The French builder dials in the sweet spot with their new, three-cabin ultra-modern family cruiser, complete with built-in grill (published March 2017)
Good ideas are catching. Once you’ve had one, it’s only natural to want to leverage it. That’s why French builder, Dufour, picked the most popular features from their recently-launched larger designs and included them in a 46-foot model that settles nicely into the sweet spot for a versatile family cruiser.
Dufour rolled out five models over the last two years, which is a good clip. What made this possible was dialing in suggestions from market feedback about what makes a boat fit today’s lifestyles at anchor as well as under way. With this latest launch, the Dufour line consists of seven models, 31-56 feet, and the new GL 460 is a puzzle piece that fills in an important gap in the midrange.
Perhaps the best way to experience the Dufour GL 460 deck and outdoor amenities is by stepping aboard the drop-down transom and working forward. The transom raises and lowers electrically and adds three feet to the boat’s overall length when at anchor or in a slip. This teak bench provides extra room for those getting ready to snorkel or for anyone wanting to just relax at the water’s edge. It’s also a great way to board from a dock or dinghy.
But here’s the surprise: The swim platform is also a place for a chef to stand when cooking on the Eno Plancha grill. Two sections of the transom seat hinge open to reveal the barbeque as well as a sink and a cutting board, which complete the outdoor galley. This popular feature wowed boat show goers when it was first introduced on the GL 500 and it has proliferated throughout the line. Not only does outdoor meal preparation keep the interior cooler, but it also allows the chef to stay with the party and that makes cooking less of a chore. It mirrors how we entertain at home so it’s no wonder this feature is popping up on both power and sailboats.
Two steps on starboard lead up to the cockpit that is slightly A-shaped. In addition to the drop-leaf centerline table, with an optional integrated refrigerator, there is a portside settee with a section that forms a sun pad or a playpen. Just flip it up, pull down the hinged leg and lock it in place. It disappears just as easily. Other than a filler cushion, there are no parts to have to secure or store elsewhere.
A 12-inch Raymarine HybridTouch MFD is mounted on the aft end of the cockpit table and is visible from both helms. It doesn’t swivel so, in sunlight, it’s not always at the best angle to be read easily. Engine controls are at the starboard helm only and are mounted inboard on the binnacle. That’s great if you’re left-handed but it will require a bit of docking practice if not.
The coachroof is low and the side decks are wide. Hatches are flush to save your toes. Nothing really impedes quick progress to the bow where the pulpit opens onto the composite delphiniere or bowsprit. This metal structure is overlaid with fiberglass that blends nicely into the hull. The sprit’s dual purpose is to keep the anchor tucked neatly beneath so no lines catch on it, and to serve as a sprit for tacking down the optional gennaker.
Sail handling couldn’t be easier. The continuous German-style mainsheet leads back to two Lewmar primary winches reachable from the twin wheels. Two halyard and reefing winches are on the cabin top at the companionway to handle lines coming through 11 Spinlock rope clutches. This arrangement leaves the cockpit open and workable for both short-handed sailing and club racing with crew.
The 9/10s fractional rig has a tapered deck-stepped Z-Spar mast with twin, aft-swept spreaders. The standard configuration includes a 95-percent self-tacking jib, which makes singlehanding easy. The total upwind sail area is 1,074 square feet with a traditional mainsail. The low boom allows crew of any height to easily tidy up the main and zip up the sail bag in minutes. Our boat was equipped with cross-cut Dacron sails by Elvstrøm and a Facnor furler for the headsail. Radial cut, laminated sails, an in-mast furling mainsail and a traditional overlapping 108-percent genoa are optional but in my opinion, the standard main and the simplicity of the small jib combined with a Code 0 or gennaker for downwind work, is the way to go.
Due to a complete boycott by the wind during our test sail on Chesapeake Bay, I can report first hand only on the GL 460’s performance under power. Our test boat was equipped with the standard 54-hp. Volvo Penta diesel with a sail drive. Maneuvering from a tight spot at the marina was easy with the help of the Holland Marine jet bow thruster. It has replaced the traditional drop-down, propeller version and while it provides ample power and seems a bit quieter, it has no prop to snag lines or debris.
On the flat water of the bay, we opened her up at wide-open throttle and 2,800 rpm. Top speed was 8.7 knots. A more economical cruising speed will be around eight knots at 2200 rpm, which is respectable for a monohull. An engine upgrade to 75-hp. Volvo is available but the fuel sipping 54 may make better use of the 66 gallons of fuel.
I’ve sailed just about every Dufour Grand Large in the lineup including the big 500 and 560 so I have a good feel for how light and well-balanced Dufours are. I expect that given a 12-knot breeze at 60 degrees apparent wind angle, the GL 460 will do better than eight knots and boat speeds in the nines and tens should be possible on a beam reach with just a bit more wind.
SURPRISES BELOW DECKS
Although the GL 460 comes in a variety of interior layouts, the standard is the one most requested by customers. The GL 460 replaces the previous 45-foot model and the interior redesign makes the new boat look and function more like her popular siblings. The split galley is forward between the master stateroom and the saloon. This creates effectively two workspaces; to port is the Eno stove and a large single sink while to starboard are twin Isotherm refrigeration drawers, good countertop prep space and a cupboard that hides a pullout espresso coffee maker.
Not only does the galley provide a bit of privacy for the forward stateroom, but it also uses space efficiently when the boat is at rest. One drawback is that a lateral galley leaves few places to brace oneself when cooking underway and heeling. Another issue is that walking from the galley to the cockpit with a bowl of hot food makes for a long journey when the boat is on its ear.
Positioning the saloon farther aft where the beam is at its maximum makes the dinette feel open. The L-shaped settee and the accompanying inboard twin bench seat can accommodate six for a meal. Two more can sit on the port side sofa that can be lifted and pulled inboard to make it a few inches wider and more comfortable.
The clever navigation desk may be configured two ways: aft-facing with the seat formed by the end of the settee or forward-facing with the desk surface pulled forward and the small seat slid aft on rails. It’s a very quick changeover that dedicates the starboard corner to entertaining or to ship’s business depending on the needs of the day. I also liked that you can tilt the desk, creating a level surface regardless of the angle of heel. If you’ve ever tried to work on a laptop when the vessel is clawing to weather, you’ll understand.
Two cabins are aft and that is the standard configuration. One or two heads may be specified on this end. The other head is en suite in the forward stateroom and is split into the toilet and sink compartment and a large separate shower room. The master berth is an island with large stowage drawers below and an overhead hatch that combines with deck portlights and hull windows to bring lots of light into this cabin.
This layout capitalizes on all the currently in-demand features but there is also a four-cabin, four-head version with a straight-line galley running along the starboard side. This layout will probably find its way into charter.
A wine cellar is a Dufour trademark so, of course, a rack is tucked under the floorboards at the base of the companionway. The stowage options throughout are plentiful. The finish on our boat was Canadian, oak-colored Maobi wood with a white headliner for a bright and modern appeal.
Like many new designs looking to maximize waterline length, the GL 460’s bow is blunt and the transom is snub. There’s nothing traditional looking about her and all but very old salty dogs, with an affinity for long overhangs and acres of exposed teak, will find her attractive. A hard chine has been added to the newly designed hull to help keep her more upright in a seaway. The construction is a hand-laminated layup with an injected PVC foam core and she weighs in at just under 24,000 pounds.
Below the waterline, there is a choice between two keels to accommodate deep and skinny water cruising. The single semi-elliptical rudder is filled with closed-cell foam and maintains a good grip even on a beamy boat such as this (14’ 6”).
Our test boat was outfitted with air conditioning, outdoor galley, genset and electronics. Add commissioning, bottom paint and delivery to the East Coast and the as-tested price is $411,000, about $100,000 over the base. Combine the 460s good sailing qualities, comfortable accommodations, quality construction and all the amenities you could ever need and the 460 really hits the sweets spot.
Dufour Grand Large 460
LOA: 46’ 6”
LWL: 41’ 1”
Beam: 14’ 6”
Draft: 7’ 3”, 6’ 4” shoal
Displacement: 23,722 lbs.
Sail Area: 1,074 sq. ft.
Fuel 66 gals.
Water: 140 gals.
Engine: Volvo Penta 54 hp
Designer: Felci Yacht Design
Builder: Dufour Yachts,
La Rochelle, France
Price: $305,000 base,
$411,000 as tested
(FOB East Coast)