Tuesday, April 1, 2014

THE ELAN MYSTERY : 354 /360

How can the same shipyard develop two ranges so asymmetrically? The interest in having two ranges is to broader the market spectrum and therefore they should point to different clients and have very different types of boats but that is not what I mean. Many brands have this strategy, for instance Dufour or Beneteau, proposing different boats for the main market and for the ones that like more performance oriented boats or that want to cruise and occasionally race but Elan is the only one that in what regards performance boats has  a very contemporary line and in what regards main market has a very conservatively designed line.

The mystery is even bigger since both lines are designed by the same NA (Rob Humphreys) that for other brands design more modern main market cruisers. We can safely assume that it is not Humphreys that is choosing the type of boat that he is going to design but the client, in this case Elan.
It is not only the boat being conservative in what regards hull design or choice of keels it is also the strange blend to mix more conservative sail hulls with a "modern" approach in what regards aesthetics. That makes the boat look really odd, like if they were puffed and have become absurdly fat and out of proportion.

Elan promotes the 345 saying : The 354 is designed for families who are discovering the magic of sailing. Families who demand a safe and forgiving yacht which allows them to steer her easily and safely through their voyage of learning about the joys of yachting.
She benefits from the same features that set her bigger siblings apart from others, taking huge advantage of her raised deck saloon, filled with natural light, making her the most spacious yacht in her class. 

And the 360 saying : The Elan 360 has once again consolidated Elan’s reputation as a builder of exciting performance cruising sailing yachts, where neither performance, nor the cruising capabilities are left to compromise...Her wide transom, twin rudder arrangement and chined hull deliver excellent control even at high heel angles. Her T-shaped keel ensures a lower center of gravity and improved righting moment, which in turn allows for a lighter displacement than would otherwise be possible. 
The end result provides an exhilarating sailing performance, which one would usually expect only to find on much bigger boats. Maybe the best feature yet is how effortless she is to sail, even in challenging conditions.

Basically they say that one sails better than the other, that the 354 is safer and easier to sail, that none has their cruising capacities compromised, that the the 354 is more spacious and has lots of light coming from the raised deck. 
But if we look at both interiors we can see that not all they say is true: both boats have about the same beam but the 360 has all the beam brought back and that gives it not only bigger aft cabins, more central storage on the cockpit as it allows the head to be located aft (two cabin version) allowing for a much bigger and nicer saloon. That space advantage is not so evident in the 3 cabin version but any cruiser concerned with space and cruising will chose regarding this size of boats a two cabin version with more storage over a 3 cabin version.
Sure, the raised "deck saloon" will allow more light, a superior height and a view when someone is standing but the 360 has already standing  height and the increase in lighting is relative since the 360 has already plenty of light and on warm climates, particularly on the med that light can be translated in heat.
Looking at the model's names it seems that only 6 cm separates the two boats in length but that can be misleading and the real difference is 61cm. The hull length of the 354 has 9.99m and the 360 has10.60m. Both boats have about the same beam and the weight is not very different specially if we consider the 360 on the standard version with a similar draft.

It seems to me that they could have done a much better job providing a better sailing boat, not so ugly, with increased interior space advantages if they had considered for the 354 a 360 similarly designed hull, slightly beamier, with just a bit more freeboard and using an elegant "deck saloon" solution, like the one that it is used on the the RM 1060, one that would not make the boat look puffed, giving the same interior height, the same volume, lighting and views. They would also have needed to diminish the sail area, to make the boat more tame and have a torpedo keel with less draft (and more ballast).

 It almost seems that I am being radical but that was pretty much what Beneteau has made with the Oceanis 38 that is already a big sales success.

So the Mystery is: From whom is Elan designed the 354? I can only see a market conservative enough to prefer such a boat over a more modern, spacious and better performance one, the british market, but even there things are changing fast and less people are convinced about that story that a boat to be seaworthy has to do a "good" B/D ratio. The one of the 354 is 30% with a 1.60m draft in an old designed keel the one of the 360 with a 2.15m draft is only 25%, using a modern torpedo keel. 
They say that the 354 is a "safe and forgiving yacht" and comparing with what they say about the 360 one would think that the 354 has a better reserve or final stability, a safer boat in extreme circumstances but given those numbers I very much doubt that.

 On Elan site they normally post the stability curves of their boats and the one of the 360 is a very good one. They have not yet posted the one of the 354, but when they do it, will be easy to compare the reserve and final stability of the two boats and I bet that the one of the 360 would not be worst.

A last word about that "deck saloon" concept designation, one that I confess, I don't like. The blame is on Jeanneau that had true deck saloons boats (the ones with a raised saloon with a view at the height of the deck when seated on the saloon) but at some point opted to maintain the cabin configuration on a non raised saloon, increasing the height of the cabin, providing more light but only a view to the outside if one is standing. The brand is big and as they maintained the designation for the new boats that had a false deck saloon, the denomination stick, changing the meaning of the old concept. Now we have two deck saloons, the fake and the true ones :-). Now they call to the true ones, raised deck saloons. On the 35ft range there are few boats with that concept, I mean the true one, being some exceptions the Southerly 35, the Northship 36 and some more. Nice idea for a post: The true 35/36ft true deck saloons. It will come soon. ;-)


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