On Test. GS 44 Performance: an innovative and surprising boat
Her innovative lines testify the important leap forward taken by Grand Soleil which, with the new GS 44 Performance, launches a true revolution in the world of cruiser-racers, and therefore those sailing boats capable of being at ease both on the racing courses and during summer cruises.
You will therefore understand with what curiosity, now that we’re about to climb on board, we approach this exclusive test which will allow us to see first-hand the result of such a long work.
Will the new GS 44 Performance fulfill her promises? Will she be really so fast? And how will she behave in the “cruise mode”, that is when we will steer without the aid of a mainsail trimmer?
We only have to climb on board and find it out together…
GS 44 Performance Sea Trial
We sail under power on a definitively cloudy day. The sea is glassy due to the absence of wind, rippled by some long and annoying south-east waves. We are waiting for the breeze to come on because we know that it usually gladdens the mornings of those sailing the Gulf of Tigullio, in the waters facing the port of Lavagna. But the breeze is taking a while, probably hampered by the front causing this long wave.
We take the opportunity to measure the speeds under power which, perhaps also thanks to the small wetted surface offered by these new waterlines, are definitively excellent. At less than 1,800 rpm, the boat goes at 7 knots and, if we really wanted to get to our destination fast, with the 75 HP installed on board, a 8-knot cruising speed will be guaranteed. Not bad for a sports 44-footer.
However, what is really surprising is the almost total absence of rolling. The GS 44 Performance seems not to be worried about the long insidious waves. She simply turns her side and tilts slightly, without triggering any stressful pendulum movements. I’m beginning to appreciate this “cruise mode” and I start scanning the sea, looking for some wind signs.
I notice a dark shadow on the sea surface; perhaps, a south-east wind is coming. At 8 knots, we pass the fish plants and, finally, a little breeze comes. The true wind blows at around 4-5 knots and we therefore decided to unroll the Code 0 and try to run on the quarter but we end up with the bow against the waves.
I insist a little, with poor results, then I look at the (very thin) profile of the Code 0, I ask for permission, and I begin to tighten the wind and … and it is as if we had started the engine: at 35/40 degrees of apparent wind, the GS 44 Performance swerves with moderation and takes off like a rocket. In a blink of an eye, we overcome the wind speed and reach 7 knots.
The true wind raises up 7-8 knots, we’re sailing at almost 9 but, unfortunately, we must close the Code. It is not certainly made for this. We therefore open the jib and the magic continues, under 30 degrees and with a speed of 8 knots. In a 24-degree apparent wind, the GS 44 Performance sails at 7.8 knots, crossing the waves almost without slowing down.
With such an amazing VMG , I must strike a positive note for the racing mode. I can only guess the performance of this boat in the Mediterranean conditions of our regatta courses, with flat sea and little wind.
Another thing I notice is the angle of heeling, not enough to put the toerail in the water. Here, one point goes to the regatta mode because, with a little crew “crushing” upwind, the sail area would certainly increase and, with it, the speed. However, I must also strike a positive note for the cruise mode because, although sailing upwind, the boat is never exaggeratedly heeled and the rudder is always soft and direct (it never broaches).
Then, the wind suddenly calms down. The sails flap and the waves torment us; so, we start the engine and we sadly head towards the shore. I turn around, I look at the waves coming on the quarter and I look at Gigi. We are both thinking about the same thing…just a little ENE wind and we could see the boat planing…
While approaching to the coast, we notice that a light breeze has raised and, as Aeolus wanted to fulfill our wishes, it combines with the SE wind and gives us a perfect angle. With the sails hoisted and trimmed, we start again…
I hug the wind a little and, again, the GS 44 Performance immediately creates her apparent wind. This time, the waves allows me to bear away without problems. The Code 0 seems to be made for this. In a 110-degree true wind angle and a 70-degree apparent wind one, the boat delivers excellent acceleration, sailing on the waves between 9-10 knots.
The crew is all positioned in the stern half of the boat, no one touches a sheet, I steer from windward with incredible ease, the wheel delivers millimeter precision.
The wave finally comes, the boat planes and accelerates totally undisturbed, with surprising safety. Speed increases up to 10,11,12 knots while the boat goes on planing for long and interminable seconds of pure lust.
The magic is repeated at every single wave coming, we finally reach a top speed of 12.2 knots. We get the outer breakwater of the port in no time; at the end, we have to stop.
The true wind is blowing at 10 knots and this boat goes like a rocket.
The new GS 44 Performance is an extraordinary boat, with exceptional performance and unprecedented easy handling. The waterlines are not only well-designed but also unveil a completely new world, or if you prefer, a new way to sail, completely different to what you have seen and experienced to date.
In short, I could define this boat as a 44-footer with the same performance as a 50-footer and the handling of a 10-meter boat.
Easy and fast, the new GS 44 Performance has hit the mark, offering a real amusement machine, as perfect for racing as comfortale and easy-to-use for cruising with family and friends, who inevitably will have a lot of fun on board.
How the Grand Soleil GS 44 is made
The leap, as you have seen, is not only aesthetic but, also and above all, functional and visible at a glance. It is sufficient to see how the maximum beam at waterline, going towards the stern, gives way to a smaller width, following a design that is completely unusual compared to the lines which we were used to seeing before this boat.
The reference is, of course, to the lines initially designed for ocean regattas and then become fashionable perhaps also due to the volumes they offer below deck, perhaps good for downwind navigation but not excellent in upwind conditions, where they are sacrified, especially in terms of angle and wetted surface.
The new GS 44 Performance, instead, after being entrusted to the skilled hands of Matteo Polli who modeled her hull through the use of CFD software, shows off with a ” front-page” stern which, thanks to an incredible sexy design, once again widens towards the deck, offering precious spaces both to the crew involved in the regatta and to families wishing to relax on a cruise.
Exteriors: setback mast for greater J and reduced wetted surface
The GS 44 Performance is structurally chameleonic. The owner can, in fact, choose to equip the deck with 4 or 6 winches which, depending on his needs, enhance its regatta or cruising qualities without compromising the original racing nature.
Furthermore, the shipyard offers the possibility to install some transverse rails to trim the sheet point of the bow sails: this is another important innovation introduced by this boat.
The mast, in fact, is setback and allows to have a greater J to the benefit of performance, thus offering the possibility to have a greater number of bow sails.
These features, combined with the reduced wetted surface offered by the new waterlines, promise to deliver definitively interesting performance at sea as well as great seaworthiness. That’s why, when we were given the opportunity to test the new GS 44 in the waters of Lavagna, we did not hesitate: the curiosity to see first-hand the ballistic qualities of this unique cruiser-racer was too great.
Interiors: maximum comfort and excellent brightness
The master cabin is set back and takes advantage of a remarquable beam, which allows to develop a wide walkway and accommodate a king-sized bed. The owner apartment also houses a large head, with separate shower box.
The sleeping zone also includes two other double-bedded cabins which share the same head, equally equipped with separate shower box like on a pure cruiser.
The L-shaped galley on the left is fully-equipped. Amidships, there are a dinette with a U-shaped sofa and a table for 8 guests while, on the starboard side, there are an additional sofa and a chart table, positioned against the bow bulwark.
The spaces, with warm and refined tones, are all extremely bright thanks to the numerous windows that mark the hull, deckhouse and deck.
GS 44 Performance: speed under power
|Engine||Volvo Penta D2-75|
|Max Beam||4.26 m|
|Project||Cantiere del Pardo|
|Naval Architect||Matteo Polli|