Aluminum boats that carry true integral centerboards and can take the ground with impunity have been long popular with French cruisers. However, until recently they have gained little traction in the United States. This is now starting to change, as the French mini-conglomerate Grand Large Yachting, which owns two builders of these sorts of boats, Garcia and Allures, has pushed to gain them more exposure. The debut of the Allures 39.9 at the 2016 U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis was part of this effort. Though it shares many attributes with other boats of this type, the 39.9 also has some unique features.
The hull of the Allures 39.9, quite obviously, is unpainted aluminum, although with round bilges rather than hard chines, as is more commonly seen on similar boats such as the once ubiquitous Alubat. Aluminum plates of varying thicknesses between 6 and 10mm are first pressed into shape and then welded onto correspondingly shaped frames and stringers. None of the structure is forced into place as it is welded.
The deck and transom of the boat are a single part constructed of fiberglass cored with Divinycell foam. This laminate is vacuum infused with solid sheets of plywood interposed in areas where deck hardware is installed. The deck is bonded to a generous 4in inward-facing flange on the hull, and is also fastened with bolts and rivets.
The boat’s ballast is cast iron encapsulated in resin in the boat’s bilges, with none carried in the 9ft aluminum centerboard, which weighs 440lb and is controlled with lines led to the cockpit. To compensate for the relatively high-placement of the ballast, the boat’s fractional Sparcraft rig is correspondingly short, so that the boat’s stability is not compromised. Appended to the bottom of the hull is a short shallow skeg to protect the propeller when aground. Aft of the skeg are two short spade rudders.
Two immediately striking features are the blister-shaped coachroof, a complex shape easily rendered in fiberglass, and the robust stern arch, which is aluminum and the only metal part of the boat that is painted. The arch, canted aft so that it hovers over the scoop transom, is equipped with a useful hinged gantry that can be used to carry a tender hoisted clear of the water. It can also support a large solar array, a wind generator and a forest of antennae.
The cockpit is exceedingly comfortable, with high coamings that provide plenty of back support. A sturdy fixed cockpit table with folding leaves makes a great bracing point when the boat is well heeled, and twin wheels aft has high granny bars in front that are easy to cling to. Ergonomics moving forward along the side decks, clad in Marine-Dek faux teak on our test boat, are also good, with well-placed handholds and lots of passing room inside of the outboard shrouds.
Working lines from the mast are led to a pair of Lewmar winches on the coachroof and are controlled with twin batteries of Spinlock XTS rope clutches. Four more Lewmar winches grace the cockpit coamings to assist in handling the two headsails, which are set on Facnor furlers.
The most distinctive aspect of the 39.9’s interior is the open saloon. Saloons on most integral centerboard boats are dominated by large centerboard trunks that necessarily limit layout options. On this boat, however, you wouldn’t even guess there was a centerboard.
The galley is set aft, offset to port in the traditional manner, with a generous amount of useful storage space. Just forward of this is a centerline table with folding leaves separating two settees on either side. Opposite the galley to starboard is a proper nav station with room to spread out charts and install auxiliary electronics.
The standard floor plans offer choices between two or three staterooms with one or two heads. In the “owner’s version,” the starboard aft stateroom is removed in favor of a large systems/storage/work space set behind an enlarged aft head with a separate shower stall. The “cruising version” offers twin staterooms aft with a smaller aft head and an extra ensuite head interposed in the forward cabin. On our test boat, the ensuite forward head was inserted into the cruising layout and boasted a composting toilet.
One drawback in either configuration is that the double V-berth forward is a bit cramped by American standards. The aft double berths, by comparison, may seem more comfortable. These are full size with no odd-shaped cutouts. They also boast good headroom, a decent amount of storage, two opening hatches and a hull portlight each.
Our test boat came equipped with a standard set of working sails—a full-batten mainsail, genoa and a solent-type staysail, all built in polyester by France’s Incidences. We also had an optional Code 0-type sail built of Mylar and carbon fiber by Quantum, which was fortunate, as the wind during our test sail on Chesapeake Bay was annoyingly light.
Sailing first with the genoa, we found ourselves carrying a bit over 4 knots of speed in 10 knots of apparent wind at angles between 45 and 40 degrees, which was about as high as the boat could sail productively. Cracking off a bit to angles of 50 to 55 degrees, our speed increased by a knot or more. Unrolling the Code 0, which flew from the end of a short fixed sprit, we did much better. Our speed increased to over 6 knots at a 45-degree angle and broached 7 when we bore off to 80 degrees. As we turned downwind to 120 degrees the apparent wind fell to 6 knots and our speed dropped to about 4 knots.
The helm in these light conditions was soft, and it was hard to feel what the rudders were doing. However, it was also stable and forgiving, so that it was not hard to steer accurately.
The standard 55hp Volvo D2 diesel engine on our test boat was turning a three-bladed Flexofold propeller that pushed us along readily enough at 6 knots at 2,000 rpm with the centerboard down. With the throttle full open at 2,800 rpm we made 7.6 knots, and this increased to well over 8 when we pulled the board up. The boat was very easy to control in reverse, and I would guess most experienced boathandlers could live without the optional MaxPower bow thruster that was fitted on our boat.
I have long been a fan of these sorts of boats, and the Allures 39.9 seems a fine example of the breed. Though we did not see this during our day on the water, I know from experience that these centerboard boats have a very smooth motion in strong seas. Don’t let the shoal-draft capacity fool you. These are fully capable offshore cruising boats.
LOA 41ft 6in LWL 36ft 11in BEAM 13ft 7in
DRAFT 3ft 6in (board up); 9ft (board down)
SAIL AREA 866ft
FUEL/WATER (GAL) 105/87
ENGINE Volvo D2 diesel 55hp with saildrive
BALLAST RATIO 39
SA/D RATIO 17
D/L RATIO 214
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNER Racoupeau Yacht Design
BUILDER Allures Yachting, Cherbourg, France, allures.fr
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR Swiftsure Yachts, Seattle, WA, (206) 378-1110, swiftsureyachts.com
PRICE $320,000 at time of publication