GRAN TOURISMO or the art of going places fast and in comfort, is a concept which Elan bring to sailing from motoring with their Humphreys designed GT5.

GT cars were originally sports cars which would have extra features for comfort such as gentler suspension, leather seats and often you could actually take your own luggage with you and sometimes more than two people. Comfort was important, as was performance.

The Elan GT5 echoes that motoring legacy, but the essential step forwards is that it achieves something new and unique for a production cruiser.

It is a deck saloon yacht, that is to say you can sit in the saloon and enjoy the panorama from the saloon, but it moves the substantial galley forward and down one step. In all this gives the feel and the space of a much bigger, more spacious and airy yacht, however it sails like a genuine performance cruiser. That is to say it goes upwind beautifully and relishes the opportunity to be powered up and move under a reaching or downwind sail plan, writes Yachting Life boat test editor Andi Robertson.

In the USA the GT5 has just been awarded honours as Cruising World’s Best Medium Sized Cruiser 40-44ft. Having just sailed the GT5 on the Clyde I have to concur; there could be no more worthy winner. It is well thought out, breaks new territory, is thoroughly modern and contemporary and combines a high performance style hull from the Humphreys design house with a nicely styled coachroof.

It is easily sailed short handed, the cockpit is clear and uncluttered, sail controls are excellent and it does not compromise on power in the sail plan.

Just as the GT car appeals to the generation who have maybe grown out of, or simply moved on from the performance sports car, so too the Elan GT5 appeals to those who are maybe happy to move out of the racer cruiser, or the pure racer and to enjoy the scenery and the stops a bit more, whilst not taking too much longer to get there, and having lots of fun en route.

The hull originated as the Elan 400, the successful performance cruiser which was renowned as a good all rounder, especially in lighter airs. The GT5 has a fixed carbon bowsprit which is great for the Code Zero and the choice of kites. That also takes the LOA up to 43ft on a 40ft hull. It also neatly conceals the stemhead roller and the anchor.

It has a powerful, fully battened main and non-overlapping jib which produces great balance and ample power to move through the lighter stuff. This is definitely a yacht you’ll keep sailing rather than switching on the engine.

The standard fin and T bulb draws 2,25m and the twin rudder configuration is of course common to the original 400.

The twin rudders give lighter but more efficient steering when heeled. The hull shape uses a powerful, greater beam which provides more interior space, but the greater radius in the underwater sections give a nice balance. The notably chined hull improves power and performance, directional stability and allows a little extra internal volume.

INFUSION LAMINATION

Elan have a long history in advanced composites and engineering, known for gliders, skis and snowboards as well as yacht building. Their 3D Vacuum Assisted Infusion Lamination technique produces a stiff, strong and light hull and deck which are built in sandwich construction using a closed cell foam core.

All of the big load bearing points are infused as one structure, that is to say the rig chainplates, the mast base and the keel loads are built as one piece rather than an inner moulding glued or bonded into place, or on a steel chassis glassed into place, which some will tell you has significant drawbacks.

And the main bulkheads are properly structural, built in sandwich construction and laminated into the hull and deck rather than glued and bonded.

There are literally dozens of lovely touches, and attention to detail which mark the GT5 out as a cut above. The option to clean up the foredeck with the forestay chainplate below deck and an optional furler set in the forward well is tidy. The mooring cleats recess and the jib sheets are led under the deck and coaming. The sail controls all come aft to the secondary winches which are to hand for the helm, but tidy the tails into decent sized big bins.

Even the pop up microwave in the galley and the brushed alloy power distribution panel and the swivel away navigator’s table in the saloon, all these features shout out how Elan think smart and think practical.

The cockpit coamings are high and extend back to the winches to give a secure, dry, sheltered area forward. That’s great for when the weather is a bit iffy when you are going upwind, but also the double cockpit tables slide down to form a big sunbathing pod which also benefits from the shelter.

Aft of the helm there are two matching seats to port and starboard one of which can contain an optional gas grill/barbecue, the other a sink and fridge. I do like somewhere to put small items like ipad/phone/winch handles but I suppose they are personal extras.

We sailed out of James Watt Dock Marina, home of Elan agents Great Harbour Yachts LLP and had a couple of insightful hours cruising around over to the East Patch upwind and back downwind and reaching.

To be truthful there was not a lot of wind, eight knots at a push, but it was enough to learn a great deal about the Elan GT5.

First up, it moves easily through the water and does not need much wind to get going. When powered up it sails relatively high and quite fast, the polars say upwind she will do 6.4 to 6.5kts and Peter Cameron of Great Harbour confirms that is a realistic number.

But the ergonomics are great too. It is comfortable to steer, the direct feel from the rudders is great and it is pleasingly light to the touch. We set the Code Zero and ghosted along nicely at five to six knots on a tighter reach with even a little bit of heel induced. Rolling the Zero away to gybe was easy, the systems working well and smoothly and there is nothing to indicate it might be trickier in the breeze.

Similarly we dropped the Zero on the deck and popped up the gennaker easily. It pulled us along nicely, accelerating in the little puffs. I feel kind of sure this 40 footer is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

There are three choices for the interior. The standard is the three cabins, one heads option. Ours was the two cabins, two heads alternative which gives a big walk-in locker to starboard accessing out from the back of the toilet. In the main saloon the L-shaped settee forms a lovely big double.

Normally I’d not opt for sleeping in the saloon, but this is such a delightful space, easy to step outdoors to catch sunrise or see the stars and to get up super early to a fresh coffee.

And there is the 360° panorama to boot.

The galley is excellent. There is plenty of food prep space, two refrigerated units, and loads of overhead and cupboard storage. The pop up microwave is a clever use of space.

Up forwards the owner’s cabin is fantastic with a big island double, en suite, great cupboard space and natural light.

Overall the Elan GT5 is a good choice for the discerning owner who does not want to compromise on speed on space or on comfort. For a production performance cruiser this really is a different level; a boat I would love to cruise extensively.