Grand Soleil 40
Built in Italy, designed in Spain and topped with a French name – the Grand Soleil 40 is a performance cruiser that appeals as broadly as its pedigree
The review team was very fortunate with this Grand Soleil – it isn’t often you get to sail a boat which has just been splashed for the very first time. As we got to the dockside, there will still rolls of amalgamating tape being wrapped round the split pins and the plastic was still on the wheel.
Not that I’m one to judge a book by its cover, but if I did, I would say that this 40-footer was a Booker Prize Winner that was headed for the classics. It has a very contemporary design with a tapered coachrooof, which gives it a modern yet slightly aggressive look. Comparisons to Ferrari sportscars would be apt, as the design of the Grand Soleil 40 was based on research by the Italian automaker’s aerodynamics department. The keel, rudder and wetted area particularly benefit from this crossover, though the deck has evidently benefitted too.
Grand Soleil yachts have been linked to a range of world class designers, from Judel/Vrolijk to German Frers. But the 40 has come from the drawing boards of Botin & Carkeek. These two designers, who studied in Britain and set up on the north shore of Spain, are among the world’s most sought-after designers at the moment, having designed the Puma Racing Team’s 70-footer for the Volvo Ocean Race, as well as the Emirates Team New Zealand America’s Cup boat. Their pedigree in the TP52 class is unsurpassed and crowned with the success of Quantum Racing in winning this year’s Audi MedCup. This is not to say that they only design all-out racing boats – they have been designing cruising yachts and crossovers since they opened their office in Santander. But the design pedigree is there and no doubt adds to the overall performance of the boat.
Stepping onto the brand new decks of the Grand Soleil, I looked up to see a tall, three-spreader rig that looked more racer than pacer. It turns out that the Grand Soleil 40 comes with two primary options – essentially cruiser racer or racer cruiser. Our boat was clearly in the racer cruiser category, as it sported not only the taller mast and rig, but also a deeper keel. Thanks to the race-savvy of the designers, the 40 comes out as a real ratings killer on IRC and is often seen at the top of the leader board in major regattas in the northern and southern hemisphere.
I was very pleasantly surprised again with the overall feel of the boat. The deck layout immediately asserts itself as being user friendly. The big wheel at the back separates the office and clearly sets its boundaries! The cockpit area for the trimmers is well-allocated with wide seats and the toe rails will help give some leverage for the winches. The only downside I could really see was that the man working the pit would need a lot of space to do his job. The jammers are set quite far back, which precludes the usual position of standing on the top step of the companionway. This positioning I imagine has been dictated by the inclusion of a built-in spray dodger channel in front of the companionway entrance. As Grand Soleil edges towards the cruiser side of things, some quarter has to be given.