New Hunter & Elan Designs
As you note,I think that there is a nig improvement in the current line of new Hunters. They have really seem to have improved hull forms and foil shapes since Glenn Henderson came aboard. They have added the use of kevlar (in high load and collision prone areas) and vinylester resin to the laminate, both excellent materials. I understand that they have decreased the amount of non-directional materials and increased the amount of oriented fiber material. All very good.
My criticism of these boats still comes down to basic items. While both Hunter and Catalina and Beneteau on their series boats use them, I still do not like glued in bulkheads. They are strong enough for normal sailing conditions but the small contact area really reduces the long term and high load strength. I don''t like the rolled out deck joints. These are inexpensive to build, but are much more vulnerable to damage, have way higher loadings and again have a much smaller contact area than an inward facing flange hull to deck joint. While I like fractional rigs for ease of handling and their inherent greater wind speed ranges with fewer sails, the backstayless B&R rig does not make sense to me as you cannot flatten the headstay tension on a high wind or depower the mainsail as easily.
My other gripe with the Hunters (as well as Catalinas) is that their interiors are clearly planned around a cruising style with short hops and nights spent at the dock or the anchor. These boats lack seaberths or even berths that can be converted so that a person can safely sleep underway. Galleys also seem to be laid out in a way and with features such as front opening refidgerators, that are hard to use under way. I understand that this reflects the way that a large percentage of the population use their boats, but it makes the possibility of longer passages or night passages much less likely.
I basically like the newer Elans. I only heard of these boats perhaps 5 or 6 years ago and had only seen one perhaps 3 years ago. I have really been very impressed with the build quality and engineering on these boats. I am also a big fan of Rob Humphries who designed these boats. The newer designs look like they would be excellent all around boats in a wide range of conditions. The newer boats are also using very high quality materials and sophisticated construction techniques. I saw no real negatives. Price wise I thought that they offered a lot of boat for the money although the recent relationship of the Euro v Dollar seems to cut some of that advantage.
You comment that you think that Elan are a higher quality boat than a C&C. I ma a little skeptical on that score. While there are a number of things about the design, layouts and execution of the new C&C''s that do not appeal to me, I really think that their hulls and decks are amounst the best constructed on the market these days using top notch materials and seemingly a high level of quality control.
I would also suggest that depending on your goals for the boat and its size, that you take a look at Hanse. I have been generally impressed with Hanse as well although in many ways I like the Elan a little bit better mostly on detail and taste issues.