The afternoon after the Annapolis sailboat show that we had a chance to give the new Elan Impression 45 a sail trial turned out to be very nearly flat calm. I was sailing with Rick Dieterich, owner of Springline Yacht Sales, who is a new Elan dealer, and with us was Matic Kelmenc, Elan’s marketing manager.
We rolled out the sails, adjusted trim for the light breeze and drifted around for an hour or so, trying to make the best use of the zephyrs that occasionally blew by. If we had been actually cruising and going somewhere, we would have had the engine on. But, we wanted to see how the 45 sails, so we made an effort to do so.
The 45 is a Rob Humphries design and is a family cruiser with a good turn of speed and handy performance. Humphries is a highly accomplished, British yacht designer. He designs all of the new Oyster Yachts and has created numerous fast racing machines, including an Open 60 for Ellen MacArthur in which she set a non-stop around the world record.
Elan is a Slovenian company that manufactures skis and skiing gear. They have been in business for 60 years and got into the boat building business 40 years ago. Always interested in performance and racing, Elan now builds two lines of yachts, the performance E series and the cruising Impression series.
Humphries likes to say that Oyster and the big projects are the glamorous side of his design business but Elan is where he has the most fun designing boats that are being built by dedicated sailors for dedicated sailors and at prices that many can afford.
The 45 that Rick, Matic and I were sailing is a classic example of that special combination of ample accommodations for a family and sailing capability—a thoroughly modern boat without any extreme design elements.
The boat has a pleasant sheer with a raised cabin top and large cat’s-eye windows. The topsides have four rectangular windows so each of the three sleeping cabins and the saloon get plenty of natural light. The bow and slightly raked stern are pleasantly balanced and give the boat a traditional appeal. The topsides have a slight step or detail about a foot below the toe rail that visually breaks up the expanse of fiberglass and adds a touch of elegance.
The boat we sailed had a simple sloop rig with an in-mast furling mainsail and a roller-furling, 125 percent genoa. The control lines lead aft to the cockpit and cabin top so you never have to go forward to fly, reef or furl the sails. A single electric winch on the cabin top makes working the sails and halyards a simple chore.
We played the light puffs and the 45 showed that it is no slouch. In the light stuff, we could sail at close to 40 degrees apparent and tack through close to 80 degrees. Upwind we could make our own wind but once we fell off the breeze and the apparent wind decreased, sailing become more problematic. But in the puffs, the sails would fill and we could feel the 45 gather her skirts and start to sail nicely. We whistled for the wind but in the end it never built so we called it a day.
Under power, the boat handles well. The sail drive generated a bit of vibration on the rudder but this is normal, particularly when the boat is fitted with a two-bladed folding prop. At cruising revs of 2,200 rpm, the 55-horsepower Volvo pushed us along at 7 knots in flat water. At maximum revs, the boat will motor at 8.5 knots. A 75-horsepower engine is optional.
The cockpit has twin wheels so you can steer from either the leeward side where the telltales on the genoa are most visible or from the windward side where the 360-degree visibility is better. The helm seats are wide and high enough to make seeing forward possible. Just aft, two small teak seats are built into the pushpit where you can relax and keep an eye on things when the autopilot is doing the steering.
The wheel pods have spaces for multi-function displays and to mount sailing instruments, the autopilot, engine controls and bow thruster controls.
The transom is partially open but the bottom half folds down to make a large boarding and swim platform. A single step is molded into the transom and the swim ladder folds down to make getting out of the water a cinch.
The ergonomics of the cockpit are excellent. The table has large folding leaves that will accommodate up to six for a meal. The bench seats are long and wide enough to make good places to lie down or even sleep while on passage. The forward end of the cockpit is raised into a bridge deck so water is unlikely to find its way into the saloon.
The 45 is a very well designed and laid out cruising boat on deck that is easy to handle from the cockpit and capable of making good passages under both sail and power.
The 45 has four different accommodation plans all of which are built around the saloon, galley and chart table. The galley, to port of the companionway, is slightly U-shaped with the dual sinks nearly on the centerline, the three-burner stove outboard and the large, side-loading fridge under the counter next to the stove. This will be a good seagoing galley and offers plenty of storage and cabinets for supplies, dinner ware and cutlery.
The dinette forward is U-shaped and will seat four for meals. With the large leaf folded out, the bench settee to starboard becomes part of the seating arrangement where two or three can sit.
The chart table is a traditional nav station where you can mount radios, sailing instruments, a multifunction display and tend to the main electrical panel. These days a chart table is more an office and communications center than a place to navigate since most use the chart plotters in the cockpit for almost all nav functions.
On all four layouts, there is large aft head to starboard just aft of the chart table that has a stand alone shower stall. This stall will double as a great wet locker for foul weather gear when you are on passage and sailing in wet weather.
For the sleeping cabins, you can go with two, three or four cabins and two heads. The 45 we sailed in Annapolis had the classic three cabin layout with a master cabin forward with an en suite head and two quarter cabins aft that both use the large head to starboard. This is one of the most popular layouts ever created for modern cruising boats of this size.
But you could also go with the two-cabin, two-head layout that takes the space where the quarter cabins were and open it up to make a huge master stateroom with a centerline bed, bench seats, large cabinets and access to the starboard head. The berth fits under the cockpit sole so tall people may have head banging issue but otherwise this is a neat layout with essentially two master cabins.
For a family with kids, you could also go with the three-cabin layout that has the master cabin aft and two smaller cabins forward. Lastly there is the four-cabin version that will be mostly used in the charter trade, I suspect. This has the two quarter cabins aft and the two smaller cabins forward. If you need to sleep eight people, this is the layout for you.
The 45 is a great size for family cruising, living aboard and voyaging. It has storage spaces for all the gear you need for extended cruising, a place to mount a generator if you need air conditioning, and big lockers on deck.
You can have the boat finished with teak decks if you like or you can go with non-skid fiberglass decks. You can opt for the in-mast mainsail system or go with the simpler and less expensive slab reefing mainsail arrangement.
The 45 can be set up to fit your family cruising needs, your budget and your sailing style. The boat will be comfortable at sea and at anchor and will get you to your next destination easily and quickly. And, if you want to start your cruising life in the Mediterranean, you can take delivery of your new boat at the head of the Adriatic Sea.
Elan Impression 45
Air draft 64’0”
Displ. 24,000 lbs.
Ballast 7,300/7600 lbs.
Water 136/208 gals.
Fuel 70 gals.
Engine 55/75 hp.
Sail Area 1m016 sq. ft.
Springline Yacht Sales
70 Essex St., Mystic, CT 06355