Can a performance cruiser offer space and comfort without the compromises of a boat geared solely for speed? Rupert Holmes tests the new Elan E6 to find out

Product Overview


Elan E6 review: Fun to sail with a nice, sporty feel


Price as reviewed:

£608,342.00 (As tested approx )

I’ve always looked forward to testing new models in Elan’s performance range. Historically they’ve offered an enticing blend of performance and comfort, with every example I’ve sailed in the last decade providing a reassuringly solid ride even at planing speeds. Like earlier models, the 47ft Elan E6 is a product of Humphreys Yacht Design’s ’60/60 racing/cruising concept’, with the idea being they offer more than half of each world.

Hull sections aft have a marked flare above a relatively narrow waterline, with a high chine aft of midships that digs in at 7-8° of heel, when it gives a large boost to form stability. At the same time, wetted surface area is minimised when the boat is fairly upright, promoting good light airs performance, as we found later.

On my first sail of the Elan E6 a short Mediterranean chop, with waves reflected off the shore, created an awkward sea state that slowed progress upwind. Nevertheless we made 6.7 to 6.8 knots close-hauled in 12-13 knots of true breeze at true wind angles generally between 45-50°.

Generous twin rudders provide plenty of grip. Photo: Barbar Studio

Helm positions are excellent, with good visibility, big secure folding foot chocks and a comfortable seat either on the side deck or optional aft benches. The steering felt precise throughout the range of conditions we experienced, even though there was some friction due to the pilot setup on the test boat.

Bearing away onto a true beam reach, with the apparent therefore still well forward, we accelerated to 7.8-8.0 knots, sailing effortlessly under main and jib only. Sadly we didn’t get enough breeze to experience the boat’s planing performance at more downwind angles.

Design calculations show a standard spec Elan E6 should lift onto the plane in roughly 17-22 knots of true wind. However, our test boat was heavier than standard thanks to a wide range of options including full Flexiteek decks, air conditioning, the helm seat boxes which house an outdoor fridge and barbecue, extra tankage and so on.

Hull shape has low wetted surface to boost light airs speed, but stability builds quickly at modest heel angles. Photo: Ludovic Fruchaud

Performance rig

Our test Elan E6 was equipped with a taller performance aluminium rig and upgraded sail inventory from OneSails, plus a 2.8m draught torpedo keel. Other configurations offered include a tall carbon spar, which also has lighter furniture and a deeper, lighter keel with 2.85m draught. This reduces overall displacement, without compromising righting moment, and is therefore an appealing configuration for those keen to get planing at the earliest opportunity. A shallower 2.4m draught keel is also offered.

The twin rudders provided plenty of grip, even with the boat pressed, although the stern wave on the lee quarter is noisy when the boat is well-heeled and fully powered up. With its taller rig our test boat needed reefing earlier than the standard version. Sailing upwind in true wind speeds of 14-15 knots, we were marginally overpowered with full sail, so dropped the first reef in. This is easily done thanks to Seldén’s single-line reefing system, but with only one electric winch fitted it required more physical effort than most new yachts of this size.

Helm positions are excellent, with secure folding foot chocks. Photo: Ludovic Fruchaud

For my second day we had lighter airs of predominantly 9-10 knots, with occasional stronger puffs, and a slight leftover swell. Even in this breeze we were well powered up sailing to windward, making 6.5 knots at true wind angles around 50°.

Genoa sheet tracks are on the side decks, which makes for relatively wide sheeting angles that preclude very tight pointing, but this reflects the realities of cruising where sails are often trimmed with a lot of twist to give a wide and forgiving groove.

Off the wind our speeds and angles were hampered by the lack of an asymmetric spinnaker cut for downwind sailing. However, even with the Code 0 we made mostly 7.5-8 knots at true wind angles around 125-130° – respectable figures for the top end of a Force 3.

Elan has chosen a traditional approach for the cockpit layout, with a pit area at the companionway where halyards and reefing lines are handled. There’s a recessed traveller on the cockpit floor for the German mainsheet, which is controlled by winches just ahead of the wheels. Primary winches for headsail sheets are also positioned outboard of the cockpit benches.

Three different rigs are offered. Photo: Barbar Studio

Olympic experience

The precise layout of the Elan E6 was determined after testing with an Olympic sailing team on a full scale model. It’s ideal for crew that want to be involved with the sailing, rather than sitting remote from the action and letting others do the work, and will also work well for fully-crewed racing. On the other hand, it’s not an ideal layout for a sole watch keeper, as a lot of moving around is needed between mainsheet, halyards, headsail sheets and other controls.

As standard, a through-deck headsail furler is fitted, but there’s no option for a self-tacking jib, on the basis that the design is aimed at experienced and enthusiastic sailors. The Harken split track for the mainsail luff cars brings the head of the sail lower when it’s dropped, making handling easier.

Surprisingly, in windier conditions there was not enough purchase for the traveller car, or the towable headsail sheet cars. On the plus side, there are good rope boxes aft of the mainsheet winches and under the helm seat and the clean side decks have deep bulwarks.

Optional twin removable tables on neat carbon fibre legs that screw into sockets in the cockpit sole. Photo: Barbar Studio

My final sail was in even lighter breezes with only 6.5-8 knots of true wind, though we still managed speeds within a knot of the true wind speed when reaching with the Code 0. Even upwind in these conditions we made respectable progress, including just over 5 knots of boat speed at an apparent wind angle of 32° (TWA 55-60°) in 6 knots of breeze.

The cockpit is deep and wide, with plenty of space to move around, although there are limited options for bracing your feet with the boat well heeled. This is particularly true for boats with the optional twin removable cockpit tables.

The split, two-part bimini allows for the mainsheet traveller and has an in infill section for use in harbour or at anchor. There’s also provision for neatly stowing a sprayhood. The standard inventory lacks a bathing platform, but options are for either a small fold-up platform, or the larger version fitted to the test boat that comes approximately 18in above the cockpit sole and therefore offers an additional feeling of security when at sea.

Classic, spacious saloon layout around a substantial table. Photo: Ludovic Fruchaud

Italian styling

The saloon is impressively large on the Elan E6, with a substantial folding table and a roughly 50/50 balance of white surfaces and woodwork. However, by today’s standards it’s not particularly bright as coachroof and hull windows are slender. The port side settee also has Elan’s usual small fold-out chart table that can be used facing either forward or aft, though in use it prevents the settee being used as a sea berth.

The Elan E6 has an L-shape galley at the foot of the companionway, which includes plenty of worktop space, a top and front loading fridge. Pininfarina, which was responsible for both external and interior styling, clearly worked its magic here. The inboard worktop with sink, for instance, tapers towards the boat’s centre line, creating more visual interest while simultaneously increasing floor space near the companionway. However, fiddles are disappointingly low and may not keep items in place when the boat is well-heeled in a lively sea state.

Recessed hull portlights are a Pininfarina styling touch but serve a practical purpose as fenders don’t press hard against the windows. Photo: Barbar Studio

The forward owner’s cabin in three cabin versions has a big floor area and large peninsula bed. Stowage is in a large hanging locker with shelves, plus two additional eye-level lockers and further extensive shelving for small items around the bed. There’s useful volume under the bunk, although this is less easy to access and also houses tankage and batteries for the windlass and bow thruster. The very large en-suite has folding screens that create a separate shower area – a neat idea for a head that doesn’t need to be used at sea. The aft heads is also a very good size, yet narrow enough to brace yourself in place at sea, and has a good-sized separate shower stall.

Aft cabins have large berths and good stowage, although natural light and ventilation is restricted. There’s also a four cabin option with a Pullman-style bunk cabin forward of the main bulkhead, a small shared heads opposite and a smaller forward cabin.

Peninsula bed in the owners’ forward cabin. Photo: Barbar Studio

A technical space in the tunnel between the aft cabins houses optional systems including air con, diesel generator and watermaker. The Simarine digital switching panel was originally developed as a project for Elan and has manual override switches with automotive style fuses. This provides the advantages of a useful technology without sacrificing manual operation as a back up.

The hull moulding is vacuum infused, as are the inner structure, stringers and supports. Infused composite bulkheads also help to eliminate weight, while owners will have the reassurance of structural engineering by Gurit.
The steering is set up with a twin wire system from each wheel so even if one breaks the other wheel will still work and there’s therefore no requirement for an emergency tiller. Standard tankage is ample for normal use, but those planning more extended cruising may find it limiting.

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Elan is a master of this sector of the market, maintaining a presence even after other manufacturers abandoned it, so this is a vitally important model for the yard. Despite an unladen displacement of 11,250kg, and the weight of the options on the test boat, it proved rewarding to sail and responsive even in lighter airs, while in more breeze the promise of planing performance has potential to create plenty of big grins. It also boasts ample cruising comforts both below deck and in the cockpit, especially when the deck boxes that house an outdoor galley are specified. It makes sense to offer deep keels to reduce displacement without compromising righting moment. While this may not be particularly restrictive in many parts of the Mediterranean, on the downside there are plenty of other sailing areas where a draught of almost 3m can be problematic and where even the shoal draught option of 2.4m won’t suit everyone. The yard has clearly invested heavily in both the development and build of this model. The result is a good looking yacht that should have wide appeal.


LOA:15.30m / 50ft 2in
Hull length:14.10m / 46ft 3in
LWL:13.68m / 44ft 11in
Beam:4.49m / 14ft 9in
Draught (std):2.80m / 9ft 2in
Draught (option):2.40m or 2.95m / 7ft 10in or 9ft 8in
Displacement (light):11,250kg / 24,802lb
Ballast:3,267kg / 7,202lb
Sail area (100% foretriangle):120.4m2 / 1,296ft2
Water:370lt / 81.5gal
Fuel:240lt / 53gal
Engine Yanmar:57hp or 80hp
Electric options:1x15kW or twin 10kW Oceanvolt electric drives
Sail area/displacement ratio:24.4
Displacement/LWL ratio:122
Design:Humphreys Yacht Design/Pininfarina
Base price ex VAT:€464,900