- Twin rudders
- Cabintop clear of lines
- Permanent nav table
- Easy to sail shorthanded
- Interior reassuringly yacht like
- Light, balanced helm
- Cruising boat that likes to sail
Elan’s E5 is a sharp looker and a smart mover – and perhaps a worthy contender to fill the vacuum left by the demise of earlier generations of locally-built performance cruisers.
Back in the day, boats like the Farr 1220 provided racing sailors who wanted to cruise and cruising sailors who wanted to race with a great compromise. Sadly, the days of local-built production racer-cruisers are long gone, but the Slovenian-built Elan E5 offers a similarly-sized boat which goes some way to re-creating that combination of sailing performance with ample time-out comfort.
The 11.96m E5 is part of Elan’s performance cruising range. Brit Rob Humphreys is the principal designer, whose interest and experience in racing obviously influences his cruising boat designs. Humphreys has designed Volvo 70s and Class 40s, and his love of the chine is reflected in the shape of the Elan E range.
“It is a cruising boat, but yacht designers can’t help themselves, can they?” says John Weston of Auckland Elan brokers, Pinnacle Marine, himself a reformed racer. “It’s a cruising boat that really sails, which is important, especially for the New Zealand market. Kiwis don’t want to sail caravans; they want to be able to go upwind. Well, they might not want to go upwind, but sometimes you have to.”
Several Elan models already in New Zealand are being campaigned regularly, including E4 Vela Via, which sails out of Gulf Harbour and is entered in next year’s SSANZ two-handed Round the North Island race. Weston himself is excited about the arrival of a souped-up S3 for himself by the end of the year; watch this space for more on that project.
Established in Slovenia more than 70 years ago, Elan doesn’t just make yachts. The ‘winter’ division makes skis and snowboards. Another part of the company produces sprung floors for sports stadiums, and yet another makes turbine blades for wind farms. Skiers especially will recognise the brand; Elan was among the first to produce the carving skis that revolutionised the sport in the 1990s.
Weston has visited Elan’s factory and is impressed with the standard of workmanship. Instead of moulding the hull and decks then adding a modular interior, the bulkheads and the interior components are all laminated in place as part of the vacuum-assisted infusion lamination (VAIL) process.
“The interior isn’t separately moulded and stuck in. It’s laminated at the same time as the hull is being built,” Weston says. “It’s an integral part of the boat. The whole thing is stiff and rigid so it doesn’t creak and groan and move as you sail.”
While the E range is not as performance-oriented as Elan’s sportier S series, in which some internal components are made from foam-core composite rather than ply to reduce weight, “the hull shape is still designed to be fast, and the rig is efficient and works well,” Weston says. “It’s a cruising boat designed by sailors. If you’re going to go sailing, you’ve got to enjoy it.”
Hull & Decks
Our ride for the day is Elanna. Seen from dead aft, the yacht has a traditional curved stern, but from an angle the large hard chine can be seen running forward on each side, smoothing out at around a third of the way forward.
To facilitate this fullness and to allow the steering mechanism to be placed well aft and provide more interior space, Elanna has twin rudders. This gives a definite performance advantage when heeled; the windward rudder lifts clear of the water while the leeward one does its work in an efficient, near vertical position. You can feel the good grip on the water, and doesn’t load up like a single, larger rudder might do.
At water level, the yacht has an almost sharky look: there is a single, angular through-hull porthole amidships and a single, long, skinny window on the sides of the cabintop.
Stepping aboard through the wide, open transom, the V-shaped cockpit reveals Elanna’s racing intentions. While there’s plenty of room for relaxing on the generous, teak-lined cockpit seats, it’s also obviously set up to go sailing.
The twin wheels, positioned well aft, are lightweight, in a racy black, and jut out into the cockpit on angled arms, rather than being fixed to a vertical pillar. There’s a chartplotter and gimballed analogue compass either side of these arms, in front of the helmsperson, and controls for the 38hp Volvo (with saildrive) to starboard. There’s also a handy fold-up foot-chock each side.
The traveller runs across the cockpit forward of the wheels, inset into the cockpit sole so you don’t stub your toe or trip over it. The main can be sheeted on a winch either side just forward of the wheels, and is within easy reach of the helm when sailing short-handed.
The sheet pops up to the winch through a niche in the coaming, and the tail can be tidily stowed away in a little compartment with a hinged lid. Likewise, the tails of the keyboard controls can be tucked away into a little locker under the cockpit sole to keep things tidy.
Primary winches are further forward on the coamings, with a pair of smaller winches on the cabintop for controlling the keyboards. There’s masses of storage back in the cockpit; large sections of the seats fold up to reveal huge lockers which swallow fenders and other gear. All deck gear is Harken, and the Pinnacle Marine team chose B&G for the instrumentation.
The furling genoa sheets through a fore-and-aft track on the side decks, and the inboard sheeting position can also be adjusted with a barberhauler. The cabintop is kept clear of lines, as the halyards and other controls run back from the mast to the keyboards in a channel under the decking.
There’s a small dodger above the keyboards which can be easily dropped for serious racing, and a bank of instruments including a digital compass, easily visible from the helm and trimming positions.
A generous toerail runs along the teak-lined side decks, with an angled section against the cabintop for safe footing when the boat is heeled. The fibreglass sections of the deck have decent grip provided by moulded non-skid, and there are stainless grabrails.
Right forward is a small chain locker which also conceals the foot-operated controls for the bow-mounted anchor. Along the port side of this is nestled the carbon prod, which extends 1.1m when flying the 135m2 asymmetric.
Down below, the E5 is reassuringly yacht-like. There’s a pair of double quarter-berths aft, each with hanging storage and a nifty bookshelf tucked into the underside of the cockpit. There’s adequate headroom and plenty of space to get into bed without having to contort yourself.
On the port side is the head and shower, and to starboard the galley, with a two-burner gas stove, top-opening fridge, double sinks and plenty of storage. The mixer tap is a bit more stylish than you might expect on a yacht, and you get soft-close drawers. Otherwise, it’s a comfortingly familiar rendition of a traditional galley.
Right forward is the third cabin, a large v-berth, again with plenty of storage. There is room for an en suite to be specified here.
Under curved companionway steps is the 40hp Volvo, well insulated and surprisingly quiet. The interior is light and bright, thanks to white head linings and faintly striped, pale oak veneers. The ‘teak’ flooring is a laminate, but it gives a suitably nautical feel.
In the saloon, the mast passes through the table, but there’s a bag at the top to stop any drips from finding their way inside. There’s plenty of room around the table, which has leaves on both sides, with a U-shaped settee to starboard and a second ‘sofa’ to port.
A nifty feature is the now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t nav station. Instead of using lounging space by having a permanent nav table, one of the squabs on the port side lifts up and flips over to reveal the table, creating a little forward-facing sitting position.
Concealed behind a panel above is the GPS and stereo controls. There’s natural light for navigating from the through-hull window, and also a light above which can be switched to red to protect night-time vision.
On the water
For once it was both sunny and not too windy, so we took the chance to head out of Westhaven and down the harbour to the Rangitoto Channel. The boat is easy to set up and sail two-and-a-half-handed — as well as Weston and myself we have the photographer’s step-brother on board, who is a sailing novice, but he takes instruction well. We even have him on the helm before too long, while we sort out a few systems and refine the trim.
The helm is very light and balanced; with the wheels locked off she sits nicely in her groove and doesn’t feel the urge to round up. She tacks responsively, and we record around 5.5 knots on the wind in 10 knots true. Weston has had her out in fresher conditions, as he sailed Elanna two-handed up and down the coast to Tauranga.
“We had 25 to 30 knots and we did that two-handed no problem at all. We didn’t even get any water in the cockpit — except when it was raining. We came across from Port Jackson at the top of the Coromandel, just cracked, in 10 knots of breeze and we were sitting on 8 to 8.5 knots of boat speed. Downwind we got 17 knots a couple of times, sailing two up with the jib half-furled and the full main up, but we were generally doing 14 knots.”
We enjoyed a comfortable two-sail reach out into the channel — we decide not to risk deploying the gennaker with the current crew — and it was tempting to just keep going to make it to Kawau for afternoon tea. However, duty calls, and it doesn’t take long to get everything ship-shape once the sailing part of the day is over: the jib is quickly furled and the main folds itself away: no balancing on the cabintop trying to wrestle the sail into a tidy flake. With the sails away, it’s time to deploy the cockpit table, which lifts up out of the floor, and enjoy the sunshine.
It’s been a pleasurable trip on a cruising boat which actually likes to sail, a successor to the good old Kiwi racer-cruiser. She might have come a long way, but she fits into the New Zealand environment like an old hand.