Car aficionados know that GT stands for Grand Tourismo and that means getting there in a flash, but with style. The Slovenian yard Elan-Yachts, which was taken over by private investors a couple of years ago and now is headed by former Hunter Marine CEO John Peterson, chose this GT-attitude as the guiding principle in the development of a new model series. The GT5 is Elan’s first yacht to compete in the upscale market segment of racer/cruisers. A lot about this boat is new, except for the hull, which is shared with the sportier Elan E5 (formerly known as the Elan 400), but was modified for the task by designer Rob Humphreys who extended it a smidgen and added a bit more freeboard.
Humphreys, who has been working with Elan for more than two decades, is currently drawing a new multi-purpose hull for the next generation of Elan yachts. This idea also has been explored before in the automotive sector, where it has been customary for years to use one chassis for several different car or truck models.
So they already had a proven hull, but to meet the comfort requirements, Elan had to create a new interior and was inspired by the tried and tested, but still popular Impressions series of deck saloon yachts. The GT5 also has a deck saloon layout below with an athwartships galley that is a step down and forward of the saloon, right up against the main bulkhead. A galley that far from the cockpit might not be the most practical arrangement for long and rough bluewater passages, but that’s not the primary use for this yacht. The market seems to like it and that’s what counts, otherwise these kinds of galleys would not be found on the yachts of other manufacturers (for example Dufour or Bavaria).
New deck, new interior
Elan also had to come up with a new deck and a deck house with a low coachroof that fits the rest of the proportions of this boat, yet still offers a good 6’6” of standing headroom in the saloon—a saloon that also offers a good all-round view and admits a lot of natural light. Particularly pretty are the surfaces of brushed oak, the chosen veneer on our test boat. Also welcome is the neat carpentry work, which can be seen in hidden corners and inside the cubbies and cabinets.
Just how important the comfort features are on this boat can be seen in the galley, which features all the trimmings you’d expect but also a microwave that rises from the work surface by the push of a button, or a glass cabinet with interior lighting. In the high-tech department, Elan for the first time installed digital light switches and fuses on the GT5 along with USB outlets for charging the various electronic devices that no sailor wants to leave ashore.
There are two stools that go with the saloon table but can be removed so the table can be lowered to create an additional double bunk. Good idea, but the mechanism is a bit tricky to operate so this is a job for two. Throughout the living quarters, there’s no shortage of drawers, stowage cabinets or hanging lockers, all equipped with a simple but effective closing mechanism. Also clever is the chart table, which is hidden in a fold-down seat of the starboard settee. It’s a bit small for working with large paper charts, but honestly, how many sailors take offense as long as there’s space for an iPad or a small chart plotter.
The GT5 is offered with two or three cabins and with one or two heads. The tested boat was equipped with two cabins and only one large head on the starboard side, aft, which was large enough for separate stalls for toilet and shower. A practical necessity is the hatch in the aft bulkhead here that provides access to the large starboard lazarette, which can swallow enormous quantities of stuff. However, getting bulky or large items down from the cockpit can be tricky because the opening under the starboard cockpit seat is rather small. There is another upside to this layout, however. It’s the large double bunk in the guest quarters to port.
The owner's cabin in the bow offers plenty of stowage space in cubbies and lockers as well as under the double berth. Upon request a second head can be added forward, but that’s much more compact than the one aft and eliminates one of two seats and some stowage space as a tradeoff.
Comfort with a sporty touch
On deck, it is noticeable how Elan tried to preserve some of the performance genetics as evidenced by the fixed bowsprit, which not only makes a good attachment spot for a gennaker, but also doubles as an anchor holder. Halyards and control lines are properly organized and led aft in tunnels, which enhances the clean look of the GT5. The lines run all the way aft to both steering stations in a cockpit designed to keep the work area aft, separated from the lounge area forward. The lounge area has two cockpit tables, with outer table halves that fold or slide down, thus extending the seats to comfortable sun pads.
Of course, there is also a fold-down swim platform at the stern, which is offered in two sizes, whereby only the large one completely encloses the cockpit at the stern. But both form a sort of swim dock as they can be lowered to sit right on the water’s surface, great for swimming and entertaining children. Behind the two steering stations, there are two cockpit boxes that serve as seats and stowage space, but as an option they can be equipped with a barbecue and a sink.
The test boat, which was fitted with a slightly overlapping genoa, was suitably set up for two-handed operation, with large winches and line stoppers within reach of the helmsperson. Sitting sideways on the coaming next to the wheel offered good visibility when steering, even with the sprayhood up, whereby the telltales of the jib also could be seen at all times. To keep the cockpit uncluttered, Elan compromised with the mainsheet arrangement, which has several pulleys on the coachroof and no traveler. The pulling angles there are less effective, which requires greater effort when trimming. The solution here would be larger or electric-powered winches.
Agile in a breeze
Under sail, the GT5 showed her performance pedigree, especially sailing to weather in a breeze. That was a bit surprising, given how much weight the cruising equipment and the massive furniture, not to mention a retractable microwave, have added to her displacement. She’s listed by Elan at 8.9 tons, but that refers to the calculated average light displacement, which means that with full tanks and closets, the reality might be closer to 9.9 tons.
In 15 knots of Bora on the Gulf of Trieste and in moderate waves, the GT5 was right at home. The fiberglass hull construction with infused vinylester resin felt stiff and showed excellent maneuverability with the twin rudder system. The deep T-keel provided the kind of righting moment that allowed the yacht to sail in the groove, meaning heeled over she was tracking on the chines of her hull with the leeward rudder pointing straight down. Sitting next to the wheel, keeping things under control required all but two fingers. The weather helm was just pronounced enough for precise steering and aided by a slight current on the transom, we showed between 7.5 and 8.3 knots, with apparent wind angles between 40 and 90 degrees. Reaching with a gennaker in these conditions holds the promise of double-digit speeds. In this mode at this wind, it’s pretty clear that this boat is scooting along on a hull that was designed for speed.
The day before, however, the other extreme was on tap: with less than four knots of wind, the boat struggled through the calms without pronounced heel, so the wide stern literally was stuck to the water. If it’s that light, one wishes for a larger headsail and a square-top main, but that would clash with the cruising character Elan wanted to impart. The solution here looks like a roller furling Code Zero that packs the necessary horsepower for sticky conditions. In this light, the self-tacking jib, which is also offered, only makes sense in windy and rough venues.
The GT5 is just the beginning
Speaking of horsepower: The test run under engine, a 38 HP Volvo Penta diesel with Saildrive, which is accessible for maintenance when the companionway steps are flipped up, reaffirmed the efficiency of this hull when motoring: The top speed at 2,800 RPM was 8.3 knots. Significantly more economical and quieter is the operation at cruising speed, which pushes the boat along at 6.7 knots and 1,800 RPM. Working the throttle and wheel with a deft touch, the GT5 can be turned almost on the spot in calm water, even without a bow thruster. Running circles, even at full throttle, came easy, but caution should be exercised when backing up. As on all boats with pre-balanced twin-rudders, the person at the helm is strongly advised to go slow and grip the wheel tightly to prevent the two rudders from flopping over hard to one side.
On the water, the GT5 confirmed the good impression it made at the shows in Paris and Düsseldorf where it was introduced to the public. Even if a little more canvas in light air wouldn’t hurt, the boat can be equipped with various sailing options that are suitable for the respective venue of operation. In view of the tidy build and the thought-out solutions, a base price of about $250,000 is appropriate.
It was quite a daring leap Elan made with the Grand-Tourismo concept, by putting an upscale cruising package on a performance hull. But at least during this test, this experiment appeared to be a success and it will be exciting to watch how the GT line will evolve in the future.
Other Choices: Sailors interested in some similar-length high-performing cruisers that can easily compete in a handicap race might look at the Dehler 42, the Xc 45 and the Beneteau Oceanis 41.1.
For more information, visit Elan Yachts.
See Elan GT5 listings.
|Sail area (main/jib)||480 sq. ft./410 sq. ft.|
|Gennaker||1,464 sq. ft.|
|Fuel capacity||45 gal.|
|Water capacity||58 gal.|