It was mid-summer this year when I´ve had the pleasure to hand over a brand new Oceanis 41.1 to her owners (read about it here) which in fact was one of the last built 41.1 by Beneteau. This boat has been made over 400 times and is considered the workhorse of Beneteau´s cruising range, a very successful boat. Hence, the upcoming new – seventh – iteration of the bread-and-butter size of 40 feet was hugely anticipated and I personally was very much looking forward to see the brand new Oceanis 40.1. To our regret, the Covid-crisis set it just at the same moment when the yard introduced the new boat in March this year: A message normally going through the roof kind of crepitated in the turmoil beginning to dominate boat market´s news. Nevertheless, after some weeks and months of gathering and re-orienting the yard found a way to present the boat at last.
As one boat show after the other is cancelled, the boating industry finds new ways to bring together their products with prospects and potential clients. One way is the “private boat show” which essentially is a boat show by appointment. There are numerous very good things about a system like this, some aren´t that good. But that´s a topic for another article. For now, I was happy to learn that for the first time I was going to be able to take a look and actually sail the Oceanis 40.1 by myself live and in action: What a good news! This week the private boat show of Beneteau is taking place in the stormy Baltic Sea and we are happy to welcome people aboard the cruiser-range from 30 feet to 46 feet – along with the brand new Oceanis 40.1. So, welcome aboard, let´s take a closer look.
The new 40 feet bread-and-butter boat
40 feet yachts are – that´s my point of view – the perfect size for a cruiser that is used by a family in vocational cruising. It is also the perfect size for offshore cruising or even circumnavigation by a couple: Small enough to fit into a decent budget and have maintenance costs minimized. Also, handling of the boat´s equipment, size of the sails and repair-work might be done by oneself as the boat´s size is relatively small and not so much electrical equipment is needed. On the other hand, 12.50 metres is a decent size to offer high speed sailing and a stable platform in foul weather. So it is no wonder that this size is a highly competitive market for all brands and each client is hard fought for.
I came close to the boat by her stern. As with every modern hull design, the new Oceanis 40.1 as well carries her maximum width from the mid-section all the way down aft to the transom, making her cockpit very wide offering maximum space on deck and maximum volume below in the aft cabins. The Oceanis 40.1 is 4.18 metres wide which is 2 centimetres less than the 41.1. With a hull length of 11.99 metres she is exactly one centimetre longer than her predecessor: That´s almost exactly the same metrical measurements. Nevertheless, the new 40.1 offers much more internal volume – later more on that. Let´s stay in the cockpit for a while.
The cockpit of a cruiser is the place where skipper, crew and guests will spent most of their time. So naturally most of the attention of the designers will be brought to this place. In the new Oceanis 40.1 one thing is striking: She resembles almost exactly the feel of her larger sister ships, the Oceanis 51.1 and 46.1. The benches are very long and cozy, the dominant feature is the cockpit table with the ingenious feat of housing the life raft (which is also from a seamanship-standpoint a very, very convincing argument).
I would say that 6 people will have more than enough space to sit and gather around the large table for a dinner in a bay or enjoying the sundowner here. Although the cockpit table is considerably wider than the table used on the 41.1, the way around is not narrower and easy to pass by. At the same time the table is near enough to the benches to function as a counterpart for the feet to wrench in when sailing with excessive heeling. I can easily imagine this place being a wonderful quite resting area under a bimini when the boat is moored or gently moving at anchor in a remote bay. Good work indeed!
Classic cockpit layout
Some people, myself included, have been a bit disappointed – to be honest – to see the new Oceanis 40.1 receiving a rather classical layout in terms of running rigging. I simply love the absolutely fantastic arrangement of winches and running rigging on the Oceanis 46.1 with all four winches being aft directly at the reach of the helmsman, making the 46.1 one of the best single-hand-fit boats I ever sailed on. I hoped that somehow the designers of this new boat would work out a way to shrink this to a size 40-boat. Which they obviously couldn´t. So the new 40.1 has her working winches on the coachroof next to the entrance to the salon with halyards, reefing lines and the mainsheet operated from there, Genoa winches of course at the reach of the helmsman aft.
There is of course an option to have the mainsheet diverted aft by the German Mainsheet System which I would highly recommend, but obviously having all four winches aft is much easier and more convenient than working with jammers in the German System. Nevertheless, that’s a small detail and it does not take off a bit of the sailing pleasure I am sure. What I liked was the decision to have the engine throttle put to starboard side (contrary to port side on the 41.1) which is where it belongs. A bit odd is the placement of the engine control panel at port side – at first glance – but standing at the “main” helm on starboard I noticed that this arrangement is actually better because you have a far better and faster view on the revs per minute at a glance. No more head-wrenching.
All in all I liked the cockpit. The steering seats are shaped much better, won´t consume too much space and are foldable. There are also foldable foot-rests when sailing heeled. A large lazarette aft opens up right at the transom and the size of the bathing platform is decent. There are also two lockers for this and that, what is clearly missing is a dedicated locker for fenders but I guess that 40 feet is too small to have such a feat, like in the 46.1.
Attractive lines: Clearly a Marc Lombard
I remember my reaction to first reading about this new upcoming boat several months ago when I learned that Marc Lombard would be principal designer of the boat. I was thrilled. Lombard is one of the most renowned yacht designers of France, maybe in the world. He is a calm, very modest guy and I´ve had the pleasure to meet him several times – a load full of interesting articles can be found on NO FRILLS SAILING.com about him and his widely recognized designs, such as – for example – the Class 40 “LIFT”, the mystical-classy Figaro 2 or my absolute favourite boat of all times, the re-designed Cigale 16 built by Alubat.
I applauded Beneteau for their decision to opt for Lombard and now, by seeing the boat myself, I perfectly well understood why they went for Lombard. This new Oceanis just looks sick. It of course carries on with the new Oceanis-design features started back in 2018 with the new 51.1 – that is the edgy-like overall lines, the prominent angular design of the windows, large hull windows, the bow shape. But, people who know Lombard-designs will also recognize some Marc-like details – reminiscent of his work for RM Yachts, for example the small offset edges – and hugely the design of the ship´s bow.
That is a huge thing and highly exciting: The Oceanis 40.1 features a bow never to be seen on a cruiser before: Very racy styled indeed. The stem goes bent backwards some centimetres above waterline and the bow will kind of “hover” over the waterline for half a metre or so until entering water. I am sure that has to do with performance clearly, but at first glance it just looks awesomely sick. When sailing on a broad reach or running point of sail, this boat will fly – a feature I would be able to acknowledge later.
So the boat is from my point of view a true eyecatcher in the marina which I confirmed during the sea trial days: Every now and then people would drop by, ask for a visit on the jetty (nobody can enter without an appointment due to C19) and admire her aggressive, speedy looks. Marc Lombard and the Beneteau design team achieved a nice blend of the Oceanis-looks with the Lombard-touch. Chapeau!
Sailing performance of the new Oceanis 40.1
Up until now I unfortunately did not have the chance to take her out for a run but I hope to do so in the coming days. But when I sailed with clients on another Oceanis the 40.1 was out as well and sailed around us, sporting high speeds and showing her light-footed steering capabilities during some manoeuvres. Clearly, her hull, the double rudder configuration and more than enough sail area make her a more sportive cruiser.
On that particular day we´ve had very light winds of 8 t0 10 knots true with occasional light gusts of 13 to 15 knots. The other crew had the Gennaker out and the boat not only looked truly marvellous but sailed beautifully. I was on an Oceanis 35.1 and of course couldn´t match the speed of a 40-footer but it was kind of awe inspiring to see the 40.1 sail literally around us with so much surplus speed on any point of sail that it nearly got me a bit frustrated.
I would sense that the Oceanis 40.1 is a true performer on a beam reach to downwind so that I would really love to see her performance upwind close hauled – with and without waves. The bow section is of particular interest as it reminds me of very fast cruisers (like the Cigale) and is in stark contrast to the very voluptuous new bow introduced on the new Bavaria C42. We´ll see how both boats perform. But let´s go down below: In the end, the Oceanis is a cruiser and thus her internal qualities are as much counting as her outward appearance.
A dancefloor: Interior design of the OCEANIS 40.1
Beneteau, when introducing their new tulip-shaped hulls with the chines put all the way up to the bow on the Oceanis 51.1, did a very clever thing: Offering larger internal volume by not sacrificing sailing abilities. The “trick” is to have as little lateral plan (wetted surface) below waterline and start to go wider in the hull just above the waterline – which is the forward chines. It works perfectly fine and I can remember very vividly the guests abord Oceanis 51.1 when shown in 2018 for the first time: Appreciating the biggest volume of her class.
This formula works even better: For the 51.1 the yard was able to take out the old Oceanis 55.1 of production. That is because the 51.1 offers the same internal volume as the 55.1. Now, after having launched the new 46.1 Beneteau again took out of production the old Oceanis 48 because, of course, there´s the same internal volume now on the 46.1. Same goes for the 40.1 which not just replaces the old 41.1 but also makes the launch of a 42 footer obsolete as the 40.1 has that internal volume. Now, entering the 40.1 down below is a revelation in that respect: The saloon is a true dancefloor!
Compared to the Oceanis 41.1 there is much more space available now. The layout – pretty classy and straight forward – is easy to grasp. The Oceanis 40.1 comes in just one general layout which I personally, and I am very honest here, don´t like pretty much. That is because you can only get her with a longitudinal galley. I don´t like these types of galleys for the reason that I don´t like to look onto the used dishes. I am a fan of the classic L-shape galley to port side. Well, you “have to die at least one death” we say in Germany, the 40.1 is fitted with a longitudinal kitchen.
What I like though, much more than on the Oceanis 46.1, is the fact that they have put the nav station with a decent sized chart table right next to the entryway. Now that is something that will appeal to real sailors very much and it was a detail I disliked on the old 41.1 with her nav station put at the forward bulkhead so that one had to walk all through the saloon to do a logbook entry or check a switch on the panel. The settee in the salon is a slightly U-shaped sofa and a sliding poof.
The sliding bench is more than big enough for one and can be slid under the dinner table. This way a large, very wide passage is granted between the galley and the seating area to the front cabin. A handrail on the roofing for ensuring safe passage even in heavy seas is standard. This large free space created is very generous although there is no real practical use for it – it just appeals the beholder´s eyes, and that´s at least something.
Looking to the galley the crew of a new Oceanis 40.1 will find it more than suitable. The standard stove is put in a central place. A very large fridge that opens on top as well from the side is well-sized, underneath the really big worktop is a bunch of stowage space taking on plates, cookware, glasses and all the kitchen aid you´d need on your cruises. Behind the galley on port side, right next to the sofa joining the bulkhead is a very large surplus cabinet that could either be used to stow away even kitchen-equipment or other things.
Apart from the fact that I do not like longitudinal galley personally, I quite like the overall layout of the 40.1 saloon. What may be a problem, or let´s say, a challenge, for ship´s cooks in excessive heeling is the fact that there is no support in the back of the cook. This, in turn, is better solved on the old 41.1 or the 46.1 with a piece of furniture to wedge oneself between to have a safe stand. I also think that the huge free bulkhead right behind the mast stand is a waste of free space as this would be the ideal place for another cabinet of (book-)shelf as it is installed on the 46.1. But these are minor details I would say.
Cabin sizes and a good night´s sleep
I personally think that cabin size is a hugely over-exaggerated thing of the marketing machinery of both yards trying to outgo one another on volume. I would say that a cabin needs enough sleeping area for two adults but again wider berths are a source of potential harm in heavy seas, at least a source of a sleepless night. In essence: I do not care about big cabins because there, honestly, I am mostly unconscious and at sleep. But anyways, on the Oceanis 40.1 all cabins, mostly so the owner´s suite, are more than enough in that respect.
The owner´s cabin is again sporting large volume. The island bed is long and wide enough for two people, first thing I would fit after purchase is a lee sail for both berths. Cabinets are decent sized and there´s also an option – like in this boat – to have a small cabinet that features a sink for quick a quick wash of … well, the occupant´s hands and getting your teeth brushed. Because in standard layout the 40.1 has just one bathroom which I would say is enough. As an option a second bathroom may be fitted in starboard side as well.
I would find it odd to have a second bathroom in the fore cabin unless the boat is serving in charter. As an owner I wouldn´t trade the space and free room for a second bathroom: At home one is also well accustomed to walk some steps to reach the toilet, so why not on a boat? As I said, it´s a different picture when the boat is part of a charter fleet. The fore cabin is so big that another – forth – cabin may be fitted to port side featuring a two-bunk Pulman configurations. That is what we would call a “charter bomber”.
Going aft, in standard the port side aft cabin is left as a “stateroom” or stowage, in our boat it was a fully equipped cabin. Panels are nice, except for the roof there´s little bare GRP visible and there are two little hatches to be opened for fresh air circulation. I liked the starboard cabin better because overhead is the small locker which sports more headroom in this cabin, slightly less vis-à-vis on port side. What, on the other hand, was a bit odd was the fact that the skylights are so small, even smaller than on the Oceanis 30.1. I can´t understand that choice because there would be enough room for a bigger window here. Again, a small detail.
A very versatile, fast, good looking bread-and-butter cruiser
So, what is she like, the new Oceanis 40.1? I would say – albeit I couldn´t sail her up to now – she is a blow to the market and will be a huge success. She is more than worthy of taking on the excellent reputation of the Oceanis 41.1 and set new standards for a 40-feet cruiser. I am very, very keen on sailing this boat because I feel that there is much more to say about her sailing characteristics and performance. I guess she will be the most agile and powerful of all Oceanis currently available – much more so when ordered with the “First Line” performance rigging and equipped with a decent set of laminate or cruising laminate sails.
The small inconsistencies and odd decisions may have a plain explanation by the yard. I find them small and a keen owner may be working his way around, adding own solutions here. I try hard to get this Oceanis 40.1 to a decent sea trial by my own, which is not very easy in Covid-times and hand in later an article on my observations under sails. For now, well done, Marc, applaus to Beneteau! It´s a shame that the introduction of this fine boat has been literally suffocated by the advent of the Corona crisis in March this year. I hope, and I am sure, she will attain the attentions she very much well deserves.
You may also be interested in these articles:
Marc Lombard on Class 40-design
The new Cigale 16 by Alubat, re-designed by Marc Lombard
Walkthrough of the new Oceanis 46.1