After a roughly 10-year hiatus from the U.S. marketplace, the Slovenian builder Elan is back in a big way. This past fall, the company launched a pair of new boats in the States, including the Elan E4, a 34-foot-9-inch performance cruiser with an emphasis on performing, designed by renowned British naval architect Rob Humphreys. The brand has been in business for seven decades and lately is perhaps even better known in America for its skis. Not surprisingly, given its complementary product lines — lots of sailors are fine skiers — its boats are as sleek and sporty as its boards.
The no-nonsense E4 is a boat that looks speedy and formidable even when tied to the dock. With an open transom, hard chine, low coach roof, flush deck hatches and retractable bowsprit for setting off-wind sails, her mien is strictly business. The cockpit is all about quick and efficient sail handling. The centerline backstay is adjusted by a set of controls to port and starboard directly adjacent to the continuous-line traveler that’s stationed just forward of the twin helms, the pedestals for which also house rotating chart-plotter pods and stainless-steel grab rails. A cool folding cockpit table can be lowered and stashed flush in the sole when not in use.
The double-spreader fractional rig employs a traditional, fully battened mainsail and a 108 percent jib. Along with the quartet of Harken winches in the cockpit for trimming the double-ended mainsheet and genoa, another pair adorn the coach roof to either side of the companionway for handling halyards and reefing lines. The shrouds are led outboard; there’s a massive molded toe rail; the nonskid is excellent. On the bow, the furling drum for the headsail is recessed belowdecks. The large chain locker also contains a Quick windlass. The anchor is on a roller offset to starboard, opposite the telescopic sprit.
Down below, on our test boat, the two-stateroom layout featured a V-berth forward and a spacious double cabin aft to port, which opens up space for a massive cockpit locker to starboard (a three-stateroom version with twin doubles aft is also available). In the main cabin, a U-shaped settee to port is opposed by a straight settee to starboard, both of which flank a central folding dining table. There’s a very nice dedicated navigation station to starboard, just forward of a generous head with separate shower stall; the L-shaped galley is to port. For a design that unashamedly purports to be largely about performance, not volume or frills, it’s a very comfortable, functional accommodations plan.
On every Elan there are options galore, including three separate keel packages for the E4: We tested the shoal-draft model, which draws 5 feet 8 inches. Both the hull and deck are foam-cored and resin-infused for stiff, relatively light structures. The price on our test model, with a complete sail package and instrumentation, was $250,000.
Of course, the raison d’être of the E4 is its sailing chops, and once underway on Chesapeake Bay in light airs of 5 to 7 knots, the boat did not disappoint. Upwind, on a slight heel, the articulating foot mounts abaft the twin wheels were very handy, and the helms were light and sensitive as the boat clipped along at about 4 knots. But she really came alive once the asymmetric kite was up and drawing, charging along on a tight reach while making 6 knots. Impressively, despite the wind angle, the helm did not load up and remained very responsive, and the chine made it impossible to bury the rail, despite our best efforts to do so. It was like carving a turn on a pair of Elan skis, right on the edge yet in complete control.
Herb McCormick is CW’s executive editor.