At the TAG Heuer VELAFestival you will be able to get on board the Elan 400 Performance, the little gem that the Slovenian shipyard has built to a design by Rob Humphreys. The boat features a sporty hull that combines a cruising interior with remarkable ease of handling and ensures good sailing performance.
The first impression upon seeing the hull from the dock is immediately strong: the lines are “bad,” the feeling is of being in front of a racing boat designed for speed, complete with double rudder blades, open stern, pronounced edge, deep bulb, and two orders of quartered spreaders (31°). But the real surprise is that the Elan 400 was designed with true cruising interiors in mind, marking a clear evolution from the models in this range we already knew, such as the 310 and 350. The result is a hull that bridges the gap between the Impression and Performance ranges, combining their respective winning choices.
On the deck, we are immediately struck by the spaces, from the cockpit to the walkways, which are totally unobstructed. The style is minimal and absolute cleanliness reigns. The two wheels are supported by two oblique columns that, in addition to being an ideal support for the electronic instrumentation on deck, leave a large clear area for passage to the stern, where two adjustable toe-boards also find their place to facilitate the helmsman’s balance upwind with a heeled boat. Behind the two-wheelers is postponed the split backstay, which could cause some discomfort to “tall” helmsmen. In the center is a retractable table that can be recessed into the cockpit when not in use by pushing down; at the sides, two bench seats with two recessed portholes on each give light to the aft cabins. All maneuvers pass under the deckhouse ensuring order on board. Note the T-shaped mainsail sheet circuit (the staysail is recessed with closed carriage circuit), which is sent back, without passing over the sundeck area in front of the drum, on two winches within reach of the helmsman. There is also a convenient compartment next to these, where the mainsail sheet can be collected so that it is not in the way and does not become inactive when free on deck.
The transom is lowered by a manual system, leaving a sunburst and turning into a small beach that descends to the water level. The system is practical and lightweight, and no effort is required to retrieve the plank. The open stern makes everything wide, and the humpback, convenient for “closing” the boat and getting more seating aft, can be used at the dock as a gangway (with rollers) to go ashore by attaching it by means of a pin to the stern. Under the donkey’s back is a large locker that houses the raft, which, as it does not take up much space, also leaves room to stow miscellaneous equipment. Moving toward the bow, passage is unhindered, thanks to the completely unobstructed walkways (the moorings are broadside and not laminated inside) and facilitated by the numerous handrails that accompany all the way to the bow. There is also the possibility to have optional retractable bollards, an unusual solution for a hull with competitive ambitions. On the forward end we find the recessed furler, which allows the jib tack point to be lower. This solution results in a better sail shape that will have more sail area and allow for better windtightening. The jib, which has a low overlap, follows the trends in sail plans of the day that want more sail area than the mainsail. Also in the bow we find the retractable bowsprit for gennaker rigging.
Three cabins and a bathroom is the proposed standard layout, which is also present on the model we tested, but you can also opt for an extra bathroom at an additional cost of 2,000 euros (a two-cabin version is also forthcoming). This solution is designed to please even the wives of shipowners who often choose the convenience of this second layout. Below deck, where the volumes carefully exploit the width of the hull, one appreciates the ample spaces created. At the stern, diagonal, nonstructural bulkheads (the hull construction allowed for this solution, because it was already sufficiently rigid), allow for wide and high cabins for a twelve-meterer. These are mirrored, with a double bed, and enjoy excellent air exchange thanks to three portholes positioned clashed in three different positions that allow three different air inlets to create a cool channel. The generous height allows for freedom of movement and quiet changing; there is a passageway at the end of the beds to access, if needed, the wheelhouses where one can easily work.
There is a settee in the saloon that, when folded down, becomes a chart table at which one can sit while facing either pure or aft; next to the ladder is a closet for stowing oilskins, which is particularly functional when wet. On the left side is the bathroom with shower stall while in the center, in the middle of the square table, passes the aluminum mast. The brightness of the interior is provided by eleven flush-fitting portholes, each equipped with a curtain and external drainage channel, convenient for keeping them clean. Great attention has also been paid to the storage spaces, which are mainly present under the dunnage, quite deep and can be opened with suction cups for easy lifting. In the forward cabin there is a closet, two drawers under the bed and even a shoe rack, a blatant wink to the fairer sex, never forgotten in the yard’s design and proving once again that this boat is indeed a well-executed “hybrid” between a comfortable interior for cruising and a hull designed for speed under sail.
We prepare to cast off our moorings and move toward the Grado Lagoon. To tell the truth, there is not much wind waiting for us: 4 to 8 knots, we take the opportunity to test the maneuverability on the motor, a Volvo Penta 40: it has increased compared to its smaller brother, the Elan 350, thanks to special hydrodynamic studies carried out by Rob Humphreys, which allow a flow generated by the propeller (with folding blades and one and a half turns) that is more homogeneous on the rudder blades. An optional retractable maneuvering propeller is also provided in the bow. These are the recorded motor speeds: at 2,500 rpm 7.5/8 knots; at 2,000 rpm, 6.7 knots; at 1,500 rpm, 5.5 knots. Immediately after moving away from the channel we hoist gennaker: the bowsprit exit, which runs on two bushings, is comfortable and the gybe is external rigged: in a real wind of 8 knots we walk at 5.8 with accelerations to 7 when we heave and tack. The highly sensitive rudder consists of an independent brakes system and is characterized by the double blade that ensures safety and control.
Upwind, with 5 knots of real, the boat partially rests on the edge, creating a bit of a drag wake: probably 2 or 3 more knots are needed to make the most of the edge and make it rest fully, as if on two rails, thus increasing critical speed. Conduction is easy in a small crew, but there are no problems if there are many people on board because there is plenty of room to move around. Aggressive yet maneuverable, fast yet comfortable, the Elan 400 Performance truly balances comfort and performance. We are satisfied with the day and thus decide to return to land enjoying the sunset over the lagoon in an almost lunar landscape: the weak wind makes the sea an oil and sailing without waves, as well as giving us a surreal silence, gives us the feeling of gliding over the water without obstacles.
HOW IS IT CONSTRUCTED?
The pencil that designed the Elan 400 is that of Rob Humphreys, who, assisted by the Elan Design Team, created a hull inspired by the fast ocean-going boats, his workhorse. The hull is constructed in vacuum infusion, and for the first time, even the central part, i.e., the framework that takes the heaths, mast, and keel, has been vacuum infused and reinforced with a clearly non-drowned outer steel structure so that it can be easily repaired in case of damage. The center miders are also infused together with the hull so that the central part is a single monolithic structure using 3D VAIL technology, Vacuum Assisted Infusion Lamination, which ensures lightness and strength. The bulb, which is rather deep to increase the righting moment of the hull, is provided in the shallow draft version.
TECHNICAL DATA SHEET.
Bunks (min): 6
Displacement: ton. 7.5
Draught (min): mt. 2.4
Sail sup. (min): sq. m. 89
Design Category: Open