French builder Dufour does a great job building large boats, as is evident in it's 560 and 500 models. However, the needs of sailors are much the same regardless of a size of the vessel, so Dufour’s challenge became to build equally fast, comfortable and amenity-laden boats at the other end of the spectrum. The company has done an admirable job with its new GL 350, which replaces and builds on the successful GL 335 hull, at the same time freshening the design with some great ideas in the cockpit and belowdecks.
Design & Construction
The construction of the GL 350 features a vacuum-infused polyester/foam core hull with solid glass below the waterline. The dry layup allows for strict control of the fiber and resin placement, and results in lighter finished parts, faster preparation and a cleaner process overall. An integral grid supports the rig loads, and the L-shaped cast iron keel with bulb is available in two drafts: 6ft 3in or 5ft 1in. The single elliptical rudder is responsive and provides a good grip on the water, even at more dramatic heel angles. The 9/10ths fractional rig supports double sweptback spreaders and flies 592ft² of working sail, including a 95 percent self-tacking jib on a Facnor furler, which sheets to a straight track just ahead of the mast. A blade jib sheeting to adjustable leads well inboard on the side decks is also available. A traditional Dacron mainsail comes standard, with a full-batten main as an option. Both sails are built by Elvstrom. The deck-stepped tapered mast and aluminum boom are built by Seldén, and the chainplates are outboard, so it is relatively easy to move fore and aft on the side decks. There is no backstay, which eliminates any guesswork on its adjustment. An optional integral composite bowsprit, or “delphiniere,” keeps the ground tackle from dinging the stem when anchoring and also serves as an attachment point for a gennaker. Our test boat was equipped with a standard single bow roller. However, for anchoring the fixed bowsprit would be my choice, even if it does lengthen the boat a bit in the marina.
Whether they’re 35ft or 55ft long, Dufours have nice lines and a sleek profile with a nearly plumb bow and a slightly reverse cantilevered transom that drops down to serve as a swim platform. There’s a lot going on behind the twin wheels. Two large lockers below the cockpit sole can accommodate a liferaft to starboard and water toys like snorkels, masks and fins to port. Two aft seats hinge up and out of the way when not in use, opening up the transom for easier boarding or no-nonsense crewing when racing. A Raymarine charplotter and engine controls are to starboard, with an instrument display is to port. Both wheels have compasses and are within reach of the Lewmar primary winches. The center of the cockpit is dominated by a large drop-leaf table, and the bulkheads at the companionway have optional fixed Lexan ports to bring light into the cabins below. Two opening hatches sit outboard of the winches on the cabintop. These can be left open even in foul weather since they are tucked under the dodger. The nonskid fiberglass decks mean less weight and maintenance than teak decking. A nod to style includes optional teak on the cockpit seats and sole, teak cabintop handholds, and a teak toerail to help with footing when heeling. It’s enough to nicely break up what might otherwise appear as a large expanse of white, but not so much as to give you the boatwork blues.
Two layouts are offered on the GL 350, with two or three cabins and a single head. American couples will likely gravitate toward the two-cabin interior, which makes it possible to add a stall shower to the head. It also provides space for a nav desk that shares a seat with the settee. The nav desk can be lowered on tracks and covered with a cushion to extend the starboard seat or to form a nice sea berth. The drop-leaf table is large and folds out to connect the straight settees on either side of the saloon. It is, in fact, the same table found aboard the larger GL 382 and comes with a padded, radiused aft end to dampen any hip-to-table collisions in rough conditions. A lid in the center of the table lifts to reveal a shallow tray for odds and ends. It also slides forward or aft to uncover either a deep storage space or a built-in bottle holder. The galley is to port and L-shaped, with twin sinks (one large and one small) on centerline, a top-loading Isotherm fridge with plastic compartments and containers and good fiddles formed into the Corian countertops all around. To extend the limited workspace, the two-burner Eno stove has a Corian cover that slides into its own holder against the bulkhead or can be detached for use as a serving tray. Between the hot oven and the cool fridge is a narrow locker designed to hold bottles of oil or spices. There is also a Dufour signature wine rack below the floorboards at the foot of the companionway. As on larger Dufour models, the V-berth is in the master suite with double doors that create the sense of a larger interior when open. A guest cabin is aft to port, or two cabins can occupy the entire aft end. The standard finish is Maobi wood, which has a warm gleam in the ample light brought in by an opening hatch and two fixed acrylic ports in the headliner. Be warned, though, that while these ports add to the aesthetics of the boat, they can be treacherous underfoot when wet. Interior design is angular, practical, minimalist and is likely to suit the tastes of all but the most traditional sailors.
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We peeled away from the dock as storm clouds gathered at the end of an otherwise calm day with fluky wind. We speculated we’d find good wind under the thunderheads and quickly motored out onto the Chesapeake, where we did, indeed, find a blast of wind just as a crack of lightning split the northern sky. Realizing this was going to be a short, if spirited sail, we quickly came up to 6.5 knots at a 45-degree wind angle in 15 knots of apparent breeze. The tacks were brisk and easy as the self-tacking jib swung smoothly through the foretriangle, leaving the crew to concentrate on the incoming weather. After that we cracked off to 120 degrees and our speed dropped to 5.9 knots as the rain started coming down. Despite getting a bit soggy and wondering if we would end up on the evening news as lighting-strike victims, we had quite a romp of a sail.
As the rain gained on us, we fired up the 29hp Volvo diesel and headed in. With the throttle wide-open at 3,000 rpm, our speed reached 7.2 knots. Had we wanted to get any wetter, we’d have cruised at a slower and more economical 6 knots. The GL 350 carries 42 gallons of fuel and 58 gallons of water, but there is an option to add another 42 gallons of water for a total of 100, which will make extended cruising much more pleasant.
Our test boat was outfitted with the Dufour “Adventure” package, which includes extras like a dodger, electric windlass, rigid boomvang, full-batten main and other goodies. With other options such as a shoal keel, German mainsheet system and teak on the cockpit floor and seats, the price FOB for the U.S. East Coast was $195,000. That’s a good value, especially for a boat that is not only a looker, but sails well in a storm. dufour-yachts.com