Dufour 40: Performance +
Dufour Yachts started on a high note in 1964, when its Arpège 30 took sailors by storm with its appealing looks and performance. But in the years that followed, the company saw changes in ownership, and its boats faced mixed fortunes.
In May 2005, however, the new owners of Dufour invited a number of journalists to attend its dealer meeting in Palma de Mallorca. There, managers said the company would build on the inspiration of the boat that started it all to become once again a world presence. For emphasis, Arpège 30 hull number one was on display and available for sailing trials.
Having left Majorca with a feeling of goodwill but also with a touch of skepticism, I was very encouraged by the impression the Dufour boats made in our 2009 Boat of the Year contest.
The company's 40 Performance+ won Best Midsize Cruiser, even though it could just as easily have gone up against the boats in the racer/cruiser class. The moniker identifies this Dufour 40 as belonging to the builder's performance line, and the plus sign means that it's been further tweaked to appeal to the more serious racing sailor. A key factor in this model's BOTY success is that, as promised, Dufour had invoked the legacy of the Arpège, which combined both functions so well 40 years ago.
To get a sense of a boat's cruisability, I look first in the galley. Here on the 40 we saw respectable fiddles not just around the work surfaces but also inside the lockers. Hence, if you're trying to assemble breakfast while on port tack, the lockers' contents won't end up on the cabin sole.
The range has only two burners, which makes it adequate and, given the space assigned to the stove, ensures that it has room to gimbal through enough of an arc to protect the cook from spills on either tack. A sturdy safety rail serves as a barrier between range and cook, and it doubles as a place to clip a harness.
Throughout the interior, abundant, well-ventilated lockers and deep-fiddled shelves are all executed in moabi wood. Seating is designed for function before fashion, and the layout's proportions ensure that an item of furniture or a grabrail is always at hand to provide support when you're moving about the cabin.
Around a standardized central area that includes the galley, saloon, nav desk, and aft head, Dufour offers four permutations for the sleeping cabins. For example, of the twins aft, the starboard one can be given up in favor of a large storage compartment.
Forward, the choice is between a Pullman double or a V-berth arrangement. (The latter option includes a second head.) The nav desk is forward of the aft head on the starboard side, well away from the wet lines that inevitably tumble down the companionway when a boat like this is in racing mode. The aft head itself is next to the companionway, convenient to both interior and cockpit.
On deck again, you find yourself very much aboard a sailing boat, one with many of the accessories typical of a grand-prix racer. That's because the specifications were derived from those of the I.M.S. World Championship-winning Dufour 40 Quum, based in the Mediterranean.