Fast, easy to sail shorthanded, engaging with tons of tweakers, and very comfortable below – is this the perfect performance cruiser? Chris Beeson finds out

Product Overview


Elan 400


Price as reviewed:


What’s she like to sail?

She has a startling turn of pace in light airs, especially as she had 500kg of extras, including teak decks. Helming her is exquisite. You feel part of the boat, infused into her fabric and spiritually engaged in the Holy Grail quest for perfect trim – thoroughly absorbing and a great way to leave your troubles behind.

Twin rudders can feel fairly numb but from five knots and up, she spoke gently but clearly and crisply, thanks to the forgivingly broad chord and fine balance of the twin spades, and the perfect gearing of the two chain-and-cable steering systems, their quadrants connected by tie rod. The mainsheet is immediately to hand, with a sheet bin aft, and you’ve also got traveller control lines and the hydraulic backstay tensioner nearby.

I leant against the pushpit to leeward but a flip-up footblock serves the windward wheel well when deeper heeled. Views sweep forward along the deck and beyond, and the instruments, mounted outboard on the binnacles, fuel and reward your ambition.

The rig is simple and the sail area efficiently managed. Under sail she is an absolute delight.


What’s she like in port and at anchor?

Below decks, she’s a big step up from the 310 and 350. She’s clean, bright and unfussy but secure in a seaway, and design touches like the roll-over chart table and the forecabin’s corner locker reflect Gigo Design’s fresh approach to design afloat. The forecabin is the pick of the bunch, with plenty of light and stowage. Both aft cabins would benefit from a hull port but it would need to be below the chine, so that’s a bit of a non-starter – we’re not ready for glass-bottomed yachts just yet. The galley is minimal but functional and the heads offers great bracing on the loo but it’s a little tight when it comes to showering. Joinery isn’t up to Scandinavian standards but then neither is the price.

We love the cockpit table, another great piece of design. The drop-down transom neatly conceals a folding step and the bathing ladder, but I’d prefer it to be 3-4in deeper, to stop sheets and the like sliding off the stern. The helm seat doubles up nicely as a passerelle in port, but if you’re swimming at anchor it needs laying along the sidedeck – not very elegant but hardly a chore.

Would she suit you and your crew?

If you like lively cruising with friends and family and the occasional blast around the cans at the weekend, she’s a serious proposition. She looks fabulous, she’s comfortable below decks and is utter bliss to sail. She’s fast, feels fantastic and has sensational balance. Some think T-keels are net catchers and twin rudders are vulnerable but the evidence simply isn’t there. And if you did hit something, Germanischer Lloyd says she doesn’t need an emergency tiller because she has two independent steering systems.

The stiff keel and cockpit layout mean she’s easily handled in most wind strengths by two crew but there’s enough space for a family or a full racing crew. She’s not blessed with stowage but then this isn’t the sort of boat you load up with gear for months away. A week’s self-sufficiency is not beyond her capability and she would make a cracking port-hopper. So if you like skipping along the coast at great speed, in fine style and with a huge smile on your face, you really need to take her out for a spin. With prices starting from around £160,000, she’s very decent value too.


Price Guide:£220,500
LOA:11.95m (39ft 2in)
Draught:2.4m (7ft 11in)
Displacement:7,500kg (16,534 lb)
LWL:11.26m (36ft 11in)
Beam:3.87m (12ft 8in)
Manufacturer Website: