Dufour Yachts is a French sailboat manufacturer which was founded in 1964 by designer Michael Dufour.
Dufour Yachts was born when engineer Michel Dufour was working at a factory that manufactured parts for locomotives near La Rochelle, France in 1964. At the time, he was in charge of the workshop that fabricated parts out of a new and revolutionary material, fiberglass. The factory was building parts that were used on the front of trains as well as for door and window frames. But since Dufour was also a passionate and successful racing sailor, it didn’t take long for him to realize that fiberglass could be the ideal building material for boats. And since La Rochelle has a long and storied sailing and boat building tradition, when he told his boss at the plant about his ideas for building a fiberglass sailboat (and his boss saw that he was distracted by sketching boats instead of more mundane endeavors) his boss’s response was skillfully enthusiastic, encouraging, and oh-so-French: “Go draw your famous sailboat!” Shortly after, Dufour arrived at the plant with his co-worker, Francis Deschamps, and a clay model of the deckhouse of what would go on to be the company’s first boat—the Sylph. And he was pretty unscientific when it came to designing the hull shape. He simply relied on his sailing experience, draftsmanship, and his knowledge of hydrodynamic laws—and then he just went for it.
He sold his car, his boat, and borrowed the equivalent of several thousand dollars to start building his first boat in a workshop on the outskirts of La Rochelle. Then in the fall of 1964, after eight months of work, the first Sylph was launched and bought by a countryman from the north of France, Dominique Trentesaux, who believed enough in the boat, and in the company, to extend a lifeline to “Team Industrial Laminate” what Dufour first called his fledgling boatbuilding company.
But the diminutive Sylph was only the beginning. The company really took off with the launch of the 29-foot-long L’Arpege in 1967. And it’s widely agreed that Dufour’s L’Arpege is a legitimate classic. Over 1,500 models were built during the golden-era of fiberglass production boat building until 1977.
The sturdy, 21-foot Sylph went on to be a huge success. Over 400 models were sold from 1964 to 1974 and launched the company that was soon to be known as Dufour Yachts.
And Dufour was never one to rest on his laurels. Not too many builders were designing and building 40-foot fiberglass performance cruisers in the early ‘70s. But Dufour was always willing to push the envelope as he did with the highly successful launch of the 40-foot Sortilege in 1971.
By 1973 Dufour had grown 1400% and was the leading exporter of French fiberglass sailboats. At this time, the company employed over 400 craftsmen and was shipping boats to over 40 countries. Meanwhile, the company had its hands in everything during the 1980s. Dufour partnered with renowned designer German Frers to build a line of sporty cruising boats and even partnered with the iconic French clothing line Lacoste on a 42-footer that was debuted to great fanfare at the 1985 Paris Boat Show.
As the 1990s arrived, Dufour Yachts began to push the limits of production boat building with the launch of bigger and bigger “Prestige” models. Each was bigger, faster, and more luxurious than the model that came before. First was the Dufour 56. Then the Dufour 65. And then a “No Limits” 110-footer was launched.
And while the company made big news with its bigger and bigger models, the designs that Dufour was always known for—sporty, fast, stylish, 30-to-40-footers—continued to be improved as well. During this time Dufour also acquired one-time rival Gib’Sea and started work on even more revolutionary designs like the groundbreaking Atoll 43.
Things really changed when Dufour began its long and fruitful partnership with famed Italian naval architect Umberto Felci in 2005. Nearly every the new “Grand Large” model that was launched during this time won some sort of award including Boat of the Year awards in both Europe and the United States. And the company continues to build on the success of its Felci-designed models today.
Timeline of notable events:
- 1964 – Michel Dufour launched the first series of boats Sylphe.
- 1968 – Dufour created the Arpege.
- 1973 – Dufour becomes France's leading production boat builder and is awarded the French Export Prize.
- 1981 – Company fails and production stops briefly.
- 1982 - Dufour T6 and T7 Launched
- 1985–1990 – Launch of the Dufour 28, Dufour 32, Dufour 36, Dufour 37, Dufour 39 and Dufour 42
- 1990–1994 – Launch of the Prestige 54, Prestige 48, Prestige 56 and Prestige 65
- 1994 - The Dufour Arpege Yarra crosses the Arctic circle and sails to the Lofoten Islands (Norway) and Iceland
- 1995 – Launch of the Classic Sailing Yacht line. Another French Export Prize for its international development.
- 1996 - The Dufour Arpege Yarra, sailed single-handed, reaches the Antarctic Peninsula and subsequently cruises in Antarctica for one month
- 1999 – Re-launch of the Gib'Sea range
- 2001 – Partnership with the celebrated Italian boat builder Cantiere Del Pardo producer of the Grand Soleil line.
- 2002 – Sea Scout, a Dufour Arpege, sails to Greenland and crosses the Arctic Circle
- 2003 – In France, the Dufour 40 is elected Boat of the Year 2003 and at boot Düsseldorf, Dufour 34 is elected European Yacht of the Year in the category under 30 feet.
- 2004 – Launch of the "Grand' Large" range of cruisers
- 2005 – Launch of the 365 and 455
- 2006 – Launch of the 325, 425, 485 and 525
- 2008 – Launch of the 34e and 45e performance cruisers
- 2009 – Launch of the 40e and 405
- 2010 – 405 selected as European Yacht of the Year. Launch of the 375. Dufour and Grand Soleil Brands sold to Bavaria Yacht Group. North American distribution network is re-established. Dufour 45e named Cruising World Magazine's Boat of the Year.
- 2011 – Launch of the 445 (Sept) and 36 Performance (Dec)
- 2012 - Launch of the 500, 380 and 450 Grand Large models. 380 and 450 were facelifts of previous models 375 and 445.
- 2013 - Company reorganized through a Management buyout of the company from the Bavaria Yacht Group. Launch of the 310 Grand Large. Dufour 36P named European Boat of the Year and Sailing World Magazine's Boat of the year.
- 2014 - Launch of the 560 (Feb), Launch of the 382 (Sept), Launch of the 350 (December). Dufour 500 named Cruising World Magazine's Boat of the year.
- 2015: Launch of the all new 460. 410 features are fine tuned and the model is re-designated the 412. 500 features are fine tuned and the model is re-designated the 512. Dufour 560 Named Cruising World Magazine's Boat of the Year.
- 2016: Dufour 382 Named Cruising World Magazine's Boat of the Year. New "Exclusive" range announced to include a 63 launching in January 2017 and re-designation of the 560 as a 56 with fine tuned features.
- Dufour 36 Performance (New Late 2011)
- Dufour 40 Performance
- Dufour 45 Performance
- Dufour 310 Grand Large (new late 2013)
- Dufour 350 Grand Large (new late 2014)
- Dufour 382 Grand Large (new late 2014)
- Dufour 412 Grand Large (new 2015)
- Dufour 460 Grand Large (new 2015)
- Dufour 512 Grand Large (new 2015)
- Dufour 560 Grand Large (new 2014)
- Dufour Arpege
- Dufour T6 and T7
- Dufour Sortilege 41
- Dufour Sylphe
- Dufour 1200
- Dufour 1800
- Dufour 2800
- Dufour 12000
- Dufour 3800
- Dufour 4800
- Dufour 24
- Dufour 25
- Dufour 27
- Dufour 29
- Dufour 31
- Dufour 34
- Dufour 35
- Dufour 34 Performance
- Dufour 44 Performance
- Dufour Classic 30
- Dufour Classic 32
- Dufour Classic 35
- Dufour Classic 36
- Dufour Classic 38
- Dufour Classic 41
- Dufour Classic 50
- Dufour 40 Performance
- Dufour 34e
- Dufour 325 Grand Large
- Dufour 335 Grand Large
- Dufour 365 Grand Large
- Dufour 375 Grand Large
- Dufour 380 Grand Large
- Dufour 405 Grand Large
- Dufour 410 Grand Large
- Dufour 445 Grand Large
- Dufour 450 Grand Large
- Dufour 425 Grand Large
- Dufour 455 Grand Large
- Dufour 485 Grand Large
- Dufour 500 Grand Large
- Dufour 525 Grand Large
Past manufacturers and designers
- Daniel Spurr (1999). Heart of glass: fiberglass boats and the men who made them. International Marine/ McGraw-Hill. pp. 244–250. ISBN 978-0-07-157983-4.
- PHRF of Southern California