Thursday, February 28, 2019

GRAND SOLEIL 48, PERFORMANCE AND RACE VERSIONS


The GS 48 was not at Dusseldorf and that was a disappointment. The boat was nominated for boat of the year so it was expected at the show but they did not finish the one meant to be there on time and they opted to show again the GS 52 LC, from the cruising line.

Performance above, Race below
But the GS 48 is on the water, there are photos and movies, there is more knowledge about the boat including ballast, so I will try to sumarize my general impressions, regarding design and building characteristics of the two versions, that are in fact three since the boat can be built using vinylester resin/eglass, epoxy/eglass and epoxy/carbon, having as core on the sandwich, close cell PVC foam.

Below, Solaris 47
Only the two more sophisticated versions use infusion techniques, the basic one (vinylester resin) uses hand lamination and has the main bulkhead in composite, glassed to the hull. On  the two other versions the four main bulkheads are all in composite.

There is a huge difference in building quality and techniques that makes the weight difference between the carbon version and the performance version seem too small, considering that it has also a 40% lighter furniture, carbon spars and a considerably bigger draft. The weight difference is only 1000kg.

The more inexpensive version weights 11500kg while the Race version weights 10500kg. The weight of the carbon race version is on the heavy side for a boat that is designed with top racing in mind, the bigger Mylius 50 weights 9900kg, the older  Marten 49 weighs 9500kg.

Above Swan 50, below GS 48
With the low tech version (performance), it is the opposite and the GS 48 Performance is lighter than boats with a superior built, using epoxy infusion and also light furniture boats like the XP 50 (11900 kg) or the Solaris 47 (12600kg). Maybe that can be explained with a significant difference in ballast?

In fact the XP 50 has a 5140kg ballast (43%), the Solaris 47 has 4320kg (34%) and the Grand Soleil 48 performance 4519 kg (39%) and yes, on the XP50 that difference in weight can be partially explained due to a bigger ballast (even if the the XP 50 has  a better built than the GS (basic version) but not on the Solaris 47 that is not only slightly smaller as it has also a superior built (vacuum infusion).

Note that Grand Soleil continues to not provide the ballast of the GS48 in neither of their versions. The ballast I mentioned was obtained through an unofficial source and can be wrong. Regarding draft the standard one on the race version is 3.00 meter and on the performance version 2.60.

Above Sly 54, below Solaris 47
The draft can be also 2.80 on both versions but what is going to limit more the cruising potential on the Mediterranean is the huge spade rudder, that does not vary with the versions, and that should have a draft of about 2.40m. That should raise a lot of concerns while med mooring to a quay.

The GS 48 has a classical type of hull, a bit like the one of the XP 50 but with more beam  than the the XP, more beam than the Solaris 47 (4.50, 4.41, 4.36m) but much less than the Oceanis 48 or the Hanse 495 type of hull (4.74, 475m) , comparable in beam to the Jeanneau SO 479 (4.49) but with a hull with finer entries and a different transom.

And that transom is a bit odd. Marco Lostuzzi, the boat designer seems to like that shape a lot because more than 10 years ago he was already designing it on the Sly yachts and since then they don't seem to have changed much.
I confess that I didn't like those transoms 10 years ago and I like them even less now. Sure, they will provide a very good performance with light winds, they will make the hull stiffer at relatively low angles of heel but will not provide any extra hull form stability at higher heel angles, like on the ones used to go hard close hauled.


Just compare that transom to the ones of the Solaris 47, Swan 50 and you will see what I mean. Sure both boats, contrary to the GS have the max beam pulled aft but even on fast designs that don't have that characteristic (J99) we can see that the transom curve is much less abrupt than the one on the Sly or on the GS, giving hull form stability and support when the boat sails with high angles of heel.

On both GS 48 versions the running rigging is completely different: the race version uses a traditional set up with 6 winches plus two!! for working the back-stay. Seems complicated and expensive having two winches just for the back-stay instead of a hydraulic system. The performance version has only 4 winches, near the wheel.

The race version uses lateral travelers, like the ones we start to see in several boats,  to trim perfectly a jib or a small genoa. I have no real racing experience and I don't know how helpful they are in comparison to the 3D systems that are used on racing. They seem expensive but easy to work with...but they will add weight too.

On the performance version the 4 winches will be enough if one uses a self tacking jib (that is included) but with a genoa or a geenaker two more will be needed to work the sails with ease. For sure they can be mounted on the place where they are mounted on the race version, on the side, on a nice place to work with them. I believe that, with that addition, the running  rigging will work just fine.

There is a nice traveler for the genoa over the cabin  but it does not have a traveler for the mainsheet (boom). I confess that I don't understand why. Sure that it will only allow a bit better mainsail trim but is it not what  performance boats and performance sailing is about?

It is supposed that the ones that buy performance boats like to trim their sails as best as possible, it is part of the fun and the same can be said in what regards the six winch set-up, in what regards easy and fast trimming. That's an important factor that distinguishes performance boats from non performance boats: the ability to better, faster, and easier trim the sails.



This line of thought applies also to the the general concept of the two versions. One that buys a performance boat will want it light and powerful, at least if one has the means to pay for it and most owners use them only sporadically for racing and much more for cruising, so they will want a well built light boat but also one with a light but beautiful interior.

That happens on other carbon boats, for instance the Arcona 465 or the Mylius 50, but on the Grand Soleil 48, if  the interior is very nice (but heavier) on the low specs version, on the higher specs version the interior looks ugly and badly designed.



It can be very light and  it can look nice and be well designed. As an example of bad design look at those interrupted metal bars over shelves that are supposed to hold books in the salon or hold personal items and clothes in the cabin: it is obvious that they will not work for what they were designed for and are completely useless, them and the shelves.

Surely on the luxury market there are sailors that can and want to have a top performer with a very nice and good cruising interior and in that respect the Grand Soleil 48 fails to provide, they will have to look elsewhere and it is a pity because in what regards cruising if offers, contrary to other yachts, a good storage space, having a sail locker at the bow and a big locker aft under the cockpit.



Unfortunately it does not offer any cockpit locker under the seats since all the space is used on the aft cabins. Annoying since those lockers are very useful to store small items that are used frequently and reaching or finding something small on the big storage space under the cockpit will be complicated.

Obviously the boat price will be specially important, mainly on the low specs version and it seems they have made all the efforts to have a basic GS48 at the lowest possible cost. That version can be interesting as an alternative for the ones that are not specially interested in a performance boat but on a fast, no thrills, safe and elegant boat with a nice interior, kind of an upgrade in what regards building quality and stability over mass production boats, but regarding that it will only make sense if they can make it less expensive or at least with the same price of the 46LC (considering that it is bigger).



Unfortunately, like on the ballast, they don't disclose the prices. I mean if you ask them they will tell you, but I don't like this kind of secrecy policy that leads nowhere. Sailors should be provided with all the information regarding sailboats on the market. If the numbers are good their disclosure can only be favorable in what regards selling boats and shipyard reputation.

The Grand Soleil 48, even if not exciting or innovative, offers a kind of classical elegance that will not pass unnoticed and being more beamy than what it looks, if the ballast numbers are true, it will be a powerful boat and a fast one. Regarding its performance on the race course we will have to wait and see but I  don't believe it will be a match for boats like the Mylius 50, the Swan 50 or even the older Marten 49.

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