Dufour Yachts started on a high note in 1964, when its Arpege 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, Arpege 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 Arpege, 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.
Next to the companionway, a pair of Harken Quattro winches with double-deck drums provide power for halyards and speed for spinnaker sheets. Winches for the jib sheets are located forward on the cockpit coamings, while another pair of winches, for the Admiral’s Cup-style double-ended mainsheet, sit farther aft.
The mainsheet traveler is on the cockpit sole, forward of the centerline steering pedestal and the big wheel, which almost seems anachronistic given the current popularity of twin helms. That said, it works well in this setting. One nice touch here is the simple access to the steering quadrant via a hatch in the cockpit sole. On the + model, the otherwise standard centerline helm seat isn’t supplied, so the cockpit well is open to the transom.
Wide side decks allow tight sheeting angles for the headsail and are easy to negotiate. Toerails that run all the way aft, though perhaps not relished by hikers, are a welcome extra security measure for cruising sailors. Still, to give those hikers an extra inch or so of leverage, the stanchions have been moved outboard of the toerail.
Wichard padeyes that are set into breaks in the toerail provide extra sheeting points and replace the midships mooring cleats that might otherwise snag running rigging. A bow roller and windlass are provided but were not installed. As a result, the foredeck looked clean from a racer’s standpoint but rather bare from a cruiser’s.
The double-spreader aluminum mast is deck stepped and, in the + package, supported by a PBO backstay and rod shrouds, which terminate at a single chainplate on each side, well inboard. Other + add-ons include barberhaulers for the headsail sheets and a high-performance boom vang.
Under sail, I found that the Dufour 40 Performance+ was agile. Although the wind was uncooperative, I sensed that the boat had the same responsiveness to inputs from the big steering wheel and tweaks to the sheets as its larger sister, the Dufour 44, which I sailed a few years ago.
Naval architect Umberto Felci, the 40’s designer, has given the hull and its appendages conservative proportions. As a result, while changes in trim and wind strength are signaled quickly to the helm, the boat remains easy to control. Indeed, Felci’s feel for sailing essentials and Patrick Roseo’s sense of interior arrangement and style are a formidable combined force.
The Dufour 40 Performance+ also reflects feedback from talented and experienced sailors (such as the owners of Quum), a sign that the company seeks to be flexible in responding to its customers. Any keen sailor who likes to both race and cruise, and who is willing to accept minor concessions in a boat that accommodates either activity, will find that the Dufour 40 Performance+ has much to offer.
Jeremy McGeary is a CW contributing editor.
LOA 40′ 5″ (12.32 m.)
LWL 35′ 3″ (10.74 m.)
Beam 12′ 10″ (3.91 m.)
Draft 6′ 11″ (2.11 m.)
Sail Area 886 sq. ft. (82.3 m.)
Displacement 17,160 lb. (7,782 kg.)
Ballast 5,918 lb. (2,684 kg.)
Water 87 gal. (329 l.)
Fuel 42 gal. (159 l.)
Mast Height 60′ 0″ (18.29 m.)
Engine 40-hp. Volvo saildrive
Designer Umberto Felci
Sailaway Price (base model) $285,000
Dufour USA Inc.