Great visibility up the side decks from the helm station. And the view is stunning!

“Full main and small jib?” I asked, raising my voice slightly to project above the breeze in the low teens. “I honestly don’t know, this is my first time with the sails up on this boat,” said my friend Molly Howe, the broker who was helping me get out for a sunny February sail. This was going to be a voyage of discovery, and that felt fitting given that the boat I was testing differentiates itself from modern production cruisers in a number of ways. This is the first Allures 45.9 I’ve seen in person, let alone taken sailing. Though a number of them have been sold to Pacific Northwest sailors, they often have taken delivery abroad or immediately headed cruising. I was genuinely stoked to check it out.

The Allures 45.9 is an aluminum-hulled bluewater cruising sailboat with a composite deck, designed and built in France. It endeavors to strike an ideal balance between strength and safety, luxurious comfort and sailing performance. A high bar no doubt, but one I believe it clears impressively after my afternoon of sailing.

Though in the grand scheme of cruising sailboats, perhaps the 45.9’s most notable attribute is its aluminum hull, it wasn’t what caught my eye first. That honor went to large permanent swim step, which is integrated into the aluminum hull. As a fan of simple solutions on go-far boats, this element shined with utility and prudence. Framing the swimstep was a standard aluminum arch which supports a dinghy on davits below and a solar array above, each of which perfectly befit the design.

I climbed aboard and worked my way through a small maze of stainless steel tubing clearly designed to keep the robust cockpit coverings intact in some serious weather. This is less a design aspect and more of a lifestyle choice, and entirely understandable in this corner of the world. While these bimini supports somewhat inhibited easy movement forward, they also gave a sense of security and comfort in the cockpit, which is equally important for shorthanded sailing in the ocean.

I ducked into the interior and loved the layout of numerous windows and warm-toned woods, including the dark brown cabin sole. This isn’t a hand-sculpted custom one-off with joinery that’ll make you misty-eyed, but in the modern cruising sailboat market, it’s notably well finished and will be lastingly functional.

Returning to the deck, we readied for our sail. Flow around the cockpit was easy. We were off the dock in moments with the help of the bow thruster. Rounding the breakwater I asked how much we draw. “Nine-and-a-half with the board down.” Molly replied. That’s right, a person could be forgiven for forgetting that under the waterline there’s more cool design elements. There are two options for underwater appendages: a lifting keel or, in our case, a centerboard. The lifting keel offers heavier ballast but, spoiler alert, we certainly never felt under-ballasted on the centerboard version. It was exciting to be trying out such a deep-drafted cruising boat, that also draws less than 3.5 feet when it comes time to anchor.

The Allures 45.9 has a ⅞ fractional solent rig with swept spreaders, a split fixed backstay and checkstays. A solent rig differs from a cutter because the larger sail (the solent) is a 100% jib instead of a bigger genoa, and the position of the two sails means you won’t be employing them at the same time. Still, I lit up envisioning configuration options not available on many boats. The Allures’ sail area to displacement ratio represents its intent to be equally safe, stout, and sailable. Starting with discretion in 11-14 knots of wind on an unfamiliar boat, we rolled out the staysail with the full main.

Trimmer that I am, once we set the sails, I set about tweaking them. I quickly appreciated the ability to adjust many things. I liked the staysail leads, which could be moved aft under load, and it was interesting to see that the leads for both headsails shared placement on each side’s fore-aft track. I checked out the mainsheet traveler system forward of the dodger, which was clearly robust and wide enough to ably do its job. Pulling the loaded traveler to weather definitely required a winch, though.

Wanting to go check on a few things—cunningham rigging, jib halyard tension—I went forward, carefully exiting our cockpit cocoon. On this trip to the mast, I noticed the height of the step to the cabin top from the side decks. Where I instinctually stepped up, it felt like maybe two feet. Hmm. Looking around, I saw the better option. The coachroof has a gently convex sweep to deck level near the mast. Note to self, take the side-deck to the mast, then step up. Once there, I appreciated the pushpits flanking either side of the mast as we rolled through the wind waves.

We settled in with the preliminary sail configuration and the boat felt stout and sturdy without being sluggish, with the easy motion you’d expect from a cruising boat of this size. We took turns at the helm and noted what seemed like a pretty narrow groove sailing upwind. Taking the wheel, I unconsciously started moving it slightly looking for helm feel, only to discover that the Allures 45.9 has twin rudders. While it means I need to retune my expectations about feel, this design choice is almost guaranteed to be a net benefit for the vast majority of owners, with its increased control and reduced weather helm in breeze. We were making a lazy 5.5 knots at a 50-degree true wind angle and threw in a couple of tacks. We hadn’t come close to having too much sail up for the conditions.

A lot about the cockpit feels just right. It’s cleanly rigged, with cabintop lines led aft under the deck to their clutch and winch locations; and there are two clever line lockers under the cockpit sole. Generally, all the sail controls are effectively located and easy to use. Even with the extensive cockpit coverings, the visibility from the helm stations up the side decks is excellent and the windows through the bimini from the helm offered a perfect view of the mainsail for the driver. I really loved the position of the primary winches, which manage the headsails and their furling lines (the mainsheet trims to the cabin top electric winch). Placed as they are, the primary winches can not only be trimmed from the helm, but will also keep sailors standing inboard in the cockpit instead of leaning or standing farther outboard—a big safety improvement in the offshore environment.

It was only a matter of time before we decided to furl the staysail and try the solent. As soon as we did, the boat just sang. The groove was easier to find and maintain, the boat felt more balanced, and our speed jumped to 7+ knots upwind. We were happier, the boat was happier. We still didn’t feel close to being overpowered, but for the first time that day, the Allures 45.9 felt adequately powered, and all design facets were working in harmony.

The bigger sail also made vastly more sense when we turned off the wind. Soon, some commercial traffic inspired us to throw in a jibe, and I was reminded of the compromise with a solent rig when we had to furl the sail in order to jibe it through. For bluewater sailors whose intervals between maneuvers might be many hours or even days, no biggie; but for cruisers in the Pacific Northwest, furling the solent for every tack or jibe would be something to adjust to.

Getting back to the dock, I returned to the swanky cabin. Moving inside and out, you won’t forget the Allures 45.9 is very beamy at 14.5 feet, yet efforts have clearly been made to reduce the functional width (and associated risk) for sailors. The main salon’s settee table is inviting, but provides crucial handholds around its entire exterior. In the cockpit, the fixed table does the same. Every bit as important, the galley is situated so you could lean against the back of the settee seats while working there in a seaway; much better than less natural bracing or even the tethering I know some offshore cruisers do when cooking underway.

In my opinion, there’s just a lot about the design that hits the mark. The Volvo D2-60 diesel (or optional D2-75) is quite powerful for a boat of this size, and the saildrive pushes the boat to efficient cruising speeds above 9 knots. It was cool to check out the centerboard trunk and to see that it does not require a hydraulic system—a winch easily does the job and means remote repairs will be much easier. Tankage is mostly located under the floorboards, keeping the weight low. The port aft cabin has a single berth that doubles as a workbench and provides stunningly good access to the steering system just aft of there. The forward cabin is indeed luxurious, and the starboard aft double berth is cozy. There are two heads, one with a shower that had more than my 6-foot requirement for standing headroom (head configuration options also exist). To me, the layout points to this boat being mainly set-up for long term cruising for a couple who might occasionally welcome guests, or possibly a small family.

The storage throughout is substantial, perhaps nowhere more on display than the massive forepeak storage locker ahead of the watertight crash bulkhead. It’s where I’d keep my code zero, but you could keep deflated paddleboards or any number of other items stowed there and forget you even had them on board.

In sum, it’s a boat of style and sophistication, one that will deliver delight under sail, inspire confidence in rough weather, and is sure to have you charting courses for distant destinations. Its aluminum hull is strong and forgiving should you find yourself on the bottom or hit a log at full speed. The innovations evident at every turn work beautifully together such that the boat feels at home at sea, just as it was intended.

Joe Cline is the Managing Editor of 48° North. Special thanks to Molly Howe and the crew from Swiftsure Yachts for the opportunity to go sailing on this boat.