Super, smashing, great

Yachts & Yachting|June 2020

Super, smashing, great
How do you stand out in one of the most competitive sectors of boat building? Sam Jefferson steps aboard the Dufour 390 to find out
Sam Jefferson

I’m going to get political here and say that Dufour Yachts has always reminded me slightly of the Liberal Democrats. Nothing to do with wanting to leave or remain, it’s just that they are somehow polite, inoffensive... but at the same time striving to be a little bit different from what are perceived as ‘bigger’ rivals, such as Hanse, Bavaria, Beneteau and Jeanneau. This is no bad thing, as mainstream production cruising yachts can get a bit unremitting and repetitive, so it’s good to do something to make your product stand out from the crowd. To this end, Dufour has committed the ultimate no-no as a French designer and perversely worked with an Italian designer, Umberto Felci. This, again, is no bad thing, as Felci knows how to draw up a nice yacht – but it’s still a bit odd. Secondly, Dufour insists on calling half of its range Grand Large, which either means ‘big, big’ or, if you are from Yorkshire, ‘very good, big’. Sort of a bit like ‘super, smashing, great’. Did the late, great Jim Bowen help with the marketing? I’ve always wondered if there is an alternative line, the Petit Small, but have found no evidence.

Anyway, the Dufour 390 Super Smashing Great is the latest addition to their range and is what these days would be termed an ‘entry-level’ yacht – in that she is smaller than 40ft. In fact, the length on deck is 36ft 9in (12.1m) once you take the moulded in sprit/anchor roller out of the equation. So, by today’s standards, I guess this is a relatively Petit Small yacht. Not that this is immediately evident when you step aboard. The cockpit feels like it belongs to an altogether bigger yacht, courtesy of a 13ft 1in (4m) beam carried almost all the way aft. Yet, before we do step aboard, let’s take a closer look at the hull and see what we’re dealing with here. Aside from those generous hindquarters, this is a sporty-looking yacht. The lines are typically aggressive and, although freeboard is generous, this is meted by a low, wedge-shaped coachroof that adds to the racy demeanour. There is a single rudder and bulbed keel with a vertical leading edge. The hull has a strong chine that runs a long way forward and follows the trend to move this chine toward the bow in order to increase interior volume up forward while keeping wetted surface area down in light airs. The rig is generous, with a fully battened mainsail providing much of the power. Other important details include that you can choose a 390 with a standard L-shaped keel with a depth of 1.95m or a shallow draught keel with a depth of 1.5m. The mast is deck-stepped with a 9/10 fractional rig.

On deck

So back to the cockpit, which is outlandishly huge – particularly when I think back to Sigma 36s I used to sail on back in the day. This is just an altogether bigger boat. It’s a nicely laid-out space, too; the twin wheels come in a sporty black and the instrument pods are very stylish. In the middle is a large cockpit table with a chart plotter set into the aft end – which was thoughtfully placed for navigating from the helm.

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June 2020