- Sails well
- Easy to handle
- Quiet under engine
- Simple, practical interior suitable for cruising
- Light-filled interior
- 'Crossover' racer
- Practical layout
- No self-tacking jib
- Furling jib is an option
- Stylish cruiser
- Larger carbon rig optional
If you’re wanting a little performance with your cruising, this new Italian import could be just the ticket.
While the name Grand Soleil might be French, this range of cruising and performance-cruising yachts is manufactured in Forli, Italy, by Cantiere del Pardo. It also produces the Sly range.
This 43 is the first of the Grand Soleil performance-cruisers landed here by Flagship Marine, following in the footsteps of its larger cruising sister, a Grand Soleil 46 LC (‘long cruise’), now based at Westhaven. The 43, at 13.25m LOA, is one of the smaller boats in the range, with a 47, 50, 54 and 58 also available, as well as a smaller 39.
The yacht offers a combination of comfortable cruising, with sailing systems simplified for short-handed sailing, and a measure of performance for those who want to head out on the racetrack
on evenings and weekends – or who just want to get to their next anchorage in good time. Its sporty, low-profile cabin has a racyedge, while the large cockpit and lines-free decks make it clean and practical for cruising.
Hull lines were drawn by Italian Claudio Maletto, designer for Luna Rossa’s 2007 America’s Cup campaign, and with its plumb bow and fair aft section – no trendy chines or creases here – it looks like it means business. The boat’s interior volume is cleverly disguised – it’s a bit of a surprise when you step down below to find how much space and headroom there is down here.
On our sail day the boat had just returned from its debut at Bay of Islands Sailing Week, where America’s Cup sailor Matthew Mason took the helm. She took a couple of third places on line in the Island Racing B Division, and finished a creditable sixth on PHRF – not bad for a first outing.
“We lost out a bit because we didn’t have an overlapping jib,” says Flagship’s Liam Power. “With the shrouds being set so far out, the only real option is to use a code zero, which we didn’t have. But we really enjoyed it, and for a cruiser-racer she performed really well. And we didn’t strip anything out of her.”
Boarding is easy, with an open transom and fold-down swim platform. There’s a single hydraulic backstay, and plenty of room between the twin wheels to get gear onboard and down below.
Engine controls are positioned low down by the starboard wheel, and there are flip-up foot chocks on both sides to make helming when standing more comfortable. The wheels on this boat have a pale, suede cover which provides excellent grip.
There is no bank of instruments; instead, both wheels have a large B&G Zeus2 9” MFD providing chart information or whatever stats you need – depth, speed – or a combination of the two. These
screens can also be linked wirelessly to an iPad or other tablet for data collection or display.
On deck, everything is clean and simple, with all sheets and control lines running in covered channels under the side decks and cabin-top. The cockpit, side decks and cabin-top are all finished in smart-looking teak, providing a warm contrast to the white topsides. There’s also a generous toe-rail.
The mainsheet traveller spans the width of the cockpit, set into the sole just in front of the twin wheels. The German mainsheet system offers plenty of room for a main trimmer when racing, and
is a bonus for shorthanded sailing.
The jib’s sheeted through cars on the cabin-top, with the sheets running back in a covered channel to a pair of Harken 60 primary winches. This leaves the side decks completely clear.
If a downwind sail is being used, it’s sheeted in the traditional way outside the lifelines, running to a pair of blocks back at the mainsheet winches. The third pair of winches on the cabin-top is for sail control, and again the sheets run under the deck from the base of the mast, keeping everything nice and tidy.
Up forward, the 43 has a short carbon prod for running an asymmetric. Flagship also optioned a lightweight carbon spinnaker pole for those preferring a more traditional kite. There’s a large double locker in the bow for the anchor essentials, including the electric winch, and a deep compartment for fenders and other storage.
Grand Soleil doesn’t supply sails. These were made locally by Evolution, using its Element carbon cloth. The boat carries a twin swept-spreader Sparcraft aluminium rig, the smaller of the two standard options. You can opt for a bigger, carbon rig.
The shallow cockpit mean there’s quite a steep drop to the interior, but wide steps with curved ends and generous hand-holds make descending easy. And there’s no sense of being buried ‘down below’, thanks to the saloon’s large roof hatch letting in plenty of light from above. Deck-level portlights the length of the saloon and throughhull windows provide light and views at seating height.
Bulkheads are pale oak, with light oyster upholstery and cream headlining, keeping everything bright. And speaking of lights, there’s no fumbling around trying to switch things on; the plentiful lights are controlled by ceiling-mounted, domestic-style switches which are easily accessible at the base of the stairs and elsewhere in the cabin.
The interior, by Harry Miesbauer Yacht Design, is simple and practical – suitably yacht-like but both comfortable and appropriate for cruising, with a familiar layout. There is a double quarter-berth cabin aft on each side, with full headroom, and windows facing both into the cockpit and on the exterior. A day head is forward of the starboard cabin, with a smart-looking bench-mounted basin and a Jabsco manual toilet. Forward is the nav station, with the switch-panel, battery controls and VHF to hand.
To port at the base of the stairs is the galley, with a double sink in a white solid-surface benchtop, three-burner gas stove, a double-compartment, top-opening icebox, and an under-bench fridge. Forward of this is the dining area, with U-shaped seating around a dining table which can be lowered to form another double berth.
Thanks to the boat’s beam, there’s room for an extra seat on the inboard side of the table; this could have been just a practical boxy squab but instead is a dinky piece of design with curved corners and storage beneath which slides out and locks into place in the centre of the saloon when required for seating extra guests. It could also be used as a foot rest by those sitting on the starboard sofa!
The forepeak master cabin has a generous double, plenty of storage space including large drawers beneath the bed, and a small seat each side. The ensuite head also has a shower. Interior layouts can be customised when ordering a new boat.
With Auckland turning on both sunshine and wind, it was time to hit the harbour and put the boat through her paces. It’s very quiet under motor; the 55hp Volvo sail drive, easily accessible through
lifting the companionway steps, must be well insulated as there’s just a quiet hum as we head out of the marina.
We’re a bit shorthanded but the boat’s easy to set up. But there is a bit of actual work involved – the jib’s in a headfoil, not a furler (a furling jib is optional), and there are no electric winches for halyards – but it’s not long before we’re set up and on a two-sail reach.
The helm’s light and responsive, and the boat seems to enjoy the bit of extra pressure we find once we’re around North Head and out of the harbour. The large Harkens are easy for cranking the jib on and we head upwind, the boat feeling nicely-balanced as the breeze increases to about 12 knots.
After more posing for the camera boat, it’s time to get out the big guns: the 156m2 gennaker. We get everything clipped on, bear away and deploy.
Acceleration is smooth and the boat remains easy to handle, light on the helm and sitting nicely in the groove. The cockpit layout makes trimming easy, with plenty of space on the sidedecks and good visibility. We’re on a comfortable reach, cruising along at 8.5 knots in 12 -15 knots of breeze and enjoying the ride so much we find ourselves running out of water near Rangitoto, having to
execute a hasty drop. It’s a shame to have to come back on the wind and head for home.
All up, the Grand Soleil 43 looks smart and sails pretty smart as well. This model was judged Sailing World magazine’s best ‘crossover’ cruiser-racer in 2016. The judges noted her ability to sail well and the practical systems, as well as the ability to provide a stylish base for cruising.
The yacht definitely needs to be ‘sailed’ more than some other models in the market – there’s no self-tacker for the jib, for example – but the systems are well thought-out, and this is a big plus for those who don’t want to give up actually going yachting while taking it easy.
The boat’s initial outing at Bay of Islands Sailing Week shows she can foot it around the cans when required, while also offering plenty of space and comfort when family and friends are aboard relaxing.