Best Full-Size Production Cruiser: Dufour 500 Grand Large

"This is a boat that was pitched to us as a performance cruiser, and I think it's an honest one," says Boat of the Year judge Tim Murphy of the Dufour 500 Grand Large.

Dufour 500 Grand Large

Billy Black

To determine the top boats in each category, the BOTY judging panel pays close attention to the design brief submitted by each builder for their respective nominee. When determining winners, the panel decides how well the entry meets its specified goals. The summary for the new Dufour 500 reads as follows:

“The Dufour 500 was designed for customers who primarily cruise in coastal regions, but take an occasional extended offshore passage. While the primary design and construction considerations provide the stability, strength and capacities required for an offshore environment, many comfort amenities were conceived for the convenience of coastal cruising and onboard entertaining.”

It's an honest evaluation, perhaps best underscored by an interesting and innovative central saloon, with a uniquely positioned galley forward that promotes a useful and comfortable space for lounging and entertaining. The judges felt it was definitely in keeping with the stated design brief, which is just one of the reasons they named the Dufour 500 Grand Large the Best Full-Size Production Cruiser for 2014.

“It’s definitely a performance cruiser, and while we didn’t have a lot of wind for our test sail, it sailed well and felt good,” said Ed Sherman. “It also performed well under power, and the sound levels were good. In our slow-speed test we were able to make 7.5 knots and in the high-speed mode we registered 8.6 knots, and the sound levels below were in the low- to mid-80s decibel-level range.”

Tim Murphy said the boat’s “performance chops” also extended to the yacht when under sail. “We’ve seen a lot of double-ended mainsheets in this year’s fleet, but several of them offer no real control of the shape of the mainsail,” he said. “But this one really does. It’s got a very good, long mid-boom traveler that extends the full width of the cabintop. Combine that with a very good suit of Elvstrom sails, including a full-batten main with lazy jacks, and you have a powerful sail plan that you can really trim and tweak. This is going to be a really fun boat to sail.”

Murphy noted that not all the interesting features, like the galley arrangement, were situated belowdecks.

“There are a lot of nice touches on this boat,” he continued. “In the cockpit they have a settee that can be expanded to what amounts to a double berth for lounging, but which also folds up so you have a lee board when you’re heeling. That’s a neat little trick.”

“The deck layout was very clean and the fold-down transom entry is just spectacular,” added Mark Schrader. “There’s an enormous hinging cockpit locker. You could almost drive a car in there. And the lazarette access is also tremendous.

“They pegged their mark as a comfortable cruiser with a performance edge,” he concluded, “and I think they hit it.”