The famed Dufour yard, located in La Rochelle in the Normandy district of western France, boasts a 50-year history of innovative boatbuilding. For over a decade, veteran Italian naval architect Umberto Felci has been designer of choice for both the company’s cruising and high performance lines. Dufour’s entirely new 40-footer, the 410 Grand Large, replaces the 405 Grand Large, which was a successful model that won the prestigious European Boat of the Year Award in 2010.

Comparing the new 410 with the out-going 405 illustrates how Felci has managed to bring both a fresh look and improved functionality to Dufour’s mainstream 40-footer, while at the same time allowing the yard to carry on using familiar, cost-effective building practices.

Design and Construction Not surprisingly, the new 410 features prominent chines extending along the topsides from amidships to transom. The chines essentially allow the stern quarters to be wider and more powerful without a commensurate increase in beam on deck. That said, the 410 is still a very generous 4.2 metres (13 feet, nine inches) wide as compared to 3.9 metres (13 feet) for the 405, so it’s evident that the new design offers greater form stability.

Of course its flatter bottom also means more wetted surface, so with only marginally more sail area, there’s a chance that the new 410 will be a little slower than the 405 in very light winds. This is a tradeoff against added sail carrying power in a stiff breeze, and because many cruising sailors choose to fire up the diesel whenever boat speed drops below around five knots, it won’t be seen as too much of a compromise.

Naturally, the nine inches of extra beam amidships (and even more at the transom) offers a significant gain in cockpit space along with extra elbowroom in the saloon and aft cabin areas. So all in all, the wider, hard-chined hull comes in on the positive side of the ledger.

While the 405 had a steeply raked stem, the 410 goes a step further with a bow that’s essentially plumb. The transom too is close to vertical, creating extra space in the cockpit corners for the helm stations. Maximizing platform size is a popular theme in contemporary yacht design, and it often results in a stark, overly-linear look. However, Felci has succeeded in softening the effect by drafting a delicate spring (concavity) to the sheer line which nicely complements the upward sweep of the chine, as well as the gently arching contours of the coachroof and cabin top. To my eye, this is a sweet-looking boat—impressive in view of its ample beam and minimal overhangs.

Big beam always comes at a cost because extra surface area will typically mean more building materials and ultimately, greater displacement. So it’s impressive that the new 410 Grand Large comes in at nearly the same weight as the narrower 405 despite a somewhat heavier keel.

Worthwhile weight was doubtlessly saved by switching from a conventional balsa-cored deck to the closed-mold, resin-injection technology that Dufour has been using for its performance series boats. These injection-molded decks provide a gelcoat finish inside and out, eliminating the need for a separate liner, and making it feasible to create a clean, dramatic look by simply screwing lengths of varnished timber into molded channels in the overhead.

Hull construction is monolithic hand-laid GRP using NPG gelcoat and an NPG skinning layer for osmosis resistance. Husky floors and stringers are glassed inside the hull, and a partial hull liner provides additional reinforcement.

The primary chainplates on the 410 are outboard to convey loads directly to the hull sides, but Dufour has gone to the trouble to provide separate inboard chainplates for the lower shrouds. As a result, the side walkways are completely unobstructed—no need to step onto the cabin top to move past the shrouds.

The mast is positioned nearly on the plane of the main bulkhead with the chainplates for the swept shroud rig just slightly further aft—the ideal arrangement from a structural perspective.

The standard bulb keel on the 410 draws a healthy 2.10 metres (shoal option available). The deep spade rudder is filled with closed-cell epoxy foam and molded around a substantial, solid stainless steel post. With a light

displacement of 8.490 kg (19,670 lbs), the 410 Grand Large is by no means a lightweight, but robust scantlings and good workmanship suggest that this boat should hold up well in the long run.

Cockpit, Deck and Rig The extra-wide cockpit aboard the 410 opens to a similarly wide, hinged swim grid. Pedestals for the twin wheels are incorporated in the cockpit molding, along with the seats and central portion of the large, drop-leaf cockpit table. Twin compartments at the back of the cockpit are designed to house a life raft and a roll-up inflatable, and will prove especially useful for buyers selecting the three-cabin version (ie. no climb-in cockpit locker).

Control lines leading from the mast are neatly tucked away beneath molded fibreglass panels on the cabin top, although they can be easily seen where they fan out across the two big skylights. Perhaps to minimize foot traffic in the skylight area, the 410’s boom angles downward to the gooseneck. This feature makes it much easier to wrestle the mainsail into a stack pack—often a challenge on larger boats when not equipped with in-mast furling.

Far forward, there’s a fair sized anchor locker that houses an electric windlass, and a projecting bow roller unit (although adding metal shielding to protect the plumb bow from anchor damage would still be worthwhile).

Like most of its contemporaries, the 410 gets a fractional rig with small overlap jib as standard. Two pairs of long, aft-swept shrouds establish generous staying angles that ensure compression loads on the alloy spar remain quite low. A mid-boom mainsheet keeps the standard traveller out of the cockpit while still allowing good control of mainsail leech tension.

Systems Nothing too dramatic here, but plenty of quality components installed correctly, and with an eye to accessibility. A narrow compartment or “technical space” extending longitudinally beneath the cockpit sole is a popular feature on many Dufour models, and to my thinking, a very worthwhile feature.

The 40 horsepower Volvo Penta diesel sail drive (an upgrade from the 29 hp standard) was fitted with an optional two-bladed folding prop, and this set up moved the boat with alacrity. A comfortable cruise setting of 2,500 rpm delivered 7.3 knots with a sound reading in the middle of the saloon of only 70 dBA. Wide-open throttle yielded 3,050 rpm and 8.2 knots, while the decibel reading rose only slightly to 73 dBA. This engine normally revs a little higher, so it’s possible that a bit of prop adjustment could result in a few tenths more speed at the high end.

Hot/cold pressure water and refrigeration are standard issue for the 410, but most buyers will want central heating, and very likely an extra battery to help handle house loads. Although the test vessel is a dealer’s stock boat, it isn’t far short of “fully loaded.” Many of today’s buyers wish to avoid a lengthy commissioning process, instead favouring something close to a turn key purchase.

Interior  The two-cabin layout as seen in the test boat will likely be the more popular West Coast option if only because the huge aft head with its separate shower space. The main saloon and galley areas offer plenty of ingenious features including a slide-out central seat/locker, convertible nav table, not to mention the voluminous wine locker beneath the floors just forward of the companionway.

The forward owners’ stateroom offers a great deal of space, and interestingly, an off-centre, pullman style berth. This arrangement permits a compact second head to be fitted, but also works well in the single head version (as tested) because it creates a wealth of stowage space.

Dufour now uses Moabi—sometimes known as African pearwood—for the majority of its interior woodwork. This is a very hard, fine-grained timber with a warm brown colour that has a brighter look than classic teak or mahogany. Bulkheads are finished with Moabi veneer and there’s plenty of solid stock employed as well.

The floors are a laminate (although a close match to the natural woodwork), and thanks to numerous large windows, overhead hatches, and skylights, there’s certainly no shortage of natural light. All in all, this is a very attractive and livable interior.

Under Sail Dufour has consistently managed to rig their dual wheel steering systems to provide both a light touch, but at the same time, nearly no free play. Careful alignment of the quadrant and sleeves, plus the use of high tenacity synthetic steering cables could well have something to do with it. In any case, the 410, like several earlier review boats from this builder, offers exceptionally good “feel” as well as very comfortable steering positions.

In 10 to 12 knots true wind, the 410 Grand Large (equipped with conventional main and folding prop) climbed to windward very nicely indeed with boatspeeds constantly in the 6.8- to seven-knot range. Cracking off a bit pushed the pace up as high as 7.6 knots, and obviously with a gennaker of some sort, it could have gone a fair bit higher. While the 410 doesn’t qualify as a lightweight flyer, it’s certainly a sprightly performer that will make quick work of coastal passages. For that matter, it might not be half bad for a bit of club racing.

Conclusions The Bavaria Group has positioned Dufour as an up-market brand that aims to deliver excellent contemporary design and a high quality fit out without going overboard on price. Indeed, the sailing yacht market in Europe today has become so cut-throat that competitive pricing is pretty much a given.

For a relatively basic but still well-equipped 410 Grand Large delivered and commissioned in Vancouver, expect to pay about $269,000. The two-cabin test boat—equipped with custom dodger, electronics and many other goodies—is currently available for $290,000. At these prices, Dufour is definitely well worth a look.