The bluewater sailboat Grand Soleil 43 is an elegant but quick cruiser that combines style and performance. The 43, designed by the same person who worked on multiple America’s Cup boats, is the ideal racer/cruiser because it can maintain speed without sacrificing comfort. A strong keel and a balanced rig guarantee that you will cruise past your rivals in safety and comfort. Straightforward layouts are very simple to manage when shorthanded.
This attractive, adaptable Italian sloop combines a tall rig, sturdy build, and a chic interior design in one highly efficient package.
Many of the Grand Soleil boats resemble swans when viewed from a distance. They also have a swan-like appearance up close. The actual question is which came earlier, especially in terms of performance and speed. With its new 45 and 70 models, Nautor has fully embraced the racer/cruiser concept. Throughout its history, the business has built a reputation for producing exquisitely designed and produced yachts that were never accused of sailing too quickly.
Cantiere del Pardo in Forli, an interior city 70 kilometres southeast of Bologna in northern Italy, constructed the Grand Soleil range. The yard’s name was synonymous with classic cruising yachts, but last summer in the north, they won the overall IMS European titles as well as classes C1 and C2 at the IMS Worlds in Capri.
After bringing in a 38, Australian importer Ken Langford made the decision to take his business seriously and established Yacht Italia in a posh offices at The Spit in Sydney. Ferretti cruisers are also handled by the business. The 43 and the cruiser/racer 40 were moored next to each other, a sophisticated pair with deep-blue hulls and the most pristine, golden-brown teak decks you have ever seen.
The 40 is a charming, short-ended contemporary cruiser/racer; the race version hulls have an SCRIMP lay-up but otherwise have not undergone significant changes. The range begins at 37 and continues with the 40 (cruiser/racer and racer), 43, Race 44, 46.3, 56, 64, and the new 70. The 43 is a traditional cruiser that weighs 8500 kg with 3000 kg in the bulbed keel and has somewhat lengthy overhangs. A high-aspect spade serves as the rudder. The builder gives customers a choice between a deep or shallow keel, auxiliary power, and masthead rig size. A cutter rig with runners and a detachable inner forestay is another option.
Because the bluewater sailboat is at ease in a breeze under the staysail and triple-reefed main, Ken believes it to be a fantastic bluewater rig.
Vacuum-infused in vinylester with a foam core, the hull and deck are below the waterline. A lighter carbon-fiber frame has taken the place of the previous Grand Soleil models’ stiffening galvanised steel grid. Also impressively, under hardware installations, bronze plates rather than more corrosive aluminium plates are integrated in the deck laminate.
Despite carrying substantially more of its beam aft than Grand Soleil’s previous 43-footer, the new 43 has a smaller wetted surface area. The new sailboat weighs a few hundred pounds less overall than its forerunner, and a lot more of that weight—more specifically, an additional 550 pounds—is carried as ballast in a more effective T-bulb lead keel.
A very accessible steering quadrant is turned by a single rudder coupled to twin Solimar helms in the boat’s open-transom cockpit. There is a small fold-down swim platform to further improve swimmers’ and those aboard tenders’ access to the sea. The liferaft may be easily carried overboard from the back of the boat because it is kept in a separate locker underneath the port-side cockpit seat.
All sail controls, including the double-ended German-style mainsheet, are connected below deck to six sizable Harken winches and a number of Spinlock XTS clutches. Individual tubes are used to feed the lines coming from the mast so that fresh lines can be reeved without the need for messengers.
In case it is necessary, the overhead below can be used to access the mainsheet tails, which are located under the side decks.
Directly in front of the dual wheels, the large primary traveller is recessed into the teak cockpit sole, and a flap behind it can be folded back as needed to provide full access to the track. A highly ingenious fold-down cockpit table that can be quickly raised or lowered and collapses right into the sole is located forward of the passenger. The fact that this is a lightweight structure that can only be used while the sailboat is at rest should not be overlooked.
The deck looks quite elegant because to a string of flush Moonlight hatches further forward. It is much simpler for crew to operate on the lee side while the boat is heeled thanks to the proper raised bulwarks that run the length of the boat outboard. A modest but practical sail store is located at the bow, right between the belowdeck Furlex furler and the anchor well.
It is much simpler for crew to operate on the lee side while the boat is heeled thanks to the proper raised bulwarks that run the length of the boat outboard. A modest but practical sail store is located at the bow, right between the belowdeck Furlex furler and the anchor well.
Twin cabins are located aft beneath the cockpit, and one owner’s stateroom is located forward of the mast. The interior design is rather straightforward—what one may call typical these days for a boat this size. The size and comfort of each stateroom, though, is astounding for a bluewater sailboat that is so focused on performance. The complete double berths in the aft staterooms offer excellent vertical clearance and are exactly rectangular with no cutouts that would reduce the amount of usable space.
The door has plenty of storage space, ample ambient light, and complete standing headroom. The front cabin, on the other hand, appears to be incredibly opulent, with a tonne of room, a roomy island double berth, and an ensuite bathroom with a separated shower stall and a stylish electric Tecma toilet.
A small head with another Tecma toilet is located next to an L-shaped Sailboats Galley in the centre of the boat. The bright blonde interior of the test boat was sharply contrasted by the sleek black Corian galley worktops. The galley had a three-burner Techimplex stove and oven, as well as two fridges: a large top-loading Isotherm unit to the left of the sinks and a smaller front-loading Frigoboat one immediately below it.
A dedicated trench with a cover in the counter just behind the sinks for storing wet sponges and dishwashing soap was one practical feature.
A conventional U-shaped dinette with a full-length couch for sleeping and a smaller bench seat across from it are located directly ahead of the galley. The smaller bench seat is mounted on a short athwartship track in the sole so it can be pulled out of the way when sailing. A small navigation station and a short, unsuitable sofa are located on the starboard side of the boat, respectively. This is because there is nowhere in the cockpit to attach a chartplotter.
The test vessel was equipped with the typical Sparcraft aluminum 9/10ths fractional rig, which included two sets of sweptback spreaders and discontinuous rod standing rigging. There is also a carbon-fiber racing rig that is about 3 feet taller than the conventional rig. The shoal-draft keel is an option and has a draught of 6 feet 6 inches as opposed to the deeper conventional keel’s draught of 7 feet 10 inches.
The vessel is sailing in reasonably level waves and a brisk 13 to 17 knot wind. How incredibly light the helm felt was impressive. Once you get used to it, the steering becomes quite accurate and precise with slight input. The helm loads up very little, and the rudder never came close to losing control when the sailboat is pressured, close-hauled. Despite being under-canvassed, she never see the pace drop below 5 knots when sailing with a 120-degree apparent wind angle. With the throttle wide open, the engine barely produced 2,600 rpm; the propeller settings needed to be adjusted. and with the throttle to 2,000 rpm, a more cruiser-friendly setting, she makes 7.8 knots.
The boat quickly turnes around its T-keel in one boatlength after making a sharp turn. The boat is equally predictable and simple to steer when moving in reverse.
The Grand Soleil 43 maintains its character as a performance boat while almost never sacrificing onboard comforts, unlike many so-called racer-cruisers. The staterooms are comparable in size to those on most comparable cruising vessels. Serious sailors who occasionally race but yet want to cruise and spoil their family would love this yacht.
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