Boat Reviews

Loaded 45s

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Cast your mind back to a time when a 45-footer was about the biggest boat you could expect from a mass-production builder. It wasn’t all that long ago—the mid-1990s. Then Beneteau raised the bar with a 50-footer back in 1997, and boats that size and bigger are now commonplace.

Still, size isn’t everything. Many sailors still find their dream boats in the 45-foot range. A 45-footer is big enough to be comfortable offshore, small enough to be easily handled by a typical cruising couple, long enough to make respectable passage times and short enough to fit easily into most marinas. It is a popular size, as evidenced by the fact that every major builder has at least one boat in this range and sometimes two or three.

Dufour is a case in point. The French builder already has a hot new contender in the performance arena in the Dufour 45e, and now it has filled a gap in its cruising lineup with the 445 GL. Slotting in beneath the well-established 485 and 525 GL models, the 445 is a good-looking all-rounder. Italian Umberto Felci, who is responsible for most of Dufour’s current line, has designed a hull that strikes an attractive balance between performance and load-carrying capability. The rig is fractional, with a fully battened mainsail and 140 percent genoa as standard equipment. A German mainsheet system is optional and the cockpit and deck plan are laid out for shorthanded sailing.

Some good thinking has gone into this boat. There’s lots of clever detailing belowdecks, including a ventilated foul weather gear locker, fold-out chart table, dedicated shoe stowage, separate head and shower compartments, and a forward stateroom that transforms into two double cabins thanks to a removable divider. On deck, you could point to the electrically operated fold-down transom gate, the well thought-out liferaft stowage and the built-in retracting bowsprit. This reflects a general trend toward making boats more user-friendly.

In the May issue we wrote about the Seaward 46RK, the exciting new lifting-keel cruiser from Hake Yachts in Florida, and how it is one of a mere handful of big variable-draft cruising boats. Another is the new Southerly 45, fresh off the drawing board of the versatile Brit Stephen Jones.

Like its sisters, this boat has twin rudders and a solidly engineered swing keel that increases its draft from a creek-crawling 3ft 3in to an oceangoing 10ft 3in. However, in a move that is likely to shock the Southerly faithful, this boat will also be available with a fixed keel, drawing 8ft. The fractional rig carries a self-tacking blade jib and a powerful fully battened mainsail. I expect most owners would specify the optional furling gennaker to add some extra offwind speed.

The interior layout options are dictated by the big swing-keel case, but Southerly has traditionally proven adept at designing interiors that function well despite this restriction. A raised saloon affords seated occupants panoramic views through the large portlights, and tucked underneath it is a sleeping cabin that, being amidships where motion is least, will be fought over on long voyages. The standard three-cabin layout has large cabins fore and aft, with the option of twin after cabins.

The first Southerly was launched some 30 years ago. These well-built boats tend to inspire fierce loyalty in their owners, who like to boldly go where no deep-draft boats dare to venture. I recall once sailing into an inlet on England’s south coast, heading toward the masts clustered at one end. About the same time the depth sounder alarm went off I saw figures on the anchored boats frantically waving me away, and realized they were all aground. Yes, it was a Southerly Owners Association rally…

Pretty daysailers? Can’t get enough of ‘em. The object of my latest boat-crush is the Dinamica 940, conceived and built on the shores of Italy’s Lake Garda. Not only is she surpassingly attractive, but she goes fast too. Designer Claudio Maletto has been involved in four America’s Cup projects along with numerous IMS programs, and this 30-footer displays a solid pedigree. Construction is vacuum-bagged foam sandwich, with carbon-fiber reinforcing among the E-glass laminates. The tall backstayless rig, with a self-tacking jib and furling Code 0 or gennaker, can be handled solo, though the cockpit can seat eight comfortably.

There are four berths, a chemical toilet, a fridge and a small galley in what is bound to be a claustrophobic interior. But this boat is not meant for overnighting, and who would want to be belowdecks, when they could be in the cockpit acknowledging all the admiring glances they’re receiving?

Think trimaran and you think France, or at least I do. No other nation has so completely embraced the ethos of the hotrod multihull. It’s given birth at the top end to world-record-setting mega-trimarans and at the bottom end to a host of small, transportable starter tris that give everyone a chance to experience the yee-ha factor. Take the Multi 23: it’s designed by the people who gave you the America’s Cup-winning BMW Oracle trimaran, it’ll do 20-plus knots with two hulls hovering above the waves, and at the end of the day, when your pulse has slowed sufficiently, you can stick it on a trailer and park it in your backyard. Back in France they’re even being used as family coastal cruisers, with the kids parked in the little cuddy and the adults snoozing under a boom tent.

I was delighted to find that there is a US importer for this terrific little boat, and editor-at-large Kimball Livingston was equally delighted to get the chance to sail it on a beautiful Southern California spring day. By now, he should just about have managed to wipe the grin off his face. Keep an eye out for his review.

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