Grand Banks Heritage 41EUBy Capt. Grant Rafter
When a boatbuilder replaces its best-selling model, it must ensure that her replacement not only incorporates all of the positive features of her predecessor, but surpasses them. Grand Banks has worked for three years to make sure it did just that when the newest boat in its Heritage Series, the 41EU, replaced the 42. The improvements were based on a worldwide effort, with plans, parts, and construction elements undertaken in facilities all over the world.
According to Grand Banks marketing director David Hensel, the builder began by talking directly to owners through a series of focus groups and online surveys. The company also set up a dealer advisory counsel to get input from its worldwide distribution centers.
With the info in, Grand Banks confirmed what it had suspected: The new boat needed a hull design and an engine package that could accommodate a wide range of owners, from those who enjoy slow-speed offshore cruising to those who dart along the coast in calm waters.
"The [42's hull] was originally designed for a single screw and a smaller engine, but then people would order a pair of 210s, 350s, or even 500s," explained Hensel. After weighing its options and numerous other factors such as fuel consumption and cost, Grand Banks opted to engineer the vessel in coordination with Cummins MerCruiser (CMD) to accommodate the Zeus pod-drive system. Choosing Zeus was a risk for the builder since the 41EU would be the first Grand Banks offered with one. But if the gamble paid off, it would result in the most versatile production boat the company had ever built.
The hull had to allow for myriad of operating styles, so the builder did something else it had never done before: It designed the entire boat in-house, collaborating work between its design offices in Malaysia and in Vero Beach, Florida. "[We chose] a modified V-hull to meet those dynamic demands," said designer Earl Alfaro. He and his team kept the low-draft keel from the 42 but made a few alterations to maximize gains from the Zeus system. The afterbody buttock lines run parallel to the horizontal shaft line, enhancing the vessel's ability to get onto plane. The team collaborated with CMD to create prop tunnels with hexagonal cross sections converging toward the props to maximize clean water flow over the blades, thus increasing performance. With the hull design complete, the project moved to another location: Hoboken, New Jersey, home of Davidson Laboratories, for model testing. The replicas were about six feet long and ballasted to scale. Various chine configurations and transom deadrises were just a few of the features refined. The team even tested the models with conventional shafting and found the Zeus drives increased efficiency. In the end, Grand Banks opted for a 17-degree transom deadrise and chines that, according to Alfaro, optimized spray deflection in a headsea. She also got a finer entry than any of her sisterships in the Heritage series to minimize resistance.
The next step on the 41's journey was Southeast Asia where workers assembled a full-scale mock-up of the interior in Pasir Gudang, Malaysia. The 'glass process was yet another step forward for Grand Banks, since the 41 would be its first boat with a resin-infused hull, superstructure, and flying bridge. The former two were later fitted together with a shoebox-style joint.
When I saw the 41EU's debut at last year's Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which marked the end of her global formation process, the warmth of the interior woodwork was striking. And, for the most part, the mock-ups seem to have done their job. Crowds of onlookers passed through her teak-and-maple-soled interior while twin side doors allowed attendees to avoid the chatter generated between the guests seated on the C-shape settee to port and bench-style settee to starboard. Access to components in the engine room was excellent, with the exception of fills for both engine oil and coolant, which were located only a few inches from the overheads. A Grand Banks technician suggested using a length of fuel hose outfitted with a priming pump to siphon liquids into their respective fills, which, while a crafty solution, doesn't allow you to monitor levels via sight.
A few days later, I was back on the 41 outside Port Everglades Inlet to see if the Zeus system lived up to the hype I'd heard prior to and during the show. Long-period two- to four-foot northeast swells rose and fell, propelled by the 15-knot northerly, as I prepared to check her acceleration. When Grand Banks company captain Bill Fink laid the throttles flat, the 41 hustled forward smoothly, reaching a top speed of better than 27 mph within 45 seconds. She planed at about 12 mph, which should please coastal-cruising enthusiasts. (Grand Banks is currently repropping the 42 for improved mid-range performance.) Her ride was, for the most part, dry, although the hard forward chines and greater flare didn't deflect all the spray at top speed in the larger swells. (The vertical Man Ship destroyer-style windshield below was well-salted and required the use of wipers.) Capt. Fink, who owns a 42, vouched for the 41, "She's absolutely dryer," adding, "and more maneuverable."
When we entered the saloon on my way to the lower helm to test his assertions for myself (the 41 is the first vessel with dual-station Zeus controls), I noted something else: She was quiet. With my decibel meter aimed at the helm, she began at a mere 58 dB-A and topped off at a remarkable 73. (For more information, see "Our Numbers.")
I took the controls and found the DTS throttles predictable; With the wheel centered, the boat tracked well (a wheel-position indicator is integrated into the Smart View screens), but it was with the wheel hard over where the joint effort of Grand Banks and CMD really showed. With her throttles wide open and the outside engine spinning at 3000 rpm with the inside engine running around 2650, the 41 made awe-inspiring one-and-a-half boat-length circles. "Couldn't do this on the 42," Capt. Fink remarked with a grin.
Although high-speed handling was phenomenal, the 41 required more finesse at slow speeds. The 26-inch-diameter wheel requires only two turns lock to lock, making minor adjustments difficult. The joystick was also more sensitive on the low end than others I've tested, a characteristic I've found common to Zeus. Both take some getting used to, and according to Hensel, Grand Banks is currently working with CMD to add more deadband to my test boat's steering as well as that of future 41s.
I watched the sun setting over the mangroves near Dania Cut as we tested the Skyhook static-positioning system, which kept us steady in the current-free channel without any growl from the pair of optional 425-hp Cummins. The old 42 was on her way out, and a modern boat had risen to take her place. The initial concept had had a three-year journey, beginning in Seattle, going halfway around the world to South East Asia, and returning to America's boating Mecca of Fort Lauderdale. It had been a long path for the 41EU, but if the 1,560 hulls Grand Banks produced for the 42 is any indicator, she's got another long journey ahead.
For more information on Grand Banks, including contact information,click here.
Not enough space to work in the engine room? Grand Banks has a solution: a utility room below the saloon sole. The room comes with a workbench with a vice, and on my test boat, the optional 'fridge/freezer and washer/dryer combos.
Other non-engine components are housed here as well, including fuel tanks on each side and a water tank on centerline. Every tank has a well-marked port for measuring contents. Batteries are here too, with three AMG 8D house batteries in fiberglass boxes tucked underneath the retractable stairs and two other 8D starters outboard. The sole is gelcoated with a nonskid finish, and there's a 20-gph bilge pump to keep the area dry. —G.R.
This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.