Last week´s announcement of the Beneteau yard that there would be soon all all-new First 36 feet racing boat may be one of the most exciting bulletins of this year´s big production company´s news. As the joint venture of Beneteau, largest pleasure craft boat builder in the world, with Seascape two years ago was a first step (and a very clever manoeuvre too), with the new First 36 Beneteau starts the announced strategy to close the gap between the new First Yacht 53 flagship and the small First exSeascape racing boats from 14, 24 feet upwards. We as Beneteau dealers knew already since months that there was a new 36-footer coming up, but of course have been restricted in our communication.

Andraz Mihelin presenting the new First 36 lately

During the last dealer meeting in Port Ginesta Andraz Mihelin, the founder of Seascape and keen racer-sailor himself, gave a thorough briefing on the new boat. But before we dive into the hot news of a new Seascape 36 / First 36 I thought it might be a good idea to talk about her predecessor, the legendary First 36.7 beforehand. Beneteau, a company founded 1884, is strongly bound to family traditions and despite its size is still a family-run business. Roots, tradition, story and history play a vital role in the yard´s brand policy and since First is reportedly a concern of the hearts of both Madama Annette Beneteau-Roux (founder Benjamin Beneteau´s grand-daughter) and Gianguido Girotti, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Beneteau Group, it makes sense to understand the precursor of the new boat to come.

Talking to Seascape-Mastermind Andraz Mihelin

Lars Reisberg | NO FRILLS “Andraz, in view of the a major announcement by Seascape and Beneteau last week regarding the new First 36 to be conceived and built by Seascape, I am thrilled and excited to get the chance to talk to you today about the First 36.7 – a performance cruiser that, for many sailors still, marks a major milestone in Beneteau´s product range. First of all: Have you ever sailed this boat? What are your impressions?”

Andraz Mihelin | Seascape: “In fact, Lars, I have not I shall say. But I’ve sailed 40.7 which is in most aspects more comparable to our new project. That said members of the project team had experience also on 36.7. For instance, the 36.7 was indeed the family boat of the current General Manager of the Beneteau, Yann Maselot. Did you know that? I was well impressed about the simplicity and efficiency of the 40.7 though. Now in the retrospect it is easy to understand why Beneteau – together with her successor, the First 40 – sold no less than 1.000 of them.”

Talking First 36.7 – the great predecessor

NO FRILLS “The First 36.7 was designed by Farr Design Bureau after they had already been responsible for the First 45.5 and 40.7 – what can be said about the Farr-Beneteau-collaboration?”

Andraz Mihelin: “Well, at that time Farr was the name in yacht design. From Mumm 30 to Whitbread winners, they had it all. It was therefore logical that Beneteau chose Farr studio as their partners on the .7 series of First. The same as Manuard Yacht Design is without doubt the hottest Yacht designer of today: Hence it is logical he was our first choice for our partner on the project of the new First.”

NO FRILLS “As I understand, the 36.7 was never meant to be a thoroughbred racer. What do you think about their concept of meeting some comforts and cruising-readiness with performance-oriented features?”

Andraz Mihelin: “As said all .7 series – 36.7 and 40.7 being the most successful of the line – hit that elusive sweet spot between comfort and performance, utilitarity and elegance and price. At that time most of the boats – even race boats – were displacement boats. That made the job of the .7 First-team somewhat easier than we see our job today. Basically they made an amazing job prioritizing the essentials of any given sailing experience – club racing, offshore racing, cruising, daysailing – and implementing them into the well-developed concept of displacement boat with symmetric spinnaker.  Today with most of the race boat being planning if not foiling boats, this equation is much harder to crack.”

Spacious, classy, efficient interior layout

NO FRILLS “What can be learned from the First 36.7 in terms of comfort for boats being build today?”

Andraz Mihelin: “The First 36.7 was on the extreme lower limit for a 3 cabin boat which makes it very valuable for our benchmarking. At the other hand, the First 40.7 was a proper comfortable 3 cabin boat which also helped understand how the interior volumes work in practice in various user setups.”

NO FRILLS “The 36.7 is quite a heavy boat for a racer/cruiser, I shall say: What is your opinion on weight(saving) in boatbuilding, especially when it comes to performance-oriented boats?”

Andraz Mihelin: “It is simple – the hull should be as light as possible without compromising the price, production capacity and robustness of her! You can always increase the stability with the heavy keel if needed. The challenge is crossing the “planning” threshold with a mid-range production sailing boat. By planning I mean boat that jumps on a plane with a furling code sail in 10 to 15 knots of wind. If you need more wind 99 per cent of the crews will not be hoisting flying sails and therefore never really experiencing planning. At the moment, only racer-cruiser type boats like that are from the niche French yards like Pogo, JPK and so on.”

Impressively cozy interior for a racer/cruiser

NO FRILLS “As far as I understand it, the First 36.7 was projected under IMS-rules at that time which substituted the old IOR-rule. In this, cruising comfort was a plus for the rating. What can you say to rule-optimized boat building, even today? How do you guys tackle this topic at Seascape?”

Andraz Mihelin: “After research it turns out today main feature of the efficient rating boats are efficient, easy to use at 100 per cent capacity, hulls, rigs and equipment. Off course if you have a very “asymmetric” boat that sacrifices a lot of let’s say VMG performance for the VMC (like for instance the scows are doing) this will make it very conditions dependent in rating races. Therefore we developed an all-round performer that is light enough to plane quickly in various conditions.”

NO FRILLS “The First 36.7 had – for her time – quite a new sailplan with a comparatively large mainsail and a small jib. How would you comment on this issue from today´s view and what can be derived for modern hulls and boats build today?”

Andraz Mihelin: “Yes that was an IMS-adaptation. It turns out on light boat it is more efficient to have the rig placed further back. Therefore our new 36 has her mast further back than other production racer-cruisers. That layout helps the boat to start planning earlier. That said, we didn’t go into extremes we can see on Class 40 or the IMOCAs – again, the new First 36 has to have a much more alround performance for her program.”

Still a serious racing contender on the circuit: First 36.7

NO FRILLS “The First 36.7 boats – alike like the 40.7 – can easily be called “icons”. On the used boat market these units will, if in good condition, still achieve remarkable prices. How would you explain this status, also in the face of so many other good sailboats of that era on the market today?”

Andraz Mihelin: “I think they are still one of the best displacement boats on the market. Great design was developed on the back of tons of experience of the Beneteau-team. And if you look on the market the planning racer-cruisers are still not mainstream.”

I will speak to Andraz in more detail on the new First 36 soon.

NO FRILLS “As we can now disclose, Seascape is  coming up with a brand new boat this season which will see water next year, called the First 36. Can you give a sneak peak on what is waiting for the keen sailor?”

Andraz Mihelin: “Yes, the word is at last already out – teams of Seascape and Beneteau will be launching the new First 36 in Duesseldorf  in January 2022. So obviously we are very excited! The bar we are aiming for is the simplicity and efficiency of the 36.7 but, and that is a big but, she will be a planning boat with more volume inside and even better ergonomics that will fit full crews as well as shorthanded ones. We are aware this is a high bar but with the people behind the project – Seascape, Beneteau and great group of star designers that know how to work together, there is no way we will not match it.”

Thanks so much indeed, Andraz, for taking your time again! In the next article we will both discuss the process of the new First 36 development, which is an amazing story of no less than 4 of the biggest names of the boat building industry joining forces to design that new milestone. Keep posted, dearest readers.


Pictures by Lars Reisberg, BENETEAU and Quantum Sails


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