Dufour 39By Heather Ormerod

Centre cockpits are a hot item in the sailing industry these days. A quick look at the product lines of all of the major manufacturers reveals a strong line-up across the board and retailers are reporting that sales have been brisk. The traditionalist might wonder what all of the fuss is about. At first glance, the stacked profile of these boats certainly doesn't exude qualities of grace or speed. But the added height is also what sells these boats. Riding high, passengers are protected from the spray and feel safe. Down below, the boats are spacious and luxurious, catering to the needs of dedicated cruisers.

With good performance and loads of volume below decks, the Dufour 39 is a lovely example of the new wave of centre cockpits on the market. Dufour, while new to the Canadian boat market, has been a front runner in the European boat market for 30 years. The company's solid reputation of building to the highest European quality standards and off ­ shore certificate levels was just what long- time X-Yachts importer Ken Johnson was looking for in a new boat line, and after discussions with the company last summer, Dufour Yachts Canada was established in Port Credit, Ontario.

Good start
Kees and Lia Verkade are the first Canadian owners of a Dufour 39 Centre Cockpit. Despite never having sailed before, this couple jumped headfirst into sailing by buying a brand new Hunter 336 in 1995. It turned out to be a great vessel for learning, but after sailing for a few years they began thinking about eventually moving up in size and finding a boat that would see them into their retirement years. Their future plans gained some immediacy when they saw the Du four 39 at the Toronto International Boat Show. The centre cockpit layout with its stunning aft cabin and lovely galley had the added space they were looking for and they liked the French styling. Although modern in amenities and design, there was a traditional look to the lines of this luxurious cruiser that caught their attention.

The huge amount of deck space is the most striking feature of all centre cockpits, and the Dufour 39 is no different. A roomy teak-inlaid cockpit surrounds a flip-up table, but it is the wide-open area behind the skipper's position that looks most inviting. This wide plat form also has inlaid teak and is divided by the large opening hatch for the aft cabin. The platform forms an aft deck, of sorts, and from this location you can bask in the sun at anchor or lounge comfortably while others tend to the business of sailing. There are two roomy storage lockers in the aft deck and a series of step" leading down to a swimming/bathing plat­ form.

The open cockpit is protected by a permanent spray shield, and the boom is at least six feet above floor level, so it is both a comfortable and safe area for entertaining and sailing. All lines are led aft to the cockpit. Lewmar self-tailing winches are located on either side of the cockpit and the traveler is directly behind the cockpit, all in close reach of the skipper. Another set of winches and a pair of Spinlock stoppers flank the companionway.

Overall, the deck has an uncluttered appearance and, for a centre cockpit, doesn't have an overly tiered profile. The anchor locker at the bow of the boat hides t he Lofrans electric windlass below decks and stainless steel ports by Ruttgerson give the final product a polished finish.

Dufour 39 - GalleyThe Autohelm Tridata ST50 provides the speed, depth and wind readings and there is a Plastimo compass mounted on the steering pedestal. The Autohelm ST 5000 below-deck system has been installed for the autopilot.

All of the equipment on the boat is in keeping with the standard cruising demands - low maintenance, serviceable and long lasting. And, despite the boat 's European origins, everything can be serviced in North America. The boat is also CE certified for offshore, Category A.

Just like home
This truly is a couple's boat. There are only two berths, both large and comfortable and one head, which can be accessed through the aft cabin and the main saloon. Large settees are located on either side of the cabin, surrounding a huge double-leaf table. Shelves run behind both settees and there is storage underneath the seating. Large ports - fixed and opening - are plentiful and provide ample natural lighting, while Goit vents keep things well ventilated in the three main cabin areas. The quality of finish is undeniably high. Mahogany has been used liberally throughout the interior and joinery is excellent. Halogen lighting complements the warm feeling of the cabin.

The navigation station is located on the immediate right of the companion­way stairs. This section of the boat seems a little out of proportion to the rest of the boat; the chart table is on the small side and there is very little room for in stalling electronics, such as radar. A small cupboard for flares, horns and manual s also has a GPS unit mounted on the in side of the cupboard door. The electrical panel folds down to reveal a perfectly organised series of colour­ coded and numbered wires. There is some additional storage space in cupboards below the navigation station.

Dufour 39 - Chart tableThe V-berth is spacious with ample length and there is sufficient standing head room. A small vanity, mirror and hanging locker make this a comfortable guest cabin. Two small opening ports overhead provide most of the natural lighting and there are overhead and reading lights for after dark. Storage space under the bunk is easily accessed and abundant.

Culinary qualities
The designers have made good use of space by running the galley along the length of the passageway leading to the aft cabin. There is still plenty of room to squeeze by the chef if you need to make a trip to the aft cabin while dinner is in production and the resulting layout provides for a functional galley. There is a long counter running along the hull that includes a double sink and a double burner stove. Cabinets, which highlight the boat's beautiful woodwork, line the length of the counter above and below. Additional storage cupboard for dinner­ ware is located in the engine wall which forms the other side of the passageway. On the test boat this cupboard is used to house a microwave and a smoked plexi-glass pulls across to neatly hide the clutter inside the shelving. The deep fridge includes a freezer within. This design keeps power consumption low, as the ice that form s around the freezer compartment helps keep the temperature stable and thereby prevents the compressor from turning off and on frequently.

The aft cabin is impressive. The large island berth offers all of the comforts of home and a massive opening port overhead allows light to flood into the cabin. There is standing head room at the foot of the berth and, likewise, good height above the berth itself. Two small seats flank the bunk one accompanied by a vanity dresser and the other by a small hanging locker.

The adjoining head is divided into two compartments to accommodate overnight guests. The shower and sink are located through the first door from the aft cabin. This compartment has its own drain for the shower and a hanging locker. The toilet is through the next door. Due to the location of the holding tank, an electric Jabsco toilet was in stalled on the test boat.

Access to the 50-hp Volvo Diesel Saildrive is excellent. Panels can be removed from the front, rear and galley side of the enclosure and the hanging locker in the head can be released so that the entire locker compartment swings out to provide engine access through the head. The batteries and bilge-pump hose can also be accessed from this side. The laminate floor boards can be removed to provide tons of access to the hull. This amount of access is overkill for lake sailing but reassuring for off shore hopefuls. Similar attention has been given to wiring and cables throughout the boat.

On the water
We had a perfect day for a test sail. The wind was blowing approximately 13 to 14 knots and there were two-foot swells. It was a shakedown cruise, but every­ thing seemed to be in order. Once we had hoisted the main and unfurled the 140 percent genoa the boat powered through the waves smoothly and accelerated to a boat speed of seven knots on an upwind course. We were in the upper wind range for the full genoa, but the boat handled the power well and proved to be quite stiff. The Whitlock steering system remained light and balanced on this heading. The main had a good full shape, although this is only a temporary sail, as the owners are awaiting the delivery of an in-mast furling. The genoa is on a Facnor furling system and the spar is by Sparcraft. Off the wind at about 120 degrees saw us at about seven knots as well. All those on board felt the boat was surprisingly fast off the wind.

The basic Dufour 39 Centre Cockpit can be dressed up with two packages. The "Cruising Package," which brings the price of the boat up to $254,500, includes all of the equipment, and a few extras, that you need to push off from the dock. You will have to move up to the "Grand Cruise Package" (add $17,025) to get the autopilot and extras such as the electric windlass. There is a to-year hull warranty on all of Dufour's boats and this warranty is transferable, which should be a big bonus for those who put their boat on the used market. Although, having taken a ride on this cruising palace, I can see that Dufour 39 might be difficult to part with.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s Regatta 1999 issue.

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