One of the most exciting sailing trips of my life so far have been those unforgettable 1.300 miles from Lisbon via Madeira to Lanzarote (read all about this trip by clicking the hashtag #dufourcanaries). Sailing into the trade winds for the first time of my life, seeing these awesome, majestic Atlantic waves and enjoying those three exciting weeks branded me for my life – the longing for the “real” ocean is a crave I cannot mute anymore. All this was done aboard a then brand new Dufour Grand Large 460 which we delivered to a charter company on the Canary Islands.

Glorious memories: Atlantic Sailing the Dufour 460 Grand Large

Back at that time my company used to be the general importer of Dufour Yachts for Germany and so I was lucky to “compliment” myself aboard. We are now Beneteau dealers since more than three years and I´ve lost a bit sight onto the La Rochelle-based brand as my focus naturally shifted towards the market leader. But then and now, mostly on the occasion of Cannes Yachting Festival (LINK) I do meet Dufour´s resident designer, renowned Umberto Felci. This time it´s different: Watching the introduction video of the new Dufour 470 lately on facebook, I must state, I was very appealed by this new yacht as it seemed that something bigger than just a facelift happened here. I took the chance, called Umberto and here is what we´ve talked about …

Talking to Dufour-designer Umberto Felci

NO FRILLS | Lars Reisberg: “Ciao Umberto, a Happy New Year to you and your family at first. And thanks in advance that you share your precious time with me today. The teaser video of the new Dufour 470 published some days ago was pretty intense – congrats to that new design! Dufour has been refurbishing the Cruiser-Range since … two years now: What was your role in this venture in general?”

Umberto Felci: “Ciao Lars. Happy New Year to you as well. I am happy you like the video. Well, since 2010 me and my team are responsible not only for the naval architecture for all Dufours but also for the whole exterior and interior styling of the yachts. So, also this time for the new 470 we have worked in close collaboration with the management of the shipyard and the technical staff in La Rochelle. Our aim was to create a real innovation. This was, to be honest, a kind of a bit higher aim than the usual standards but still in line with the fleet. Moreover, of course, we wanted to have it aligned with the spirit of a Dufour boat.”

A big oceanic cruiser and distinctive lines

NO FRILLS “So in a way, my feeling was true that with the Dufour 470 something special has happened?”

Umberto Felci: “Yes, I agree. In a certain way we and the management decided that this time we wanted to make two steps at once. A leap if you want. We wanted to make this “double step” visible and clearly defined. You know, the idea is always to take the best from the previous project and make a technically and aesthetically valid innovation by maintaining the fundaments of the product. A sort of alchemy and not so easy to achieve. But this time we´ve taken it a notch up, I´d say.”

NO FRILLS “The new Dufours are missing the “Grand Large”-appendix, is there a reason for this?”

Umberto Felci: “Well, I think that the marketing needed something to make clear this sort of new identity. Thus creating a sort of “distance” to the “old” Dufour, in a certain way. Something that defined clearly the arrival of the new generation of products.”

NO FRILLS “Speaking of new arrivals: What has been changed since Fontaine Pajot has taken over the yard for your work, the collaboration with La Rochelle and even down to the design brief?”

Umberto Felci: “To be honest we felt immediately in our comfort zone, as we felt for many years with the previous ownership. So for us it didn´t came with any big changes, even though step by step many people who have been in key roles around us had been changed replaced by new people. Anyways, if working on boats, you always will have two parties involved. And that means you´ll get

two different visions of the final product, under many aspects. Our most important job as designers is to understand these different wishes, to adapt the product and, if possible, continue on a dotted line. You know, it´s like imagining to extrapolate a spline from your last point: You may have many chances to modify the line – which is the product – and this, in a certain way, represents a sort of new freedom for us. It is for this reason that Dufour is a new super interesting challenge.”

I like the unique approach when it comes to interiors

I feel happy for Umberto and his team that collaboration resumed with the yard and apparently they have been able to even widen their influence on the products. I´ve always appreciated Umberto´s approach to designing a boat. His hulls have the reputation to be very quick, his style may be characterized as being contemporary but always on the spot. I still think that Dufour´s interior layouts are very special, deriving from the more classical approaches by the other big production brands – just look at the 470´s galley right in front of the salon at the bulkhead. Let´s talk about this very new boat …

Umberto Felci on designing the new Dufour 470

NO FRILLS “Which brings us to the new 470 – it sticks out very much from the other boats of the fleet, if you ask me. Looking at the hull, for example, I recognize the prominent lines taken from the “Exclusive”-range. Then I do recognize a very, very nicely done inverted bow and a recessed inverted sheer line – this is a not just a redone 460 Grand Large, isn´t it?”

Umberto Felci: “You are absolutely right! The mentioned points are some of the key elements of the new aesthetics. They are elements which make the differentiation possible – even from our latest  project that was the new Dufour 530. And right so again, the 470 is absolutely not a “460 redone”. There are so many other points to the boat too, many of them not “only” aesthetical of course. I think that in the end the sum of it will make the most important innovation for Dufour and for our future owners.”

The owner´s cabin of the new Dufour 470

NO FRILLS “I can see in many new yacht designs coming up these days iincorporations from racing yachts – like the inverted bow. On the new Dufour 470 that´s a very, very prominent detail: Can you go into some more depth here?”

Umberto Felci: “Well, the new bow is the result of the continuous game between the demand for volume inside and the need of a good, seaworthy hull on the outside. I think that with every new project the ratio between the various elements is destined to change depending by the priority. When you talk about a Felci hull you have to think of an optimum hull shape with no compromise for something that is not the best for the sailing characteristics of the boat itself. So, even this time, we have tried to find the way to balance the elements and mix them at the best. In detail, the top side is modelled in a way to increase the volume for the passengers inside and the “canoe body” follows the idea to balance the volumes longitudinally and help the stability-form without affecting performance. Even more important for me was to create a hull that makes a smooth wave passage.”

Look at this deatil: D470´s bow

NO FRILLS “Other than the big production boat companies like Beneteau, Jeanneau, Hanse and Bavaria the new Dufour 470 kind of neglects what is seen as common in the market – the return of the mainsheet traveler for example indicates an emphasis on more active sailing. Can you explain Dufour´s intentions and your design brief for the 470 in more detail?”

Umberto Felci: “This is an important question and gives me the chance to explain layout and deck gear-concept of the new 470. We offer this boat with three different layouts. One, called “Ocean” is dedicated to classic owners, the second, called “Performance” is aiming at club racers. The third iterations aims at charter companies, which we call “Easy”. It´s logical to assume that all three come with several declinations and possible options. This is possible thanks to great efforts in terms of total flexibility made from a design and engineering point of view. Now, that all allows for the possibility to – for example – fit the halyards both on the coachroof as mostly appreciated by racers or quite aft, close to the helm which is mostly appreciated from many private owners looking for an easy-to-handle boat. Also the possibility to have the genoa traveler on the sidewalk or in a self tacking mode, tailors the offer. Regarding the “Easy”, let’s say Charter-version, all is focused on simplicity. Everything surplus, not absolutely necessary to sail, is avoided in name of an easy “first impact approach”. So the mainsheet traveler is just one detail in a list of many to make one boat fit almost all demands from different clients.”

Mainshheet traveler on a cruiser: A rare sight.

NO FRILLS “Are there some other details of the new 470 which are more “hidden” you want to talk about?”

Umberto Felci: “For sure, I’d like to underline the fantastic functionality of the dodger and bimini layout – which I currently have no pictures of but you will see in the coming weeks. We have used the same concept tested on the 530 and the 61 Exclusive to propose a really new way to live and to move in the cockpit. Thanks to a little step close to the helm stations and to the layout of the bimini, people now can move from the cockpit to the sidewalks by going naturally upright – not that bending anymore – without the risk of hitting one´s head and without the feeling of tightness very common in the traditional bimini layout. I really like this particular feature.”

NO FRILLS “When is the first new Dufour 470 expected to be seen under sails?”

Umberto Felci: “The prototype is nearly completed and so we will be able to test it very soon. In fact we are organizing a trip to La Rochelle yard right now to be present at these first sea trials.”

More volume in the hull: A current trend

NO FRILLS “Last but not least – the obvious “Corona-question”: How has C19 affected your work? I see you´ve completed a whole fleet for ICE yachts, are there maybe some other exciting projects going on? Or has C19 stalled incoming work for your design office?”

Umberto Felci: “Well, at the beginning of the lockdown last year we were forced to work in remote. In essence this was a good opportunity for us, even if the lockdown meant a slowdown of the production. Also, our own efficiency decreased a bit. The problem was that we are so much used to work together in an open space, to brainstorming any decision and details, from the most stupid one to the most important one. Working without this continuous confrontation was quite strange for me personally and my team as well. Now in second lockdown we have decided unilaterally to resume working in our office. Of course we respect the maximum safety prescriptions. In this we are doing a good job and from our point of view we can say that the requests by our clients have increased quite a lot, especially after summer 2020. Now we have several new projects on the desk, all extremely important and innovative. Together with this “new wind” we are all continuously focused on supporting our clients – because, what they need is our continuous assistance and creativity.”

Thanks so much, Umberto for this insight: All the best to you and your team and I am looking forward to meeting you in person again.

Renderings by Dufour yard


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Delivering a Dufour 460 to the Canaries

At Dufour yard in La Rochelle

Umberto Felci aboard the ICE 60