat to sail ... very forgiving of rough weather and following seas, not to mention inexperienced helms persons and sail trimmers. The full-length keel meant it tracked well downwind while keeping a shallow draft (2' 10"), but even the cut-away forefoot didn't permit it to tack anywhere near as quickly as a fin-keel or a centerboard design.
Nordica was one of the makes we considered when we were looking for a new boat in 1980. Although I am not absolutely sure of this, I believe the two craft had the same designer. The general concept was the same, but the execution was slightly different. The Halman had larger ports in the forward section of the cabin (the Nordica 20's had small round ones), and this is one of the quickest ways to tell which of the two boats you are looking at on the water.
The major design difference is in the hull. The Halman 20 had a single-piece hull, while (as I understand it) the Nordica 20's hull was formed in two halves that were bonded together along the keel and centerline. This difference permitted the Halman to have a cut-away forefoot on the keel that permitted it to tack a bit quicker than the Nordica with its full-length keel.
The Halmans ballast of iron punchings is encapsulated inside the hull, giving the keel a rather thick cross-section compared to the Nordica. Therefore the leading edge of the lowest section of the keel immediately aft of the cut-away forefoot was consequently 6 or 8 inches wide, and I feel that this reduced any lift from the keel you would get when sailing into the wind due to increased turbulence. It was also vulnerable to rocks, being the first point of impact when (not if!) you went aground. The manufacturer's answer to this was twofold: first, the glass in the leading edge was 3/4 of an inch thick or more. Second, the whole area was reinforced during the manufacturing process by tipping the hull forward until it rested at an angle of 30 degrees or more, then pouring in a bucket or so of catalyzed fiberglass resin so that it pooled within this leading edge area, and then adding a bucket of iron punchings, creating an iron-reinforced plug of resin bonded to the inside of the ballast chamber right at the nose, and held in place by the rest of the loose ballast. (I know this for a fact because, due to my boat being left open to the weather after a break-in, water got into the ballast chamber and I was forced to remove all the punchings and whatnot to dry them out. The Shop Vac I used to remove 1000 lb. of wet iron certainly earned its keep!)
I am a gunkholer, and every year my wife and I would trailer our boat to a cruising ground such as Georgian Bay and spend two weeks aboard exploring whatever inlets and islands I had the nerve to approach with our shoal draft. I would find rocks with my keel now and then throughout the sailing season, usually fairly gently, but sometimes at speed, and after the third occasion I decided against replacing the gel coat yet again and just applied an inch-thick layer of Marine-Tex epoxy filler over the area as a "bash-plate". This solution served me well over the 10 years we sailed the boat on a regular basis, and it even saw use on dry land: when trailering the boat home from Parry Sound (on Georgian Bay) we drove over a pavement-to-gravel interface section of the highway that had a significant drop to it. The boat jumped forward on the trailer, pushing the winch mast ahead, and the keel's leading edge bash-plate ground into the end of the trailer tongue (which sat above the trailer body). No damage other than to the Marine-Tex, although getting the boat back into position involved tying the lowest rudder hinge to the base of a telephone pole to hold the boat still while I pulled the trailer ahead underneath it with the tow vehicle (a 4x4) until the boat was on the pads properly again.
My point to all of this is that the narrower cross-section of the Nordica keel's point of first impact probably wouldn't have stood up nearly as well to the punishment I inflicted upon that of the Halman: the point-loading would have been double or triple, with more damage resulting.
We had done the same sort of sailing with our previous boat, a Windmill 15 ft. plywood dinghy (gunkholing and finding rocks, that is), and when considering boat designs, we speculated on the possibility of the two halves of the Nordica hull splitting ... an unwarranted fear, perhaps, but it was a factor in our eventual decision, and with the Halman hull there was no possibility of this happening. When we went looking for a new boat, we knew what kind of sailing we wanted to do, and what usually happened when we went exploring, and we wanted a boat that would stand up to it while giving us enough cabin space to comfortably live in for longer than just a weekend. Both the Nordica and the Halman had a relatively small cockpit and large cabin, especially when compared to contemporaries such as the Sirius 21. In addition to the foregoing hull considerations, the Halman of 1980 had better spars than the Nordica (cabintop-mounted Cinkel mast and boom, with internal halyards, jiffy-reefing lines, and topping lift, as well as an adjustable base for positioning the mast fore or aft to adjust for weather helm). The inside cabin layout seemed roomier, and it also had a salesman who was willing to dicker and cut corners to get the price down even further (such as selling us a secondhand trailer). We went with the Halman 20.
That having been said, we certainly saw the Nordica 20 as a more luxurious boat than the Halman, and more than once we looked in admiration at one, especially if it was out of the water so that its seaworthy-looking hull was visible and most especially if there was a propeller in the hull/rudder aperture: this spoke of extreme luxury in a boat that size. After all, even in those days an inboard diesel installation cost 1/4 to 1/3 of what we paid for the whole Halman, and even when we ordered our current boat in 1992 (a Nimble 26 Arctic pilothouse motorsailor) we still couldn't afford to get a diesel for it (although I regret that decision every time we have to tie up in a marina while out cruising to charge up all the batteries because the 9.9HP Yamaha 4-cycle outboard only has an 8-amp alternator) There are always too many option choices and not enough money! ;-)
Thanks Colin - LM