The Elan 340 is full of eastern (European) promise that it can deliver, reports Kevin Green.
The Elan 340 is the latest boat to reach our shores from the Slovenian company’s performance-orientated range, but it has already made an impact overseas. Winning the coveted 2007 European Boat of the Year in its class was a big vote of confidence for the petit 32 footer. The yachting press which gave it the award see al lot of boats in the European arena, so getting the gong is no mean feat. But I can see why, after spending an enjoyable day racing her at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week.
The 340 was designed by Englishman Rob Humphrey as a successor to the popular 333, but with even more functionality. Humphrey, known widely for his big boat designs, has had nearly a decade-long association with the Slovenian company, so progressing the performance cruiser design was his aim, with extended cruising combined with more performance for the weekend warriors to race round the cans.
The hull shape is slippery, with leaner lines giving a fine entry to help the little hull cut through the waves – always a problem for smaller racers where momentum can be easily lost in a chop. But to maximise waterline a fuller stern section was penned which also helped space in the comfortable cockpit. Some amount of rocker is apparent in the hull, but more about that later. The hull build is in polyester with an inner structure glued and laminated in and it is joined together by using a three-way process: gluing of the hull and deck parts together then fixing with stainless-steel bolts and finally fastening/laminating of the joints at the bow and transom area to allow for better stiffness and strength. As with all of Elan’s range, quality certification is from Germanischer Lloyd – the 340 is rated as CE class A (unlimited ocean voyages).
The overall look of the 340 is sleek, if unremarkable, but undeniably pretty, the latter no bad thing because looking pretty is often not just skin deep, when it comes to yachts. It often reflects a strong awareness of form, interior volume and displacement. The low cabin with its recessed hatches and gutters for lines all help to give a clean look to the boat, and remember this is a boat that is in race mode.
Stepping into the cockpit, the first impression is that everything looks pretty much in the right place for a cruiser racer – the mainsail traveller just in front of the small binnacle/wheel setup – and plenty of locker space is available. The teak-clad cockpit hides a few interesting features – a handy locker for lines lies in front of the hatch, so no need to worry about storing halyards. Another plus is the front hatch cover which slides up from the aforementioned locker. Other good features include the cockpit accessed Jefa quadrant, which shares a locker with the sunken 3kg gas bottle – a good way of keeping weight low and quickly checking the cable steering at the same time.
The review boat belongs to Gael and Rod who own the Elan distributorship Navsail, so the yacht has been personalised to their taste. With regattas in mind, a performance package was ordered, which includes a taller Seldon rig, double spinnaker and genoa halyards, a twin-bladed folding propeller and upgraded Harken 44 winches. Sails had been made specifically for the boat by Doyle, with Kevlar used in the main and in the #1 and #3 headsails. The standard (fixed) pole and masthead spinnaker setup was used, but some overseas boats have gone for an asymmetric bowsprit setup.
Also fitted to the boat was a Tuff Luff foil in addition to the Furlex roller furler. The electric anchor winch and locker looked industry-standard with a smallish bow roller. Adequate cleats and, a welcome help for the bare-footed racer, a wooden toe rail finished off a well thought out deck.
Accommodation on the 340 is actually roomier than the older model, according to designer Rob Humphrey, with the main saloon having plenty of volume for a 32 footer with settees on either side and plenty of headroom. The L-shaped port galley is functional, with a twin-burner stove and oven. Opposite it to port, the chart table area had plenty of drawer space and a shallow but adequate chart storage, all in a pleasant light-wood finish. Behind it is the roomy head/shower in the starboard quarter which has a double sink and wet locker.
Sleeping accommodation comprises of a port quarter double and the V-berth up forward. Both areas are really doubles with enough room, albeit head height is a bit restricted in the stern but you must remember this is not a 40-footer.. Cupboard space is good and the shelf running fore and aft in both areas is handy. The standard of joinery is high throughout and the finish of all fittings well done, with no rough edges to be seen.
Power is from a 29hp Volvo Penta which pushed us out of Hamilton Island marina swiftly. We then fought our way to the start-line in Dent Passage, as we prepared the running rigging for the spinnaker start. The setup looked pretty standard and everything fell to hand – the ergonomic Spinlock jammers, the headsail cars adjusted easily and the swivelling vang jammers all felt well thought out. Looking around in the melee of over 100 boats, I could see we were probably the smallest in the Cruiser Racer IRC fleet. In the pre-start, plenty of ducking and weaving was needed so I played the mainsheet – its controls ran cleanly, with both the rough and fine adjustment welcome on such a small racer and the traveller was also easily deployed. Hitting the start line, we hoisted the masthead spinnaker cleanly on its fixed pole, with twin cabin top winches allowing for the headsail halyard and the spinnaker halyards. The fresh southerly breeze pushed us north along Dent Passage before we changed our heading for Pine Island and hoisted the headsail and dropped the kite. Understandably, the little 340 didn’t like our hefty forward deck team moving their weight around too much, so we slowed until the trim fore and aft was balanced and the 340 lifted her stern out of the water. Speed was impressive under headsail as we kept up with larger boats on the run to Pine Island and her high stability rating showed in the way she kept upright in the growing breeze and felt stiff, as the lead keel did its job well. I put a bit of body in the main and the backstay also adjusted easily on its simple pulley. Taking the inside line around Pine to dodge the tide we tacked our way south and it was then I noticed how comfortable the combings were for the headsail trimmer – the smoothly angled finish allowed you to sit astride to winch comfortably. Crewmate Sue and I worked the trim on every tack, with enough room for Rod on the main to work unimpeded.
Taking over from John on the helm for the long leg towards Pentecost proved an enjoyable experience, even in the lighter conditions. Maybe I’ve got short arms (for a bloke of average height) but there’s very few cruiser racers I find that allow me to sit on the high side and be able to see the headsail telltales clearly – I always ask for a bigger diameter wheel, and this occasion was no different because the 340 appreciated your sailing it well – playing the traveller, working the backstay and giving a bit more body to the flattish main. But the big spade rudder did its job and leeway seem surprisingly little on the long work towards Pentecost; and the numbers looked pretty good on the Raymarine electrics – 6kts boatspeed in a dying 8kt breeze was good for a reasonably heavily crewed boat. This was confirmed when we made the windward mark and still found ourselves in the illustrious company of much larger cruiser racers, some with pretty pro-looking crew members. Enough said. We were having fun and another clean hoist by Greg and Gary upfront gave us a smooth kite run all the way back to Dent Island. It was a classic Whitsunday day with blue skies, a steady breeze and a fleet clearly enjoying themselves. The Elan 340 was also enjoying herself, especially the light running conditions. On the kite sheet, Donald, an Elan 37 owner, won us several places as we ghosted in low to Dent. Gybing our way down the coast again was no drama for us in the cockpit or up front, where the pole went end-to-end easily and the braces ran cleanly.
I was enjoying myself so much I was in no hurry to harden up and drop the gear for the last beat to Dent Passage. Reflecting on the four-hour race and the 340, I concluded I liked it as much as the excellent Elan 37 that I looked at last year. So it probably comes down to money and the $257,000 for the basic 340 is a good price for a well-made boat.
Specifications: Elan 340
Length overall 9,99 m
Hull length 9,99 m
Length at waterline 9,39 m
Beam 3,48 m
Draft 1,95 / 2,10 m
Displacement approx. 5000 kg
Ballast 1450 / 1490 kg
Water capacity 200 l
Fuel capacity 95 l
Engine 29 hp
Mainsail 34,51 m2
Genoa 37,13 m2
Spinnaker 89,11 m2
l 13,49 m
J 3,67 m
P 12,78 m
E 4,50 m
Boat design category CE A
Design Rob Humphreys
Interior styling Boris Lubej
G-whizz Elan 340