A powerful modern cruiser, the new Dufour 45 Classic offers a family plenty of living space in a boat that can really knock off the miles.

A photo of the Dufour 45 Classic Sailboat.As soon as we cleared the jetty at Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and fell off on a close reach, filling the partially rolled genoa and full main, you could feel the boat's power. It was blowing 16 knots, with gusts to 20, yet the Dufour 45 stood up to the breeze and accelerated. "How far to Bimini," I asked Dave Pyle, who was providing us with the boat for a short sea trial. "Seventy five miles," he said. "At this rate, we could be there in nine hours ? in time for dinner."

With the wind at about 50 mph, we were close to reaching a a very comfortable eight knots and surging to nine in the puffs. The wind had been blowing from the east all night, so the waves were 4 feet and the chop close together. The hull moved easily through the waves, feeling stable and fast underfoot. The rack-and-pinion steering system gave the helm a positive feel and steered the boat like a sports car, without an inch of play between wheel and rudder. Yes, we thought, Bimini in nine hours would not be bad.

Design Concept

The Dufour brand has been in the world sailing market for 30 years. Founded by Michel Dufour, the company has been known for modern, efficient cruising boats built to a high standard. Although the company has been through several iterations and Michel Dufour is no longer owner, the brand is still strong. Some 6,000 Dufours have been built over the years. The company, based in La Rochelle, France, is now one of the largest builders of fiberglass boats in the world. They have more than 30 models of monohulls and multihulls currently available, and last year built more than 800 boats between 28 and 98 feet.

The Classic series is Dufour's line of pure cruising boats, with a definite nod to the possibilities of bareboat chartering. In the world market, the Classic designs compete directly with its French cousins at Beneteau and Jeanneau.

The design concept for the Dufour 45 was to produce a voluminous hull with ample accommodation for a family or three couples cruising together. That dictates three private cabins, two heads, adequate tankage and a comfortable saloon. This was all to be packaged in a hullform that was modern, fast and capable of overall good sailing performance. So the hull was made moderately shallow and given a moderate displacement of 24,250 pounds. The rudder is a high-aspect balanced spade and the fin keel is deep (7'8") and has a large bulb at its base.

The result is a powerful hull with a beam of more than 14 feet that feels large beneath your feet and is very stable. The deep ballast bulb gives the boat a fine edge sailing to windward and allows it to continue carrying a press of sail long after others will have been forced to reef.


As we noted above, the 45 is a quick boat that has the capability to make very fast passages. Under power and around the docks, the boat maneuvers easily in forward or reverse. We backed out of and reentered a narrow slip with a brisk crosswind without incident. The high bow does want to blow off, but the spade rudder provides so much control that this common problem is easily overcome. The boat is equipped with a sail-drive unit, so the prop is well forward of the rudder. This decreases turbulence around the rudder and virtually eliminates "prop-walk" when in reverse.

We did not put the 45 through serious sail trials, but did give the boat a chance to show her stuff at all angles of sail under the working genoa and main. The simple masthead rig was fitted with the standard 125 genoa on a roller furler, so David and I had a job on our hands to trim it quickly the good breeze we found off Fort Lauderdale. In windy regions, a couple regularly cruising a boat of this size and with this much sail power might want to consider adding a number three genoa (110 percent) as the working headsail, supplemented by a loose-luff reacher in a snuffer for light airs and downwind work.

Once trimmed and on course, the boat tracked as though it were on rails and made very little, if any, leeway. In fact, as we gathered speed, you could feel the blades of the rudder and keel picking up lift. Even in bouncy conditions, the boat tacked easily and was soon back up to eight knots. She carried her momentum well while still being nimble and handy.

Off the wind, her long waterline and fair, broad aft sections give her a lot of speed potential. We surged along before the waves on a broad reach doing high eights and occasionally surfing past 10. The motion was easy and directional stability good. We could envision making many good 24-hour runs in this boat with a cruising chute poled out and a vane holding her on course.

Living aboard

The interior of the 45 has a pleasant tradition feel. The dark mahogany veneer is nicely offset by the white overhead and cabin-trunk liners. The main saloon has two overhead hatches for light and ventilation and several opening ports.

Like a lot of boats coming out of Europe in the last few years, the 45 has it's galley running forward and aft in the saloon to port, with the dinette to starboard. When all hands are below during mealtime, the saloon has a sort of country kitchen feel that makes the space homey and familiar. At sea, the fore-and-aft galley will be a challenge to cook in as there are no fore or aft corners against which to brace one's hip. A galley safety belt with several strategically positioned hooks will be needed for long port-tack runs.

Sleeping accommodations are large and comfortable with two double cabins aft and a large double cabin forward. The master stateroom forward will be lovely at anchor, but will be unusable in rough weather at sea. The aft cabins will make fine sea-berths, however, and the bench of the dinette is long enough to serve as a sea berth as well. With ample tankage and general storage, the 45 will make a fine cruising boat for the long haul or for living aboard.


The hull and deck are cored, vacuum-bagged composite structures. The hull is cored with PVC foam and the deck with end-grain balsa. This provides a highly rigid structure that is also light and strong. Moreover, coring the hull and deck offers the added benefit of sound and heat insulation. To combat osmosis in the hull laminate, an exotic neo-pentyl-glycol resin is used to form the get coat, which has very low porosity as well as a extremely smooth finish.

The mast is stepped on deck, so a massive compression post has been installed to transfer the download to the keel. In many traditionalist's minds, this is a controversial design feature, yet having sailed many offshore miles with such an arrangement, we know that it works fine as long as the rig remains well-tuned. The benefit, of course, is that the big hole in the deck and associated leaks are eliminated. With the chainplates positioned well inboard, the tie-rods must pass through the galley and dinette to anchor plates molded into the hull. The boat we sailed was not rigged with fittings for a staysail.

Interior furniture is made of mahogany veneer around a standard bulkhead grid that is tabbed to the hull, deck and floors. The floors are formed with composite grids that provides initial stiffness to the hull during construction and the base onto which the interior is tabbed. The heads are build of fiberglass modules that are glassed into place. While slightly antiseptic, the heads are easy to clean and bright.

The engine is a saildrive unit that is mounted beneath the companionway step. The box is compact, so adding a fridge compressor, watermaker and the accouterments of long-haul cruising will be a challenge. Saildrive units are not common in cruising boats. The downside of a saildrive unit is the large hole below the waterline and the need to haul the boat to work on the lower end of the transmission linkage. But the efficiency and simplicity of saildrives, in our view, more than compensate for this inconvenience.

The electrical system is logical and well laid out through the central panel in the nav-station. With each lead bearing a number tab, tracing shorts and adding new electric features is simple. Battery storage is adequate for coastal cruising, but is not sufficient for living aboard and voyaging. Overall, the 45 was well and solidly put together, a seaworthy combination of traditional building techniques and modern innovations.

The BWS Conclusion

The 45 is a good, solid sailing boat that has the accommodations that make it an attractive choice for living aboard and wandering the world. First, it is both solidly built and an able performer, so it satisfies the most basic requirements of a good offshore boat. For a winter in the Caribbean or Mexico, the standard boat, with canvas, electronics, storm sails and light-air sails added, would work well.

For extended offshore cruising, we would commandeer one of the aft cabins for storage and as the utility room where we could install the ancillary equipment that long-haul sailors so often add a small generator, watermaker, extra batteries and so forth. We might even build in a workbench with a vice on it! That would leave us with two good double cabins and an extra sea berth in the saloon, which should be plenty of berths. Add a windvane to the stern, a life raft, and the 45 will be ready and able to take a competent cruising family just about anywhere they might choose to go ?and do it properly under sail in a boat that will go to weather with the best and run for days at 8 knots in the trades.

The Dufour 45 is also a good value. The basic boat (with sails) can be picked up in France for $243,000. Delivered to the U.S., the basic boat with the Cruiser package (sails only) is $257,420. The Gran Cruiser package, which includes Autohelm sailing instruments, a windlass and other basic cruising gear, runs $267,860.

Dufour 45 Classic

Draft (shoal)6'5"
Ballast8,810 lbs
Displ.24,250 lbs.
Sail Area1,270 sq. ft.
Fresh Water175 gals
Fuel70 gals
Engine60 hp Volvo Saildrive

Dufour USA
1 Chelsea Ct.
Annapolis, MD 21403
phone: (410) 268-6417
fax: (410) 268-9739
Web site: www.dufouryachts.com

SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.