Last weekend I was happy to attend the International Beneteau Dealer Meeting which in fact was my first real intense live encounter with Beneteau products at all. Although I am a great fan of the Figaro (read the articles here and here) and of course roamed about in the sailing yachts by the French market leader on the boat shows I´ve never ever came very much close to the boats up until now. So I was happy to being offered the chance to spend much time with three of Beneteau´s current sailing yachts: The Oceanis 38.1 Performance, her bigger sister, the 41.1 and the flagship, the Ocanis Yacht 62.
I am going to work my way up from the smallest to the biggest boat: So the Oceanis 38.1 is the first yacht of interest. As I was nearing the jetty where the boat was moored, I came to her from the stern and was instantly staggered by the stern view. She looks pretty awesome: A convex shaped sheerline, noticeably rising up to the bow and her flat wide transom make her appear to be fast. The fact that there is no mainsheet arch nor a sprayhood even accentuate the sleek hull shape of the boat. Like a cat ready to leap forward.
A quick sailing cruiser by Finot-Conq
This outside look isn´t farfetched at all: No less than the legendary French design-bureau Finot-Conq have drawn the lines of the hull of the Oceanis 38.1. Fino-Conq do also make the hull shapes for dedicated racing yachts like the renown Pogo 40 and Pogo 36 and a number of one-offs. Even my all time favorite sailing yacht, beloved Alubat Cigale has been drawn by Jean-Marie Finot. So the DNS of this sailing yacht should produce a quick sailing and well performing boat.
Whats noticeable is that there are very distinct chines coming out at the stern of the hull. This is not a special thing nowadays since chines are manifold used in cruiser-designs not merely for the sake of stability when sailing heeled but for gaining inner volume. I think that with Beneteau´s 38.1 both items had been of interest. There is something different in the Oceanis though: Her chines do indeed start right at the bow. They won´t come out of the hull in the last third up to the bow but start to be visibly shaped right behind the stem. This happens to be the fact with every new Oceanis-design and Finot-Conq helped Beneteau not just to improve sailing performance by that but also to gain internal volume for the whole of the hull. Is it a quick cruiser? Yes, it is definitely.
Looking at the hull from the bow one notices the chines as mentioned, but also the large porthole windows for the master-cabin and saloon in the ship´s sides. Due to the fact that her sheerline is rising, the designers had been able to let the superstructure of the cabin roof “sink” into the deck which lets it appear flat and flush while not sacrificing interior space. I loved the thick and firm bolted handrail made of stainless steel on the cabin roof and – mere cosmetical, but I loved it anyway – the fact that no sprayhood interferes with the clean sleek lines of this yacht.
The Beneteau Performance Edition
What is special about the performance edition? Well, first of all we have a T-shaped keel with a lead/cast iron bulb and performance rigg. This should improve her sailing capabilities over the standard cruising edition substantially. There is no mainsheet arch anymore (this controversial part comes as an option for those who love to have one). I never liked the arch on smaller boats, it´s the same with center cockpits: It just looks weirder the smaller the boat.
The cockpit of the Oceanis 38.1 is clean, nice and flush. There is no cockpit table interfering with a racing crew, instead wooden bars for the crew´s feet when sailing heeled are bolted to the Teak deck. This enhances the performance character of the boat and I must admit that it felt odd – but very, very nice – to stand within a cruisers´s cockpit and having that much space to walk around because there´s no table anymore. I would state that whilst sailing, even in race mode, a hard winching crew finds enough space to act here.
Because there is no mainsheet arch anymore, the mainsheet itself is directed the classic way: Down to the cockpit-flooring. But here´s an awkward thing: The mainsheet block redirecting the rope to the boom and via German system to the winches, has just been bolted to the mere flooring! That´s something I don´t understand: If people have to squeeze their bodies between the mainsheet rropes on their way to and fro the entryway anyway, why don´t Beneteau just mounts the block on a proper traveller then? This would improve the performance-character of the boat and give the sailors more options for trimming the main. If I was to own one Oceanis 38.1, that´s one thing I would equip the boat with for sure.
Anyway, apart from this, the cockpit layout is sleek and clean. What I liked particularly was the huge space behind the steering wheels. On other yachts of this size – even larger yachts – I had the impression that the designers didn´t wanted to offer too much volume to the helmsman – because in doing so, they would have taken it away from the seating benches of the “lounge”-area of the cockpits. Not so with the Oceanis. Even when the benches for the helmsman are down you can easily stand behind the wheels, when they are folded away, there´s a vast amount of standing space. That´s exemplary. Again, what felt a bit odd was the fact that on this particular boat the command post was mounted on the port side of the yacht – I´d rather have it starboard, where it belongs.
Interior Design of the Beneteau Oceanis 38.1
When Finot-Conq is a well known naval designer responsible for fast hulls and unorthodox approaches to finding new solutions, Nauta Design stands for elegant, extraordinary yachts and superyachts as well as for high-class designs for Lagoon catamarans, Grand Soleil Yachts and Beneteau Sense and Oceanis cruisers. For the Oceanis-range Nauta design is responsible for the interior design part of the boat. Now let´s go down the stairway to the saloon.
Basically, there are four Layouts of the 38.1 available. Two of each 2- and 3-cabin version. The owner can choose between the standard L-galley and a more classic saloon with a large L-settee and a sofa or – as it is the case with the boat I´ve seen – with the large longitudinal galley. I personally don´t like longitudinal galleys because sitting comfortably on the cushion you always have to look at the kitchen, the dishes you´ll have to do and all the cooking stuff. I simply don´t like it. On the other hand: Longitudinal galleys offer far more stowage than classic L-galleys which can make the difference on a long haul trip.
Apart from my personal feeling, I loved the brushed oak veneers which is very lighty and modern. Together with white cushion and the dark flooring the whole saloon made a very open, light suffused and modern impression. “Modern impression” is a slight understatement: I have the feeling that Beneteau´s Oceanis-line takes us a step farther than just modern. I almost instantly had the impression of standing in an urban NYC appartement with a loft-character rather than inside a sailing cruiser. This boat will definitely appeal to people who seek a fresh approach to sailing rather than a classy ship.
But apart from this approach, Nauta Design was able to retain and reclaim some classy features which on other boats seemed to have been abolished: Like the good old chart table which in the Oceanis 38.1 comes in a decent size well suited for extensive chart work. That´s a definitive plus here! What would have been the A+++ is when Nauta had made this chart table to be convertible (on a slider maybe) to lower it and put cushion on it to enlarge the sofa. This wouldn´t require too much effort by the yard yet enhance the saloon so much.
There are a lot of colours to choose from upon buying an Oceanis 38.1 but what strikes me that apart from the fact that this boat – from my point of view – will appeal very much to young sailors, young couples and alike, there aren´t too many options which allow the owner-in-being to actually break the rules sufficiently. What about lacquered materials in fresh colours like Granny Smith-Green, a gloomy Red or a streaking Blue? I know, I know, this would be too much of it … but why not? Besides the edgy design, all edges are well rounded and therefore safe.
Well, I know I am complaining a lot today, but there is another thing that was bothering me right upon entering the boat: The stairway. It´s completely made of plastic. I like the contrast that it makes in the midst of all the wooden veneers, but to some people this could make a cheap impression. I don´t know if the cruising-version has a classic wooden stairway – hence performance-boats like the Pogo feature all parts in bare GRP and maybe the Performance Oceanis should be a reminder of this, but I don´t think that this particular feature appeals to the majority of people.
The cabins of the Beneteau Oceanis 38.1 Performance
As I said earlier, the hull shape with the full chined ship´s sides will create much volume inside. And this is exactly the reason why the cabins of the 38.1 Oceanis are that big. The version I was taking a look at featured three cabins with each 2 full-sized berths. The master cabin has a half-island bed. The large porthole windows create a fresh and nice atmosphere. There is plenty of stowage and a large forward bathroom. What I loved was the big mirror covering nearly the whole collision bulkhead thus enhancing the roomy feeling of the cabin. Very nice.
The aft cabins – even in the 3-cabin version – offer large berths for enough sleeping space for two adults. There is also plenty of stowage available. What needs to getting used to was the somewhat crooked roofing with a lot of edges and pockets here and there. Upon looking at the 2-cabin version I must say that the aft cabin will be even bigger. This would be the layout I would go for with a large aft locker, the classic L-galley and trying to bring up some fresh colours to this nice modern boat. What was a bit of a down was the fact that the aft cabins do not feature a porthole window in the ship´s side which would have boosted the cabin´s attractiveness a lot.
Speaking of the layouts: Two of them come with a large drying locker at port side. It´s sufficiently large enough to house a full crew complement´s foul weather gear for drying which is a very nice thing. Imagining doing a regatta in heavy weather, this drying locker will keep the heads free of stinky wet clothing. That´s a good thing to have. But on the other hand, sailors who do their few good weather cruises in the Med would find the locker a bit odd. Nevertheless, it makes a great stowage for the long haul trip as well.
Last but not least, the engine. A bit new for me as I am accustomed to Volvo-Penta, Beneteau features Yanmar engines. What struck me most was the fact that the drive belt of the engine is secured by a housing keeping the drive belt clean. The access to the engine is large enough even for bigger sailors, all parts that need a frequent check, valves or maintenance-items are well within reach: This is absolutely exemplary!
All in all the fittings – though standard on virtually all production boats I´ve seen so far – make a solid and nice impression. I didn´t see any failed Sika-seams nor noticed large allowances or defects in veneers. Placement and fitting of screws and panels is accurate and clean and generally I have a very good impression of the building quality of the boat compared to other large production boats.
Overall impression of the Beneteau Oceanis 38.1
Unfortunately my seatrial had been cacelled due to a force 5 to 6 wind that was starting to blow across the Marseille-bay and the skippers remained safely moored. So I´ll have to postpone getting a feeling for the Oceanis 38.1 sailing capabilities for the time being. Over all, I love the outward appearance, the hull design and general appearance of this yacht very much. Her reminiscence of performance race yachts is striking, she is a sexy looking yacht for sure!
The few things I didn´t really like was the plastic stairway, some details in the interior and the missing mainsheet traveller. I would urge Beneteau to go a step further in terms of modernity and to offer more “fresh” options in colours because this is a very modern boat and thus there should be the choice of modern colours and textures as well. All in all, a very interesting yacht and I am very sad not having sailed her. I will catch a chance to sail my first ever Beneteau in some 2 weeks – it´s a First 30 I am going to ride on my second ever own command. Stay tuned: Articles on the Oceanis Yacht 62 and the Oceanis 41.1 will follow soon.
Other interesting articles on that topic:
Sailing the Dufour Grand Large 460
My absolute favorite dream yacht: The Alubat Cigale 14 by Jean-Marie Finot