French builder Dufour Yachts added this sparkling new 40-footer to its range of Umberto-Felci-designed performance cruisers late last year. It is the latest in Dufour’s Grand Large (GL) range that now comprises seven designs from 32 to 53 feet in length.
Dufour’s hulls and decks are reassuringly robust. Stout Twaron-reinforced stringers run the length of the hull, crisscrossed by equally strong frames that transfer rig loads down to the keel. The hull is solid, laid up by hand; the deck has a balsa core encased in injection-molded polyester, which makes it light, but very rigid.
The 405’s stem is virtually plumb and she sports a long waterline. She has a deep semi-balanced rudder that grips the water well, and the bulk of her cast iron ballast is carried in a large bulb.
We sailed the 405 on a blustery February day. We were soon running downwind at a healthy 8-plus knots in 15 knots of cold wind. Fortunately, the light snow stopped as we turned to windward and the boat fell into a comfortable groove at an apparent wind angle of 38 to 40 degrees, and our knotmeter settled in around 8.6.
As with other designs in Dufour’s new GL range, the helm felt positive, though slightly heavy in the gusts. Most modern production cruisers need a reef at around 15-17 knots true wind speed, so I wasn’t surprised when the 405 finally lost its grip and rounded up as a prolonged 30-knot gust hit us under full sail. Bearing away on a beam reach leveled her up and wound the log up to just over 9 knots. With a single reef in each sail her good manners instantly returned and whatever we put her through after that she accepted without complaint, giving us a swift and exciting ride.
We tacked through less than 80 degrees, losing little momentum, and pointed to within 33 degrees of the apparent wind before the mainsail started to stall. Even then the 405 made a steady 7 knots. Surprisingly, when we hove-to to let the photographer back onboard, the boat stopped dead in the water with the wind around 70 degrees off the bow—a rare phenomenon on a modern sailboat.
The 405GL has twin wheels connected via cables directly to the quadrant above the deep spade rudder. Combined with a wide transom gate and drop-down swim platform, this allows easy access to the stern.
The helmsman has the primary winches close at hand and, thanks to the broad stern, can easily step out onto the side decks to go forward without disturbing those seated in the cockpit. All mainsail controls and halyards are led aft through clutches to self-tailing halyard winches on the coachroof. A securely fixed drop-leaf table topped with a sturdy grab handle makes moving around the cockpit quite easy.
Plentiful stowage space can be found in three cockpit lockers, two shallow and one deep, plus there is a handy liferaft locker under the aft end of the cockpit sole.
The foredeck is clear, with a recessed electric windlass and cavernous chain locker. The twin bow roller looks pretty solid and a short alloy bowsprit can be added for flying an asymmetric sail.
The fractional rig is 9/10ths with the double spreaders raked aft at a 15 degree angle. The continuous cap, intermediate and lower shrouds terminate at deck-mounted chainplates that are supported under the deck by a 1in-diameter tie rod to a large hull fillet designed to dissipate the rig loads. An inner forestay is optional.
The standard mainsail has conventional battens, an adjustable outhaul and two single-line reefing points. In-mast furling or a full-battened mainsail with lazyjacks (as on our test boat) are popular options.