Michel Dufour of La Rochelle, France is one of the few shipbuilders who has been dedicated to building sailboats, and sailboats only, since 1964. With the Dufour Grand’ Large 405, he has added to his line of fast, sleek performance cruisers. The design won European Boat of the Year 2010 in the Family Cruiser category, and received numerous nominations in American contests as well.
The GL 405 is a light-displacement production boat with long angular windows in a low coachroof and a plumb bow that gives her a long waterline. She looks like a speed demon, and her performance is on par with her looks. The hull is solid, hand-laid fiberglass with a Twaron-reinforced structural grid running the length and width of the hull. The deck is a balsa-cored injection molding, which is light but rigid, contributing to the boat’s speed and stiffness.
Two depths of cast-iron bolt-on keel are available – standard at 6’ 6” or a shoal keel with a 5’ 9” draft. Standard displacement is just over 17,800 pounds and is easily managed by a deep, semi-elliptical rudder.
Rig & Performance
The 9/10ths fractional rig has swept-back double spreaders and is deck-stepped. There is a double backstay, and an inner forestay is optional. Genoa tracks (100% jib is standard) are on the deck near the coachroof, so the sheeting angles are tight. The standard mainsail has conventional battens, and two single-line reefing points. In-mast furling or a full-battened mainsail with lazyjacks are options, and all control lines are led aft.
The GL405 is fast, nimble, and easily driven. She will tack through 80 degrees and do 8 knots in 15 knots of apparent wind at 40 degrees. Like most light production boats, the GL 405 needs to be reefed in 16-18 knots but her beamy aft section provides a stable and fast ride off the wind. A short alloy sprit is optional to fly an asymmetrical spinnaker.
The standard 40-hp Volvo Penta diesel with a Saildrive and a fixed two-blade prop pushes the boat at 7.5 knots at a 2,400-rpm cruising speed or 8.0 knots at 3,000-rpm max speed. A 55-hp engine and a folding 2-blade propeller are optional.
The GL 405 really turns heads. The boat is low and sleek, with a clean and functional deck and cockpit. Twin wheels are connected via cables to the quadrant right over the rudder. With the drop-down transom that forms the swim platform, it’s easy to board as well as move around the cockpit. Engine controls are at the starboard wheel and genoa sheet winches are within the helmsman’s reach on both sides for easy shorthanded sailing.
Two more self-tailing winches on the coachroof control the mainsheet and halyards, which are led aft through rope clutches. A drop-leaf center table with a grab-rail can house a centerline multi-function display. Storage is plentiful in three cockpit lockers, two shallow and one deep. There’s a liferaft locker under the aft end of the cockpit sole, near the emergency tiller access to the rudder post.
Teak decks are optional but the solid wood toerail is standard, as are the six aluminum cleats. The foredeck is clear, with a recessed electric vertical windlass and a large, opening chain locker.
The Dufour GL 405 comes in two- and three-cabin versions that split the boat down the middle –the port side is identical in both versions, while the starboard side is where all the differences are. To port is a good-sized aft cabin behind a head with a separate stall shower. The saloon, with 6’5” headroom, has a U-shaped settee to port with a table and a double bench seat inboard. The cushions have removable and washable covers and storage is everywhere, including below and behind the settee and in the bookshelf above.
In the two-cabin version, the galley, to starboard, is L-shaped and close to the companionway. A double stainless-steel sink, a two-burner stove and oven, and a large front- and top-loading fridge/freezer provide the cook with all that’s needed. Two seats with a cocktail table in between face the main settee. Aft is a very large storage space accessible via the cockpit or the cabin, with room for the optional genset and a workshop of sorts. Given the minimal 100-Ah house battery plus one starting battery, some owners may choose to install a genset. Polyethelene water (100 gallons) and fuel (53 gallons) tanks are underneath the berth in either cabin/aft space.
In the three-cabin version, the storage area aft is replaced with a cabin identical to the one to port. The galley is in a straight line up the starboard side across from the settee, with the large fridge separating it from the small nav station and bench. The galley has lots of storage and Corian countertop space, and is more in the center of the social scene. You lose the two seats outboard but gain a forward-facing nav desk.
The master cabin forward is identical in both versions, with a head and good storage to port, a large hanging locker to starboard, and a semi-island V-berth. Headroom in the master is 6’2”.
The interior is finished in varnished Moabi mahogany. The décor is very contemporary with angular furniture, clean lines and a nice finish. A unique feature that has gotten many cameras snapping is the built-in wine storage below the solid wood floorboards by the companionway. It holds over a dozen bottles of wine and is definitely a conversation starter when guests come aboard. Dufour boats have always been designed with integral wine racks – but a wine cellar, keeping the weight low, is a new twist.
The Grand’ Large line consists of seven boats from 33 to 53 feet, and they more than hold their own in summer club races. Dufour also has an “E” line of performance boats, with three models from 34 to 45 feet. With the Grand’ Large 405, it seems Dufour will win the hearts of cruising couples and small families looking for space, comfort, and a good turn of speed. With a base price of $235,000 (commissioned, FOB Annapolis) the Grand’ Large 405 will have broad appeal and represents good value in a fast, tidy package.
For more information, visit the Dufour Yachts web page.
Zuzana Prochazka is a U.S. Coast Guard Master with 20 years of boating experience. She is technical editor for Latitudes & Attitudes and a regular contributor to MadMariner. Her work also has appeared in Santana (where she previously was editor) and the Sunday magazine of the Los Angeles Times.