When I saw some years back the Elan 310 at the Dusseldorf boat show I thought to myself that would be the boat I would chose to sail or cruise solo. Fortunately I cruise with my wife and with two I prefer a bigger boat. Also my wife and her cooking demands :-) would imply a bigger galley. She cares also more about interior comfort than I. Why am I talking about an old model?.... well besides being a great boat it has the same hull than the 320, and the inferior is not that different.
The 320 is just a better 310, slightly lighter, with a nicer interior, 2 cabins, lots of storage and a great sailing potential. Sure boats like the Pogo 30 or the Malango 999 are faster (lighter) and offer a swing keel but they have a much bigger price tag. The Swing keel is certainly very interesting for cruising in Brittany, England and in all places that have huge tides but dispensable on the Med or regions with average tides. If one has not the money to buy a much more expensive 30fter, and that includes the RM 890, the Elan 320 offers an unbeatable package in what regards price, interior space, cruising potential, fun sailing and some racing potential.
The boat can be ordered with an all infused hull and deck with epoxy that will make not only for a lighter but also for a stronger boat.
The 320, a Humphries design that was seen as a kind of revolutionary design in its first version (310), seems to be looked now as a fast but "normal" boat and is not looked suspiciously by many as before. I believe that has to do with the many cruising boats with similar hull forms and characteristics, in several sizes , that have arrived to the market in the last years. The 310 hull shape has become even fashionable, chines and all. The 310 was, when it was launched, an avantgard boat, the 320 is already a midstream one. Changes have happened fast in what regards boat design in the last years.
The 320t has been tested by several sail magazines and all have been reporting great things about it. Sailing Today has made a video of the test:
Sailing Today is a relatively conservative magazine in what regards cruising boats and I bet that when the 310 appeared they would not have liked the boat that would have appeared too revolutionary but now they say about it:
"This new model is one of the only 32-footers available with twin helms and rudders. Don’t be fooled by her comparatively low ballast ratio – in giving her a deep-ballasted, T-bulb keel, designer Rob Humphreys, has created her sleek but shallow hull lines to ensure minimal drag, whilst incorporating discreet chines on her quarters to increase her overall resistance to heel....I expected her to be a quick boat, but I hadn’t expected her to be so well behaved and easy to handle when pushed hard...On the water she’s a spirited performer and damned good fun to sail, although she goes best if you keep her on her chines and don’t over-canvas her. She’s not unreasonably priced, but you need to study the inventory carefully and factor in the necessary extras that are offered in myriad optional packs. My only negative thought is that her tankage is a little limited for longer term cruising....
Furthermore, we were all pleasantly surprised at how nicely fitted out she was down below. In the past the interiors of the sports range had always been a little rudimentary and stark, whereas this boat could have been designed just as a cruiser if you judge her from below decks."
On the other side of the world the Australian Performance Cruiser magazine says also nice things about it even if the comparison with the Pogo 30 doesn't seem to make much sense to me but an otherwise complete and good test sail:
"...this is certainly a yacht that suits this growing market, older sailors looking for a boat that will go fast yet is easy enough to handle for the similarly-aged crew. Being comfortable down below adds to its desirability....
Twin rudders connected to twin wheels delivers a tight helm control on the boat: twin rudders are well outside the flow off the keel and the wheels allow the helmsperson to sit well outside to weather or to leeward depending on preference. ...Having loaded the boat up to see how she reacts to gusts I have to note that it is extremely easy to retain control in a roundup..
If sailing short-handed, full mainsail controls are just forward of the wheels with end-boom sheeting, giving the helmsperson quick access to control any weather helm issues. The mainsheet comes with a fine tune two-speed control. Deck hardware consists of Harken winches that are well-sized for the loads expected. Again this appears to be a nod to the target market in making the boat easy to handle. The genoa winches are well outboard of nicely rounded coamings that again make it easy to sit outboard and still wind on or be in the cockpit and easily kneel over the winch to grind....
On our sail review day we had cold gusty southerlies (with rain squalls) making consistent reading of handling difficult but providing opportunity to test the hull’s response to changing conditions. .. we easily exceeded the VPPs on each point of sail: 30º, 60ºand 90º. Pushing the boat to round up shows just how easy to drive this yacht is. The boat does lose control but the leeward rudder manages to retain grip, so the boat just quietly pokes its head to wind, riding on the chine and then leisurely resumes its previous course. It was quite an unnatural feeling as there was no shaking, no steep heeling, no panic. It was the same when flying the chute.
‘Quiet’ is good word to describe sailing the E3. The boat sashays through the water with very little hull noise. ...In 15 to 20 knots the E3 (formerly known as the Elan 320) was getting into its straps. Looking at the velocity prediction polar plot (VPP) it clearly shows that once the wind gets into the higher breeze range this boat loves to crack sheets. It is no slouch in the lighter winds mind you, as it attains theoretical hull speed of 7.17 knots in just seven knots of true wind, 90 degrees off the bow. Launch the asymmetric from its extendable prodder however, and you have one fast, responsive craft. At 140º apparent in 18 knots of true wind we hit 10.6 knots and easily sat above nine for the entire ride.....
Down below it is even better...The interior design is strong and bonded well to the hull and deck. .. The galley is for’ard of the aft cabin and is a safe and simple L-shape. To starboard, for’ard of the head is the navigator’s table which is one of the biggest I have seen in any larger yacht recently.The two saloon berths either side of the table would each seat four comfortably. The bulkhead walls and door to the for’ard cabin are thick and sturdy."
The only shortcut regarding extensive cruising is the somewhat standard low tankage, 140L of water is not bad for a 30ft and 45L diesel seems to allow the 18hp diesel to run for about 17 hours at 6K or about 102nm, a bit short but they have space for more tankage so that should not be a problem.
If you are looking to buy a 30ft cruiser before going to the ones of the main market, I mean Oceanis, Jeanneau, Bavaria or Hanse, just have a look at this one and see if that has enough space for you because if it has you are going to have a lot more fun sailing, not to mention that it is a more elegant sailboat that makes the others look fat;-)