As you walk into the reception area at Elan’s factory in Slovenia, you’re greeted by a rack of vintage wooden skis, a reminder of the company’s roots, making skis for partisans in World War II.

Product Overview


Elan 450 review: from the archive



As you walk into the reception area at Elan’s factory in Slovenia, you’re greeted by a rack of vintage wooden skis, a reminder of the company’s roots, making skis for partisans in World War II.

They’re still at it – many of the sheds on site are building skis both under the Elan brand and for several other well known names.

There’s even an upper floor dedicated to building gliders, another facet of the business Elan has now let to a third party.

But despite this wealth of other interests, Elan are one of the most vibrant yacht builders in the market at present.

Since signing Rob Humphreys as their designer in 1995, they have been stepping up the rate at which they produce new designs, steadily adding models to their performance range and the Impression range of cruisers, introduced in 2004.

The Elan 410, launched last year, proved a highly successful cruiser-racer and is due to be followed shortly by a smaller version, the Elan 380.

But in the meantime it seems Elan have gone mad – the latest launch, seen at London in January, looks like a 45ft ocean racer, but with a comfortable interior that would have the race boys desperately chucking furniture over the side to save weight.

Seen in plan view, the Elan 450 looks like the base of an iron, with a sharp, plumb stem and the maximum beam about three-fifths of the way down the boat, carried aft to relatively flat sections and a tremendously wide transom with twin rudders.


She looks like a performance machine, but Rob Humphreys and the team at Elan swear she is really aimed at cruising yachtsmen – in fact, less of a race yacht than the Elan 410.

That means she is revolutionary – this type of thinking may exist on performance racers, but has never been seen to this extreme on a production cruising boat.

It’s a bold gamble by Elan and just to give a taste of how much they have committed to the project, every Elan 450 they build takes up two build bays, as the wide transom forces them to slew the yacht across into the next bay.

That’s a major impact on production and only time and sales will tell whether it has paid off.

Sailing the Elan 450

I was keen to sail the Elan 450 in a good breeze to find out if the semi-chined hull really works – the theory is that, as the boat heels, she sits on the angle to present a very long, but very narrow profile to the water.

Unfortunately, the weather gods were not on our side and gave us a flat calm in Slovenia.

A few weeks later in the UK we found better luck, but with still only around 10 knots’ true breeze she was hardly on the edge of her performance.

Still, that makes what she did achieve all the more impressive. Going upwind she made an easy six knots, tacking through between 75° and 80°.

Tacks were smart and positive, with the minimal overlap headsail flicking swiftly across and the boat quickly finding and keeping the groove with little effort.

Once or twice we managed to achieve a respectable heel and see a clean wake peeling off the angled hull astern and the leeward rudder sitting vertically in the water to give maximum power.

The helm felt very positive with no slack and good feedback and, although the tip of the windward rudder is still in the water in these conditions, there was no noticeable effect on the helm.

In lighter winds the helm is still light and positive, but felt a little stiff.

Bearing away to a close reach, she managed around 6.5 knots, after which we pulled out the retractable bowsprit and hoisted the gennaker.

No option for a symmetrical spinnaker is provided as the yacht is expected to be sailed with an asymmetric only.

A semi-chined hull should help to improve the Elan 450’s performance. A gennaker on a retractable bowsprit is provided for downwind sailing.

Pointing up to around 70° she made a maximum of 7.5 knots, falling away to 6 knots on a reach and 4.5 knots further off the wind.

One noticeable feature of the design is that the Elan 450 really is a ‘boat with gears’.

In the variable wind strength we experienced, the 3 knot difference between 7 and 10 knots made a step change in performance.

She slips along well, but not remarkably in light winds, but give her an extra few knots and she really takes off.

I suspect that, like the racing yachts that inspired her, she is sensitive to sailplan, especially when reaching, and we would have experienced much better speed with the larger 160m2 gennaker allowed with the boat.

Under gennaker she felt very stable and with the twin rudder and huge form stability of her broad hull you should be able to drive her hard into strong winds while still retaining control.

The cockpit layout works well for the helmsman, with practical seating to windward or leeward and intelligently placed blocks for bracing.

Behind the helm runs a bench that can be either manually swung outboard to form a passerelle when moored stern-to, or optionally fitted with a hydraulic system.

This looks very impressive and smacks of superyachting, but be warned – it’s not only expensive, but also extremely heavy.

The traveller is placed just forward of the helm and can be easily reached from the helm, as can the mainsheet winches – the Elan 450 has a German mainsheet, led forward along the boom from the traveller before coming aft to a pair of cockpit winches.

The helm also has control of the hydraulic backstay, which is adjacent to the port wheel.

The remainder of the lines are managed by the primary winches and a pair on the coachroof, so this yacht should be fairly easy to sail with two people – there’s even a bin just abaft the companionway to help keep lines tidy, although it didn’t see much use on our test sail.

The cockpit is enormously wide, so two long teak blocks are provided for the crew to brace against when seated.

It seems fairly secure, but inevitably you’re going to feel very high up when sitting to windward at high angles of heel.

A huge hatch in the cockpit floor lifts to reveal space for two liferafts and also stores the table – far from a perfect solution as the heavy table is strapped down on top of the liferafts, making swift access impossible.

Other stowage is provided by shallow cockpit lockers each side, a drained wet space below the port helmsman’s seat and a large dinghy garage which can either be accessed by a centre hatch between the helms or by lowering the hydraulic swim platform.

The foredeck is kept neat and tidy thanks to an under-deck furler and a bow roller which swings out from the locker when needed.

Under power she cruised at around 7 knots, with a maximum of around 7.5 knots.

Turns at speed are tight – only just over a boatlength – but it’s when manoeuvring that the twin rudders are most noticeable, demanding more speed than a conventional single rudder configuration owing to the lack of propwash.

In astern she stays precise and manageable, although the wide transom inevitably slams into waves.

Elan 450 interior: Uncluttered

Below decks the beam of the yacht allows an open, uncluttered layout, with a huge amount of natural light thanks to the strip of deckhatches that runs the length of the coachroof.

The main seating area is to starboard, with a big folding table surrounded by a U-shaped settee with a two-seater settee opposite.

Each settee has lockers and a bookshelf behind, while the space beneath is occupied by tankage, etc.

Forward of the port settee is a neat unit with a drinks cabinet under a lifting lid, a small drawer and a locker in the kickspace.

To port is the navstation, which faces forward.

There’s good stowage for paper charts below the lifting lid and also room for instruments on the lockers to port, with the breaker panel and shorepower switches fitted below.

There’s a large locker in the chart table seat and a stack of three soft-close drawers built into the pedestal.

Behind the seat a tall unit provides a short, drained wet locker complete with a heater outlet, while below is a pull-out, two-compartment bin.

The galley is a large L-shape, with a huge front-opening fridge facing the companionway.

Adjacent is a double sink with a neat drained compartment behind for washing-up liquid, etc, while in the corner is a small freezer.

There’s a large locker below the sink, while on the other arm of the L a three-ring cooker is fitted, with a sliding worktop section for when it is not in use.

Guests have a choice between two aft cabins: choosing the port cabin gains you ensuite access to the aft heads, while the starboard one offers more stowage.

Both have generous double berths and a good-sized shelved locker.

The aft heads is quite small, with only just standing headroom, but is generally well fitted out.

The forward owner’s cabin is huge, with a big centre double berth and a two-person settee to port.

The huge owner’s cabin is situated forward on the Elan 450

Elan offer a four-cabin layout which uses this space differently, but at the time of our test had not yet built an example.

Stowage is good, with a large hanging locker, several high-level lockers and two big drawers in the foot of the berth.

A long box runs along the deckhead to starboard housing the retractable bowsprit, but the space it takes does not affect the living area.

A generous heads ensuite has room for a separate shower, divided by a neat, cylindrical screen.

First published in the August 2008 issue of YW.


Price (ex VAT):£179,000
LOA:44ft 7in (13.60m)
LWL:41ft 1in (12.52m)
Beam (max):14ft 4in (4.37m)
Draught:7ft 9in (2.35m)
Disp (lightship):24,912lb (11,300kg)
Ballast:9,215lb (4,180kg)
Sail area (100% foretriangle):1,128ft² (104.8m²)
Engine:Volvo saildrive
Power:41kW, 55hp
Water capacity:98gal (444lt)
Fuel capacity:45gal (203lt)
Sail area - displacement:21.2
Displacement - LWL:160
Designed by:Rob Humphreys
Built by:Elan Marine