Dehler 41: a well-rounded performer
Dehler’s new performance cruiser matches up with tough competition and wants to score with a well-rounded concept and a fair price, Fridtjof Gunkel puts her to the test…
January 18, 2012
Following the Southampton Boat Show, and the launch of several Dehler 41s in racing mode, the first 'conventional' model became available. There was no better place than the Solent for the inaugural test of this boat, which was conceived for demanding sailors by the designers of Judel/Vrolijk & Co, who enjoyed their early successes right here.
During our test, the boat slices through the Solent’s milky-green waters, doing what it was designed to do: sailing well. In true wind speed of 12 to 14 knots the helm had just the right amount of pressure, light but pronounced enough to sense the right track.
The Dehler 41 has a fairly direct steering mechanism with 1 3/4 turns from stop to stop. A bit of concentration is necessary for the driver, after all it’s a performance boat with deep and narrow appendages. Due to the lack of instruments on the test boat, it was impossible to determine boat speed with accuracy, but passing through slack water briefly seemed to confirm the designer’s velocity predictions. In the given conditions that would have been 7.1 knots of upwind speed and tacking through 80 degrees, numbers that appeared realistic.
But the sensation under sail should be more important than numbers. In this department the boat is nothing but fun, because it’s agile on the helm and handles short chop with a confidence that borders on arrogance. If needed, it can turn so fast that the crew has to hold on, while losing hardly any speed before powering back up rapidly. The Dehler is a stiff boat that shows no tendency for excessive weather helm, let alone handling problems, even when heeled at angles far beyond 20 degrees.
Three keel choices
The observations made during the test of the standard version with 2.15m draft and displacement of 8.18, will be surpassed by the racing version, which has a 2.40m keel with approximately the same ballast but also is approximately 200kg lighter due to the optional resin infused, vacuum-bagged construction method. For a little less performance, but more flexibility for shallow-water sailing, a shoal draft keel is also available with a draft of 1.98m and a 270kg heavier L-shaped fin.
Back on deck the helmsman has optimum forward visibility to see oncoming waves and the jib’s telltales and also enjoys comfortable positions both sitting down and standing up. The partially hidden German Admiral's Cup mainsheet system is within reach when necessary (i.e. when sailing shorthanded), or one of the crew can handle this job with ease. The rest of the crew finds safe positions on top of the rounded cockpit coaming that lends distinctiveness to the current Dehler line. The feet find welcome support in special recesses in the thwarts, which are not in the way while lounging in the cockpit. This solution by the builders should catch on.
More questionable is the positioning of the steering compasses at the aft edge of the long cockpit seats, right in front of the steering columns. They force the helmsman to peer far down, which makes them suitable only for temporary course checks, not for continuous steering. A more sensible solution would be a display on the aft side of the mast. Also conspicuous is the flush and slippery coachroof without non-skid surfaces. Owners either have to live with it or retrofit non-skid striping. Another thought would moving the handholds from their current forward position (where shrouds and kicker provide alternative support) farther aft where they are needed.
Smart solutions are abundant, though: hardware by Harken and Spinlock, properly sized Harken radial winches and a reliable Seldén rig are all convincing features. The same is true for the 1:24 purchase of the Dyneema backstay adjuster that is easy to operate. The stern is closed by a large, manually raised swim platform, with two foldout helm seats. Instead of a bolted-on toe rail, the hull-deck joint was raised above deck level. The roller furling system by Seldén is mounted below deck and the trim and control lines are run aft under deck. The boat has two center hatches that are opening in opposite directions so there’s a chance to catch more air when berthed.
Variety below deck
The same purpose is served by the opening port lights. The interior with mahogany trim is defined by a pronounced light-dark contrast. Alternatively, Dehler also offers a teak version. There are different options for the V-berth forward (with or without lavatory) and the stern (two identical cabins, one cabin plus a large cockpit locker, or a lazarette with storage area). The latter two options also offer an optional shower stall, however locker or lazarette can only be accessed through a small door or via a hatch in the storage area above. But why not? This arrangement offers two full-fledged cabins and a third space as storage for large gear like a dinghy, bikes, and additional sails, or for emergency accommodations. Another special feature is the nav desk that can be moved aft while the armrests of the settee can be folded down, which results in another full-sized berth. Two metres long and 66cm wide, the starboard settee also is big enough to serve as a berth.
The arrangement below deck is sensible; saloon, cabins and lavatory offer enough legroom, stowage and headroom. On the test boat fit and finish was lacking in certain areas. According to the builder, it’s an issue that’s owed to the fact that the boat was a prototype. The occasional rough finish, a creaking floorboard, uneven clearances and sloppy work with the sealing compound betray a rush to the finish line. Dehler’s manager Ralph Tapken was unruffled: “Not everything was perfect, but that will be remedied in the future.” It sounds credible since Dehler has a reputation for high-quality workmanship all the way down to the details.
In the base version, the Dehler 41 is priced at 186,711 euros, without sails, as it is common for performance cruisers. This price for the version with moderate keel, aluminum rig and the two-cabin layout with one lavatory makes the Dehler 41 one of the most reasonably priced performance yachts in her class.
The Dehler 41 is excellent under sail. Thanks to a functional deck layout out, she’s easily manageable with a full or a shorthanded crew and offers interesting options for the interior. In addition, the boat can be customised to the owner’s personal taste. According to Judel/Vrolijk, the boat is optimised for IRC ratings, but she will have to deliver proof of her winning potential. However, this much is clear: the First 40, Elan 410, Comet 41 Sport, X-41, Salona 41, and J/122 are no longer alone in their league, as this already crowded segment of modern and potent performance cruisers has been strongly enhanced. See Dehler for details.
This story is republished courtesy of YACHT Magazine, Europe’s leading sail magazine.
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