It is not very often that we get to try out a boat before practically anyone else in the industry, especially when it is one of a major brand’s most important launch in years. I was taken up to Port Camargue in the south of France earlier this summer courtesy of S&D Yachts to try out the very first production boat. I was immediately impressed. Upon seeing the boat the first time, berthed next to a couple of Dufours from the Grand Large cruising range, my first reaction was - “wow, this looks fast but can it live up to its looks?” Describing it would be pretty superfluous as you can see what it looks like and judge whether you like it in the photos here. The 45 Performance looks more like an out and out racer than any other boat in the current Dufour stable.
When trying a boat out in another country you have to make do with the wind that is present and, as Murphy’s Law would have it, we got to test the boat in low but thankfully slightly gusty wind. Getting out of Port Camargue is an experience in itself. The marina accommodates over 2,000 boats and you have to navigate through a maze of passages to get out into the open sea.
Once out into the bay, I started off on a small speedboat to get the photography out of the way before testing the boat myself. Chris, from S&D Yachts, was hoisting the sails up with the help of a French lad and we were cruising alongside when all of a sudden the Dufour 45 shot off. By the time we had hit the throttle the boat was about 50m away. Catching up proved to be harder than we thought - the boat was doing 8 knots in gusts of around 10 knots of wind!
With the photography done and dusted, I got on the boat for a first hand experience. It is very unique to navigate - and you surely can’t accuse it of sailing like a cruiser. It sails like a dream - find the right groove and you are guaranteed entertainment. Forget getting from A to B; with this boat you’d want to sail from Malta to Syracuse via Lampedusa every time. The wheel feels light and the boat responds to the slightest touch. Balancing the sails was child’s play and, in a few seconds, the boat was sailing itself steady on course. Once again the wind conditions gave us some shocks. At one point we managed a 180 degree turn without tacking the wind simply turned around completely but the boat did not seem to mind. We were out sailing for a couple of hours and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
Once back in the harbour I took some time to have a good look at the boat. We were accompanied by the local dealer - Dufour’s top seller year after year – who got the honour of acquiring the first boat of this very important model. As a highly experienced dealer, Dufour were counting on his expertise to improve future models.
When working on the new 45 project, Dufour Yachts decided to launch a few boats way before the official launch, so as to allow for some extensive sea-testing and further improvement.
Movement on deck and the cockpit is very comfortable and the two wheels allow easy comfortable handling in all conditions. The additional winches close to the wheel means that the Dufour 45 can be easily sailed singlehanded - everything you need to control and trim the sails is within reach of the helm position. The excellent headroom of the boat does result in pretty small lazarettes under the cockpit seats, but this is made up for by the two large compartments at the back of the boat.
The level of detail on the inside of the boat bears testimony to the thought behind every centimetre of interior space: the floorboards are not simply plonked there - heir edges have grooves which fit into corresponding parts in the boat to ensure steadiness underway. The galley is well laid out and should be comfortable enough to cater for the eight to ten people capacity of the large folding dining table, itself of a real neat design. One thing I’m always very conscious of inside a boat is light, and despite being such a low slung boat, the Dufour 45 Performance manages some very well lit cabins all round.
The engine room is tiny - I would rather call it an engine compartment - but it is still very accessible and I imagine, working on it would be pretty simple. The generator ven gets its own compartment which is accessed though the rear lazarettes.
Overall, I’m sure this boat will surely prove to be an incredibly popular model from Dufour Yachts and with this offering, they should be rocking the boats of much more expensive competitors. The interior might not be finished with the opulence of some more upmarket brands, but every time I see its price I suspect Dufour has made a mistake. This boat surely deserves to be considered if you are in the market for a performance yacht. It will give you serious speed, decent interior space and most importantly loads of fun.
Starting: €207,000 (Ex VAT & delivery)
As tested (Fastnet version + Platinum Pack):~ €240,000 (Ex VAT & delivery)
Richard Muscat Azzopardi
Boats & Yachting