A robust go-anywhere aluminum-hulled centerboard cruiser By Tom Dove
Reviews of the Allures 45.9, the Lagoon 40 and the Corsair 760R
Allures is not a name on the tip of many American sailors’ tongues, but it should be. After the debut of its 39-footer last year, the French company has made another significant entry into the U.S. midrange market with the Allures 45.9, an aluminum-hulled cruiser-voyager with some surprising qualities.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
The boat’s long waterline, plumb bow and flat sheerline follow the current design trends for performance cruisers, while the deckhouse has a clean, smooth line that melds into a wide, functional cockpit. Our test boat was in its natural aluminum finish, but paint is an option. Overall, this is a handsome vessel.
That said, the hidden parts of this boat are as interesting, if not more so, than its looks. For example, the Allures 45.9 is a centerboard boat that can slip over thin water or nudge up against a beach for a picnic or bottom scrubbing. At rest, the weight of the boat is taken by the bow and the wide stub keel, not the rudders as in some other beachable cruisers.
The air draft is also 63ft, so if you don’t put tall antennas or instru- ments atop the mast, you can fit beneath the bridges on the Intracoastal Waterway. As a result, this is an ocean voyager that will appeal as a gunk-hole cruiser for the entire East Coast as well as the Bahamas. The builder also offers a lifting-keel version of the boat, in the interest of providing even better performance.
Among the wide-roaming fleet of French welded-aluminum cruisers, Allures offers another hidden difference: namely, a fiberglass composite deck and transom, as opposed to metal. This not only makes the boat quieter, it reduces temperature fluctuations and condensation when the outside weather changes. It also allows for a wide variety of deck and house shapes, and for me, at least, even seems more comfortable underfoot.
The beautifully constructed hull certainly has enough rigidity in and of itself to not need the reinforcing “shoebox top” effect of the deck that gives fiberglass boats so much of their strength. If you hit anything weaker than granite with an Allures 45.9, that object will likely fare worse than the boat.
The deck and cockpit are unobstructed, making movement easy. The optional teak-like synthetic Marine deck decking on our test boat was excellent, with good grip for deck shoes, but no abrasion of swimwear or skin. It is attractive, too.
A drawback to the boat’s sleek lines is that there are few grab points once you move forward of the mast. This is common to the design genre, and it may not bother some sailors. I am reasonably agile, but would still
appreciate something to hold onto when the foredeck is dancing through the waves.
The rig is a versatile double-headed sloop with an anchor bowsprit that allows you to set a big asymmetric spinnaker in light conditions. Favored by many cruisers, this configuration allows a crew to fine tune the fore and aft balance of the sails through a wide range of wind and sea conditions.
I liked the well-executed plan for control lines. After a short time learning the rig, I found that the sheets run easily to the crew positions, and the big line-tail compartments are in the right places. A singlehander can move about and tend all the controls, while a crew of two will find sailing this boat especially easy.
Our test boat featured the “Owner” layout belowdecks. Real cruisers must have designed this plan, as it includes a nice workshop (Allures calls it the “technical room”) aft to port where many builders would put a third sleeping cabin. Long-term cruising couples will happily give up a bunk to have a fine work and storage space like this. To widen the boat’s appeal, Allures also offers two “Family” versions, which may be more suitable to shorter-term cruising or charter.
The saloon and side galley are a bit unusual, but are convenient, efficient and comfortable. The drawback to a conventional side galley is that it has few places for the cook to brace while underway. However, the 45.9 avoids much of that problem by allowing you to lean against the back of the centerline seat (which is actually the centerboard trunk as well) for security.
Beyond that there is one ergonomic issue to be aware of—a small step-down from the saloon to galley on the port side. Until you train yourself, it is a hazard that will surely catch you and your guests off guard the first few times. UNDER SAIL In a light sunset breeze off Annapolis, the Allures 45.9 showed perfect behavior with good directional stability and a pleasant helm feel. It held course steadily enough that leaving the wheel for a few moments to tend a line was never a problem.
Unfortunately, the wind was not only light, but shifty. I found the tacking angle to be slightly less than 90 degrees, but could not refine the readings any further than that in the fluky conditions. We also had to walk the jib through the slot between the two fore stays while tacking in this light air, a step that won’t be necessary in more reasonable sailing conditions.
With all that working against us, the boat still returned nearly 5 knots through the water close-reaching when we met some 7-knot wind patches. I would love to have this powerful cruiser out in a real breeze. The owner said that he switches from jib to staysail in 18 to 20 knots of wind, then puts in the first reef when it goes above that.
There were no surprises while motoring, which is as it should be. There is the typical slight kick to port when backing that a knowledgeable skipper can use to advantage when docking. Going from forward to reverse was smooth, and the turning circle was just one boatlength, both to port and to starboard.
A cruise setting of 2,000 rpm produced 7 knots through the water, while a wide-open 3,000 rpm yielded 8 knots. The noise level below and on deck was pleasantly low. A larger 75hp diesel is an option, but probably will not change these numbers much.
Again, Allures is well known in Europe, but less so in North America, a situation that will likely be remedied by the introduction of this versatile, high-quality cruiser. If you are looking for a skillful combination of shoal draft, thoughtful accommodations, fine performance and offshore sturdiness, add the Allures 45.9 to your list. s