Here´s another boat I´ve seen in Duesseldorf 2024 that really catched my imagination. I passed by this huge hull model of the Grand Soleil 72 Performance and had to stare at this beauty all the time. So sleek, so nicely shaped, just like an arrowhead about to strike. Flat, darn sexy and alluring. A Wow!-boat for sure.

Awwww ….

Well, it was just a model, showcased on the Grand Soleil stand but every time I had to take a little time out from the stress on our own stand at Beneteau´s to take a pee, I had to pass by. Admiring this beauty, this reminded me how kind of boring I found Grand Soleil just a handful of years ago: I felt that this brand hadn´t really fund it´s own signature, the boats appeared to me neither being fish nor meat (a saying in German). But this changed dramatically and I´d say, it absolutely changed for the better.

Familiar lines …

One morning, still 1.5 hours to go till the official opening of the boat show, I roamed the famous sailing boats hall 16 and again came by the Grand Soleil stand. This time I greeted the GS 72 just shortly and put my focus away from the model to the real boat that was showcased: Grand Soleil´s entry level yacht of the “Performance”-range, the Grand Soleil 40. A beauty as well, clearly as sharply designed as her big sister flagship. And familiar lines too …

She not just looks fast …

A few years ago one of my favorite yacht designers, the “ORC Wunderkind” Matteo Polli had been hired by the shipyard to act as principal designer for the Performance range yachts. Judging by the marvelous work of Polli for Italia Yachts and the success of his designs on the race circuit – “his” Grand Soleil 44 won the ORC World Championships in 2023 – this was a clever move and surely an investment that pays off. You can see the Polli in the new hulls of Grand Soleil, admirable.

Clearly a Matteo Polli

I start my walkthrough as a walkaround. The Grand Soleil 40 enters a market that is a stormy affair: So many brands fight in the 35-40 feet range for the owners, many very nice boats are available. The options are huge: Starting with performance-oriented big production brand boats like the First 36 as a modern boat to the classics, like Dehler 42, to the more upper brands like X-Yachts 4.0 Pure to the race-oriented brands like Italia Yachts, MAT, JPK or Pogo.

Fine entry

Polli and Grand Soleil chose a “softer” approach with a very sleek but classy design. The boat is very beautiful, but it has some features, almost kind of hidden, only people who really are into it would notice. Like this wonderfully shaped fine entry of the bow section: It´s a sheer pleasure to just look at those lines, follow them with your eyes. And we know it from cars: If it looks beautiful, it often works beautifully too.

A wide, sleek stern

Also the stern-section: Round shape, flat, almost no visible chines (which is almost a relief for my eyes since literally everybody now has more or less aggressive chines in their yachts, no matter is necessary or not). The wide open stern looks racy, complemented by a nicely shaped keel and single rudder configuration.

Clearly Matteo Polli´s lines

As I mentioned, this yacht wants (and it s indeed) to convey a certain flair of distinction, of grandeur, as the brand´s name and image implies. In this, Polli went for a less aggressive hull shape – compared to the Italia Yachts 11.98 for example, but retained promise of racing fun and fast performance. The boat almost reminds me of my very, very first encounter back in 2015 (shockingly far away in the past!) with the Italia Yachts 13.98, “European Yacht of the Year” 2013. Her stunning beauty and cleanliness had taken my breath back then.

A beautiful boat

Spaking in numbers, the Grand Soleil 40 has a 11.90 meters long hull (LOA 12.90 m or 13.50 m in race mode) with a maximum beam of 4.07 meters. Displacing some 8.7 tons of water she sports an upwind sails area of 91 to 95 square meters (race mode) with a 140/160 square meters gennaker. Comparing the Grand Soleil to the X-Yachts 4.0 pure, she is a heavier (600 kg) but carries significantly more sail, X 4.0 has just 78 Square meters with a Genoa, Grand Soleil has a self-tacking Jib. Pretty impressive for the World Champion´s little sister …

Cockpit layout and feeling aboard the Grand Soleil 40

As her brand´s name and DNA suggests, the Grand Soleil isn´t all about racing and performance. She also wants to be a nice beautiful platform for a mediterranean cruise, a sundowner and a quick nice dash out with guests. Her cockpit layout reflects that. What strikes my eyes first are the locations of the winches. A classy layout with two halyard winches on the coachroof, two Jib sheet winches on the coamings and two Gennaker winches aft.

Note the extra wide benches

What also strikes my mind are the considerably wide cockpit benches. This is just awesome. Not only in the main guest area where a cockpit table (is there an option for this?) is located, but also the more abaft benches. Extremely wide – which is nice when used for lounging but also for racing when working the winches.

Helmsman´s position

Helm stations are nicely designed. The Grand Soleil 40 comes with the standard setup, Carbonautica steering wheels. The position is perfect for a nice helmsman´s overview, but also significantly inward to avoid too much exposure to wind and spray. What I didn´t like so much is the recessed panel and levers for the engine controls. It might be cool not to get entangled there by accident, but driving the boat “by foot” is impossible this way.

Clean lines …

I am still not a big fan of Flexiteak and other synthetic Teak-surrogates at all – it just looks too uniform, too artificial. For a boat like the Grand Soleil 40 maybe an EVA-decking could make an awesome impression too (I´ve seen it one one of our First 44s lately, and it was pretty sleek). Other than those two issues, the boat´s deck is neat and reduced, an impression that I like very much. Let´s check her interiors then.

A very clean interior

The Grand Soleil 40, I am aware of that fact, is the smallest boat in the range and thus their entry level yacht. Of course, being “limited” to an internal volume of 40 feet, the designers have the difficult task to fit in all amenities clients are demanding and also retain a lush, luxurious appearance. For the Grand Soleil 40 I didn´t quite connect to the interior, I must admit. My first impression was a bit cold, aloof. Although the color choice had been quite warm.

The salon of the Grand Soleil 40

You know that I am not a fan of longitudinal galleys, but on this boat with a considerably large bathroom portside (and another one in the owner´s cabin to starboard side), there simply isn´t enough space to fit an L-galley and the classic U-salon with a sofa vis-à-vis. This is realized on the Grand Soleil 44, by the way.

Functional, again, very neat

I find that 40-something feet is a perfect size for a yacht that is mostly sailed alone or by two people with occasional guests in an coastal/offshore environment. Budget-wise, this size offers the best compromise between cost and volume, also in maintenance. The Grand Soleil 40 has everything a yachtsman may want to have, the third cabin maybe even convertible into a household or storage room.

Better sleep upside down

Going into the owner´s cabin I had to smile, why do Italian boats always have so narrow door frame sizes? I mean, my partner is Italian and I rarely see fat people in Italy, but this may become an issue with people from other nations, or at least a challenge. Funny. The owner´s cabin is again a bit aloof for my taste, but the quality of the craftsmanship is very nice. Due to the fine entry and the relatively slim hull in the bow I am pretty sure that I would sleep with feet to the front, it´s simple too cramped near the crash bulkhead. I am spoiled, I know, and on a performance yacht hull windows aren´t widely accepted, but standing here I must admit I miss them a bit …

What a big bed!

Ame goes for the aft cabins, which in themselves are very nice. There is a “blind” window that could easily have been one, but it is a cupboard, nicely recessed, emulating a window. The size of the berths aft is enormous – I can imagine that if I´d be the owner, I would think twice if I´d rather have one of the aft cabins turned into the owner´s cabin.

Again, very functional

Very reduced to the minimum, decently sized, are the two bathrooms. On a boat that size and brand, I´d skip the pump WC and go for an electric for sure, but that´s just a detail. Again, the boat doesn´t really manage to grab me emotionally as it feels a bit too reduced, too cold. It will need an owner (or owner´s wife) to color up the boat´s interior for a bit. Which can be a great thing – many other brands have such a dominating design ex yard that there is little room for individual styling. On this one, there´s a lot!

When the Beauty meets the Beast …

She probably is both. Nice to look at and savage on the race course. So in the end, the entry size Grand Soleil 40 seems a pretty capable and exciting boat. Matteo Polli for sure knows how to design a fast hull and create a powerful rigg. She is a great start of the “Performance”-range which, of course, gets more and more exciting the bigger more the boat´s size is growing. Just like our little-big Oceanis 30.1, which in herself is a wonderful yacht that has everything her bigger sisters have. I leave the stand, looking at the models again.

Matteo´s spirit

Passing by this Grand Soleil 52, I hold on for a second: The 72-footer was a true beauty, but way too big. This wonderful yacht has still a manageable size but comes with absolutely tempting lines as well. Looking at this range it becomes clear how important it is not just to have a dedicated and skillful designers in terms of performance, but also one that has a true vision for the whole, someone, who – over many years time – can always come up with something new on the one hand, but also retain the brand´s identity and – at least a bit – one´s own signature. Matteo Polli surely is one of those designers.


You might as well read:

Grand racing in the Mediterranean Soleil: Aboard the Grand Soleil 44

Shipyard tour at Italia Yachts with Matteo Polli

Matteo Polli on appendages iterations in yacht design