Slovenia-based Elan Marine has established a presence with its line of Rob Humphreys–designed performance cruisers over the past several years, but the new Impression 434 by Elan is an entirely different animal. Unlike Elan's low-slung racer/cruisers, the 434 is aimed directly at the cruiser looking to reel off quick passage times while enjoying spacious accommodations.
The wind never topped 8 knots during our test sail, but the knotmeter hovered between 4 and 4.5 knots on the upwind legs. We cracked off a little to keep powered up in the light stuff and were still tacking through 95 degrees. The feel from each of the dual helm stations wasn't raceboat-twitchy, nor was it stiff, sloppy, or unresponsive. The substantial bulb keel, large rudder, and well-balanced sailplan provided excellent light-air performance and should also make the boat stiff, stable, and forgiving when the wind pipes up—a good combination for a cruising boat. And there were no surprises under power. The three-blade folding prop supplied plenty of bite, and a bow thruster increased maneuverability.
The 434 is one of several new deck-saloon cruisers with a blister coachroof, and it's easy to see why the concept is catching on. It gives the 434 an open, airy feel down below without inhibiting visibility from the cockpit.
Humphreys added just enough freeboard to increase interior volume without creating an excessively tall hull profile, and the benefits are immediately apparent. Headroom in the saloon and galley is well over 6 feet, and there's a lot of open space down below. The saloon is stylish, but still has commonsense features like ample handholds and brace points. The dinette table has room for 10 (a table leaf folds out to span the entire saloon), and the two long settees double as excellent seaberths. Many interior designers love the look of curved settees, but I'll take a long, straight seat in the middle of the boat when I'm offshore.
Cabin space is not sacrificed to make room for the spacious saloon. Each of the aft cabins on the three-cabin model I tested had comfortable double bunks, two large storage lockers, separate seats, excellent light, ventilation, and headroom, and enough standing room for at least two people. The master cabin forward had all that plus an ensuite head. When I factored in the large galley, nav station, and heads, it was easy to see how comfortable this boat would be both offshore and at anchor.
Builder: Elan Marine, 410-336-2240, www.elan-marine.com
$249,900 (base, FOB Annapolis, MD)
1,013 sq ft