There are many attractive things about a small boat that’s easy to maintain and offers sailing with a minimum of hassle. The Elan 210 promises fast sailing in a boat that’s easy to handle and offers a cosy and practical arrangement below decks with adequate overnight accommodation.
The Elan 210's key attributes
Rob Humphreys’ hull shape follows the now established norm for Elan’s performance range - a long waterline with short ends, coupled with a fine entry and broad transom with twin transom hung rudders. The ballasted low centre of gravity lifting keel is locked in position when sailing and has a large bulb for added stability.
The boat provides simple overnight accommodation and can be towed behind a medium size car, which opens up the possibility of in different areas, including taking the boat to sunnier climes for holidays.
On deck and performance
Originally the Elan 210 was drawn with a relatively stiff mast section and a fat headed mainsail, which provided a great deal of power for boats used predominately in light airs in the Adriatic. However, it was found not to be so good in UK waters, one problem being that the rig was too stiff to enable to mainsail to be significantly depowered without reefing.
UK specification boats therefore now have a lighter section fractional rig with a large roached mainsail and single spreaders. This gives excellent control over sail shape, while providing adequate forestay tension. A backstay flicker ensures the roach of the mainsail doesn't foul the stay in tacks and gybes. The headsail is set on a Harken roller, with a below deck drum.
As befits a boat of this style and simplicity, it is set up for asymmetric spinnakers, with an aluminium bowsprit. This retracts into a recess beneath the deck, rather than into the accommodation, and therefore does not provide a route for water ingress into the cabin.
The jib sheet tracks are positioned on the coach roof, giving a fine sheeting angle to twin coachroof mounted winches that are also used for halyards and other controls. The mainsheet traveller is towards the aft end of the cockpit, which keeps it out of the way for family sailing, but if the helmsman is also trimming the mainsail it means separate hands are used for the mainsheet and traveller.
The outboard engine sits in a neat well below the cockpit, and is easily raised leaving an unobstructed and flat underwater section. Foot chocks in the cockpit floor are well placed to enable the helm and crew to brace themselves effectively even when the boat is well heeled.
Our test took place with the wind building from 12-15 knots up to around 18. There’s a good view from the helm position, with the mainsheet within easy reach. Upwind she showed a nicely balanced near neutral helm, even when deliberately over pressed and made a respectable 5.5 knots against a short chop.
Downwind the Elan 210 accelerates briskly in gusts and we saw speeds close to 10 knots – in a little more breeze we would clearly have been well into double figures, and a slightly dirty bottom will have slowed us somewhat during the test. The twin rudders give good control and a rock-steady feel, retaining their grip long after single-rudder designs will have lost control.
There is of course inevitably a point at which they let go – when sailing at with the apparent wind well forward on a reach – and the power in the rig takes over. There's arguably less warning through the helm of when the immersed rudder is about to stall than with a single-rudder boat. However, it doesn't take long to judge the angle of heel at which you must depower and bear away.
Elan 210 below decks
There's a surprising amount of light and space for a performance boat of this size, with space for two people to sit very comfortably at the aft end of the cabin, on the head of each of the long quarter berths, and enough room for a cosy squeeze for four people. Bunk sizes are generous, with more than adequate length for even the very tallest of people.
The keel box is surprisingly unobtrusive with the keel bolted down and there's provision for a chemical toilet or sea toilet under the head of the forward double berth. Privacy is provided by neat sailcloth blinds that retract into the support for the deck-stepped mast. The small galley has a sink with fresh water supply and on our test boat single burner meths gel-type cooker.
Plenty of thought has clearly been given to storage on the Elan 210, both for large and small items. This is by no means a given on a small boat, and adds considerably to the cost of fitting out, but makes a huge difference to life on board. There are two shelved cabinets amidships, plus more space under the steps in the companionway, while larger items and kitbags can be stowed under the forward berth. In addition, there are removable hanging bags made from sailcloth that make it easy to transport kit on and off the boat, or to minimise weight for racing.
Overall, it’s a very practical arrangement, given the space available and Elan has sensibly resisted the temptation to cram in features that might sound good on paper but not work in practice on a small boat.
Elan 210 equipment and options
As well as the standard boat we tested, for 2013 there are three Fun Line editions available at reduced prices. The Base Line specification has no interior and simplified deck gear, the Club Line comes with basic accommodation and uprated deck gear, and the Top Line with a racing package and full accommodation. The price difference across the options totals around £5,500, although the offer is restricted to clubs, schools and charter operators, with a minimum order of two boats.
What the Elan 210 does best
The Elan 210 is an appealing quick and well-mannered boat that’s fun to sail and takes the hassle out of sailing. It also gains from the surprisingly usable interior and compares favourably to established direct competitors in terms of power to weight ratios and stability. It's a boat that is equally suitable for hard racing round the cans, or hitching up to the back of the car for a fortnight’s holiday in your favourite destination, whether that’s the West Coast of Scotland or the South of France.
Elan has sensibly not compromised the boat’s good manners and sailing performance in an attempt to cram extra features into the accommodation. The interior layout of the 210 works well and a considerable amount of additional internal volume would be needed to significantly improve it.
The Beneteau First 20 is the latest update of Beneteau’s evergreen 21-footer first launched in the 1990s as the First 210 and now has an updated rig incorporating a fat-headed mainsail. The Bavaria B-One is a trend-setting new sportsboat aimed at attracting new sailors to the sport with easy-to-handle performance. Modular interior furniture enables the boat to be used for weekend cruising, or stripped out for one-design racing
Elan 210 specifications
Mainsail: 16.7sq m
Jib: 11.6sq m
Gennaker: 52.0sq m