Boats

Grand Soleil 40

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The Grand Soleil 40, built by Cantiere del Pardo, is one of a gaggle of new 40-foot performance cruisers that purportedly strike a balance between elegant accommodations and grin-inducing performance. Many boats make this claim, so I tested one off Annapolis, Maryland, to find out for myself.

On deck

The deck and cockpit are set up primarily for racing, but the layout is also good for family cruising. The ergonomics of the entire cockpit are nearly perfect. The seats are wide and comfortable with well-angled coamings, and the teak cockpit sole is attractive and provides secure traction. Low coamings and long teak handrails make it easy to go forward, and the helm station is excellent. There's an especially nice spot to windward when the breeze is up; the wheel pedestal is angled to make a splendid foot brace. Even short skippers will have good sight lines over the low cabintop.

Belowdecks

The lovely joinery that I took for teak was actually stained mahogany, with a fine grain and an attractive light honey color. While the overhead is white, an owner will want to consider fabric colors carefully to keep the space bright and varied. I sailed the two-cabin U.S.-import version, with a single head on the port side of the companionway. A second head in the forward cabin is optional, but you'll lose a useful hanging locker and some floor space by having it. The forward bunk isn't the narrow-toed shelf we see so often, but a spacious area with plenty of width forward and aft. This is a proper little stateroom instead of a sail locker with cushions.

The saloon has a U-shaped settee around the table plus a clever sliding seat for two on the centerline that can be pulled out when needed. The saloon's defining feature is the galley, which extends the length of the space across from the dinette. This offers a lot of counter space and a nice working area, but the galley will be less secure in a seaway. The sink drain will have to be shut off when sailing, as it may flood at extreme angles of heel on starboard tack.

The efficient nav station has a comfortable seat and ample space for electronics as well as a convenient shelf outboard for your manual plotting instruments. Throughout the saloon, handy grab points ease safe movement under way. The head doubles as a wet locker for hanging the dripping foulies.

Construction and systems

Cantiere del Pardo leaves the hull in its mold for ten days while installing the reinforcing grid, finishing the interior, and attaching the deck. This ensures a true shape by eliminating the flexing that inevitably occurs when a bare shell is lifted out of the mold. All the joinery on our test boat fit perfectly. The solid hull is built of 12 layers of unidirectional cloth, vinylester resin, and an isophthalic gelcoat, supported by a structural grid with six longitudinal stringers, five transverse ribs, and bulkheads. Stainless-steel reinforcement is built into the main bulkhead to spread chainplate loads. The hull-to-deck joint is bonded with structural epoxy, while deck fittings are backed by integral stainless plates molded into the deck, drilled and tapped to accept the bolts. The bulb/fin keel is bolted to the structural cross-grid, with the nuts accessible through the cabin sole.

It's easy to reach the forward two-thirds of the engine in its compartment under the companionway, and removable panels give access to the sides and aft end. I rate the overall access as pretty good, but not outstanding. The installation has solid mounts and neatly dressed wiring and plumbing.

Under sail

An 8-knot breeze greeted us as we raised sails on the standard (7-foot, 1-inch) draft version. I found it easy to put the boat in the groove and thoroughly enjoyed its smooth response and pleasant helm feedback. We tacked easily through 80 degrees and held a steady 5 knots of boatspeed in the light air. This is a real sailor's boat, and it performed well even with the unimpressive suit of sails our test vessel wore. I suspect that the company assumes a buyer will automatically take a credit for the standard sails and upgrade according to his own preferences. With better sails the boat should be a real delight to sail.

There were no unpleasant surprises under power. A 3,200 rpm setting yielded better than 7 knots and a moderately loud (84 dB) sound level. Docking was simple and predictable with no bad habits at low speeds, either in forward or reverse.

Conclusion

The Grand Soleil 40 is a nice example of a noted Italian builder's response to the trend toward "performance cruising." If your middle years are no longer over the distant horizon, if you love to race or just cruise fast, if you want luxurious accommodations after a hard day's work rounding the buoys or rounding a headland on an extended cruise, the Grand Soleil 40 is a boat to consider. Tom Dove

Specifications

Price: $249,000 (base, FOB East Coast), includes bottom paint, USCG package, mainsail and roller-furling genoa, anchor package, no electronics.

Builder: Cantiere del Pardo, www.grandsoleil.net

U.S. importer: MareBlu Nautical Imports, Annapolis, MD, and San Diego, CA; tel. 888-479-2248, www.mareblu.net

LOA

40'3"

LWL

34'9"

Beam

12'6"

Draft (std/race/shoal)

7'1"/7'10"/5'9"

Draft (swing keel up/down)

2'3"/5'6"

Displ.

15,000 lbs

Sail area (Main & Genoa)

1,100 sq ft

Power

27-hp Yanmar with S-Drive

Fuel/water/waste

48/98/20 gal

Displ.-length ratio

159

Sail area-displ. ratio

19.2

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