The aesthetic differences between American and European boats are nowhere more pronounced than in the daysailer niche. The average modern U.S. daysailer has a refined, gentlemanly air; it’s a boat your granddad would have been proud to own. A typical sporty Euro-daysailer, on the other hand, is a dashing rogue of a boat; Grandma might send it coy glances, but Granddad would eye it with suspicion.
If there is a boat that straddles this divide with hardly a wince, it is the Tofinou range from France. Tofinou was building pretty little daysailers long before the idea caught on in the United States. Its hulls have the sweetest of lines, and on its bigger boats, the 8, the 9.5 and the 12, gleaming varnished teak and mahogany woodwork is integrated seamlessly with expanses of black carbon fiber and subtly contoured fiberglass. I sailed the largest of the family on a chilly morning off La Rochelle, France.
The 40-foot Tofinou 12 is a Joubert/Nivelt design, moderate of beam, lean and low-slung, and drawing almost 8 feet—which would be a drawback in many areas of the U.S. East Coast, but makes for an impressively stiff and precise ride to weather. Hull and bulkheads are lightweight fiberglass/foam composites, and the bare minimum of interior furniture and systems—along with a carbon fiber spar—help keep weight down to a svelte 10,500 pounds—about 40 percent less than a typical 40-foot production boat.
Sail controls are led aft to a quartet of Harken winches in the cockpit, where they can be easily tended by the helmsman. Lines run in galleries behind the mahogany-sheathed false coaming and cabintop sides, which can be removed and stored under cover when the boat is decommissioned.
The work area is concentrated around the twin carbon-fiber wheels, so guests can take it easy on the long teak-covered bench seats. With the autopilot driving, the skipper can easily trim, reef, raise and drop the sails, as well as tack and gybe the boat. But most of the time, he or she will be standing behind one of the leather-trimmed wheels or reclining against the comfortable padded backrests.
Once the big main was up and drawing, the boat hared off on a tight reach, feeling eager to go even before we unrolled the self-tacking jib and sheeted it home. When all you have to do in a tack is put the wheel over, sailing to windward becomes a pleasure. On a boat such as this, which fairly leaps out of a tack as soon as the sails fill, it’s even more rewarding. Hard on the wind, with 15 knots over the deck, the speed readout on the mast flickered readily into the 8s. With the sheets cracked in a freshening breeze we were soon surging along at 9-plus knots, with grins to match.
Belowdecks there’s a choice of two base layouts; accommodations are minimalist but adequate, given the boat’s purpose. One option is an open-plan interior drawn by famous stylist/designer Philippe Starck. You could imagine spending summer evenings reclining with a significant other in the sumptuous leather-lined saloon, the golden glow of oil lamps reflecting in the mirror-tiled wet bar, soft music playing, champagne glasses clinking, basking in the afterglow of a hard day’s sailing. Perhaps Granddad would approve after all…
LOA 39ft 4in
LWL 35ft 6in
BEAM 10ft 6in
DRAFT 7ft 9in
SAIL AREA 882 ft²
ENGINE 29hp Yanmar diesel
ELECTRICAL 3 x 110Ah
BUILDER Latitude 46, Ile de Re, France
U.S. AGENT R.B. Rodgers Yacht Sales, Noank, Connecitcut, rodgersyachtsales.com