A Certain Elan

Much like the manufacturer's line of high-end skis, the stylish Elan GT6 was conceived to slash and perform.

The Elan GT6 Jon Whittle

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The word “elan” is ­derived from a French phrase meaning “to dart.” From my first ­exposure to the Slovenian boatyard of the same name—­fittingly, if somewhat incongruously, Elan also manufacturers top-end skis—it seemed like a ­pretty proper handle for a line of high-performance cruiser/­racers that can easily rip both hither and yon.

It’s always interesting when Elan imports a new model to the United States and enters it in our annual Boat of the Year contest. Such was the case with the introduction of its 49-foot-8-inch GT6 (the initials stand for Grand Tourer). Elan always seems to deliver, and once again they didn’t disappoint.

The GT6 is a collaborative effort from go-fast British naval architect Rob Humphreys, top-end nautical design house Studio F.A. Porsche for styling and accoutrements (topside and interior), and overall technical oversight ­courtesy of Elan’s in-house team—a ­happy marriage. The boat’s extremely contemporary profile is all low-slung business, with an understated coachroof, perpendicular bow and stern treatments that maximize the waterline length; an almost straight sheerline; and a hard chine accented by a trio of hull windows positioned ­exactly atop the chine. The overall look is, well, angular. It might not be for everyone, but I like it. A certain Elan indeed.

There’s double the fun everywhere: twin carbon wheels, twin rudders, twin Harken electric sheet winches, and twin cockpit tables spaced for easy egress from the companionway to the drop-down transom/boarding platform. The running rigging is mostly invisible, stashed under deck plates, and the entire deck is finished with Permateek synthetic-teak decking, which is just as pretty but more durable than the real stuff. The mainsheet is double-ended (no vang). Spars are from Seldén, as is the headsail furler stashed belowdecks. The fixed carbon bowsprit doubles as the anchor’s home and the tack point for off-wind sails. Just abaft all that, there’s a chain locker and sail locker, features I’m always glad to see.

GT6 interior and furling
The GT6’s ergonomics and design create a stylish and practical living space, with an array of layout options and configurations to tailor systems to the owner’s needs. Jon Whittle

The standard interior ­layout has two staterooms: one forward, one aft. Accommodations on our test vessel were the optional three-­stateroom version, with guests aft and the owner forward. The ­forward galley in both interior plans makes for a more comfortable and sociable saloon (it also speaks to how most of the GT6s will be used—as inshore and coastal cruisers).

Our test boat was equipped with a 75 hp Volvo Penta, though a 60 hp Volvo Penta and an 80 hp Yanmar are options. All are saildrive configurations. A retractable bow thruster permits dial-in and ­dial-out docking. Under power and opened up to 2,500 rpm, we trucked along at just shy of 9 knots (when the wind dies, this boat will get you where you want to go, with dispatch).

Construction-wise, the all-infused laminate incorporates an internal grid laid up with foam stringers. A ballast bulb is affixed to the fin keel; our test boat sported the optional Chesapeake Bay-friendly 6-foot-6-inch draft, though most models destined for the European market (many earmarked for the Mediterranean charter-boat fleets) have the standard 8-foot configuration.

Even with the ­shallower draft, during our test sail on the Chesapeake in ­pretty ideal conditions of 10 to 12 knots, the boat had ­plenty of close-winded bite as we ­scooted along at a fairly effortless 6 knots. Unlike a lot of modern boats—where the purpose of the hard chine isn’t actually sailing performance, but rather to open up the interior volume—the GT6 really does lean in and stand up to its chine, which makes ­driving to weather a real pleasure. Sightlines forward are excellent, and that pair of rudders offers pinpoint control and feedback. An in-mast furling mainsail is standard, but I was more than pleased to see our ride equipped with a traditional main; a boat with this pedigree shouldn’t be saddled with a governor on its throttle.

At $800,000-plus for a well-equipped model, the GT6 is in the upper price echelon of production sailboats (Elan builds about 140 units annually). But it’s a quality boat and a gas to sail. Measured on the fun meter, it might even be a bargain.

Herb McCormick is a CW ­editor-at-large.

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