Last week, it was a beautiful day with a lot of sun, I again returned to the Ancora Marina at the Baltic Sea shores to have a look at a boat. As I am interested in yachts around 40 feet length it was the Dufour Grand´Large 382 I was originally looking for. I entered the jetty and came nearer to the moored beauty as I suddenly became aware of another yacht, tied up right next to the 382 Grand´Large. A dwarf. Or not? It was the Dufour Grand´Large 310 drawing my attention.
That´s 31 feet we are talking about now. 9.39 meters length over all, after all one full meter less than my own sailing yacht, the King´s Cruiser 33. And that´s exactly what I became suddenly interested in: What´s the difference between a modern-day 2015 built small sailing yacht like the Dufour 310 and my 33 feet IOR-classic from 1975? To foreclose the punch line: I am going to be astounded, because the yacht designer was able to push the envelope on this 31-feet small/big boat. I was allowed to roam about inside and outside the yacht freely and uninterrupted for more than an hour. Here´s what I saw.
Grand´Large Appearance: Twin Wheels & Rudders on 31 Feet?
Nearing this boat from the aft I first notice that Dufour has splashed out on twin wheels. Which in no way looks awkward because as from a general feeling the yacht does not look like a small 31 feet boat, but it comes with a surprise. Too many people in the internet did criticize this move as exaggeration, wasting weight and so forth, but I find it interesting: The fact of having twin wheels will add to the “Grand´Large-Feeling” of this boat and contribute significantly to boosting the owner´s joy.
The stern section is huge. The width is not much smaller than the widest spot of some 3.30 meters – for a boat of just 9.40 meters that´s a staggering number. A crew will find more than enough space here to both handle the boat, working the sheets and enjoying leisure time both at sea, anchoring and in harbor. The cockpit can easily house a party of 4 or more people without generating a cramped feeling. Again, Grand and Large at it´s best.
The large cockpit table is not complimentary and imagining the boat without it would add a significant surplus of room to the cockpit-area. Taking the helmsman´s position on starboard side I try to accommodate – and I find that everything is fine. Even when heeled I can sense steering this boat shouldn´t be difficult. A helmsman has always a good view around though due to the sheer it could be a bit tricky to oversee the area directly in front of the boat – which is a struggle with most boats of course.
Wherever I decide to take a seat or stand – right behind, next to or high above the wheel – I cannot see any problems with ergonomics concerning the part of steering the ship. I guess helming a Dufour 310 is a no brainer. Too sad I cannot just cast off the lines a dash out to a quick sailing trip – weather would be just perfect today for a quick sail around the cape.
So of course, one could lament that having the twin wheels is a waste of money, weight and complicated mechanics but that´s not my point of view at all. Though tiller steering is considered more appropriate and the mechanism of choice for “sportive” and direct steering of ships under 40 feet, I guess it´s the market and demand of the owners. As I experienced by myself (I am accustomed to tiller steering with my King´s Cruiser 33) most people just simply favor wheels. Period. End of sentence. Sales numbers will speak for themselves.
Sailplan & Roping of the Dufour 310
I am not an expert in interpreting the theoretical potential by just looking at a yacht´s sailplan. But so far I can see, the Dufour 310 should be performing more than well. Some 50 square meters of sail area can be brought up to the wind close hauled and that´s quite a punch for a small ship like this. For comparison, the new Dehler 34 – a thoroughbred Performance Cruiser – has “just” some 6 square meters more upwind sail area. What I can judge though is the clean roping.
All sheets, halyards and other lines are running to winches and cleats in the cockpit thus making the 310 Grand´Large a boat sailable single-handed with ease. Again, the mainsail is small enough to be hoisted in a one-man-show, compared to the frightening huge main of a Pogo 40 where hoisting this monster single-handed is sheer horror.
This particular Dufour is not only practical and – assumingly – easy to handle, it´s a festival for the eyes as well. All lines, as with every color on this boat, are matching the Dufour color-code and create a very classy appearance. Yellow ocher and noble white colors dominate the design as well as the choices of lines. The Dufour Grand´Large 310 has in every aspect a formidable appearance.
When rigged with a jib instead of the Genoa the skipper will be able to sail her stress free especially when tacking and gybing because a self-tacking jib is standard on the 310 Grand´Large. I personally never had the chance to sail a boat with self-tacking jib and would look forward to have a testride with one of these in this respect too.
There´s a huge cockpit locker on starboard side – again, considerably larger than the locker on my own 33 feet boat. Overall, it´s amazing that the Dufour 310 has more of everything in comparison to my IOR-classic: More room in the cockpit, a number of different comfortable steering positions for the helmsman, more space for stowing stuff, more space for a super-large cockpit-table and more room for the bowman working the sheets.
Moving over the deck, especially forward to the bow, is done with ease. There´s enough space to bypass the shrouds and the deck is wide enough to have a safe walkway when destined to go to the bow for some reason. Again, the overall look of the boat is cluttered, very appealing which is not least a product of a thought-through concept, construction and the decisions of where to place which part. I particularly liked the tiny details of massive teak-handles on the cabin roof – something chingly missing on much larger other boats.
The Grand´Large Concept
Dufour offers yachts of sizes between 31 and 56 feet – pending a launch of their latest model that will further expand the portfolio in the upper range. Next to the Grand´Large-range a number of performance oriented light and fast racer-cruisers are available too.
The branding Grand´Large means something like “travel in style in the wide open sea”. Ships of this line are renowned as handy, fast cruisers with an emphasis on comfort and a dash of luxury. Dufour is a big player in the business, selling around 500 boats per year. The 310 is a Grand´Large and this boat is down to serious business.
Standing in front of the entryway down below I notice the clever position of all winches and cleats, anough stowage for stuff to be needed in the cockpit and – that´s a definitive plus – the huge entree down a three-step staircase to the saloon. No more ducking one´s head in expectation of an aching clout – as it is the case with my own Kingscruiser 33 yacht.
Descending the staircase to the saloon I hold my breath and behold. It´s light suffused, light colored wooden veneers, light colored fabrics and overwhelming volume. Truly breathtaking! Since one of the strongest pros to finally having bought my King´s Cruiser 33 was her huge saloon (compared to other 30+ feet yachts) it´s staggering how big the 310 saloon really is even in comparison to my boat. It´s really “large” – and truly “grand”.
Dufour 310 Saloon: A Full Size Lounge
The saloon, upon being huge, has a pretty conservative Layout: Two settees on each side of the ship and a big folding table form a clear and neat feeling for the room. There´s enough space to spend some time here having a nice dinner (even with additional guests) as well as weathering foul days moored when it´s raining cats and dogs outside. It´s a classy, yet clean and friendly design.
My King´s Cruiser 33 offers a slightly favorable configuration here – from my point of view – as I have a large U-settee and a smaller single bunk creating a more cozy atmosphere. Nevertheless, Dufour´s arrangement has its advantages too: One can bypass the folding table at either side and the overall feeling is more open. Speaking of the folding table …
I assemble the folding tops and take a seat on each available position. The table is huge, as it is the case with almost all items on board this small 31 feet boat. I can hardy imagine a dinner where one would need the whole area. Even when having additional guests it should be no problem to find a place for plates, glasses and pots with tasty food.
The settees are very comfortable, owners can choose from a wide range of different fabrics and colors. I particularly liked the light colors of the 310 and the not too soft cushion material. The settees can be converted into sea berths though I missed (or didn’t find in the first place) some studding sails. Length and width of the berths are sufficient enough to find a good night´s sleep here.
What I particularly love about my King´s Cruiser is her full sized navigation station. When on a larger cruise and even during long weekend-sails I consider it absolutely necessary to be able to work one´s charts and have a proper place to do the skipper´s paperwork. Not many boats nowadays do have a chart table. The Dufour 310 does. At least it´s a complete chart table with folding top for chart stowage and a large panel for VHF and additional instruments.
Having to sit on the starboard settee facing backwards is a concession to the small length of the ship but again, it´s better than on many other boats of this size which have no proper chart table at all. All in all the saloon can hold what the large cockpit offers: Standing height of at least 1.80 meters in the whole ship is definitely another plus here.
Living aboard a Dufour 310 Grand´Large
Quite conservative also the rear arrangement of the main saloon where one will find a small L-shaped galley to the port side and the head on the starboard side. As we all know, the cook is the second most important person on board and his food can only be as good as the galley – I take a thorough look at the galley, trying to imagine preparing another iteration of my well-known “Spaghetti a la X-Yacht”-recipe.
On the first glance the galley appears to be somewhat cramped. But on the other hand I can imagine working here in heavy swell conditions this tightness could be a benefit here over a wide open galley. One can wedge oneself between galley and aft cabin bulkhead to achieve a safe stand whilst cooking. This Dufour 310 is equipped with a two flame stove which I think is sufficient, most of my sailing friends admitted to never use three flames at all.
There´s also a huge fridge with top loading capacity, though it´s not on the standard version of the boat. The folding top will blend in with the worktable-top in a nice plain white shiny color, further brightening up the overall feeling of the saloon and adding a luxurious touch to the room. The fridge offers enough space to have provisions for several days cooled.
On the port side there´s a fully equipped head: Completely with a shower, tap and pumping toilet. Again, the head is huge considered the overall size of the boat. There´s also enough space and stowage for the small stuff as well as for wet oilskin and other equipment. A bit odd are the – welcomed – portholes which of course can be covered by sunblinds. I was astounded of the space available here, again considering the tiny cramped situation in my King´s Cruiser head.
Suffused by Light …
What was most fascinating – and still is after one week passed since my visit on the Dufour 310 – is the yacht´s light concept. I cannot say that I ever visited another yacht that was alike in terms of brightness and the cleverness of the arrangement of portholes. The outcome is staggering: The saloon will be suffused by light regardless of where the sun is situated because there are no less than seven different openings of the cabin roof and freeboard to let the sun rays through.
Most of the sunlight will enter the saloon through the cabin roof where a large hatch is combined with two extralarge plexiglass portholes making the roof appear almost completely dissolved by see-through elements. Depending on where one will stand, this roof-arrangement will either open a breathtaking view on the hoisted mainsail or to the rear sky above the yacht. In any case, the effect is beautiful.
Adding the two portholes in the freeboard and the – again – large entryway to the cockpit the sum is a really innovative lighting concept enabling the saloon to appear even larger as it is – by means of light. Sitting on one of the settees I dream myself away under a clear night sky, all lights dimmed and looking through the roof to have a last look onto the Orion constellation before turning in to the sleeping bag.
Clever: Expanding Internal Volume
Another clever thing is the multifunctional bulkhead to the fore cabin. Again, designer Umberto Felci and the team have come up with an innovating solution here. Instead of adding an ordinary door to enter the fore cabin, one can choose from two configurations: Have the door expanded threefold to a wide open space – creating an even larger saloon by incorporating the forepeak into the room concept – or the standard door to a sealed berthing area.
The mechanism is as easy as ABC and it takes just seconds to turn the huge one-room saloon back into the classic compartment. I really like that, because it improves the versatility of the 310 significantly. When underway single handed or as a couple one would choose to have the one-cabin version. More persons aboard and the boat will adapt accordingly with no effort at all.
I particularly like the large folding bulkhead/forepeak door-combination because it will boost significantly the versatility of this ship: Acting as a small daysailer or serious cruiser for a longer journey this widening the target group of potential owners. A clever move by Dufour.
Staterooms: Cabin Size on a modern 31 Feet Yacht
Speaking of longer cruises – the Dufour 310 is meant to act as a full capable cruiser. But can this small ship live up to that demand? I take a closer look at the cabins and berths. Can I imagine myself and maybe my wife with full cruise-mode luggage, some spare sails and a stack of provisions for, let´s say, a two week cruise on that boat? To foreclose the solution: Yes, I can. But within some restrictions, naturally.
I begin checking berths and stowage capacity in the fore cabin. To find a good night´s sleep here one will have to close the bulkhead completely and install (which is easy) two cushion-parts which will form the heads-end of the berths. In this way, the sleeping space is more than adequate: 2 meters in length and at the heads-end offers a width of slightly more than 1.70 meters! That´s huge. In the narrowest part where the legs end it´s another 80 centimeters width, which I would say is okay for a boat that small.
Not quite so with the aft cabin: It´s definitely too small for two people, unless it´s a honeymoon cruise I guess. When occupied by one single person it again offers more than enough space to find some nice sleeping positions, especially when one would place oneself diagonally over the mattresses. There´s a hatch providing fresh air and enough light, I also liked the wooden cover panels at the walls. When travelling with (small) children this stateroom would be my first choice for the kids – the other way round as it is the case with my King´s Cruiser 33, where kids love to take the fore cabin.
Stowage situation is a bit scarce from my point of view and this is where the small size of the ship is simply putting the best yacht designer to his limits. Of course, there are plenty of cupboards and lockers, but overall the capacity is limited. When really underway with spare sails and other stuff the ship naturally will bear a very different look.
Anyway, always considering the fact that this is a yacht with an overall length of just 9.35 meters Dufour has made a tremendous job in squeezing out every inch of room, providing for a modern, open and light diffused ship that from the first time on I set foot aboard created a positive feeling. I never felt uncomfortable and couldn´t find major issues or had to disapprove any details. This is indeed a very nice ship – in context to only having 31 feet it´s a great ship indeed.
The Dufour 310 – Who should go for it?
So who should go ahead and get this boat? “We like to take people out on the Dufour 310 for test-sailing our brand because … she is simply sailing like hell!”, said one of the Dufour guys I met and looking at the chines in the rear area I can imagine that. The Dufour 310 is rated category B which means she is destined to sail offshore (within 200 miles of the coastline) and can take up to Beaufort 8 winds with waves of up to 4 meters, which is quite a punch.
I think young couples, solo-sailors and daysailing oriented people will find a great boat here: It´s big enough to offer all amenities one would expect from a cruising yacht yet small enough to have minimized demurrage and maintenance costs. For small families with smaller children it would also suit well and finally, looking at my King´s Cruiser 33 – a boat that I love indeed – I would trade her without a second of hesitation for a Dufour 310.
What´s so great about the Dufour 310 Grand´Large.
So what did I love most about the 310? Now, some 10 days after my visit, it´s this feeling of sheer space that has burned itself into my brain. I almost instantly forgot being on a 31 feet ship upon entering her deck. I like her classy look, the fantastic lines – above all the sheer. She must look awesome when powered close hauled and heeling over.
She is a light suffused ship with a high class designed yet friendly interior, not that intimidating museum-like precious “don´t tuch me!”-designs often seen with other brands. I couldn´t notice any faults in material and installations, couldn´t spot any major issues and found myself at home instantly. She is a very, very nice boat.
All in all I am fascinated by this boat in many respects: As an owner of a 10.30 meter long boat having one full meter more length, I am astonished by the fact how big that small can be. The 2015 31 feet Dufour 310 offers far more space both on and under deck than my King´s Cruiser can ever do. There´s only one thing where my classic GRP-cruiser is superior: In my eyes it´s more cozy to have a U-shaped settee in the saloon rather than two ordinary ones. On the other hand: You cannot possibly compare two boats which are made with 40 years of marine development parting each other.
I am a bit saddened by the fact that I wasn´t able to take her out to a cruise to see how she behaves under sails and if she can live up to the high marks I give her for her appearance. But I hope to get her wheels and sheets into my hands someday soon. As much as I am intrigued to have a thorough look at the Dufour Performance 40E, which is my favorite boat of all, I somehow fell in love a bit. With that little big boat.
Thanks to Dufour Yachts Germany for handing me the keys for the boat. For a second I was ensnared to just let go all lines and cast off …
Here´s an article on other dream yachts – the Hallberg-Rassy 412 and 43
You prefer damn fast sailing? Then maybe this dream yacht, the Pogo 12.50 will appeal your taste.