After a long absence from the U.S. marketplace, the French builder Dufour has returned to the States. Last fall it introduced the Dufour 45 Classic and the 41 Classic at the Annapolis Boat Show. The Classic line is cruising-oriented and is one of the company's several purpose-built series that include the Integral line of swing-keel boats, the Trophy line of racer/cruisers, and the Nautitech cruising catamarans. An earlier variation of the 45 Classic ( the Gib Sea 45) was produced by Gibert Yachts, which Dufour acquired in 1996. Under new management since the late '80s, Dufour - France's second largest boat builder behind Beneteau - is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Construction: The 45 Cla& sic is built in the "traditional" manner of composite fiberglass construction, with structural stringers ( as opposed to a molded structural-grid liner) bonded to a hand-laid hull of uni- and tri-directional fibers. A non-structural liner is then tabbed in to provide the framework for the nicely finished mahogany interior. From the waterline to the hull/deck joint, a PVC foam-core sandwich is incorporated into the lay-up. The vacuum-bagged foam-injected rudder employs an aluminum stock with a pair of flexible, self-aligning bearings that combine with the boat's Whitlock rack-and-pinion steering system to give an extremely light feel to the helm. The lead keel is bolted directly onto the boat's rather flat underbody. This makes a simple, strong arrangement but due to the lack of a dedicated molded-in sump the bilge is extremely shallow.

Interior Accommodations: The forward cabin is comfortable and spacious with a big hanging locker and better-than-average floor space at the foot of the berth. The large sail locker in the peak offers dual benefits: besides being a great storage space it provides a bulk head at the forward side of the cabin that has allowed the designers to fit in a real double bunk in lieu of a V-berth. The prominent feature in the main saloon is the straight-line "American" galley to port. (In the States, it's known as "European.") For those used to wraparound U-shaped galleys, this may at first seem impractical, but at sea it works quite well. The cook has support in a seaway from the island settee in the middle of the boat, which offers a port-tack backrest. Although the galley eliminates the settee/seaberth often found in this space, cozy twin doubles aft more than compensate by offering two very comfortable places to snooze on either tack.

When working in a seaway at the straight-line galley to port, the cook can use the island settee in the center of the saloon for backside support and balance. With the placement of the mainsheet and traveler atop the coachroof, the big cockpit remains uncluttered and comfortable.

Rig, Deck Layout and Auxiliary: The double-spreader, deck-stepped sloop rig features a 135% roller-furling genoa. While the primary winches are within easy reach of the helmsman, to trim the mainsheet and traveler one must move forward to the controls that are set up on either side of the companionway. The nonskid deck finish is very well done; teak decks are optional. The sloped coachroof provides excellent footing when the boat is heeled, but when it's level you must be careful not to step into the outward-angled opening ports. The power plant is a Volvo diesel saildrive which eliminates the prop shafts and its attendant fittings and dampens vibration when under power. Dufour also uses saildrives on its Nautitech catamarans and believes they're a better, more modern option for monohulls as well.

Under sail: We tested the Classic 45 on two separate occasions - during our Boat of the Year tests on the Chesapeake last fall (the boat was a runner-up in the Best Value/Full Size Cruiser category) and off La Rochelle, France, earlier this year. On both outings we found the boat to be an outstanding sailer and a delight to drive on all points of sail. To windward in an 8- to 12-knot breeze, the boat sailed consistently between 5.8 and 7.2 knots. With a deep draft of nearly 8 feet, one would expect the boat to track well, and it did. But it's also a cruising vessel that will need to favor deeper anchorages.

The Verdict: From the standpoints of quality and competitive pricing, the new Dufours, including the 45 Classic, are on a par with the latest offerings from the major American production boatbuilders. The 45 in particular is a fast, good-looking boat that leans toward the performance end of the cruising-boat spectrum. This fall Dufour will introduce two more monohulls in the United States - the 39 Center Cockpit and the 38 Classic- as well as an 82-foot Nautitech catamaran. If you're in the market for a Hunter, Beneteau, Jeanneau or Catalina in the size ranges Dufour is now exporting to North America, it's worth your while to comparison shop and take a look at what Dufour has to offer.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW DUFOUR SAILBOATS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

  • 45' DUFOUR CLASSIC (2000)
    Available

    45' DUFOUR 45 CLASSIC (2000)

    [displayForm id=7] Photos and description courtesy: Dufour Yachts

    [displayForm id=7] Photos and description courtesy: Dufour Yachts

    [displayForm id=7] Photos and description courtesy: Dufour Yachts

    $169,000.00
    View
  • 39' DUFOUR 39 CC (1999)
    Available

    39' DUFOUR 39 CC (1999)

    The Dufour 39 Center Cockpit displays a French air. The canoe body profile is clean and fast, accented with a well defined, crisp transom. The 39 CC is available in two layouts: a centerline aft cabin berth or a double to one side with a large comfortable settee to port. The curved windshield on deck is a focal point and all halyards lead aft to the cockpit making the 39 CC practical and good looking. [displayForm id=3] Photos and...

    The Dufour 39 Center Cockpit displays a French air. The canoe body profile is clean and...

    The Dufour 39 Center Cockpit displays a French air. The canoe body profile is clean and fast, accented with a well defined, crisp transom. The 39 CC is available in two layouts:...

    $95,000.00
    View

This review/article originally appeared in Cruising World Magazine, August 1998 and is written by Herb McCormick. For more great sailboat reviews, visit their website at: www.cruisingworld.com

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