Blue Water Sailing reviews the Dufour 560

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“As we sailed upwind towards Malibu in the distance, the first thing that caught my eye was the tight sheeting angle of the jib. It was a thing of beauty,” writes Blue Water Sailing’s Andrew Cross. “And when it was my turn at the helm I sat to leeward and played with the telltales, feathering at about a 40-degree apparent wind angle and topping out at 7.6 knots of boatspeed. I could tell that the 560’s eight foot two inch draft was helping our upwind performance, and the smaller in-mast furling main didn’t seem to detract from our overall speed or pointing ability.

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“While sailing upwind in the fresher afternoon breeze, we healed to about 15 degrees and locked in on the boat’s hard chine, which runs nearly the length of the boat. When a gust would hit it seemed as though it might go further over, but it never did. You hear people say that some big boats sail like a dinghy, and that’s what everyone seemed to be repeating as we rotated through. The helm was light and steering was effortless. With the self-tacking jib, every maneuver was dead simple. It was all helmsman. Whoever was on the helm would jokingly call the tack and bring the boat through the wind—no adjusting sheets, just steering.

“After putting the boat through a series of graceful tacks and trying to best each other’s upwind speeds, we got the spinnaker rigged at the bow from the forward sail locker and cracked off for a set. Normally the 560 would fly a furling A-sail from the integral bowsprit, but the type of sail and color is an owner’s option so we had a borrowed cruising spinnaker in a sock.

Dufour560cockpit “We set the spinnaker during both sailing sessions, but in the increased afternoon breeze she really came into her own. Acceleration was immediate and, thanks to the electric winches, trimming the sheets was easy in all the wind conditions we encountered. Jibing took a little more coordination, but our very able crew made quick work of the task. Just as in a tack, the boat scooted forward quickly after each jibe was complete and the spinnaker was trimmed. And though we weren’t out racing with the Wednesday night fleet, we certainly looked like we could have been.

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Escape to the BVI on a Dufour

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“Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”—Herman Melville, Moby Dick

When the thermometer plummets, the days shorten, and summer cruising seems like a lifetime away, we all start thinking the same thing. Escape. Winter cruising in warm climes is the perfect break from winter. And, right now, there’s no better place to head than the British Virgin Islands.

The BVIs are some of the world’s best cruising grounds, and with plenty of flights in and out, it’s easy to get away for a week or two. Our friend, Luis Fernandez at MedCarribbean, gave us the scoop on chartering a Dufour with them. Based in Tortola, their busiest time is between Christmas and Easter, and it’s not surprising why–everyone love to escape the harsh cold winter by sailing the tropics.3uJhpuIVC51R1FUCDpvZV5lCjf66s1vkTWQxdNhBV8A

As Luis explains, “The BVIs have a blend of constant wind, great temperatures, and protected anchorages. The configuration of the archipelago minimizes waves and makes for comfortable sailing. (Of course, if you want to face the open swell of the Atlantic you can, too!) The distances are perfect, so you can sail for a couple of hours and enjoy a different setting every day.” long charter can visit five or six islands. Longer charters provide the opportunity to make passages.In fact, a typical week

MedCarribbean is the only charter outfit in the BVIs with Dufour Yachts—their fleet includes four: Khitira, a Dufour 375 Grand Large; Zoe, a Dufour 410 Grand Large; Lua, a Dufour 450 Grand Large;and the newest, Noa, a Dufour 500 Grand Large.Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 10.21.25 AM

Noa is a favorite with MedCaribbean and their clients, “The huge cockpit combined with the flat deck gives it a lot of comfort space outside. While the beam-wide, stern-opening transommakes for an instant private beach. Life on board is lived outside, which is perfect for Caribbean weather.”

If you’re considering buying your own Dufour yacht, chartering with MedCaribbean is the perfect opportunity to try before you buy. In the midst of your island getaway, you can spend some time really getting to know the boat.

It’s not fair, but we had to ask the team in Tortola: What’s their favorite sailing spot in the BVIs? It turns out it’s a toss up between Virgin Gorda and Anegada. “The first has a wide variety of beaches and anchorages and spots of interest (like the Baths), and the second represents the wild, virgin Caribbean island. To get there, you have to sail for a couple of hours usually with wind on your beam so it is very pleasant.”

Sounds like the perfect winter respite dosen’t it?

Dufour owner profile: Southern Cal 405

Photo from MIREIO

It’s no secret that Dufour yachts are well loved by those who sail them. And we can tell you all the reasons why Dufour’s are so good. But sometimes it’s best to let the experts–Dufour owners–describe what makes owning and sailing a Dufour so special.. For our first installment of our Owner Profile series, we spoke with Jonathan, a 405 owner and lawyer from Southern California, and he was kind enough to answer some questions.

Photo from MIREIO-2

What makes you want to get out on the water?

JONATHAN S: I sailed when I was younger, and again while in law school, but then life got busy. Once my daughters graduated, the lure of the sea came back—intensely. I wanted to be out on the water and to capture that combination of the peace of the sea, the magic of a sleek hull moving through the water, and the intimate connection with the wind. From the helm of our boat I have a unique window into the natural world—the dolphins, the birds. It’s unlike anything else.

Where are your favorite places to take your 405?

Deeper Into Catalina Harbor

JS: The Channel Islands make a terrific cruising ground. Catalina is just a short afternoon sail away, and the northern Channel Islands—especially San Miguel—offer challenging conditions and a beautiful sense of wilderness. Of course, just running around Santa Monica Bay with friends is a frequent pleasure. On hot weekends, Mireio can be a luxurious swim platform—complete with a wine cellar and plenty of room to laze around.

D: What about racing?

JS: I don’t race, but I have to admit to rather enjoying overtaking other boats…

D: What made you choose a Dufour 405?

Mireio Moored at Catalina

JS: When I was evaluating boats, I found the fit and finish to be superior to that of some of the other brands that are often compared to Dufour.

Dufour takes the idea of a “performance cruiser ” more seriously than anyone else. For instance: the asymmetrical sprit, the “true” mainsail instead of a roller furl, the traveller setup—all of these features were standard with Dufour. Sure, I could order them as options on another boat, but they seemed more like afterthoughts rather than part of the boat’s character.

As I said before, I don’t race, but I take a lot of pleasure in adjusting trim. I enjoy all of the ways Mireio provides for this. I also preferred the Dufour representatives I worked with; they seemed more deeply involved in sailing and more attuned to the performance aspect.

D: Having sailed the boat for a few seasons, are you still happy with your decision?

JS: Absolutely. This is one of my happiest, long-term purchases. I’ve never looked back and I’d make the same choice again, but I have to admit that a test sail on the brand-new 560 did surprise me. It’s the one boat that’s ever made me momentarily disloyal to my current boat—but only momentarily.

D: How do you use the boat?

JS: We mostly take day trips and go on regular overnights to Catalina, with the occasional foray north.  No long distance voyages—yet.

D: Sounds like you might be planning something, what will your next adventure be?

JS: Certainly more sails among the Channel Islands north, and maybe a sail down the length of Baja California.

D: If you could take your boat anywhere, where would you go?

JS: I’d love to sail the Maine coast, down to Martha’s Vineyard, and continue south. Even further afield, it would be great to sail in Europe—the Adriatic, by the Calanques east of Marseilles, and along the Amalfi Coast.

D: Can you share some of the coolest experiences you’ve had onboard?

JS: We had a wild time at Santa Rosa Island in pretty high winds that dissuaded us from heading out to San Miguel, where there were 35-knot winds and 10-foot seas. I’ll never forget a sail to Catalina on a moonless night with the spinnaker flying.

And, once we’ve dropped the hook, there have been some great dinners aboard Mireio. It’s the good life aboard in Emerald Cove—homemade penne with field mushrooms, a fine Cote Rotie, and, most importantly, great friends.