BOAT REVIEW: DUFOUR 525
Elegant blue-water cruiser
This boat's full name is Dufour 525 Grand'Large, and it is the Grand'Large model name which tells us what the designer and builder were thinking when they conceived and drew the 525, reports Barry Tranter. The phrase roughly means Open Sea in Dufour's native France, though a Frenchman would think of a fancier translation. The boat suits her title. Jason Antill, from importer Antill Marine, tells me the 525 is a fast cruiser. She is not intended to be a cruiser/racer – Dufour's Performance range fills that role – but you could happily race her in club events.
But when you step on board the first impression is of an elegant boat. Longer acquaintance shows that elegance has not been achieved at the expense of practicality. Or cruisability, if you like.
This 15.32m Dufour has a lot of the superyacht about it. The freeboard is high, the coachroof is short, the deck is a magnificent expanse of teak (an optional extra) interrupted only by hatches.
The interior includes a full-depth sail locker in the bow (a skipper's cabin on some layouts) and a lazarette/garage in the stern which can house a 2.2m inflatable, inflated. Very much a big boat feel to things. The strongest impression is of space. This 525 feels like a 60-footer.
The hull is moderately beamy at 4.90m and she's beamy aft, too. Although the deckline plan is quite full forward, the waterline shows a distinct hollow in the entry which should help going to windward in a sea, and minimise slamming.
The keel is a reversed-L in profile and the fin has a near-vertical leading edge. The review boat had the optional lead bulb and 2.35m draft; standard is an all-iron keel and 2.0m draft. The hull is foam-core and the deck is vacuum-infused which controls weight.
Antill Marine has strong links with North Sails, so a lot of thought has gone into the sail wardrobe for this boat. “The work we are doing with Norths in understanding the different models and our different customer needs means we can tailor the boat for each customer,” says Jason.
Norths built the working sails from their own cloth, a high-end Spectra-reinforced Polyester (SRP), a 7.5-ounce cloth chosen for its strength, weight and durability. From the cockpit with no one bouncing the halyard, Jason hoisted the main 75% of the way without resorting to the winch handle then took it the rest of the way on the electric Harken. There's a safety device which ejects the handle if someone presses the button so it doesn't whack you.
The main was given more roach than standard to add area as it was decided to give this boat a 110% overlapping headsail for easy handling and good visibility. To avoid the usual hollow leech of the furling headsail, the sail was given a pronounced roach, supported by vertical battens hidden in the UV cloth. Main and jib were cut quite full to add power. If you want to go club racing, the standard deck equipment will handle 150%. The main has single-line reefing, with two slabs. The Sparcraft two-spreader mast has continuous diagonals led down to the deck for easy adjustment. The prodder is carried on the bow's starboard side. Antill modified the standard boom bag with a continuous line so the zipper can be operated from the mast end, where you stand on fold-away steps to get enough height.
The cockpit is a good place to be because its roomy; behind the twin wheels is a large area of deck where you can just lounge around. The mainsheet system is the split German type, led down each side to the winches immediately behind the helmsman who can reach them to wind on or ease without leaving the wheel.
The primary winches are mounted immediately ahead of the helm positions. As we sailed, Jason tacked the boat single-handed by putting down the wheel, as the boat moved slowly through the wind he crossed to the new leeward side holding the old sheet which he dropped, then sheeted home the new sheet without the winch handle.
Up forward, the anchor chain locker in the bow is huge; the bow fitting has two rollers. The standard anchor is a 25kg Delta plough.
Dufour offer no less than eight accommodation layouts, with three cabins or four, two heads or three. Also an L-shaped or linear galley, sail bin or skipper's cabin in the bow. Our boat is the most logical for Australia, three cabins, two heads, L-shaped galley near the companionway and sail locker up front.
The space in the master cabin is stunning as the forward sail locker/skipper's cabin moves the forward bulkhead aft. There is as much storage here as anyone could need, and of the right type – hanging, shelved, hull-side open shelving and smaller hull-side lockers with restraining boards. All the mattresses in this 525 are mounted on slats to allow air to circulate.
The ensuite bathroom has a separate shower recess to contain the splash. The bench top is Corian. The two heads are Jabsco manuals. Jason tells me you can add electric operation to the manual but you can refit the manual system if there's a problem at sea. A vacuum flush unit is optional.
The two aft cabins have 1.88m headroom for much of their area; they too have plenty of stowage of the right type. The starboard side aft cabin is ensuite with the bathroom.
The saloon is vast. You can seat 8-10 people around the table, two on the swivelling, locking chairs mounted on the boat's centreline. Both settees are long enough to sleep on. Headroom throughout is 1.96m.
The galley area has double sinks mounted near the companionway, only about 60cm from the worktop opposite so you can prepare food however the boat is heeled. The stove is a three-burner with oven and grill. There's a lot of refrigeration. The top-loader has two layers of shelving, the lower one with holes to locate the Chardonnay. Next to it is the big freezer. Open the right door and you find the front-opening domestic-sized bar fridge. Next to the stove is a large stowage drawer for crockery but this can also house a dishwasher. The navigation area is roomy, with the table able to house a folded chart with room to spare. For laptop use, extra power is available from a small inverter.
Jason hoisted the main and unfurled the jib. Antill have added Harken's furler line blocks, neat units which clamp to the stanchions and reduce friction in the furler lines.
The working sails are easy to operate. Jason and Matthew rig the asymmetric spinnaker in its sausage bag; the latter does its job as it should and slides up to release the sail, slides down easily to retrieve it. “These latest carbon bag mouths work well,” says Jason. Set from the prodder, the asymmetric gives us 8 knots on a deep reach in our 10-knot breeze. On the wind, we see an easy 6 knots in a soft 10 of breeze and we believe this is our top for the day, but at the last minute we have a tiny squirt of perhaps 12 knots and we see 7 knots over the ground, figures supported by the polar diagram.
Jason is relieved. He knows the boat goes well in a blow but he wanted to be reassured the shorter-footed headsail would do well in the light. One magazine test I read found the 525 to be very stiff and controllable in a big blow.
This 52-footer handles like a 40 from not so long ago. There is a little friction in the steering (it is a good twin-wheel system) which worked for us as Jason tacked her hands-off. The winches are a good size (Harken 60s for the primaries, 53s for the mainsheet). The lazy jack system is a good one and the Rutgerson cars allow the main to fall easily and it self-stows. Climb up the two folding steps, tidy up and pull the zipper line and it is snug.
Standard auxiliary is a 75hp Volvo-Penta with saildrive. Our boat was fitted with the optional 110hp Volvo-Penta with shaft drive and four-blade folding prop, a very quiet engine which pushed this boat at 8 knots with an easy 2500rpm. Flat out was 8.8 knots punching straight into a 10-knot breeze.
Anyone who tells you modern production yachts are all alike is not very observant. Dufour's 525 will carve its own niche as a fast cruiser with plenty of style. And she is a nice boat to sail. Years ago, naval architect Umberto Felci gave the modern Dufour line its distinctive appearance and like the others in the range the 525 is impressive looking on the marina. Felci gave this low-profile hull a lot of volume in all the right places, and then he used it wisely.
Dufour 525 Grand'Large
Ballast (deep keel)……………4500kg
Engine (std): 75hp Volvo-Penta (110hp Shaft Drive optional)
EP (140% overlap)…….7.81m
Mainsail (std)……………59.50 sq m
Genoa – 110%…………..54.03 sq m
Genoa – 150%………..73.66 sq m
Price: The standard boat starts at $699,000, including GST . As tested, with extras including full electronics and autopilot, upgraded engine, electric winches, full teak decks and North Spectra sails; $870,000 including GST.
Dufour offers a comprehensive list of options; on-water prices for fully fitted boats should range between $820,000 and $890,000. There are four electronic pack options and one safety pack.
More information from Antill Marine. Phone (02) 8004 2035. www.dufour.com.au