Two boat building prodigies and a Kiwi veteran carve their own way with the new Elandra 53 Sport Yacht.

It’s a cool Australian afternoon in May and Luke Durman doesn’t appear to have a care in the world. He’s relaxed, affable, and engaged as we start what’s now evolved into a routine between the two of us—a routine evolving from testing nearly a dozen boats together over the years. However, while I crawl over the new Elandra 53 Sport Yacht, peppering Luke with questions and lifting hatches, I notice a change in his demeanor from previous boat tests. Maybe it’s the grounded character that develops from having kids—he now has two young children. Or perhaps it’s a perspective that all of us gain as our hairlines inch back toward our ears and gray hairs begin their advance. Perhaps.

When I enter the engine room and leave all impartiality in my wake by belting, “Wow!” into the cavernous space, I realize what I’m witnessing is simply pride. Pride of ownership. Pride in a company that Luke and his partners have worked tirelessly to create in short order. Pride in this first Elandra.

In prior years, Luke dutifully explained the features and benefits of each boat we were testing and I was always impressed by his deep boatbuilding knowledge. Yet these boats—each built by legendary Australian boatbuilder Bill Barry-Cotter, who happens to be Luke’s stepfather, were not representative of the younger man’s vision, a vision spawned from travelling around the world, visiting a variety of markets and dealers while working for Maritimo (the company founded by Barry-Cotter after he sold his shares in Riviera Yachts). Instead of applying preconceived prejudices in the design of Elandra, Luke and his partners took a more divergent path by examining the untapped potential of the boating market.


Just what is Luke’s vision? Well, with his other partners, Tom Barry-Cotter (Bill’s son), and New Zealand boatbuilder Grant Senior, he’s carved a niche by creating a voluminous performance yacht that’s ready to cruise, but also offers customers the ability for some customization. I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia and I’ve found that in general terms, you can’t find a country that’s more closely aligned with how we boat in the U.S. and Canada. The country’s owner-operators are looking to cover distance on a solid sea boat, where day cruising is trumped by long weekends with summer and winter cruises in between. Both continents require functionality, while appreciating style. And anyone ponying up XX for a boat would like to incorporate a few custom touches of his own. The Elandra 53 ticks all of these boxes.

First of all, in my opinion, the six-cylinder 800-horsepower diesels of our test boat were perfectly suited for a 53-foot envelope. The power-to-weight ratio is spot on and throughout the curve, the torque from the MANs delivered a fun ride. We headed out into conditions in which some builders have refused to let us test. Luke pointed me toward the helm with a smirk—pride was turning into cockiness, perhaps? Er … nope, make that confidence. We hit a top speed of 34 knots (props were still to be adjusted) but more importantly, found a sweet spot of 27 knots at 2,000 rpm. With the bow entry, you could easily manage this speed in a similarly confused sea pattern all day long. The sound meter maintained 74 decibels as well at this speed, creating a pleasant environment around the helm.

On many tests like this, when I’m taking a boat fresh out of the cradle, I’ll discover creaks and groans as she works over seas like the 6- to 8-footers we found in the Coral Sea during our test. But there was nothing. No sound from doorframes. No protest from window frames. The rush of parting seas was noisier than the Elandra. Aha! Now I knew why Luke had been smiling back at the dock.

The Elandra’s response at the throttle is instantaneous, while a nearly flat shaft angle of 9 degrees and propeller pockets add to the efficient ride. And a shallow draft of less than 4 feet lets you get into some skinny water.

Heading back into the inlet with the seas pushing our stern, I expected a bit of a white-knuckle ride. It was not to be. The boat remained on plane while the speed dropped in the troughs; the entire boat rose easily with the swells, with no adverse bow lift. Twin Stidd seats at a smartly laid out helm provided a secure and comfortable area in which to handle gnarly conditions.

Grant Senior’s experience crafting offshore fishing convertibles in New Zealand is evident when reviewing the 53’s scantlings. The hull construction incorporates 3 layers of hand-laid quadraxial E-glass, vinylester for the first five layers after that, and then isophthalic polyester resins. The structural bulkhead’s lower forward sole and internal grid system are all glassed into place before the hull is released, resulting in that solid ride I experienced in the Coral Sea.

If Grant, Tom, and Luke had produced this level of engineering and performance, but fallen short on the interior appointments, details, and fit and finish, you could almost forgive them since this is their first project. Yet the trio focused efforts on these areas as well, to ensure they stood out from the crowd and created the best blend of Australian and European design.

One instant realization when stepping on board is that this 53 has a lot of interior volume. The beam is carried well aft and this allows for a tender garage as well as a spacious engine room. The builder offers three different main-deck configurations, yet each benefits from a seamless transition between the aft deck and interior. Our test boat featured the standard layout with both an L-shaped dining settee aft on the port side across from the galley, and another L-shaped lounge forward and across from the helm. This creates distinct eating and social areas—although the straight settee in the cockpit would be my pick for an early breakfast before a morning swim.

The lower deck is four steps down from the helm area, with three staterooms and two heads. The offset island berth in the forward cabin means no more gymnastic moves while trying to make the berth. In fact, if owners don’t mind sharing the head with the starboard guest cabin, they may consider making this forward cabin the master. It’s that spacious and comfortable. The amidships master spans the full beam and even at full cruise, the sound-deadening materials kept the noise pollution to respectable levels. The interior appointments are top notch, and the American walnut joinery is extremely well executed throughout the boat. Elandra also offers a variety of other wood options as part of its semi-custom approach.

In true Aussie fashion, the cockpit area is designed for outdoor entertaining with a barbecue, wet bar, and plenty of additional stowage. The teak decks are wide and allow secure passage to the forward sun lounge with additional lounging space while on a long passage.  Luke and his partners are continuing to follow a very deliberate approach, focusing on creating quality over quantity, and have already begun development on the Elandra 49. They are coming to North America with the help of industry veteran Mike Usina who will be heading up Elandra Yacht Sales of the Americas. Look for Luke and company in Miami—they expect the first 53 to land on U.S. shores in May.

After spending some time on the 53, it’s not surprising that the troika at Elandra is proud of what’s been accomplished. Here is a boat that is precisely what three industry veterans envisioned. And at the end of the day, it’s definitely something that will make a lot of boaters smile, too.

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