Engineer Michel Dufour was not originally a yacht builder. He worked at a factory for the production of components for steam locomotives. And just loved sailing. In the early 60s, he decided to combine his professional talents with the passion of his life. So in 1964, the Dufour shipyard appeared in the French La Rochelle.
Michel Dufour was one of the first to realize that the advent of manufacturing technologies for durable and lightweight fiberglass and the production of sandwich panels from it will forever change the world of yachting. For a long time, the mass production of large fiberglass parts was hindered by the lack of pultrusion technology (pulling polymer-impregnated fiber through a heated die) and vacuum molding. It was from fiberglass and precisely with the help of these technologies that chippers were made to protect the front parts of steam locomotives, as well as window frames and doorways for them at the factory where Dufour worked. He told the management of the enterprise about his idea to create a fiberglass boat. His boss, seeing that he was devoting more time to sketches of the future yacht, said: “Go and draw a great boat!”
Dufour began work with his colleague Francis Deschamps. Enthusiasts designed the first Dufour Sylphe yacht literally on their knees, having no experience in building ships, and relied solely on their knowledge of sailing and the laws of hydrodynamics. As soon as all the drawings were ready Dufour sold his car, his old yacht, took several thousand dollars and began to build the first boat in the workshop on the outskirts of La Rochelle. Production took 8 months. In the fall of 1964, Dufour sold the first Sylphe to his fellow countryman from Northern France, Dominique Transu. The 21-foot Sylphe was destined to become a true best seller: from 1964 to 1974 more than 400 yachts were sold. Even greater success awaited the second Dufour model - the 29-foot L’Arpege. From the start of production in 1967 until 1977, more than 1,500 boats were sold. So Dufour Yachts was one of the first shipyards that began to use fiberglass in shipbuilding for the manufacture of hulls.
By 1973, Dufour's capitalization grew by 1,400%. The shipyard has become a leading exporter of French fiberglass sailing yachts. By that time, Dufour boats were delivered to 40 countries, and more than 400 employees worked at the shipyard. Another breakthrough is the world's first 40-foot fiberglass boat.
However, by the 1980s, the shipyard began to experience financial difficulties and production had to be temporarily stopped. Dufour's triumphant comeback is associated with a partnership with the Lacoste brand. The result of this alliance is the emergence of a 42-foot branded yacht that made a splash on the 1985 Paris Boat Show.
The desire for a gradual enlargement of the lineup led to the fact that by the beginning of the 1990s, Dufour decided to allocate large purely cruise boats, unsuitable for regattas, but extremely comfortable in a separate line - Prestige. By 1994, the lineup already included 4 models - Prestige 54, Prestige 48, Prestige 56 and Prestige 65. The separation of the Prestige in a separate direction allowed the company to keep in the portfolio the very “Dufurs” that we still love - maneuverable, sporty and fast 30-40 foot sailboats.
The beginning of the 2000s was marked by the work with the star naval architect Cantiere Del Pardo in 2001, the awarding of the Boat of the Year 2003 title in Düsseldorf (Dufour 40) and the European Yacht of the Year award (Dufour 34). Since 2004, the Grand ’Large series has been launched, replacing the Prestige, large cruise yachts for a relaxing family vacation.
In 2010, Dufour is recognized as the European Yacht of the Year, and the editorial board and expert council unconditionally give the title of Boat of the Year to the yacht Dufour 45E. Then the shipyard comes under the control of the German Bavaria Yacht Group. However, in 2013, after the reorganization, Dufour management regained control of the shipyard. Since then, Dufour boats every year become yachts of the year according to one or another expert advice.
At the moment, Dufour produces two lines of sailing yachts - Performance racing cruises from 10 to 14 meters long and purely Grand ’Large cruises from 10 to 15 meters long.