The old adage says that whenever you have two boats sailing in the same direction, you have a race. While casual cruisers may deny this, many of us love to see just how well our boats sail in comparison to others. It’s just human nature.
So it was a pleasure to see several other mid-size sloops tacking down Narragansett Bay one afternoon last July when we were out sail-testing the Dufour 405 Grand Large (now the 410 GL). We had motored out of the marina at New England Boatworks, rolled out the in-mast furling mainsail and the genoa, and set off to see how the new design sails. The 405 does not come standard with a roller furling mainsail, but this boat had been spec’d out with one by the local dealer Northstar Yacht Sales, so launching the mainsail was a snap.
With twin wheels in the cockpit, I was able to sit to leeward, where I could see the genoa telltales and keep an eye on the mainsail trim. While you can’t see anything to windward from the leeward steering position, I did have a great view of everything to leeward and for me this is the place to sit when sailing upwind.
We threw the 405 through a few tacks to see how she performed and were pleased to see that the boat tacks comfortably inside 85 degrees and makes very little leeway when hard on the wind, even with the optional shoal draft keel. The afternoon sea breeze was building, so we had a pleasant 10 to 12 knots of wind. The 405 sailed comfortably at 7 knots hard on the wind in this breeze.
The cockpit is well laid out for handling the sheets with the mainsail trimmed on a winch on the cabintop and the genoa on large cockpit winches that are at a good height and easy to crank. Under the cockpit sole between the twin wheels, a neat life raft locker has been built in. And, the 405’s transom folds down, creating a large and useful stern platform with a retractable swim ladder built into it. We took a long board across the bay so we could engage the other boats tacking southward into the sea breeze. There were two production racer-cruisers in our size range and a couple of smaller boats. We reeled in the smaller guys effortlessly and soon had the larger boats in our sights. We were probably paying closer attention to sail trim than the other guys, but still the 405 sailed higher and faster than they did. From a mile astern, it took us less than an hour to get almost a mile ahead.
Satisfied that we had won, we eased sheets and jibed our way back toward the marina. Downwind, the 405 can be sailed wing and wing, but we wanted to see how the boat would do at deep reaching angles. At about 150 degrees apparent wind, with the genoa drawing fully, the 405 slipped along at an easy 7 knots in the 10 to 12 knots of true breeze. The boat seems to make its own wind once it gets in the groove and moving nicely. The new Dufour 405 was a pleasure to handle under sail. The helm was light, the boat sailed very close to the wind, and both up and downwind showed a good turn of speed. Whether cruising or racing, the boat will show her stern to a lot of boats in her class.
The 405 comes in two- or three-sleeping cabin versions. The boat we sailed had the two-cabin layout with a large centerline double berth forward and a double cabin aft to port. The opposite space where a third cabin could be installed is a handy cockpit locker and garage on the two-cabin version.
Both versions have two heads, with the after head home to the separate shower stall. The after head also has the commode facing forward, which is the best arrangement for use when at sea and heeled over.
The two-cabin version has an L-shaped “American-style” galley to starboard at the base of the companionway ladder. This will be a good seagoing galley and has plenty of counter and storage space. The fridge has both top and side access. The counters are Corian. The double sinks are in the outboard counter. The under-counter drawers and storage areas are neatly hidden behind doors that can be latched so you will never have the galley’s contents scattered across the floor when the boat lurches on a wave. The two-cabin version does not have a separate chart table, but uses the table between the single seats to starboard as command central. Instruments and the electrical panel are installed outboard. Most owners will install a chartplotter, which will be mounted on the after end of the cockpit table in full view of both helms. The table can be lowered to complete a full length settee that will also be a good sea berth.
The U-shaped dinette to port seats six with two sitting on the bench amidships. The bench provides a large central storage area. Additional storage is built in under the sole, including a large wine locker with built-in wine racks.
The interior is finished in a mahogany-colored wood called Moabi that has an attractive and traditional feel. The cabin sole is a modern Moabi veneer instead of the traditional teak and holly pattern. The cabintop and sides are off-white panels that really brighten the cabin and give it a Bristol-fashion feel. With two overhead opening deck hatches and opening side ports, the saloon will be well ventilated and bright. For a couple who often sails with friends, the two-cabin version will work nicely. For a family with children, the three-cabin version will certainly work better. In either case, the 405 offers a well thought out interior that works well underway or at anchor and is as modern and elegant as any of the new boats now offered on the market.
The Dufour 405 Grand Large does just about everything right despite its somewhat redundant name. The boat sails well and will be fun for competitive sailors and cruisers alike. The boat has a Cat A Offshore rating, so you can feel comfortable taking on long coastal runs or going offshore for a ocean passage.
The cockpit and decks are well laid out, uncluttered and easy to move around, and forward, the anchor system has been set up for easy regular use. The fold-down stern platform will make getting in and out of the dinghy easy and is a great sunning and swimming platform.
The boat’s systems have been installed with regular maintenance and occasional repairs in mind. The engine compartment has good access from three sides. The fuel and water tanks, batteries, plumbing and electrical systems all meet or exceed the top Euro zone regulations and ABYC standards.
The Dufour 405 GL is a production boat with a difference. You can feel the company’s nearly 50 years of boat building experience in every aspect of the boat and can rest assured that it will serve you and your crew well for generations to come.
Editor’s note: Since this review, Dufour has replaced the 405 GL with the 410 GL.
Dufour 405 Grand Large
Draft (stand.) 6’7”
Draft (shoal) 5’8”
Sail area 881 sq. ft.
Water 100 gals.
Fuel 52 gals.
Engine 40-hp. Diesel