Ample Features in Tidy Packages
For 2016, the Midsize Cruiser category encompassed cruising boats under 40 feet. Two of the models, the Dufour 382 and the Dufour 350, came from the same builder. The other pair, the Hanse 315 and the Marlow-Hunter 31, were both around 31 feet. Digging deeper, we found that they shared many surprising similarities, as judge Tim Murphy’s overview and analysis revealed.
“For 2016, this was basically the entry-level class,” Murphy said. “We had a price range running from $140,000 for the Hanse 315 to $210,000 for the Dufour 382, with the Marlow-Hunter 31 and Dufour 350 sort of splitting the difference at around $160,000 each.” Murphy noted that when you consider these costs in dollars per pounds, or displacement (a handy if rough metric to compare boats of varying size and design, which the judges consider when gauging quality and value), this is a fascinating class because the difference between the boats comes down to just 9 cents. “All the builders are being very careful with costs, and they’ve got this equation very refined,” he concluded.
“The Marlow-Hunter 31 is a very interesting boat,” Murphy continued. “David Marlow purchased the company several years ago, and we’re now seeing major changes, certainly in the build and I’d also say in the design. There are some major improvements taking place … and you could even say this model represents the most improved [build] in the entire fleet. They no longer use chopped mat in the boats; the chopper guns are gone. It’s all engineered fiberglass, they use vinylester throughout the boat, and they’ve gotten rid of balsa core and replaced it with Nida-Core. They’re even using Kevlar ring frames at the chainplate attachments. These are all major thumbs-up.” elf-tacking jib, and once we put a reef in the main and got it trimmed out the way we wanted, it was pretty sweet and responsive,” said Ed Sherman.
Murphy added, “The boat gives you two cabins in 31 feet, and a very generous head with a spacious shower area. It’s got a full working galley with a nice, deep sink. The entire interior layout works just fine.”
Ultimately, though, the choice in this category came down to the two Dufours, which were nearly identical in terms of workmanship, styling, deck layout, hardware and other features. Both boats sailed well.
Of the 382, Murphy said, “I quite like this boat. Sailing it was really a lot of fun. The helms felt really good. You had to play the main in order to steer properly, but that was easy to do. So it was a really happy experience sailing this boat. I also liked moving around, especially on deck.”
But Sherman enjoyed his turn at the helm just as much, if not more, on the smaller 350. The price difference was about $50,000 between the smaller and larger boat. A lively discussion ensued.
For that extra 50 grand, the 382 offered a traveler and backstay, expanded helm seating, a much larger head and 25 percent more displacement, which translates to more volume and what Murphy described as “spatial comfort.” For buyers, it represents an interesting choice. For our judges, it meant the Dufour 382 was the Best Midsize Cruiser for 2016.