Two or three decades ago 40ft footers were the main size in most brands, the bestsellers, and the size most wanted, the yachts most dreamed about. Now all those dreams moved to bigger sizes, as well as the sizes of boats that sell more, and to a point that today (mostly in Europe) a 40ft cruiser is considered a modestly sized cruiser yacht, and I can tell you that while I am cruising, most yachts I see cruising are way bigger, and very rarely smaller.
Maybe that explains why it took so long for Grand Soleil to substitute the old 39 (2011), from the performance line. On the sizes over, the previous 43 was from 2012 and was replaced for a 44 in 2020. The 47 that was from 2015 was replaced in 2018 by the 48. This shows what are the shipyard priorities that have to do with demand and it is especially meaningful because the yacht this one substitutes, the 39, designed by Maletto was never a very successful boat, neither as a cruiser nor a racer and didn’t sell well.
|The Previous mode, Grand Soleil 39|
The GS 39 is a nice design even if I never quite liked the transom, but as a cruiser, for the size, it offered a smallish interior due to a beam smaller than average (3.70m) and it was reported to be a bit nervous on the steering wheel (for cruising), maybe due to the transom design that did not offer a gradual increase in hull form stability with heel.
Regarding racing, despite a 3rd place in the 2014 European ORC championship, the GS39 was not a popular boat, and the offshore racing performance was not as good as the inshore one, in traditional around the cans regattas and they never raced any of the classic big offshore regattas.
|The Grand Soleil 40 has a very different transom design|
This one, like all the new generation Grand Soleils has one thing in common if compared with the previous models: they are all beamier boats. The 39 had a 3.70m beam, now the 40 has 4.07m, the 43 had 4.25m, now the 44 has 4.30m, the 47 had 4.25m, the 48 has 4,50m.
It is not by accident but follows the modern tendency for always beamier boats with bigger interiors, a tendency that is not so marked in performance cruisers, but that is noticeable even there.
In all of them, it is on the 40 that the increase in beam is more noticeable, partly because the 39 was less beamy than the average, but the fact is that a 4.07m beam on an 11.90m hull length, makes for a beamy performance cruiser. For instance, the Italia 11.98 has a 3.98m beam, the Salona 41 3.84m, the Arcona 415 3.90m, the JPK 11.80 3.93m, the X4.0 3.81m, the J122 3.63m, the Elan E5 3.87m, and even the JPK 39, that is not a cruiser-racer, has less beam, with 3.98m.
Among cruiser-racers with more or less overall good performance, only the Solaris 40 has more beam, with 4.10m, but the Solaris is not really a cruiser-racer and besides even if most boats are supposedly 40ft boats (by the name), the Solaris is, in fact, a 40.6ft boat while the GS is a 39.0ft boat.
Of course, I am talking about performance yachts with a balanced performance (upwind, beam reaching, and downwind) because if we look at fast boats maximized for downwind and beam reaching, like the Pogo 12.50 (40.0ft), we can see they are beamier, the Pogo with a huge 4.5m beam, the Pogo 44 comparatively less beamy with the same beam for a bigger yacht (42ft length).
If we look at slower mass production boats, like the Oceanis 40.1 (39.3ft), we will see that not only the Oceanis ( 4.18m beam) but most of about the same length, are considerable beamier (Hanse, Dufour, Bavaria) for offering a bigger interior space (at the cost of upwind and light wind performance).
|First Gs39, above, GS40|
Comparing the GS 40 model with the previous model, we will see that curiously the old 39 (12.20 m) is longer than the new 40 (11.90 m), and that is quite odd and says a lot about the confusion with misleading names based on boat sizes that do not correspond to the hull length. And it is not only Grand Soleil, but most brands, with for instance X-Yachts calling X4-0 to a 37.7ft boat or Pogo calling 44 to a 42.0ft boat. RCD should stipulate that when a length is used to name a boat the name should have correspondence to a big disparity between the length the name indicates, and the real yacht size.
Regarding beam, the 39 is a much narrower boat, with a 3.70m beam, to 4.07m on the 40. Regarding B/D, the 39 has 33.3% on an L bulbed keel with a 2.40m draft. The new 40 has the same 33.3% B/D, with the same draft (2.40m), but probably on a T torpedo keel. Both boats have a very close displacement, 7350kg for the 39 and 7500kg for the new 40.
This means that the new 40 is a more powerful boat, stiffer and that will be fast while beam reaching and downwind sailing, out of very light winds. Probably the 39 will be faster upwind and in light wind but overall, in a balanced track with varied winds from all directions, the 40 will be faster.
|First the GS39, then the GS40|
Sure, the 40 will develop more drag, but the extra stiffness allows it to carry considerably more sail area upwind (82m2 to 95m2) and that will be enough to more than compensate for the extra drag.
However, those 95m2 are optional, and the standard sail area is only 84m2. With only 2m2 of sail area (in the standard version) I doubt the 40, in low medium winds will be faster. Only with stronger winds, when the 39 needs to reef, and the 40 can continue with full sail area, the 40 will be faster.
Above GS39, below GS40
It may be pointed out that the 40, notwithstanding being much beamier, has fine entries and that the transom, even if with almost all beam aft, has a design that does not increase drag significantly at a medium heeling angle, being the chine high and weak.
It will offer a progressive increase in hull form stability with heeling, which will more than compensate for drag increase.
But sailing, especially in what regards cruising is not only about speed, and I have no doubt that the 40 will be an easier and more comfortable boat to sail than the GS39, heeling less, with more directional stability, and easier to sail fast downwind, with strong winds, at planning speeds.
In regards to racing, being the 40 designed by Matteo Polli, a specialist in ORC with several world titles, I have few doubts that it will be competitive, if with all options that contribute to making it faster. They call it race version, but in fact, only with all those extras, the 40 will be a cruiser-racer.
Faster, easier to sail and with a bigger cruising interior, the 40 is a better design than the 39, even if I would like it to be even faster, losing some beam and weight and a biggerB/D, I would say 6500kg for a 3.90 beam and a 40-45%B/D. But of course, that would make it more expensive and with a smaller interior and that would mean a faster boat, but one that would sell less and one that in handicap racing could be less competitive.
This boat, like all the others from the GS performance series, has the advantage to upgrade from the standard simplified standing rigging to a more complex one (4 to 6 winches) that will allow a better sail control, a thing that starts to be impossible in several performances cruisers from other brands, because the standard rigging cannot be modified.
We can complain that in the basic and cheaper version the standing rigging is too simplified and besides 4 winches (instead of 6) it has no boom traveler, no genoa traveler, but if you don’t want to spend time tuning correctly the sails, you can enjoy a fast hull, with an easy and very simplified running rigging, without paying for more expensive sail hardware.
The cruising layout explores well the increase in interior volume, the anchor locker is big and will have space for some fenders and that allows for a good forward cabin, with a head, two relatively big aft cabins, served by another head, leaving enough space in the aft part of the hull for a large storage compartment accessed by the cockpit.
But for the ones that want more storage space, it seems there is not a two-cabin version and what is proposed is a three-cabin version with the forward head turned into a storage space, a space that will not be very useful due to the location and shape, except to carry a gennaker.
I don’t like the saloon and galley interior design, not so much in what regards functionality, but in what concerns style. But maybe the real thing looks better than the drawings. When it is on the water we will look at it better, and compare it to the available options. For now, not even the price has been released.
When it is on the water and after a visit, I will make a comparison with the X4-0 and the Solaris 40, which seem to be the two main market competitors.
Please, if you enjoyed the article click on some ads, and help me to continue this blog.