Two weeks ago, right after the handover of just another Oceanis 34.1 to her proud and happy owners at Lake Constance, we attended a small boat show. Lake of Constance, Germany´s biggest inshore sailing area and adjacent to a large Swiss and Austrian sailing community sharing their borders with Germany on this lake, is of big interest not just for us as Beneteau dealers but also for many other brands and boatbuilders. What makes this sailing area so special is its uniqueness in terms of a very limited number of berths, the very limited boat size and the ecological restrictions on this lake.
In this, only yachts with 3 to 3.5 meters maximum width and preferably sailing boats are selling good here, although many bigger boats (up to 46 and 52 feet!) and also loads of – very expensively trimmed – power boats are to be seen here. During the show there were two boats I was especially keen on seeing: One of these being the Bente 28, which I want to show at more detail in this article.
Judel/Vrolijk´s magix box
The Bente 28 measures 8.65 by 2.99 meters which is absolutely ideal for this lake as most berths have a 3 meter-width. The boat has been designed by famous German design bureau Judel/Vrolijk based in Bremerhaven. This company is one of the really big names in naval architecture worldwide and renowned for many, many projects, both done for many large production boat companies as well as one-offs.
I guess at Judel/Vrolijk they open one drawer in their large archive of underwater bodies and … voilá … here you have your decently well sailing platform. The Bente 28 is a modern design with twin rudders on a tiller, a very wide sterned hull with presumably fairly good sailing capabilities tuned to be well in downwind points of sail. Everything about this boat is conceived to make sailing easy and accessible.
The running rigging is tuned for leisure sailing: Just two winches operate a Genoa and Gennaker/Code 0 light wind sails. The mainsail, like on my GEKKO, is controlled via simple curry-clamp on te cockpit flooring, at least the mainsail can be fine trimmed with a small mainsheet traveller at the stern. Wait, Bente … what is it, who makes it?
Bente … what?
You´ve never hear of Bente? Well, here in Germany the name Bente is pretty commonly known. As the story goes, almost 10 years ago two guys had the idea to revolutionize sailing by asking the question: “How much boat do you really need?” One of them, Stephan Boden, by that time had written a boot about his sailing adventures travelling the Baltic Sea in an 18 footer alone with his small dog, the other guy was Alexander Vrolijk. Yes, Alex Vrolijk belongs to the Vrolijk-family, hence, sailing, designing was in his blood. They came up with the Bente 24 pretty soon, a fresh, light-hearted, cheeky, different boat. It sold quite well in the first years.
Somehow Boden and Vrolijk parted ways, the newborn brand “Bente” went on. The 24s sold exceptionally well at Lake Constance. Why? It offered extremely well thought-through interior space and comforts in such a small boat. On a lake where most people seek a platform for a great weekend on the water, easy lush sailing, having fun with the family, the concept seemed tailor-made. Alex Vrolijk came up with the idea of a 40-footer (on which I interviewed him 2018) but only a few units had been built.
Now the brand returns to its roots by launching the Bente 28, almost one year ago, and it´s back on track. I was happy to meeting Christian Strand at the boat show who was with Bente Yachts almost from the beginning and is now Head of the project. He invited me aboard this hull #1 prototype and showed be around – showing me the nice things but also pointing out shortcomings in this first boat out which are now made differently in the production boats.
Microcruising at its best
The Bente 28 is #microcuising at its best, this I can state right at the beginning. This boat is a roomy wonder, especially for me coming from a similar sized boat (in form of my First 27 SE) it was a revelation of just how much volume and comfort can be created in such a small boat. Bente´s specialty and signature colorful dodger with the long all-glass-roofing that advanced well before the mast foot makes it possible to stand tall in most of the saloon.
The glass roofing creates a lofty, light-suffused atmosphere down below I´ve never ever experienced in any other yacht – big or small – before. It feels almost like being in a wintergarden or under a big glass dome. The large transparent areas are tinted in the production boats, reducing the greenhouse effect inside (it will get hot when the sun shines!) and semi-permeability to ensure privacy.
The whole boat is completely open, there is no bulkhead separating the forward berthing area, which will provide sleeping matrasses for two adults, from the saloon. I guess you can fit a curtain here. But since mostly couples and families will use the boat, there is no need to fit proper cabins and doors inside. The saloon is pretty standard with two longitudinal settees and a folding table in the middle.
Guests may sleep in the port side pilot berth which presumably on many boats will be used as dry stowage, food store or place to put the Gennaker. As there aren´t any aft cabins as well, the designers were able to fit a properly sized bathroom to starboard side. Full headroom and standing height is a matter of course (Christian is a pretty tall person and he can stand in here), a shower, sink and WC will provide for hygiene and comforts.
Talking about the head, Christian explained that in the production boats the aft bulkhead to the large locker has been put further abaft to increase stowage capacity in the bathroom for wet sailing clothing and equipment, not restraining the large aft locker to starboard side too much. A good idea, as I think. In this, the Bente 28 seems to offer a load full of comfort you might seek in your new boat.
Everything packed in 28 feet
The reason why so many families opted to go for her smaller sister, the Bente 24, is the level of onboard comforts which was and still is in the DNA of Bente Yachts. The galley of the Bente 28 is positioned to port side (where it belongs) and is fitted with an induction electric stove, a single sink wit fresh water tap and a fridge.
As it is put right left to the entryway, you can stand up here in full height and prepare the food for your family, a small snack or a tasty coffee. There are small drawers for cutlery, some pans and pots and food provisions. As the boat is intended for inshore sailing and coastal cruising, more being a weekender than a long-time or long-range cruisier, there is no need to over-emphasize the size of the galley: For a boat like this, it is a huge galley for sure.
In this, the nav station or “command module” of the Bente 28 which is situated vis-à-vis the galley, has been downsized: As there is simply no need to do chart navigation or logbook-sessions on a boat that sails on a lake, the nav-station and chart table is shrinked to a small cabinet housing the main switchboard panel and a small foldable chart table.
In any case, the navigator will have to stand working here as there is no stool o sit down. All of this looks like somebody has been putting a lot of efforts in taking what the Bente 24 did good in her past years and spicing it up a bit, adding some extra size and put some brains into adding comforts where its needed. The Bente 28 to me looks like the perfect leisure weekender, a great place for a small family to enjoy the sea or a lake, to have a nice platform for a sunny day out and even have some sailing fun.
Jumpstart, insolvency and a brand reborn
After the fulminant jumpstart of the brand years ago – I still remember the rough and rumshackle boat show booths, the thick cigarette-smoking guys drinking beer and having fun, living the brand´s image to the fullest. I also remember the dark news surrounding the insolvency and the shock it triggered: Why the hell did this fresh and fun approach not work? Now, these old stories are what they are: Old stories. The yard has been taken over by a potent, marine-rooted investor owning the largest marina on Lake Constance. The team dedicated, motivated and production in Poland has been streamlined.
I must say, I pretty much liked what I saw: The boat isn´t overloaded with too much decoration, it is kind of distilled down to what is needed and essential. There is a lot of plastic visible but the sparsely applied colorful notes, some minor wooden rails and details do create an “at home” atmosphere. The boat clearly is dominated by the large glass roofing which, again, defines the Bente 28. But even looking behind the corners is not disappointing: Just one glimpse at the electronics wiring behind the switch panel was enough of reassurance.
So, in essence, I´d say the Bente 28 does best what I missed most about my GEKKO: Onboard comforts and pleasant living. I doubt that she is as agile, quick and fun to sail but that´s not what she wants to be. As much as the First 27 SE does not want to be a lush family weekender, the Bente 28 doesn´t want to dominate regattas in planning mode. Another prime example of the owner´s use case defining the boat. In this, I am sure, the Bente 28 will attract exactly those people for which she was initially conceived.
Thanks Christian for showing me around, maybe we can take her out in the coming weeks for a little follow-up article …
You might as well be interested in reading these articles:
Talking to Alexander Vrolijk about his Bente 39-project in 2018
GEKKO reloaded? 27 feet fast sailing with some comforts
How to create interior volume in a sailboat´s hull