Duncan Kent finds out you get plenty for your money in the 30ft coastal cruising market when he looks at the Dufour 30 Classic
In the 1990s, Dufour Yachts was becoming a dominant brand in the French production yacht market and was popular both in the charter business and with private owners; the Dufour Classic 30 was particularly well-liked by those starting out in sailing, often with young families.
They were quite pretty, almost traditional in a GRP way, and conservatively designed, both hull and rig-wise.
Saying that, the Slovenian design team, J&J, were no slouches when it came to performing hulls and modern rigs and sail plans.
She has a fairly plumb stem, pronounced transom scoop, a sweeping sheer line and a low, sleek coachroof – all of which lend her an appearance that still looks good today.
The Dufour Classic 30 has a wide and shallow underwater body with a hard turn of the bilge, giving her ample form stability.
Her cast iron bulbed fin keel and deep balanced spade rudder offer good directional stability and an excellent grip on the water, even when heeled over.
A shallow draft keel was optional, as was a lifting keel and twin rudders.
She was solidly built using vacuum bagging techniques for lightness and consistency in the moulding.
The hull is solid GRP, but the decks are balsa-cored and both bolted and bonded to the hull.
The rig is a straightforward masthead sloop, sporting a generous sail plan with main and furling genoa.
The Dufour Classic 30 has a deck-stepped Z-Spar mast with single lower shrouds set onto the toerail, creating a wide shroud base.
The headsail sheeting tracks are on the coachroof, allowing a tight sheeting angle on the genoa and resulting in good pointing ability to windward.
The single-point mainsheet is within easy reach of the helm, although a mainsheet track would be nice, even a short one. This is simple to remedy though.
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Although the genoa sheet winches are mounted on the coachroof, requiring a stretch to singlehand, it’s doable without letting go of the tiller.
Tiller steering provided good feedback to the helm and more cockpit space.
The cockpit has a single large, deep locker which houses the fuel tank but can easily take an inflatable, fenders, warps and so on.
Side decks are wide and clear, as is the foredeck, where there’s a single bow roller and chain locker.
The moulded non-slip is reasonable, but the handholds minimal.
Below, the designers have gone with a spacious open-plan layout.
This makes the Dufour 30 Classic feel like a bigger boat, but drastically reduces locker space.
The furniture is based on a bonded-in inner moulding but smart mahogany-faced plywood makes her look less plasticky.
The saloon is well forward so there’s room aft to squeeze in a forward-facing chart table and a decent size galley.
It has long straight settees for sitting and sleeping, plus a long, twin-leaf table which will seat six.
Comfortable down below
In early versions, the forepeak is entirely taken up by the vee berth, partitioned only by a curtain.
Later, there was an option to have an infill and a solid bulkhead with a door, to make it more private.
The aft cabin is surprisingly roomy and has a long berth.
A single opening port provides the only light and air, so it can be a tad musty.
The galley includes a full-size cooker, ice box and reasonable stowage for food and utensils.
The heads compartment is further aft and is roomy with good stowage.
Headroom is 1.75m/5ft 9in throughout all standing areas except the heads and aft cabin, where it drops a few centimetres.
In summary, the accommodation is well laid out and easily comfortable enough for a small – preferably sub-5ft 9in – family to stay afloat for a few weeks without feeling too hemmed in.
She sails like a big dinghy – light but instantly responsive on the helm, quick to accelerate after a tack and fast both upwind and down.
In all, damned good fun and just what you want from a competent coastal cruiser.
Her 18hp diesel also gives plenty of tide-fighting engine power, although the saildrive prop is a long way from the rudder, so response to propwash when manoeuvring in tight spaces can be slightly delayed.
Engine access for maintenance is excellent as the companionway steps and box are all removable.
Dufour Owners’ Association: www.dufour.org.uk
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