French sailboat builder Dufour builds some big boats, and models like the Grand Large 560, their flagship, are seriously impressive. But how do you take everything sailors need and stuff it into a small package, without making things cramped and confined? Dufour has done that impressively with the new Grand Large 350, which replaces and builds on the previously successful Grand Large 335.
The 9/10s fractional rig supports a total sail area of 592 square feet with a 95-percent self-tacking jib on a Facnor furler and straight track, just ahead of the mast. A traditional Elvstrom Dacron mainsail is standard and full battens are optional. The deck-stepped Selden tapered mast and boom are aluminum and the chainplates are outboard, so it’s relatively easy to move around on the side decks. There is no backstay.
With a large drop-leaf table taking over the center of the cockpit, the twin helms open up the space nicely for easier movement between the companionway and the transom. A Raymarine chartplotter and engine controls are to starboard and an instrument display is to port. Both wheels have compasses, and both offer easy access to the primary Lewmar winches.
Two more winches are on the cabin top along with an array of sheet stoppers. There are also identical hatches on either side, outboard of the winches, which can be left open for good ventilation even in foul weather, since they’re tucked under the dodger. Two large lockers behind the wheels under the cockpit sole allow for stowing a liferaft to starboard and water toys to port. The aft seats hinge up when not in use, opening the transom for easier boarding and maneuvering when racing.
The decks are fiberglass topped with non-skid, which will be a blessing for anyone not wanting to deal with lots of exterior teak. In fact, there are just enough wood accents to add style but not much by way of weight or maintenance, There’s an option for teak on the cockpit seats and sole, teak cabin top handholds, and a teak toe rail to help with footing when heeling. It’s enough to break up the vast expanse of white, but not so much as to make anyone a varnishing expert.
At the bow, an optional integrated composite bowsprit or “delphiniere” helps keep ground tackle from dinging the hull when anchoring and may serve as an attachment point for a gennaker. Our test boat had a standard single bow roller but for versatility, but my choice would be the delphiniere, which adds a bit of length and a lot of convenience.
The 350 hull is a hand-laminated, vacuum-infused polyester/foam core sandwich construction with solid glass below the waterline. An inward flange provides a solid bulwark at the joint and an integral grid distributes loads from the rig. The layup allows control of the fiber and resin placement, and results in lighter finished parts, faster preparation, and a cleaner process overall. The cast iron keel is L-shaped with a bulb, and is offered in 6’3” or 5’ 1” drafts. There’s a single rudder. Overall, it’s a standard underbody and the deeper draft should have good upwind performance.
Easy Living Below Decks
The U.S. market will gravitate toward the two-cabin single-head model, although three cabins are an option. With only two staterooms, a stall shower is incorporated into the head and that’s a big plus for American cruising couples. Another benefit of the two cabin layout is the addition of an aft-facing nav desk that shares a seat with the settee. The desk may be lowered by sliding it down on tracks, and covered with a cushion to extend the starboard seat or to form a berth.
A guest cabin is aft to port (or two cabins occupy the entire aft end.) The standard wood finish is Maobi and natural light is brought in by an opening hatch and two fixed acrylic ports in the headliner. These ports add to the aesthetics below but beware up top, where they can by quite slippery underfoot.
The L-shaped galley is to port and has twin sinks (one large and one small) on the centerline, a top-loading Isotherm refrigerator with plastic containers, and fiddles formed into the Corian countertops all around to keep the dishes from flying. To extend the limited workspace, the two-burner Eno stove has a Corian cover that slides into its own holder against the bulkhead or can be used as a serving tray. Between the hot oven and the cool fridge is a narrow locker designed to hold bottles of oil or spices. Wine has an additional dedicated space in the signature Dufour wine rack, below the floorboards at the foot of the companionway.
Between and just ahead of the nav desk and galley is the saloon, with a large drop-leaf table that folds out to connect the two straight settees. It is, in fact, the same table as on the GL 382 and has a padded, rounded aft end to dampen body/furniture collisions in rough conditions. A lid on the center of the table lifts to reveal a shallow tray for whatever small debris are acquired over time. It slides forward and aft revealing a deeper stowage space on one side and another built-in bottle holder on the other.
Our boat test included a bit of adrenalin, but not because there were high seas and crazy conditions when we went for our sail–in fact, we began our test on the flat waters of the Chesapeake with little more than fluky and exasperating puffs. But toward the end of the day, storm clouds gathered and thunderheads settled in. The good news was the wind revved up below the clouds, but the bad news was that lightning wasn’t far behind. A crack split the northern sky and the boat took off like a shot. Too soon, however, the rain started as we tacked back and forth. The whole affair was over before we could lament how soaked we were, and as the rain passed, the wind dropped to four knots. The lightning never left.
That made for a brief if spirited sail, as we came up to 6.5 knots at 45 degrees in 15 knots of apparent wind. The tacks were brisk but easy as the self-tacking jib just swung through, leaving us to contemplate the thunder. We cracked off to 120 degrees and dropped to 5.9 knots just as we speculated about being on the evening news as lightning victims.
At 3,000 rpm, the 29 HP Volvo diesel reached 7.2 knots at the top end. We backed off to a cruising speed of 6 knots and still got home quickly. The GL 350 carries 42 gallons of fuel and 58 gallons of water, but there is an option to add another 42 gallons of water for a total of 100. For anyone planning to cruise with a family for a week at time, it would be good to add the extra tankage.
Dufour offers the boat in various packages. The “Adventure” package includes extras like a dodger, electric windlass, rigid boomvang, full-batten main, and other big-boat features. The base price is around $156,000. With other options such as a shoal keel, German mainsheet system, and teak on the cockpit floor and seats, the price FOB the U.S. East Coast is $195,000. That means that while the Dufour Grand Large 350 is every bit as capable as many larger boats, it doesn’t carry the same hefty price tag.
Other Choices: Sailors looking in this class may find the Bavaria Cruiser 33 of interest. Another sailboat in this class that keeps price in check is the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349.
For more information visit Dufour.
See Dufour Grand Large 350 listings.
|Sail Area||529 sq. ft.|
|Fuel capacity||42 gal.|
|Water capacity||58 (std.) gal.|