Paris Boat Show 2021 was in many ways one of the big occasions for us this year, especially in the very exciting last months. That is because of the special mature of the European trade fair schedule: Salon Nautique in December marks the last big boat show of the old year, Duesseldorf is the first big show, and it is really the first really big show of the new year, just some weeks later. With Corona-craze still in full swing, cases surging in winter time again and news full of “lockdown” and other not very encouraging headline, I had this awkward bad feeling that I might rush myself and our clients to Paris … maybe this would be the last chance to see new boats for a long time. (And I was right, but that´s another story)
Paris boat show is a small fair but – especially when you are interested in French made boats – the reference. Still, I was a bit disappointed as I found out that many smaller yards did not attend but for me the most important yard, Beneteau of course, was there and the most important boat, the new Oceanis 34.1, as well. Many of my prospects have an eye on this new yacht and for me it was also the first time to see the brand new yacht live. Here´s my walkthrough and what my initial thoughts of this boat are.
First time look at Paris Boat Show
As usual with Beneteau, the pomp and circumstance made around this new entry in their product range was quite modest. If it wasn´t for the plain sticker “Noveauteé” on the boat´s bow, it would have been hard to detect. The new Oceanis 34.1 fills in absolutely neat between her smaller and bigger sisters of the range, beautifully placed between the Oceanis 30.1 (of which we will talk and reference a lot in the coming article) and the new Oceanis 40.1.
These two boats also are very important to kind of understand the new 34.1. You may have read my interview with Eric Levet who at Marc Lombard Yacht Design Group was mostly responsible for the conceiving the 34.1 and as well the article with Marc Lombard himself on designing cruising yachts which may be a good start. Switching from VPLP and Finot to Marc Lombard for these boats came as a surprise for me and I was keen on spotting maybe differences – or the art of those guys to come up with something that blends in with ease. So let´s take a closer look.
New hull by Marc Lombard, keel options
First thing to notice is the hull form. As Eric Levet pointed out, the new 34.1 adheres to the forward chine-concept started in 2018 with the then new Oceanis 51.1 but takes it a bit further. The entry below the waterline is narrower compared to her predecessor, forming the “Tulip-shape” above waterline to increase interior volume of the owner´s cabin and add to stability when sailing.
Another new aspect is the variable draft. I found it quite remarkable that the swing keel was chosen for the boat on display. Normally (at least this goes for our clients) this is the least opted package by the buyers. But the new Oceanis 34.1 marks a change in the yard´s policy: Up until now the offer for variable draft was fold-out centerboard with a low-draft keel-box forming the ballast. The new thing then on the Oceanis 30.1 was to have an additional variable draft option (with far superior sailing capabilities) in form of a swing keel. Difference was: If you like have your boat on the dry, go for the keelbox/centerboard, if you just need variable draft then choose the swing keel.
Now with the Oceanis 34.1 this is unified. This new offer combines both features (falling dry and good sailing abilities) with the swing keel being able to support the weight of the boat when on land. This option may still not be important for the majority of owners interested in this boat but especially for Northern France, the North Sea and other sailing areas with lots of tidal activities it will vastly improve the attractiveness of this particular boat (and, by the way, make filling in the options form easier for clients and dealers as well.)
The Seahorse´s Workhorse
The 35-feet range can be described as the workhorse of any yard´s offer. I do not have reliable figures as yards naturally keep the real numbers kind of secret, but one can state for sure that the boats from 35 over 38 to 40 feet are the backbone of a yard´s turnaround and the vast majority of turnover (money) is made with these. So, naturally, market leader Beneteau was to keep a very close eye on the new 34.1 to make her both attractive, price worthy and of course desirable.
The Oceanis is arguably the most successful cruiser range ever: Entering the seventh generation now, these boats are in numbers and sailed miles by far in front of all other boats available. The old 35.1 had been built several hundred times and I myself sailed her a lot. I find the 11-metre-class is very attractive for the family owner (just like me) and may be the first size for a boat to do long-haul-cruising. In this, the new 34.1 had to take on the rich heritage of her Oceanis-predecessors and put it all up a notch.
The cockpit, which I checked first on the boat, is clean, tidy and bears no frills. Like some other brands do it, Beneteau likes to keep it simple and plain. The seating benches to either side are well-proportioned and will house up to 6 adults sitting around the table. Of course, better would be four guys. Or just two … What I did not like though was the cockpit table: The one on display was the “cockpit table luxe”-option. I love the new cockpit tables as used on the bigger boats, like 51.1 or 46.1 but for the new 34.1 it seemed they did not put any efforts in downsizing these and went on with the old one. In this matter, I would choose to take the standard table which is made of stainless a simple steel frame with teak. Much better.
Other than that I recognized that the running rigging, clamps and lines are quite classy: The boat does not come with the so much loved and hated mainsheet arch which is the same for the Oceanis 40.1 as well. Instead, the new 34.1 bears a simple crow´s foot to attach the mainsheet to, just as on the Oceanis 30.1 and the 40.1 – simple, practical and much better for a clean, low profile of the side view. But, as a fan of the mainsheet arch, I miss its practicality too.
30.1´s big sister: Valuable learnings
At the beginning of this article I stated that I will be referring to the Oceanis 30.1 very often. This boat, introduced 2019, has been going through the roof and we are selling this little-big yacht literally by the dozens. I would say that even the yard has been surprised by the sales numbers. Something had been done very, very right for this yacht for sure. If I was Beneteau, I would have analyzed this success and come up with some adaptations for her new bigger sister ship. And apparently, that´s what they have done, judging from the interior design of the boat.
The Oceanis 34.1 may be called rightfully the upsized 30.1 in that matter. The salon feels almost identical but upgraded in size and volume. Large hull windows, a central dinner table with folding table boards (for the version on display a bit thicker as it houses the swing keel hydraulics) and virtually the same materials used. Whats new is are the overhead cupboards which increase stowage and practicality (something many owners of the Oceanis 30.1 kind of miss) and wider benches with even more stowage underneath.
What I also do not like very much, but I guess it is because of economical considerations, is that the galley has been positioned to starboard side and main bathroom to port. I like it classy, the other way round with galley to port and vis-à-vis the bathroom. Apart from that, in the 3-cabin version on display I found that the utilization of space inside was done very nicely: The boat conveys openness and freedom of movement by also offering a good amount of touchpoints to grab a film hold when in rough seas.
Big time galley (starboard)
Let´s talk about the galley some more. It may be positioned on the “wrong” side of the ship, but other than that it is amazing! Also a learning from the Oceanis 30.1, this galley indeed is kind of tiny but nevertheless offers a huge fridge which really make the 30.1 stand out from the other brand´s boats of that size.
There is a huge worktop to prepare meals, a big sink and the fridge. Also, much more stowage for cutlery, herbs and kitchen-equipment. The ship´s cook will have a big time cooking aboard the Oceanis 34.1. A great new thing are the two XXL-sized trash bins which, I feel, are too small on every boat I sailed on up until now.
Cruising is all about enjoying yourself, the seas and the feeling of freedom on the Oceans. It is not so much about sailing itself. More and more owners want comforts, easiness and a feeling of being disconnected from their ordinary real lives substituted by a connection to the seas, winds, the sun and nature in general. In that, both the cockpit area in which the owners of this boat will be spending most of their time and the salon can be considered spot on. But the 34.1 is more than just a small loft on the water. It´s a thorough sailing yacht.
One detail is the foldable chart table. The chart table discussion is a classic topic and a welcome subject on every sailor´s regulars table. On the Oceanis 30.1 Beneteau came up with a very practical and easy solution: A simple wooden “cupboard” that gets bolted to the bulkhead consisting of a fold-out chart table and some shelves to house stuff, like sunblocker, the boat´s chest or papers.
This concept proved to be attractive and economical: Owners who do not want to “waste” precious space for a chart table they never intend to use simply didn´t order it and save money. Skippers who want to have the extra cupboards and the small table clicked the option and still can safe volume aboard by folding it up. A simple method, leaving room for every owner to decide and saving money for the yard.
Again, I don´t really like the mirror-inverted layout, switching galley to port and Cpatain´s place to starboard but there will be a reason for it – and I do not think that sailing fun will suffer from this. For the new 34.1 many more details have been taken over from the Oceanis 30.1, like the clip-on blinds for the windows, which, again, are not just practical and easy to use but also cheap – cheap in the best sense of the word. Now, these are features taken over from the smaller boat – are there any from her bigger sisters, mainly the all-new 40.1 as well?
Yacht style cabins?
35 feet is a delicate boat size. Where 30 feet is clearly a “boat” and 40 feet is surely a “yacht”, 35 feet is something in between. From a selling standpoint these boats are for people who demand a yacht-like feeling but maybe cannot afford to buy one. My own experience with many, many clients and prospects in countless boat tours and appointments is that – many, many times – the parts least used seem to be of most importance (especially for the ladies). And these are the cabins.
My opinion on cabins is very, very simple and pragmatic: 99% of the time I use a cabin I will be unconscious. Simply sleeping. So everything I need is a decently sized bed with a matrass that won´t kill my spine and just enough space to undress and dress myself between watches (LINK) standing up. The rest – honestly – I do not care so much about. In a way I can understand the fuzz many are making around the cabins, in reality, I would say, cabin size is way overrated.
Fort he Oceanis 34.1 I personally would always choose the 2-cabin owner´s version. This one spots a huge side locker room and since the longitudinal bulkhead is not on the centerline, the aft cabin will be much bigger. For the 3-cabin version I found the aft cabins absolutely sufficient to house two tired adults and their luggage. The aft chine is covered with a wooden cupboard which is very practical to put spare clothing, a pillow or your good-night-book onto it. Here it comes: As 35 feet is quite not yet a “yacht”, aft cabin occupants won´t have the pleasure of looking out of big hull windows – the owners in the fore cabin will.
Much more of interest than the cabins should be the bathroom in any boat. The toilet should be placed at a least moving position within the cabin – which would be near the keel, but that layout, albeit looking hilarious, wouldn´t sell I guess. So on the 34.1 the main bathroom on port side has a WC, a sink (size is okay for a quick wash and bushing teeth) and sliding shower curtain to protect the wooden furniture. On the 2-cabin-version a decent shower cabin is available with much more space and comfort. It´s a practical and very humble layout. Modern, clean and not polarizing.
Quite a good feeling
“Not polarizing”, which on the surface could be said about this new Oceanis 34.1 as a whole. But look twice: This boat indeed has character! I would say that one clearly can determine the signature design language of Marc Lombard Yacht Design, especially in the hull. At the same time, the 34.1 continues the new design of the seventh Oceanis generation, especially bow section, the distinctive forward chines and the powerful “First Line”-rigging variant can turn this ordinary cruiser into quite a quick and powerful sailing boat.
I leave Paris Boat Show with a very positive feeling about that new entry in the range of products: She will find her clients and just because she can be either turned into a family´s floating loft or a serious quick sailboat for a keen skipper, she will satisfy all of the needs of many, many sailors. Just as the workhorse 35-feet-size should do. Well done, Beneteau! I will receive our first Oceanis 34.1 in spring 2022 and you can tell how excited I am to finally getting to sail her.
Also interesting to read:
Oceanis 34.1 naval architect Eriv Levet on designing the new boat
Walkthrough Oceanis 40.1 by Marc Lombard
Sailing the Oceanis 46.1 through the Adriatic Sea in December