If Americans think of Slovenia at all, it probably isn't as a boat-building center. Elan Marine is trying to change that. The swift, pretty Elan 40 is a mid-priced racer/cruiser designed by Rob Humphreys that is being pitched as a strong player in the highly competitive 40-foot market. I jumped aboard for a test sail on the Chesapeake last fall to see if the reality matches the marketing.
The helm seat folds down into the sole to offer easy access to the cockpit from the aft platform. The deck has an effective molded-in, diamond-shaped antiskid pattern, and the cockpit seats have teak inlays that grip the feet and are easy on the eye. The mast has double spreaders and can be specified with either wire (standard) or rod (racing option) rigging. The nine-tenths rig features a powerful full-batten main and 95 percent jib that keep the sailplan manageable while also providing excellent windward efficiency.
I found the cockpit seats comfortable and could easily move in and out of the cockpit to the side decks. The racing-inspired large-diameter wheel is perfectly proportioned for helming from a comfortable seat to windward. The binnacle provides an excellent brace point and a place to mount instruments. The immense cockpit locker to port (it's a berth in the three-cabin version) will gulp down anything you want to stow. A door from the head gives easy access to this space from inside.
The settee comes standard with a leeboard and quickly converts into a good seaberth. Cushions fit snugly enough to negate the need for hook-and-eye fasteners to hold them in place. Headroom is about 6 feet throughout the saloon, and all the ports open to provide excellent cross-ventilation.
Elan's joinery work is a cut above the average. There's nothing ornate or elaborate about it, just simple design and clean execution. The aft-facing nav station is amidships and has a modest-size desk and plenty of space for electronics. The U-shaped galley has a small extension counter near the centerline for better bracing in rough conditions. The double sinks are close to centerline for good draining at all angles of heel and have fitted covers to provide extra counter space when needed. The fridge is well insulated, and its compressor lives in a sizable ventilated compartment; some builders skimp on these features, but Elan got it right. Both head compartments have easy-to-clean fiberglass surfaces, provide enough room to be effective, and are properly ventilated.
Construction and systems
If your winter sports take you to cold climates instead of tropical islands, you'll recognize Elan as a prominent maker of skis, not boats. The two are oddly alike; both require strength, light weight, and constant practical testing to ensure top performance in hostile environments. Elan started exporting boats to the U.S. only recently, but the company's technical background appears to be serving it well.
The basic construction of the Elan 40 is conventional and well executed, with a hand-laid solid-glass hull and balsa-cored deck. The hull/deck joint is bolted on a bed of sealant and glassed over. The heart of the electrical system is the hinged panel at the nav station; opening it reveals beautiful wiring runs, bundled and routed to minimize chafe and with proper busbars for easy connections. The three batteries are securely mounted under the settee in a well-ventilated compartment. The plumbing is equally substantial, with neatly routed double-clamped hoses. The water and fuel tanks are bolted down and are foamed into place to prevent shifting and reduce noise. The bilges are neatly finished, the bilgepump strainer and keelbolts are easy to reach, large-diameter limber holes ensure all bilgewater ends up in the sump rather than stranded behind bulkheads, and some (but not all) of the floorboards have positive-locking latches.
Rig loads are carried through internal tie rods under the deck to a bonded grid in the bilge, a proven, sturdy system. Winches, tracks, and other deck fittings do not have backing plates, but are screwed into aluminum plates bonded into the deck laminate. This technique eliminates holes in the cabin and creates substantial mounting points that should be as strong as the surrounding deck. Elan also installs blank plates in spots where you might want to retrofit hardware and provides a detailed diagram of their locations. These plates are easier for builders to install and are less likely to leak than conventional backing plates, but they could make it difficult to remove old hardware. Only time will tell if embedded plates are a bad idea in the long run.
It's fairly easy to reach everything essential on the engine. Primary maintenance points are under the companionway ladder, while removable panels in the aft cabin and head open to the engine's sides. As I crawled through the boat's hidden spaces, I was impressed with the neat glass work.
I sailed the standard-draft version, with a 6-foot, 9-inch keel with an iron bulb. Hard-core racers can choose lead and/or a 7-foot, 10-inch keel, while cruisers may prefer the more gunkhole-friendly 5-foot, 7-inch keel.
An extremely light southeasterly greeted us at the mouth of the Severn River, but we moved right out into Chesapeake Bay at better than 5 knots under the main and a 135 percent genoa. Tacking angles were narrow, and reaching produced similar speeds. Overall handling was delightful, with an easy, responsive helm and excellent sight lines for the skipper. Both tall and short helmsmen should find this boat easy to drive, and the crew should have no difficulty keeping out of each other's way as they go about their jobs.
Motoring was smooth and easy. A setting of 2,800 rpm gave about 7 knots of boatspeed into a light breeze and an average noise level below.
The Elan 40 is fast, comfortable, and good-looking, and it handles well. Its quality/price ratio is excellent. Whether you hang a ton of rail meat to windward for a race or take a couple of weeks off to explore the coast with the family, it has a certain—élan.
Sail area (100% foretriangle)
796 sq ft
Volvo 40-HP diesel
Sail area-displ. ratio