On a gorgeous autumn day, I found myself trimming the mainsheet aboard a Grand Soleil 37 during a race series in Annapolis. There couldn’t have been a better way to test the sailing performance of this new boat from Italy.
Though there are relatively few of this builder’s boats in the U.S., Grand Soleil is well respected among the cognoscenti here and in Europe. Its nicely crafted racer/cruisers have established an excellent record in local and point-to-point racing on both continents, and the new 37 has already done well in IRC events in France, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean.
This latest in a series of 37-footers from the company was introduced to America late last year. Our test boat was clearly on the performance end of the racer/cruiser scale, with a tall rig, a deep fin keel with lead ballast, an oversized wheel, and a deck layout that easily accommodates a full crew. We were racing in PHRF A2, carrying a rating of 72.
The boat is strongly built. There’s an internal grid of galvanized steel in the bilge to take the stress loads and give toughness to the hull. The glasswork is neat and smoothly finished. The systems all appear to be shipshape, with neat bundling of wires (they are apparently not tinned), an adequate panel, substantial through-hull fittings, and proper plumbing.
The cabin detailing is also to a high standard, with neatly fitted joinery and a lovely finish. There’s nothing elaborate about the interior; it’s just a pleasant, inviting space. A family of four on a summer cruise or a crew at a race week will relax in comfort onboard. Our test boat had the two-cabin owner’s version; there’s an optional three-cabin model that provides room for another couple, albeit with the loss of a large storage area under the cockpit seats.
The test boat had a 40-horsepower Volvo diesel instead of the standard 27-horse-power model as part of the performance package, a $12,391 option that includes the tall rig, deep lead keel, upgraded winches, and oversized wheel. I found the boat very easy to control in forward and reverse, with predictable handling and a turning circle of about one boatlength.
Sailing performance was exceptional. The wind was only 8 to 10 knots, but with a big genoa that was plenty to drive the boat right up to hull speed in the puffs. It maneuvered nimbly around the crowded starting line and at the buoys, tacked easily, and matched any other boat in the fleet in pointing and footing. The clean deck layout and low coachroof made it easy for all of us to scurry into position and work the boat through the fleet.
How did we do? In three races, we had one finish near the top and two in the middle. For a major regatta with a pickup crew unfamiliar with the boat, that’s not bad. My impression was that the boat would have finished in the top three consistently with a well-coordinated crew, as our straight-line boatspeed was as good as any out there.
There are many boats in this size range that will take the family cruising and also go around the buoys on weekends, but the Grand Soleil 37 is a notch above many in speed and handling. This pretty craft also has a certain touch of style that upgrades the whole experience.
Price: $259,000 (base) includes freight and duty to eastern U.S. ports of entry, but not sails or electronics. Test boat’s racing mast with rod rigging, 40-hp engine, and oversized winches extra.
Builder: Cantiere del Pardo, Forli, Italy
Designer: Botin & Carkeek (Spain)
US importer: Mareblu Inc., www.mareblu.net, tel. 888-478-2248
Construction: Hull is built of hand-laminated vacuum-bagged vinylester resin and E-glass. The laminate is solid below the waterline and cored with closed-cell foam above. The structural grid is strengthened by steel beams. The hull is laid up in a two-piece mold to allow for an inward-facing flange that forms the hull-to-deck joint, which is both chemically bonded and mechanically fastened.
Pros: Good sailing performance, excellent joinery and aesthetics.
Cons: The boat’s draft could limit available anchorages.
LOA – 38’
Beam – 12’1”
Draft – 6'10"/7'11"
Displacement – 16,010 lbs
Ballast – 4,519 lbs
Sail Area – 904 sq ft
Power –27-hp Volvo (std), 40-hp optional
Tankage Fuel/water/waste – 37/95/20 gal
Electrical – (1) 70-Ah starting battery,(1) 100-Ah house battery
Displacement-Length ratio – 186
Sail Area-Displacement ratio – 25 (100% foretriangle)
BALLAST-DISPLACEMENT RATIO – 33%