Perfect for racing or cruising; either way, it is fast. The latest Grand Soleil boat was designed by Matteo Polli and Nauta Design
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Carlo Borlenghi
RACING OR CRUISING PERFORMANCE? Matteo Polli, the architect who was commissioned together with Nauta Design to create the new project for the new GS 44, was faced with this Hamlet-style dilemma. He has come up with a perfect answer for the Cantiere del Pardo. That said, the issue in question is essentially not a new one: should a boat be more aimed at cruising or racing? The option taken by the young designer isn’t a conventional one, and indeed the two versions that have been produced are called Race and Performance which means that they are both quick. Moving slowly is not on the cards. But once we have established that the GS 44 was made to move fast, you have to decide whether that is on a cruise or in a race. Both options are possible, but it would be better to make a call first.
Reduced underwater volume means that you can sail closer to the wind, but the hull does have enough room to ensure that you can be comfortable below decks.
The boat we had for our trial at Lavagna was the Race version of the GS 44, but it had some elements from the Performance, ones that are more suitable for people who like fast cruising. The displacement is nearly ten tonnes, but if you like there is a Race version that goes even quicker, by doing without the teak deck and wooden flooring below decks. Floorplates and struts are made from composites, and the main bulkhead can be done in carbon fibre. But the rest of the hull is in vinyl ester resin. The deck fittings also vary between the two versions. Race fans will find six winches – a couple on the deckhouse next to the hatchway, another pair close to the wheels, and the third pair on the cockpit splashboards. By contrast, the Performance version makes do with four winches. And the travellers are different too, in the sense that if you want you can add one for 3D trimming of the jib. So if you choose one of the two versions in advance you can either have a boat that is better for cruising or one that is more suitable for trying to win a race. But of course, there is no difference in the water lines.
The hull designed by Matteo Polli has a fairly limited amount of volume under the waterline, whereas the topside is more generously proportioned, especially in the bows. That creates two advantages: below decks, you get more than enough space for the needs of people on a cruise, while at the same time limiting the amount of area underwater to improve performance under sail. This is especially the case in its ability to sail close-hauled, which is the area where cruising boats most often suffer. But in this case, it is rather like having a racing hull with a cruising top side. The interiors and deck were designed by Nauta, a name that in itself is a guarantee, and it certainly hasn’t let itself down on this occasion. In addition to the Race and Performance options that we have already mentioned, the deck also provides a good solution for the life raft. The large stern locker used to store it can be easily reached, even when the swing platform is open. If you had to use it, you can see how it would be easy to get at, while at the same time if you stay on the stern platform while it is open, you can also easily imagine how easy it is to throw it into the water to activate it.
Below decks, there is everything you need for a cruise without missing out on anything. There is an owner’s cabin in the bow and two double rooms aft with two bathrooms.
Below decks, Nauta’s design can above all be appreciated in the bow cabin and in the map area, which is on the starboard and is close to the opening to the bow cabin. It is an effective solution because, with minimal use of space, they have managed to get everything you need onboard. There is room for a plotter of a size that you would normally expect on a 44-footer, as well as other equipment, like the VHF set, which are located behind the back of the sofa on the starboard, very close to the side. So essentially everything is there to hand, and there is room for everything that you need, or at least the essentials, in the map area, even though it is not very large. Given that we said that this 44’ has a racing spirit, what counts is its performance.
There was a wind at Lavagna of between ten and thirteen knots, and I felt it was an easy boat to handle. It settles into its course very easily and doesn’t tend to slow down. The only thing to avoid is sailing too close to the wind, as there is a danger of “strangling”. With the Code 0, we did as much as nine knots. With that sail up the best thing is to hold a 60-degree angle to the apparent wind, because what the boat most appreciates is keeping a stable course, whether the wind strengthens or drops. The GS 44 is never “nervy”, and that makes it easy to handle.
So even a more casual helmsman, the kind of person who doesn’t spend their time scanning the horizon for potential shifts in the wind, can enjoy themselves and sail without too much concern. If you check out the figures from sailing, the stability of the performance is what stands out. When we switched from the genoa to the Code 0, we saw the speed increase from 7.2 to 9 knots. The degree of continuity in the performance increases the feeling of simplicity in the handling.
The Race is distinguished from the Performance version by elements in the set-up, such as the number of winches (six for the former, four for the latter), and how you can trim the sails.
The deck layout is functional, so everything is within reach, and that is actually why the only drawback stands out. The mainsail traveller is set below deck level. But it is rather stiff, and so it is a bit of an effort to use it. By contrast you the winches feel different, and never too resistant.
Performance levels are still good even when you start using the engine, although that was because we were using a motor (a 75 hp Volvo Penta) that had been specially requested by the owner: it is more powerful than the 50 horsepower one normally fitted, or the 60 hp one available as an optional. We did eight and a half knots, and at just 2000 rpm we did as much as seven knots, a speed that means you can move fast, even when you have to do long stretches under power.
What it does under sail is good, and it is easy to handle, so the demands of people who like fast cruising and those who want to win a race are both satisfied.
PROJECT: Matteo Polli (naval architecture) • Nauta Design (interior and exterior design)
HULL: LOA as standard 14.35m • Length 13.40m • LOA Race version 15.01m • Maximum beam 4.30m • Draft as standard 2.60m • Draft as optional 2.40m or 2.80m • Light mass displacement 9,500 kg • Ballast 2,700 kg • Fuel tank volume 170 l • Water tank volume 300 l • Main sail 59 m2 • Jib (108%) 53 m2 • Gennaker 170 m2 • Self-tacking jib 47 m2
MAIN PROPULSION: Volvo Penta D2-75 • Outlet mechanical power 55 kW (75 hp) • 4 stroke • Bore&Stroke 84mm x 100mm • 4 cylinders • Swept volume 2.2 l • Compression ratio 23.3:1 • Massimal rotational speed 2700/min 3000/min
EC CERTIFICATION: CAT A
PRICE: 319,000 €, Excl.VAT
(Grand Soleil GS 44, Shakespeare on board – Barchemagazine.com – February 2021)