She certainly was the hottest boat to take a look at during this year´s Cannes Yachting Festival at least when it comes to the big brands in the production boat market: The Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 had her premiere and debut in the water at the Croisette. And somehow her presentation at the large Beneteau pontoons reminded me of something familiar, almost a trip back in time …
Because exactly one year ago, at exactly the same spot a very similar boat was moored: The then long awaited Oceanis 51.1 cruising yacht. She as well came with a sleek grey hull, the red stripe saying “First Line” and the same aggressive, modern looks as he “smaller” sister, the 46.1 now. I asked Oceanis Product Manager Clement Bercault to show the boat to me and was happy that he agreed.
Talking to Beneteau Oceanis Product Manager Clement Bercault
We met during one of the more calmer days of this trade fair in the large cockpit of the new Oceanis 46.1 and began to talk. Clement is in charge of the Oceanis yachts ranging from small to mid-size with the 46.1 being “his” biggest boat and his latest project. He was seemingly proud of this new creation and upon having first looks onto the boat: Right so he was!
“The Oceanis 46.1 is a cruiser above all”, Clement began: “Everything on this boat is subdued to a motto that is comprised of three words: Modern. Simple. Fast.” Beneteau did an extensive research, he told me, through all the recent sales and asked the owners what the drivers of their buying decisions had been. “Comparing these items was leading the way to improve the Oceanis-concept even more.”, Clement told me: “See, we found out that more than 95 per cent of the time spent aboard is spent in the cockpit. So we created this huge cockpit: Look at the plan view of this boat – the cockpit is having almost half of the boat´s length!”
In fact, compared to her sister ship, the Oceanis 51.1 this cockpit is even bigger proportionally. The seating benches are long and wide, there is as well a reclining area next to the companionway (because all winches are back at the helm stations) and the large, ingenious cockpit table is also featured in the 46.1 – look at the sleek steering posts! Very nicely done.
Clement walks with me to the bow as we pas effortlessly through the shrouds: Another example of the fulfilment of the motto. The boat is meant to be sailed by one or two people. Everything is made as simple and as safe as possible. The time when you´d had to wrap yourself around the inner shrouds are long gone with Beneteau. Safe passage to the bow in this boat. I like the new modern design of the long superstructures with the large black U-shaped portholes – very modern, almost aggressive.
The new Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 features a length overall of 14.60 metres including the bowsprit, and has a hull length of 13.6 metres. That´s half a metre less than that of the Oceanis 48 that has been phased out. Her width is a nice 4.5 metres, which is slightly sleeker than the old 48. Nevertheless, the new 46.1 features the same of the latest findings in hull design (which already had been incorporated in the 51.1) and by cleverly utilizing the inner volume in the end is a far bigger boat that the old 48. Let´s take a closer look …
A maritime Chill-out Zone
“The Oceanis 46.1 has the same features regarding her sailability single handed as the Oceanis 51.1”, says Clement and points to the roof – where on classic cruisers the halyard winches and the mainsheet winch is situated, the Oceanis 46.1 is clean. No lines, no winches. Instead, the area is used for two additional sunbathing areas with a nice Teak deck and cushion. Same with the benches in the cockpit: The same area as in the Oceanis 51.1, nice wide and long reclining benches for guests and family.
I love the new “luxe” cockpit table of Beneteau, that is really worth its money. First of all the table is rock solid – in rough weather or when sailing with a nice heeling the table will suit perfectly as a support for a solid grab or sailor´s feet. There are two deep shelves of which one (or two?) can be fitted with a fridge for cool drinks. But the best detail is the live raft storage which is inside the table: In case of an emergency, the skipper just has to drop the bathing platform, open the table-door and slide out the BIB into the water: No unsafe, jiggly stunts on the platform to fumble out the BIB. Bravo, Beneteau!
Honestly, the market of sailing yachts and hence sailors themselves have changed: There are less and less “hard core” sailors facing an ever-growing number or part-time sailors. The boom of the charter fleets everywhere in the world is an undeniable fact. People do want maritime chillout-zones. Beneteau, I think, has found a nice formula. Sailing, no matter if on a charter-boat or the privately owned, without a dinghy is a no-go. On the 46.1 displayed in Cannes Beneteau again came up with a nice solution here:
The retractable davit-system enables the crew to have the dinghy stored nicely aft behind and above the transom. With this technique, the makeshift dinghy-storage forward of the mast can remain untouched. I personally don´t like seeing sailing boats transporting their dinghies on the roof, after all this blocks natural light from entering the cabin´s inside. The davits can be taken down by fully sliding into the huge lazarette.
Another nice and luxurious touch is a new generation of switch panels to be used on the Oceanis 46.1 with nice LED-lid buttons for sliding down the platform, lights in the cockpit and so forth: “We took the Oceanis to a whole new level”, says Clement and not only refers to the nice-to-have details like the switch panel but also to the whole concept of this seventh generation of Oceanis sailing yachts.
Taking advantage of latest yachting hull-design approaches
As you may have read in one of the previous articles on the new hull design of the Oceanis yachts with the chines starting right at the bow of the boats (read it here if not) the hull of the Oceanis 46.1 done by renown naval architect Pascal Conq utilizes the same approach. “But with all those new and exciting things, we also kept the core principles which have made Oceanis become the most successful cruising yacht-series ever.”, emphasises Clement.
This is, for example, the companionway. “It´s just a small detail and I don´t know if people would notice, but for us it´s almost a sacred thing: On every Oceanis we keep the 40 degrees companionway. It is very comfortable and easy to go down and climb up. In this matter, our companionways are longer, yes, but safer, more elegant.” And right so he is: Getting down below is effortless. Compared to the steep 3-step ladder in my own boat, the Oceanis-companionways are almost like escalators.
Down in the salon the Oceanis 46.1 is a welcoming, open, friendly and cleverly designed boat. Every single inch of the 4.50 metres width has been utilized. Compared to the “old” 48 (read here about one week racing on an Oceanis 48) the layout is revolutionary. “Small chart table at the forward bulkhead, a nice two-seater facing the U-shaped galley. We tried to design a welcoming, friendly atmosphere and went for a design that uses space but at the same time doesn´t make the boat feel cramped.”, says Clement.
On lots of production boat, even bigger ones, I do get the impression that the designers don´t really know what to do with all that available space. So, sometimes they squeeze in furniture or seating-stuff that is completely without any function. Or they let huge void spaces which are posing a danger when the boat is sailing in rougher conditions and the crew has nothing to hold on to when roaming around. Not so with the Oceanis 46.1 – the interior design concept is really compelling.
Volume of a real 50-footer
Clement points to the L-galley and tells me that the design team around Nauta Design has accomplished quite a great effort when it comes to the interior details: “Look at the galley here. It is just beautiful. We have two configurations possible with a classy L-galley as shown here or – with the 4-cabin version – a large longitudinal galley to port side.”, says Clement. I missed to take a picture, but I really liked the additional stowage for galley-stuff vis-à-vis the galley.
It was a great detail on the Oceanis 51.1 one year ago and it still is a great feat on the new Oceanis 46.1 – the folding chaise lounge. With a simple pull on a loop the 2-seater will fold up to form a great reclining chair for the skipper. You may lay down, rest for a while or take a nap. This is ingenious!
More stuff coming up when entering the owner´s cabin: Because of the new hull design this cabin offers the most volume in the class: At the foot-end of the bed the cabin is 2.80 metres wide! The island bed offers nice comfort, but what I loved most about this boat (and besides, all other Oceanis models) are the big porthole windows which are awesome! More than just tiny viewing slots, these windows really do offer a nice view, especially when laying on the bed.
Same with aft cabins: In the Oceanis 46.1 there is no difference in the bed´s areas so measurements of all berths are the same. Clement clarifies: “Even in the 4- or 5-cabin versions of this yacht which will probably be most of the charter-boats the size of the berths are the same. So no arguments needed anymore where to go.” The aft cabins do feature large windows as well and secondary windows and portholes to be opened for fresh air as well. Nicely done!
The boat can be ordered in 4 different layouts, starting with a 3-cabin two heads version (as shown in Cannes). In this version the starboard head offers a large WC-area and a separate shower in which I liked the shower cabin. The forward head is separated into WC and shower which is really nice. Then there is a 3 cabin/3 heads, 4 cabin/4 heads and a 5 cabin/ 4 heads-version available with the mentioned longitudinal galley.
The Oceanis 46.1 still is a production boat which best can be seen in the heads: Nicely done though but mostly in bare GRP. The wooden accessories are mere dressing. Nevertheless, the living and sleeping space is fitted just nicely with more wooden panels than on other production boats, the level of finishing quality (at least on this boat) is astounding. I think, Beneteau has done a great job in transferring the successful concept and rebirth of Oceanis as seen in the 51.1 to this smaller sized boat in the bread-and-butter segment of 46-48 feet.
More than just a maritime Chill-out Zone
“Of course, Oceanis for us means much, much more than just having an nice boat with great interior volume and comfort”, says Clement when we started talking about her sailing abilities: “The hull is designed to offer a perfect balance between sailing performance, seakind motion in the water and comfort with safety.” A reason for that is the nice V-shaped underwater-hull with a flat aft section, carrying the full width of the boat back aft – and the chines starting above the waterline to creating this stunning amount of internal volume.
The Oceanis 46.1 as a standard boat comes with an in-mast furling mainsail and the self-tacking jib with an upwind sail area of 89 square metres – that´s for the easy cruising version. The taller rigg (also available in carbon) in the “First Line”-performance-version offers 120 sq. metres of upwind sail area which has pleased the international sailing press to utmost excitement during the first sea trials. The Oceanis comes in with a 10.5 tons displacement – that’s almost one ton less than her competitor Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 490 with 11.3 tons and even compared to the performance cruiser Dehler 46 with 11.5 tons as well. “She is sailing very, very quick!”, assures me Clement.
Of course, all lines of the running rigging run covered under the roofing with as less blocks and rollers as needed. The lines are diverted back right onto the keyword of clamps, easily reachable by the helmsman. That´s perfect for the single hand sailor but a limitation for race-oriented crews: All this orientation to one single point and the limitation of winches for the German Mainsheet System prevents a bigger racing crew from having fun – each member on his position. Well, the Oceanis 46.1 is not meant to be raced, I know …
Sailors willing to invest a bit more will get a neatly equipped boat for push-button-sailing: The nice helm stations can be equipped with plotters, bow thruster-controls and winches can be laid out electrical to minimize the manual efforts in controlling the yacht.
All in all a nice, competitive package. Which is supported by the sheer numbers: “We are sold out for the coming season”, confesses Clement: “The boat, just like the Oceanis 51.1, has convinced a lot of clients to immediately order their units. Charter companies are ordering by the dozens and – which makes us especially happy – and increasing number of private owners who seem to understand what we wanted to achieve with this new, seventh generation of Oceanis boats.”
Beneteau sets the Lead in quick luxurious Production Cruising Yachts
So, if ordered today your Oceanis 46.1 is due for delivery in late December 2019 – ready for sailing in season 2020. A huge success and a verification of the fact that Beneteau is on the right track: “We are constantly renewing our sailing yachts range top down and the success of the Oceanis 55.1, 51.1 and now the great start of the new 46.1 proves we are right”, says Clement. Together with a new approach for reviving the legendary First-range with the purchase of Seascape makes Beneteau the most interesting brand today when it comes to production yachts. I am glad I can work for these great guys.
So I leave the Oceanis 46.1 at the pontoon in Cannes and fly back home. I am looking so much forward to sailing the boat in the coming weeks, all together with her sister ships, the Oceanis 51.1 and 55.1. I am sure I will be able to providing a substantiated article on the sailing performance of each of these yachts very soon. Up until now: Great work, Clement & team, that´s really a very, very nice cruiser.
Read also these Beneteau-related articles:
Gianguido Girotti grants an exclusive insight in the FIGARO 3 production
No hole in the bow: About misconceptions of bow thrusters
The chines on the new Beneteau Oceanis 51.1