12 international youth teams are battling it out at the Red Bull Youth America´s Cup Selection Series Events off the coast of San Francisco for starting spots at the main regatta taking place as part of the 34th America's Cup in September 2013.
In contrast with several other category winners that earned praise for executing new ideas well, the Hylas 56 was named the Best Premium Cruiser Over 55 feet because it did such a good job of implementing tried-and-true ideas in an exquisite package.
The boat’s easy-to-use anchoring setup, beefy winches, and bomber cleats caught the judges’ eyes, as did the sturdy hull, high-quality systems installation, and copious on-deck storage. Thanks to well-conceived handholds, logical brace points, good-size berths equipped with excellent lee cloths, and the large, well-equipped nav station, the judges found that the accommodations below would be safe and comfortable at sea. They also felt that the boat’s large galley, bright and airy saloon, and opulent owner’s cabin aft could make for luxurious living when the sail was done. High-quality components are used throughout, and unlike on some boats, which place critical systems in hard-to-access areas behind furniture, most systems on the Hylas are easy to reach.
The Hylas 56 is available with a variety of mainsail options, but the boat the judges sailed had in-mast furling that, once an initial jam was worked through, performed well in the light breeze that prevailed during the sea trial.
Under sail, in 6 to 8 knots of breeze, this moderately heavy-displacement sailboat gathered speed and held it, and the judges concluded that the cockpit and deck layout would be both safe and comfortable on a long passage.
The boat’s high-quality materials, superior craftsmanship, and sturdy construction should be up to the rigors of extended passagemaking.
The interior is both elegant and superbly functional.
The boat is big enough to cross oceans yet can still be sailed easily by a shorthanded crew.
Stand at the bow of the Dufour 525 looking aft as the boat loads up hard on the wind, and you'll appreciate what the clean-lines movement in yacht design has been about. On deck, this Dufour is elegantly simple in ways that are a joy not merely to look at but also to use.
The 525 is the flagship of the cruising series that Dufour calls its Grand' Large line, with seven models starting at 32 feet. It's also the winner of the Full-Size Cruisers category in Cruising World's 2009 Boat of the Year contest.
"The open, flat deck was just a pleasure to walk around on," said BOTY judge Ed Sherman after sailing the 525 last October off Annapolis. "I could take this boat out and sail it alone, just like a giant dinghy, and really have a good time with it."
Sherman wasn't exaggerating. We sailed 21 boats in this year's BOTY contest, and I'd be hard-pressed to name one that was easier than this 52-footer to sail shorthanded-never mind that it also happened to be the second-largest boat in the fleet.
In the five years since Cantiere del Pardo acquired Dufour, we've seen a steady shift in the direction of the company's designs. Taking a page perhaps from the Grand Soleil line of performance cruisers and grand-prix competitors that the Italian company also builds, Dufour's recent cruising boats feature details we'd normally associate with raceboats. The 525 displays some of the best of them in the service of shorthanded sailing: a retractable bowsprit from which to fly an asymmetric spinnaker (the tack can be adjusted from the cockpit); a double-ended mainsheet system of the kind that was pioneered for Admiral's Cup racing and that brings sail control all the way back to the helmsman; and a sleek profile that just begs you to sheet in and steer up. The clean deck also offers at least three places to stow a dinghy while under way.
"The long-waterline, wide-wedged design of this boat intrigued me from a performance standpoint," said BOTY judge Ralph Naranjo, describing his first impressions. But, as he said, the 525 isn't a raceboat. The boat's displacement-to-length ratio of 174 puts it squarely in the middle of the pack, where seakindliness begins to trump light-air performance: The 525 is 80 points heavier than a Santa Cruz 37 and 80 points lighter than an Island Packet 460. Closehauled in 8 or 9 knots of breeze, we sailed the 525 at 6.5 knots. Under power at 7.5 knots, it was among the quietest quarter of the fleet, thanks in part to its slower-turning Volvo diesel.
The Dufour 525 is a cruising boat, but one that's truly meant to be sailed-and deck monkeys need not apply. Taking the boat through several tacks alone, I could sit at either of the twin wheels and easily reach the mainsheet winch behind me or the genoa winch just forward. Certainly, the optional electric primaries will help trim the boat's 740-square-foot genoa in a bit of breeze.
The cockpit is spacious, yet nicely suited to the human form. Wide coamings offer a comfortable perch in the breeze. Settees port and starboard are long enough to nap on while also offering protection under the dodger; a bona fide sundeck aft of the helm took our accolades for best-in-show. "That sunbathing aft deck: fantastic!" said BOTY judge Stacy Collins, who also thought it would be an ideal spot at which to clean the day's catch. One deck detail we didn't like was that the ports in the cabin side open outward; an errant sheet could damage them.
The companionway features an innovative captive dropboard that can be raised to various heights and opened and latched from on deck or below without a key-a real plus.
Dufour offers eight different interior arrangements for the 525: three or four cabins; an L-shaped or inline galley; and either a sail locker or crew's quarters accessed by a deck hatch forward. The model we sailed featured three cabins, an inline galley, and the crew's quarters. In that version, the owner's stateroom forward of the mast features an island queen and a reasonably spacious head with separate shower. "The master berth was great. It was big and easy to get into," said Collins. "It had good reading-light placement, and the master head was really nice, too." She particularly liked such details as a bin next to the sink where you could put either jewelry and watches or toothpaste and toiletries.
The overall styling of the interior is pleasing, with touches of dark wenge set off by white upholstery. On the downside, the cabin sole flexed underfoot in the galley, and the back support behind the settee cushions felt thin and flexible for a boat this size. Minimal fiddles and usable sea berths led one judge to deem the main saloon "more of an entertainer than that of a long-term cruising boat." Many of the systems are installed according to European Union standards but not to those of the American Boat & Yacht Council. In particular, Sherman noted the side-opening door to the smallish LPG locker.
Measured in dollars per displacement, the sailaway price of close to USD $600,000 places the Dufour 525 in the less expensive half of the new-boat fleet. Whereas some price-sensitive builders give their best attention to how a boat will function as a waterfront home, Dufour has clearly focused on creating a boat that's a real pleasure to sail. The Elvström/Sobstad sails delivered as original equipment were among the best we saw in the whole fleet; the design of the deck and cockpit kept all the running gear both out of the way and low on friction; the feel at the helm was enough to send four BOTY judges off the water at the end of a long day smiling.
"This was a great boat to sail," said Sherman, "and overall, I liked it a lot."
I did, too.
LOA 50' 3" (15.32 m.)
LWL 45' 1" (13.74 m.)
Beam 16' 1" (4.90 m.)
Draft (shoal/deep) 6' 6"/7' 9" (1.98/2.36 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 1,066 sq. ft. (99.01 sq. m.)
Ballast (shoal/deep) 10,670/9,900 lb. (4,840/4,491 kg.)
Displacement 35,640 lb. (16,163 kg.)
Ballast/D (shoal/deep) .30/.28
Water 198 gal. (750 l.)
Fuel 132 gal. (500 l.)
Mast Height 68' 0" (20.73 m.)
Engine 75-hp. Volvo
Designer Umberto Felci and Patrick Roseo
Sailaway Price USD $595,000
Dufour USA Inc.
When I climbed aboard the new Lagoon 560 catamaran at Strictly Sail Miami last winter, I couldn’t help but overhear the couple inspecting the boat at the same time, who were clearly serious customers. She was talking heatedly about the color of upholstery and who would get which bunk; he was sizing up the bulkheads and deciding what art would hang where in their new home.
And a comfortable home it would be, I thought. With accommodations on three levels, an overall length of 56 feet, and a beam of 31 feet, this latest entry from the world’s largest catamaran builder was bigger than the house where my wife and I raised two children and a large dog. And with AC, a washer and dryer, a fridge, a freezer and icemaker, a built-in wine locker, and a master cabin complete with its own companionway, it looked to be a whole lot more comfortable.
Plus, I’d discover a couple of days later, this cat could sail.
With a handful of guests aboard, Lagoon’s sales director, Yann Masselot, stood at the wheel atop the flybridge and employed the pair of optional 110-horsepower Yanmars with conventional shafts and three-blade Flexofold props (75-horsepower Yanmar engines and saildrives are standard) to jockey us off the dock and into the channel against a beam-on crosswind. Honestly, it made me wonder why anyone would order the optional bow thrusters.
Soon enough, we were through Government Cut and in open water off Miami Beach, where the cat loped along at a little better than 7 knots under the staysail and main. We added a knot or more when we cracked off to a reach, furled the jib, and rolled out the gennaker situated on the outer stay of the three-headstay rig. Electric winches made sailhandling a fingertip exercise, and the helm felt smooth, even in the swells and occasional powerboat wakes. Longitudinal chines on the hulls and a gull-wing-shaped bridgedeck also helped tame the seas.
Designed by Van Peteghem Lauriot Prévost, and with an interior by Nauta Yachts, the 56 is the largest family cruiser in the Lagoon line. Like its smaller siblings, it’s available in three versions—Essential, Cruising, and Comfort—to accommodate varying budgets. The boat we sailed (hull number two) was loaded with bells and whistles, including a Bose home theater, with independent sound systems for the saloon and what I’d call the cockpit (though Lagoon calls the area aft of the cabin house “the terrace”). A second cockpit is forward of the saloon and aft of the bow trampolines.
The 560 has two layouts, a five-cabin version with a pair of bunks tucked in a cabin into the port hull amidships, between the two staterooms, and the four-cabin layout that I inspected.
In either version, the aft cabin to port is entered through a companionway from the terrace, which provides a great deal of privacy. The owner’s cabin has access to both the saloon and terrace, and there’s a shower located right next to its companionway, a convenient place to store wet foul-weather gear or to rinse off in private after a swim.
Vertical windows—which give all Lagoon models their distinctive look—provide 360-degree visibility from the saloon and deliver plentiful natural light. Interior woodwork comes in a choice of three finishes; blonde oak, glossy teak, or matte teak. The boat I visited had the glossy teak and a light-colored sole, which created a very attractive living space. When opened, a large centerline sliding door allows the interior space to flow easily outdoors, where the crew can relax under a large bimini that shades a table and seating for eight or more. When you enter the saloon, there’s a large, U-shaped dining and lounging area to port. A nav station—loaded with Raymarine instrumentation mounted on retractable panels—is forward amidships. Thanks to autopilot controls on the desk, it could serve as an inside watch station on a stormy passage. An island to starboard provides additional galley storage and counter space and would be a convenient place to set down a cocktail or serving tray with guests aboard.
My choice for sailing, lounging, and entertaining, though, would be above, on the flybridge, under the Park Avenue carbon boom. Forward is a comfortable helm seat, surrounded by four electric winches and all the necessary sail-control lines. Aft, there are cushion-covered benches for sitting and lounging.
While grand and elegant, the 560 is very much a production boat, with a new model ready for delivery every two weeks. The resin-infused hull is solid glass to the waterline; topside, and in the deck, balsa coring is used to reduce weight. LED lighting is employed throughout the boat, both for interior and navigation lights.
Base price for the 560 is just over USD $1 million, although the boat we sailed was priced at $1.155 million with all its options.
A catamaran this size is probably not for the occasional sailor, but for someone looking to make long passages or to while away the days in secluded anchorages, this new Lagoon is definitely a sailboat that would make you feel right at home.
LOA 56’ 0” (17.07 m.)
LWL 54’ 0” (16.47 m.)
Beam 31’ 0” (9.44 m.)
Draft 4’ 11” (1.5 m.)
Sail Area 2,227 sq. ft. (206.9 sq. m.)
Displacement 66,812 lb. (30,306 kg.)
Water 252 gal. (954 l.)
Fuel 344 gal. (1,302 l.)
Holding (per head) 21 gal. (80 l.)
Mast Height 94’ 0” (28.66 m.)
Engine Two 75-h.p. Yanmar/saildrives
Designer Van Peteghem Lauriot Prévost, Nauta Yachts (interior)
Base Price (owner’s four-cabin version) USD $1.155 million
The middle of March is typically not a time that New Englanders rush to go sailing, but that’s exactly when I found myself hustling down the highway toward Mamaroneck, New York, to catch up with Tim Jackett and get a look at his latest addition to the performance-cruiser genre, the Tartan 4000. Like other recent sailboats from the Tartan Marine Company facilities in Painesville, Ohio, the 4000 hits both corner posts of its design brief square on: Elegantly rendered creature comforts are encapsulated by a slippery hull and a power-packed sail plan that promises—and delivers—a seakindly and spirited ride.
I managed to arrive for our sail a few minutes early, which meant that I could take my time walking the length of the boat, beginning at the Delta Anchor mounted on the dual-roller stem fitting, strolling past two Harken headsail furlers, part of what Tartan call its Cruise Control Rig, then under the carbon-fiber mast with dual swept-back spreaders and a Park Avenue boom to arrive at the pair of custom-molded pre-preg carbon helm pedestals at the aft end of a very spacious cockpit. Those pedestals, I’d learn, were designed by Jackett with an opening where they meet the cockpit seats, allowing a 6-foot-plus crewmember to stretch out and relax. The seats themselves flank a stylish teak fold-down table, the aft end of which doubles as an instrument pod and the home to a small electrical panel that controls exterior and navigation lights.
With its dark-blue hull, a white, low-profile cabin, and solid bulwarks sporting teak rubrails and toerails, the many elements of the 4000 blend together with traditional good looks. And those many small details sprung to life once Jackett climbed aboard to discuss the elements he’s designed into a sailboat that sits at the midpoint of a line that ranges from 34- to 53-footers.
The first element he pointed out was the width the deck carries aft from the shoulders; it adds to the considerable volume below, but in a way that allows the hull to taper at the waterline so that sailing performance isn’t diminished.
Side decks on the 4000 are wide for easy movement fore and aft. The chainplates mounted inboard, next to the cabin house, also help in this regard and facilitate more aggressive sheeting angles when the boat is sailing closehauled. For windward work, the Cruise Control Rig—think solent setup, featuring dual headstays mounted close to each other—features a self-tacking nonoverlapping jib on the inner stay and a 150-percent genoa on the outer. With two reef points as standard in the German-style double-sheeted main, this arrangement allows multiple sail combinations that can be selected to match the elements.
Conditions for our test sail that late winter day on Long Island Sound featured sunny skies, tolerable temperatures, wind in the low teens, and flat water. We used the electric all-chrome Harken winch on the cabin top to raise the main, and we were off. With the jib set, we cruised right along at 5.5 knots in about 12 knots of breeze, tacking with a turn of the wheel through about 100 degrees. On a reach with the genoa unfurled, we picked up a knot and a half or more as the breeze freshened.
With the two wheels set just forward of a wide seat that folds down to double as a swim and boarding platform, it was easy to find both a comfortable perch and good sightlines to both the horizon and the telltales. The 4000’s motion through the water was smooth and steady, and I found, even below, that I didn’t need the ample handholds included in the design. This sure-footed ride was due, at least in part, to the lead-bulb beavertail keel (a fin or keel/centerboard are other options). The one hitch, as the wind ticked up, was a sticking helm when the carbon rudder and shaft loaded up, indicating that just-launched hull number one needed an adjustment to its wire-and-chain steering gear or a rethink of the rudder bearings. Otherwise, though, the Edson steering provided good feedback to the helmsman.
Under power, the 75-horsepower Volvo turbo with saildrive and four-bladed prop (a 55-horse Volvo is standard) moved us along with authority; thanks to the bow thruster, maneuverability was assured. Jackett said that during sea trials on the previous day, boat speed registered 6.5 knots at 2,000 rpm and topped out at more than 9 knots at 3,200 rpm. I did duck below while we motored to see if the noise level was tolerable. It was.
The 4000’s hull is a foam-cored epoxy-and-glass composite sandwich; the deck is cored with balsa, with solid epoxy and aluminum “windows” for drilling, tapping, and mounting hardware. Interior paneling and joiner work is done in American cherry, giving the saloon and owner’s cabin forward a rich, warm feeling.
The owner of hull number one plans on cruising with children, so in addition to settees that double as sea berths to either side of a centerline drop-leaf table, Jackett replaced cabinets located outboard to starboard with a fold-out pilot berth—a custom touch it’d be hard to obtain from a straight production builder.
The owner’s cabin, behind the chain locker and watertight bulkhead, features tongue-and-groove woodwork, a centerline queen berth, and a head with a separate stall shower.
Aft of the portside galley (whose counters are a granite/foam composite sandwich intended to trim pounds) and opposing nav center, owners have a choice of a two-cabin layout or a single guest cabin to starboard and a quite large storage locker to port that’s accessed from the cockpit. As one would expect on a boat built for cruising, an abundance of storage drawers, bins, and hanging lockers are found throughout, and there’s a galley designed to put a smile on the face of the most demanding cook.
Visit any boat show, and you’re bound to find a line at the Tartan display. Tim Jackett and the designers who preceded him have produced a fleet of boats that have attracted a large and loyal following. The 4000 breaks new ground from a design standpoint, but as far as being a rock-solid sailer and sweet-looking cruiser, well, it’ll fit right in with the rest of the family.
LOA 40’ 8” (12.4 m.)
LWL 36’ 5” (11.10 m.)
Beam 13’ 0” (3.97 m.)
Draft 7’ 0” (2.13 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 929 sq. ft. (86.3 sq. m.)
Ballast: fin 6,400 lb. (2,903 kg.)
beavertail 8,000 lb. (3,629 kg.)
centerboard 8,600 lb. (3901 kg.)
Displacement: fin 19,604 lb. (8,892 kg.)
beavertail 20,104 lb. (9,119 kg.)
centerboard 21,104 lb. (9,573 kg.)
Ballast/D (f/b/c) .38/.40/.41
D/L (f/b/c) 172/186/195
SA/D (f/b/c) 20.5/20.1/19.5
Water 100 gal. (379 l.)
Fuel 50 gal. (189 l.)
Mast Height 64’ 2” (19.56 m.)
Engine 55-hp. Volvo, saildrive
Designer Tim Jackett
Price USD $425,000
My initial reaction to the Sense 50 that debuted in Annapolis last fall was wonder. As the Boat of the Year judges and I made our way to conduct dockside inspections of Beneteau’s new models, a din of cheers, clapping, and excitement erupted from their corner of the show. The docks were almost impassable, but as we wound our way through the crowd, the source of the hubbub became obvious.
Coincidentally, we’d scheduled our appointment with the Sense 50 just as Beneteau dealer Garth Hitchens was demonstrating its new Dock & Go system, which enables the Sense to turn and maneuver in a manner unlike any other sailboat on today’s market—even those with a bow thruster.
Dock & Go was developed by Beneteau in conjunction with Yanmar and ZF Marine. It employs a powerful bow thruster, autopilot, and rotating saildrive that are linked together by a software interface to allow pinpoint, close-quarters control by means of a simple joystick.
Though the Dock & Go system is a game changer, during our dockside visit and subsequent sea trials, I learned that it was just one reason for applause. The sailboat’s overall layout was another way in which the Sense 50 stood apart and was ultimately judged to be 2011’s Best Full-Size Cruiser, 50 to 55 Feet.
The judges liked the boat’s deep, low, wide-open cockpit that includes twin wheels and helm seats that hinge up and out of the way. At anchor, they agreed, the seating area would function like a sun deck for the crew. And while the space was comfortable and seaworthy under sail, the judge’s sole complaint concerned a lack of footholds to brace yourself when heeled.
The judging panel noted the easy transition from the cockpit into the saloon, which takes advantage of nearly the entire 16-foot beam. They likened it more to a catamaran companionway where you step “into” the accommodations on the bridge deck rather than “down” into the interior. The saloon’s low orientation and wraparound views, not to mention the comfortable settee and oversized galley, also received nods of approval.
During our test sail in a wet, 14-knot breeze off Annapolis, the boat was nimble and registered 5.6 knots upwind. The hull shape suggested that the 50 would enjoy a good reach, a fact confirmed by the speedo once we’d cracked off a few degrees.
When it was time to douse the sails and start the motor, the judges found the Dock & Go easy to operate. The joystick provides both directional and throttle control. Simply push it in the direction you want the boat to turn; to increase power, spin the knob on top. The judges did question the consequences if the system’s software crashed, but those concerns were overridden by witnessing firsthand the capabilities of the rotating drive and thruster. They unanimously agreed that the Sense 50 was the show’s most innovative new boat and that with a little practice, the Dock & Go system would have even the most nervous helmsman docking like a pro.
LOA: 50’ 1” (15.27 m.)
LWL: 46’ 1” (14.05 m.)
Beam: 15’ 11” (4.86 m.)
Draft (deep/shoal): 6’ 11”/5’ 9” (2.10/1.75 m.)
Sail Area (100%): 1,259 sq. ft. (117.0 sq. m.)
Ballast (deep): 8,739 lb. (3,963 kg.)
(shoal): 9,808 lb. (4,450 kg.)
Displacement: 33,710 lb. (15,295 kg.)
Ballast/D (deep): .25
Water: 193 gal. (730 l.)
Fuel: 219 gal. (830 l.)
Holding: 21 gal. x 2 (80 l. x 2)
Mast Height: 73’ 6” (22.40 m.)
Engine: 75-horsepower Yanmar/Dock & Go
Designer: Berret Racoupeau/Nauta Design
Price: USD $425,000
Sabres are built in Maine and designed by Jim Taylor who not only has a reputation for drawing good-looking boats but boats that are well-behaved, as well. The Spirit is nearly 37 feet long with a six-foot seven-inch deep fin keel and a high-aspect balanced spade rudder. A big main and a self-tacking, fractional 100 percent jib are hung on a carbon-fiber mast from Hall Spars that's stepped on the keel. A low house compliments the hull lines and keeps the boat looking sleek even though there's full headroom below. Typical of the new breed of daysailers, the Spirit has a large cockpit-10-feet long-and weekend accommodations for two below.
The interior woodwork is satin-finished in gorgeous cherry with a teak and holly sole. A small galley to port of the companionway is opposite a walk-in head/shower; two settees flank a table aft of the mast and a comfortable V-berth. The lack of a bulkhead between the saloon and the forepeak makes the airy interior seem bigger than it really is.
When it came to producing their version of the recently popular class of boats known as daysailers, Sabre took the long view, waiting a few years to see who came up with what good ideas, and what seemed to be popular before they introduced their Sabre Spirit into the fray. The result is a sharp-looking, well-performing daysailer that not only works as a weekender, but a racer as well. With a self-tailing electric main halyard winch and roller-furling, self-tacking jib, it was a snap to get sailing. Upwind, the GPS showed us sailing at 5.6 knots in 6 to 7 knots of wind, and when the breeze lightened we sailed faster than wind speed.
Sail controls are designed and led for both shorthanded and crewed sailing. The mainsheet is led to winches on each side of the cockpit, within reach of the helm but also far enough away to allow a main trimmer room when sailing fully crewed. The wheel has a light touch, but still offers enough feedback to assist trimming for proper upwind weather helm.Downwind, setting the kite is also simple; pull the halyard to the masthead, tack line to the bow, raise the snuffer, and sheet in. Without a sprit this asymmetric is narrower than most, but still flew well in our light-air, flat-water test conditions. It also jibed with ease.The fractional rig has enough sail area to move the boat along in light air yet looks as if it would be easy to set up for breezy conditions.
The Sabre Spirit uses a Selden/Furlex roller-furling headfoil designed to keep the furling drum below deck and minimize forestay sag. A self-contained hydraulic ram adjusts the topmast backstay of the fractional Hall carbon mast, simultaneously controlling mast bend and forestay tension. Rod shrouds lead over two sets of aft swept spreaders. This combination of carbon mast, continuous rod rigging, and aluminum boom is a cost-effective way of obtaining great performance.
The deck arrangement worked well, ergonomically, in many ways. The cockpit coamings are long, protecting the crew from any water that may accumulate on the weather deck. Their angles and curves were conducive to sitting outboard, which offers a better view of the sails and waves. Many daysailers have comfortable cockpits, but few have equally comfortable interiors. The Spirit has both, and belowdecks there are two central settees, great for lounging or entertaining. The navigation table and electrical panel are at the forward end of the port settee, dividing this area from the forward V-berth.
The galley is aft to port and the enclosed head is just to starboard of the companionway, not the usual location, but sensible for a daysailer. Sabre builds the Spirit with a fiberglass PVC foam core laminate, which gives strength and stiffness. Vinylester resin is used in the outside layers for blister resistance and polyester resin for the balance of the laminate. Additional transverse floor beams stiffen the keel area where stainless steel keel bolts and silicon bronze nuts can be inspected under the cabin sole. Shroud chainplates attach to composite knees that are cosmetically covered with cherry wood veneer. Sabre has put together a polished product that sails well and is easy to handle, both shorthanded and fully crewed.
The boat is simple enough to rig that even a two-hour window in a busy schedule should be plenty of time for sailing. With a PHRF New England rating of 87, a Sabre Spirit won Marblehead's PHRF Boat of the Year. Equipped as we sailed the boat at $300,000 the Sabre Spirit is a winning combination of speedy daysailer with true weekend cruising and racing capabilities.
If you're thinking about pleasing both your passions, cruising and racing, the Grand Soleil 40 fits right into today's crossover designs by combining a Euro-styled exterior, optional teak decks, a comfortable interior, and good sailing performance. One GS 40 races IRC in Europe with a 1.094 rating, and the boat is expected to rate between 51 to 54 PHRF. With 40 boats sold in the first year after introduction to the European market, Grand Soleil has certainly hit a resonant note with a part of the market looking for teak-decked luxury and good sailing performance without the price of a Swan. At a base price of $319,000 (when we sailed the boat last October), the GS 40 is likely to appeal to weekend cruisers who like to occasionally bang around the cans. The fit and finish, and overall attention to detail is up to Cantiere del Pardo's usual high standards, which should assure buyers a good return on their investment when it comes time to trade up.
According to one sistership's IRC certificate, which has different specs from that of the manufacturer, the moderate-displacement Botin & Carkeek design weighed 19,427 pounds on a waterline length of 35.1 feet for a displacement-to-length ratio of 201 (a J/42 comes in at 203). Three rig versions and two keel options are available. We sailed with the standard rig and shallow 7-foot keel, and the boat moved fine in the light air and flat water, but with a heavier displacement and less sail area than other similar sized boats, the acceleration wasn't as quick and performance in a chop may suffer. Performance minded sailors who race in light-air areas will want to order the tallest IRC version rig and the deeper 7'1'' keel. The GS 40 is better than many production boats where dramatically shortened stern overhang (an attempt to have more "boat" in the same length) causes transom drag. At the speeds we sailed there was no immersed transom drag.
Upwind our GPS showed speeds of 6.8 to 7.0 knots with a 130-percent roller-furling genoa. Grand Soleil maintains the efficiency of this sail by mounting the furling drum below deck so the luff can be full length and the foot of the jib end plated to the deck. The three-spreader Sparcraft aluminum mast is supported by discontinuous wire rigging. Wire is an interesting rigging choice because it stretches more than the rod shrouds of most other boats this size. Shrouds and spreaders are swept aft so there is no need for running backstays. Forestay tension and mast bend are controlled by the winch handle-operated backstay adjustor, which serious racers will likely upgrade to a faster hydraulic system. Downwind we tacked the asymmetric spinnaker to the anchor roller, which served as a short sprit. Most GS 40s also sail with a spinnaker pole.
As with other Grand Soleil designs we've sailed, the 40 was easy to get in a groove, steered well, and was easy to sail in the relatively light air in which we sailed. With our crew of eight, proper crew weight distribution, especially when sailing downwind, was important, and the ergonomics of the cockpit worked well. We tacked through about 75 to 80 degrees, and had no trouble getting the overlapping headsail around the rig and shrouds.
The Grand Soleil 40's cockpit has comfortable seating, including the helm area where the cockpit coamings are lowered to a height suitable for sitting outboard. The cabin top is kept clean, with halyards and reef lines run under deck from the mast to jammers aft of a dodger-mounting rail. Standard hardware includes Harken traveler and self-tailing winches, two 40.2 halyard winches and two 46.2s for sheets.
The traveler spans the cockpit just forward of the steering pedestal where the mainsheet can lead directly to the end of the boom. With the standard layout, the mainsheet then runs forward along the boom and back to one of the cabin-top winches. Jib sheet winches are located abeam of the traveler on each side. Grand Soleil may consider this arrangement convenient for shorthanded sailing because the jib sheet can be reached from the helm, but sailing with a crew becomes difficult. Again, racers will probably opt for a pair of larger genoa sheet winches on the molded locations in the forward third of the cockpit coaming, and convert the mainsheet to a double-ended system leading to the winches set on either end of the traveler. With this setup, the main trimmer can reach both sheet and traveler, and the jib trimmers and grinders will have room for smooth tacks without elbowing each other and the helmsman.
The full-featured interior feels more spacious than one might expect thanks to the light provided by eight hatches, four large cabin portlights, and four hull portlights. The main cabin's focal point is a wrap-around dinette and table to starboard. There is a centerline seat, providing seating on all sides of the table, which is rare to see on a 40-footer. The galley lines the port side, and aft of the dinette, just to starboard of the companionway, is the navigation station with chart table, seat, and instrument mounting area. Further aft on each side are double cabins. Each has a door, bureau, seat, and double berth. Although not physically large, they, too have a spacious feel with light from an overhead hatch and from a cockpit portlight, illuminating white upholstery hull sideliner. Cabin soles are the familiar teak and holly-veneered plywood.
Cantiere del Pardo builds the Grand Soleil 40's hull and deck with fiberglass foam sandwich. Termanto closed-cell PVC foam is used in varying densities for the core, with E-glass skins. The outside layers of the hull are laminated with vinylester resin for increased blister resistance and the balance of the laminates use polyester resin. In addition to the stiffness provided by bulkheads, Cantiere del Pardo uses a steel grid framework bonded into the hull, which stiffens the bottom of the hull from the forward berth to the engine bed, includes the transverse keel stiffeners, serves as backing plates for the keel bolts, and mast step, and also transmits the chainplates into the structure.
Unfortunately, bilge access was limited and we were unable to see the keel-bolt attachment, which can be a concern for keeping an eye on the long-term health of the galvanized steel frame in an area that's likely to be wet. The keel is a lead casting bolted through a solid glass section of the hull and the steel frame, and the rudder is similarly conservative with a stainless steel shaft and backbone surrounded by a foam blade with E-glass skins.
The 27-hp Volvo D40 is quiet with good sound insulation including gasketed access doors allowing for conversation nearby even with the engine running. Most of the common service points of fuel filter, dip stick, and injectors are easily accessed by lifting the air spring-supported companionway ladder and attached engine box face, but the raw water strainer required an additional Allen key for access. Like most contemporary boats the Grand Soleil 40's engine uses a sail drive, which lessens vibration and has more efficient horizontal thrust. Performance-minded sailors would want to upgrade the standard fixed prop to a folding prop for a significant light-air speed advantage. We powered at 7.5 knots on the GPS at 2,500 RPM.
With three double cabins, central dinette, full galley, and two heads the Grand Soleil 40 packs a lot of interior and comfort into the 40-foot length. It tilts toward the cruiser side, but with a judicious choice of factory options can also have a good turn of speed for those seeking to combine cruising accommodations with club-level racing.
With the Dufour 425, the builder's design team has delivered a modern-styled fast cruiser that targets the midsize market with touches of flair and performance. And after close scrutiny by Cruising World's Boat of the Year judges during and after the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, I'd add that the crew at the factory in La Rochelle, France, has made big strides in quality control and boatbuilding efficiency.
The new boat's plumb stem and relatively straight sheer hint at the raceboat demeanor and round-the-buoys reputation of the competitive Dufour 44. The 425 comes standard with a full-batten main and a boom-mounted sail pouch, but with a 5-foot-9-inch shoal-draft keel and an optional (at no extra cost), relatively benign fractional Sparcraft rig sporting both roller-furling jib and an in-mast furling mainsail, the 425 is clearly set up for ease of sailhandling rather than tweaked for speed. In other words, it's a boat that's designed for cruisers looking for a hint of performance to spice up their relaxation.
With a light-ship displacement of 18,700 pounds and a beam of 13 feet 8 inches, the Dufour 425 can be ranked as a high-volume, moderate-displacement cruiser, and designers Umberto Felci and Patrick Roséo have taken their Euro-styling pedigree to heart. The wide aft cockpit is augmented with a central table that acts as a good foot brace when beating to weather; a twin-wheel arrangement allows the helmsman to perch at either rail and trim a nearby jib sheet. Access from the transom remains wide open and allows a singlehander to quickly cover the distance between the helm and the mainsheet tailed to the cabin top.
Dufour's latest approach to boatbuilding includes a focus on system installations and composite technology. Effective resin control was noticeable in lockers where the inner laminate skin could be seen. The company uses an NPG gelcoat, vinylester resin, and PVC foam core in the hull laminate, and it employs polyester resin in the deck. The deck is built via a resin-injection molding process that incorporates a double-sided mold. One of the big upsides associated with this method is the ability to achieve two finished surfaces and eliminate the need for an under-deck liner to hide the rough surface associated with single-sided molds. We did notice some deck flex and squeaking on the port side near the aft part of the cabin house, which may have been due to an incomplete bond to the bulkhead below.
Twaron, a para-aramid fiber akin to Kevlar, is used in the keel-attachment area, and its high-tensile strength helps to spread the ballast and other global loads in this highly stressed region. The chainplates are connected to the hull via a tie-rod-and-toggle arrangement that's attached to a stainless-steel bar held in an FRP laminate. The engineering and structural attention to detail in this part of the boat is quite effective, and rig loads from both the chainplates and the mast's compression post are shared by an FRP grid structure. The iron keel is attached with stainless-steel bolts, and the rudderstock is also stainless steel.
The Dufour 425 comes in either a two- or three-cabin layout; we sailed the latter. The vessel's wide stern provides room for smaller aft cabins, both with double berths, a head, and a good-size chart table. The galley, with outboard sinks, resides amidships and is located to port with a dinette to starboard. I'd prefer a more traditional U- or L-shaped galley with midline sinks for going to sea. A double-berth cabin with a head and shower occupies the forward end of the boat. The tight turn of the bilge limits stowage under the cabin sole, and although there's lots of volume in the form of cabin space, storage for long-range cruising is a bit limited. Dufour offers an optional layout that solves this problem by eliminating one of the aft cabins and making it akin to a storeroom.
A 40-horsepower Volvo saildrive comes as standard propulsion; a 55-horse motor is optional. The engine was neatly installed, and the plumbing and wiring were done to ISO standards. One of the big plusses in the boat's design is the easy access to the raw-water and coolant pumps and the alternator-items that occasionally need attention, often at inconvenient times.
One of the most notable traits of the Dufour 425 was the attention to detail we saw in such features as wiring and the electrical distribution panel. For example, leads were effectively bundled and strapped into place in a manner that will minimize chafe, and tinned wire was used throughout the electrical system. Plumbing runs were also carefully connected and led in a sensible fashion.
Under way, the roller-furling mainsail didn't have a lot of punch in light air. The sails on the boat we tested were easy to handle, but the trade-off invoked by the shallow-roach main was less-than-rousing light-air performance. A conventional mainsail with more roach would've been a better alternative. Even so, when we did see a puff, the Dufour quickly accelerated and scooted along at better than 5 knots in 9 to 10 knots of breeze. Those looking to up the go-fast factor, especially in light air, and those interested in doing a bit of club racing would indeed benefit from the deeper fin-keel option (with a draft of 6 feet 11 inches) and a conventional mainsail.
Under power, the Volvo saildrive pushed the boat at 2,500 rpm to 7.8 knots, better than hull speed, and did so with low vibration and a moderate noise rating (88 decibels). The twin Lewmar wheels provided good visibility for the helmsmen, although I could feel the extra drag of the unused wheel when maneuvering.
Some will appreciate the Dufour 425's racy bent, but for cruising, I'd prefer to see a handrail forward of the mast. And when retrieving the anchor, it was hard not to brush it against the plumb bow, even with a great double-slotted bow roller. Most owners choose a stainless-steel bow protector to prevent nicks in the bow.
We also noticed that the genoa sheets caught on athwartships opening hatches. Of course, those hatches would still help provide ventilation when in port. A sensible alternative would be the addition of good-size dorade vents.
That said, the Dufour 425 is a fast, modern cruiser with good passagemaking potential and a good comfort quotient for when you arrive in the next port, ahead of your crowd. It has large, well-secured cleats, a dedicated life-raft locker, and hard points in the cockpit on which to fasten harness tethers-all features I'd look for in a boat that I might take cruising.
Skull & Bones