Elling E3By George L. Petrie
Can a yacht with a distinctively European attitude find favor in the American market?
There's no doubt about it. Europeans place a high premium on efficiency, vastly more so than consumers on this side of the pond. And not just with regard to fuel economy, but in relation to space utilization as well. But with fuel prices on the rise and little prospect for relief any time soon, it's time to take a closer look at the European approach to yachting. A case in point is the new Elling E3, an exceptional Dutch yacht that has been marketed successfully in Europe for years. Rated under ISO Rules, CE Category A for extended ocean passages, she enjoys a well-deserved reputation for comfort, fuel efficiency, and safety—so much so that her self-righting hull reportedly offers full 180-degree positive stability. (Full disclosure: We did not attempt to verify this feature during our sea trial.)
For the European market the Elling E3 is powered by a single 76-hp diesel that delivers a maximum speed of about 8 knots. Engine options for the American market include either a 370-hp Volvo Penta or a 450-hp Cummins diesel, advertised to deliver maximum speeds of 15 or 19 knots, respectively. My test boat, one of only three Ellings in the United States, was powered by a single 180-hp Cummins diesel. (Her owner, a former sailor, had "downsized" several features that are part of Elling's standard U.S. configuration, including the engine, electronics, entertainment system, and other items.)
To put these engine options into context, understand that the E3 is built on a semidisplacement hull form; with only a modest 76-hp engine, she will cruise quite efficiently at speeds up to her theoretical hull speed of about 8 knots. At higher speeds, a pure displacement hull would wallow in its own stern wave; but the hard chine and flatter aft sections on the Elling's semidisplacement hull develop dynamic lift, so a larger engine can push the hull over "the hump" to speeds in the high teens with reasonable efficiency. Sadly, the 180-hp version is neither fish nor fowl; with two and a half times the standard horsepower, the E3 delivered only 2 knots more speed than the European version. Owners seeking a good turn of speed should opt for the 370-hp or 450-hp engines to reap the benefits of the hull form's full potential.
This is not to be critical—quite the contrary. Although I prefer faster boats, the several hours I spent during my sea trial were quite enjoyable. Despite the Chesapeake Bay's afternoon wind-driven chop of three feet or more, the yacht was comfortable on all headings. Even in beam seas, roll motion was moderate, thanks to roll-damping properties inherent in her hard-chine hull. There's something relaxing in the quiet thrumming of a single diesel, barely audible as the hull works with the sea instead of fighting it, and sound levels barely below normal conversation—a mere 64 dB-A at 2250 rpm, while making a bit over 8 knots.
One might argue that the E3 is like fine European cuisine: familiar ingredients prepared in a different way, producing an extremely satisfying result. Take, for example, her main-deck layout. From stem to stern she's all one level, giving great views from the cockpit seating area and making it easy to move fore and aft. And the freeboard is quite high: 81 inches at the bow, dropping only slightly to 67 inches at the stern. The pilothouse is a full step down from the cockpit, keeping the E3's profile low despite her towering sheerline. And so she can sneak under all but the lowest of bridges, the aft section of her hardtop retracts, lowering the radar, antennae, and assorted other top-mounted gear to less than 12-foot air draft.
Admittedly, her pilothouse seems small for a 45-footer, but a wide opening forward of the companionway makes the saloon and pilothouse seem like one space. Opposite the helm station, a table with an L-shape settee will let three or four guests keep the skipper company. To let in sunshine and fresh air, a large panel in the Elling's pilothouse roof can slide forward electrically; and to keep out water in a driving rain, the panel has a watertight seal, thanks to an automatically inflating gasket.
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Even guests choosing to stay below decks can have a chance to enjoy the passing scene, thanks to large elliptical ports in the deckhouse sides. But what really impressed me about the E3's interior is how spacious it is. Three staterooms, two generous heads, a big saloon, and a full galley; how did Elling do all that in just 45 feet? Then I realized: The engine room occupies just a narrow corridor beneath the pilothouse, on centerline, leaving room outboard for the galley to port and a third stateroom along the starboard side. An easily removable panel in the galley bulkhead affords access to all essential points on the main engine, and a second panel in the master-stateroom bulkhead provides easy access to the oil and fuel filters. Thick thermal and acoustic insulation keeps engine heat and sound out of the accommodation spaces, and to minimize vibration, the engine is soft-mounted, coupled to an Aquadrive thrust-bearing system. Smooth.
In keeping with its European heritage, Elling utilizes every nook and cranny for stowage, including wine racks beneath the galley sole (literally a wine cellar) and stowage bins built into the base of the saloon settee and two upholstered chairs opposite it. In truth, the half-height hanging locker in the master stateroom is limited for extended voyaging, but the yacht offers lots of other places to stash stuff, including a full-height locker in the guest stateroom. And for long-range cruising, the entire third stateroom can be utilized as a giant walk-in closet.
Fit and finish was first-rate, reflecting the superb skills of the Dutch craftsmen who built her. It's plain to see why the Elling, with her jaunty European air, is so popular overseas. And it's easy to imagine that she will soon be winning a few hearts and minds here in the United States as well.
American Global Yacht Group
This article originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.