Dufour Classic 45

Seaworthy, well built, salty if you want, big enough for Caribbean Charter service, well laid out . . . but no condo.

by Captain Thom Burns

The best and only way to review any boat is to sail it. The longer the better. It is hard to get any better than sailing it for a week. This time of year I must confirm your suspicion that it was a Caribbean charter. No company representative or salesman aboard.

A Brief History

Dufour 45 Classic 

Photos courtesy Dufour USA

Dufour has been building boats for 38 years. When the U.S. market went soft, Dufour turned to high end niche market boats such as the Prestige 48 and 56 after leaving the U.S. market along with a host of other builders in the eighties. They made a dramatic return to the U.S. market with the introduction of the Dufour Classic 41 and 45 at the Annapolis Boat Show in 1988.

In 1994 Dufour developed the Nautitech Catamarans and acquired the Dynamique yard. In 1995 they expanded the Classic line to several models ranging from 30 to 50 feet.

In 1996 the company took over Gibert Marine in Marans, France and became the number two builder in France. Several internal modernization and consolidations followed resulting in two plants in La Rochelle, France in 2000. The Gib’sea line, less expensive, was introduced and has continued to expand.

Dufour Yachts USA is the company’s wholly owned subsidiary. There are now several dealers throughout the U.S.


Olivier Poncin and J & J Designs teamed up to design a voluminous hull with ample accommodations for many in the charter trade, and for a family or three couples for short hops. This is all packaged in a modern, moderately shallow hull form with a moderate displacement of 24,250 lbs. It’s beamy at 14’1”. Underwater there are two options, a 7’8” draft keel or a 6’ draft. We had the 6’ version. The rudder is balanced and utilizes a tight rack and pinion system.

Concept: Olivier Poncin
Architects: J & J Designs
LOA: 45’11”
Hull Length: 44’7”
LWL: 37’5”
Beam: 14’1”
Draft: 6’/7’8”
Displacement: 24,178 lbs
Ballast: 8,690 lbs
Engine: 60hp
Sail Area: 1,270 sq. ft.
Water: 120 gal
Fuel (diesel): 58 gal
CE Category: Cat. A

The deck is clean and efficient. The primary winches are within easy reach of the helmsman. The mainsheet, traveler, reefing controls and halyards are all on the cabin top.

The cockpit is large with comfortable seating. The helm is comfortable and very responsive. Our boat ran a 130 genoa on a roller furler, a full batten main with lazy jacks and triple reef points. The mast is deck stepped which keeps the boat dry. It also requires a mast compression post in the cabin and a reasonably tuned rig. The rig is a double spreader standard sloop.

Below is bright with mahogany woodwork and white liners with several opening ports and hatches. The galley to port is straight line style, European to us, American to Europeans. It is a little different. It worked quite well for us with the center island as a butt rest. The European model which we sailed had a stock two burner stove rather than the three burner version standard for American deliveries. I never missed the third burner until it wasn’t there. This design style eliminates the settee to port which is my favorite sea berth on most boats.

The standard layout is either a two cabin or three cabin. Ours was four cabin for the charter trade. If I were to buy this used or for long distance I would probably go with the three cabin version and appropriate one of the aft cabins for extra storage and work space.

The Dufour 45 is powered by a 60 hp Volvo with a sail-drive unit. The handling advantage of a saildrive unit is that the screw is farther from the rudder which lowers prop wash. It also lessens but does not eliminate prop walk. The unit also eliminates the prop shaft and its fittings. If the engine is mounted properly, vibration should be minimized. The disadvantage of this system is the opening in the hull is larger. I like this system and in combination with the rack and pinion steering, the boat handles really well under power. 


This drawing represents the sleek, long lines of the Dufour Classic line. The Dufour 45 is a faster cruiser which goes to weather

The hull is hand laid, cored with PVC foam and vacuum bagged. The deck is cored with balsa. This process forms natural insulation without excess or uneven resin distribution. An NPG, neo-pentylglycol resin gelcoat is used. It has a very low porosity which should provide an excellent osmosis barrier.

The floors are laminated to the hull as are the bulkheads which also tab to the deck. The heads and other modules are glassed into place.

This whole process produces a strong, light hull utilizing a combination of modern new innovations and tried and true traditional building techniques such as hand laying of the hull.


The Volvo 60 hp engine powers the boat around the marina without a problem even in high winds. It also moves the boat at hull speed when motoring or motor sailing. It is definitely not underpowered.

We sailed the boat in a wide range of conditions. I noticed right away that the helm was very responsive, the boat slid right into a grove and tracked well. The boat goes to wind well even with the shallower keel. It tacks and powers up quickly. Off the wind, it is pretty fast. In eight to ten knots the boat speed never dipped below 5.8 knots. In a little more wind we routinely ran 7.8 to 8.1 knots.

Sailing from Gorda Sound, BVI to Jost Van Dyke on the outside passage we were reefed in four footers for several miles. The boat felt stable and cut through the waves effortlessly.

The KHAYA mahogany joinery is exquisite throughout even after two years in the Caribbean charter fleet.

When we put the waves on the quarter she galloped along with an easy helm and surfed to ten knots a few times.


The Dufour 45 classic is a solidly built boat that meets the needs of several types of owners. It sails and handles well. While it is not commodious below, it is certainly roomy. I would certainly take this boat offshore. It would be a good boat to purchase with the later thought of sailing long distances or doing Caribbean or other warm winter destinations.

If I were to make it my private boat. It would be outfitted with the three burner stove, refrigeration and freezer, and, probably a generator and water maker. The key to these comments is that you have good basic value in a hull in which all of that can be accomplished with relative ease. During that process I would have a great boat to sail.

Captain Thom Burns publishes Northern Breezes and Sailing Breezes.

For more info: Dufour Yachts USA

Great Lakes Dealer:

Bay Breeze Yacht Charters 
12935 West Bay Shore Drive 
Suite 120 
Traverse City, MI 49684 
Phone: 231-941-9458 
Fax: 231-941-9548 
Email: baybreeze@bbyc.com 
Chartering & Sales of Dufour Yachts into Lake Michigan Fleet


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