With another boat in the performance line announced, Beneteau is now offering a 44-feet performance cruiser bearing the legendary name “First”. Although we right now only have renderings to show, this boat is some big news. The 40-something sized boats may be called the core of each brand´s product range since most clients are aiming for this class. Although the bigger sized yachts are perfect to show a yard´s quality and certainly are dream yachts as well, it´s the smaller 13 to 15 meter-range boats which make the bulk of the sales.

Lorenzo Argento and the team did a good job

The announcement from the yard did not came as a surprise, in fact, it was perfectly timed with now everybody already looking at Beneteau how the new First 36 is really performing in real life. Thy already have the attention of sailors and magazines, so why not launch another boat? Now, looking at the first renderings, I can see a concept that definitely resembles and carries the First-signature that has been set up by Lorenzo Argento with some nice own details. Let´s talk to somebody who knows more …

Talking to Beneteau´s Sailboat Product Director

Lars Reisberg | NO-FRILLS-SAILING.com: “Damien thanks for taking your precious time to talk to me again. Now, as there is a very nice story within Beneteau, it goes that there was a famous napkin onto which Gianguido Girotti made his first drawing back in the day. He sketched out a new generation of First boats to be build. With the new First 36 in the water and now a new First 44 announced, how close is Beneteau to finalizing this plan?”

Damien Jacob | Beneteau: “Hi Lars. Yes, the napkin (laughs) … actually, we are now fairly close to be able to offer a complete and comprehensive range of performance cruisers! Our original aim back then was to be able to address the specific needs of our customers for a given size. You see, the performance factor that can be safely delivered to a crew of a 36-footer is definitely not the same as on a 53-footer. Likewise with the comfort. So each boat in each size has to be deliberately designed accordingly. The performance cruisers segment is a subtle mix of these two and the recipe differs for one size to the other.”

More than just a “small” 52

NO-FRILLS-SAILING.com: “I still remember the announcement of First Yacht 53 during a dealer´s meeting. You might as well remember this tempting black animation? Our spontaneous standing ovations – how did the new generation of First yachts perform so far?”

Damien Jacob: “Oh yes! I also remember that moment. It was actually my first year at Beneteau. Following the brand as anyone else, I knew how strong and important the First-branch was for Beneteau, how the legend has been built over the years. But, on that specific day, living this moment from the inside as we were drafting the preliminary lines of the future First Yacht 53, I really began to feel the pressure on my shoulders! There is always emotion involved when you work on a new boat, but working on a new First gives an extra twist for sure! Coming back to the latest generation, we are just at the beginning of this new chapter, I´d say. Although the First Yacht 53 has been launched two years ago, the First 36 has just touched the water and the first hull of the First 44 is yet to be completed! The first iterations of the First 14, 24 and 27 have been completed a year ago with a more accessible package. So overall, the seventh generation of First is a work in progress! An exciting voyage, for sure.”

“Speed made easy” – the motto of First

NO-FRILLS-SAILING.com: “With acquiring Seascape to offer fast, fun and racy boats from 14 to 36 feet, Beneteau managed to quickly become a major player in the small sized boat market, the First Yacht 53 aimed at the bigger “gentlemen racers”, what´s the target group for the new First 44?”

Damien Jacob: “This specific segment of sailboat is a mix of performance and comfort. As I said earlier, each size will have to offer a different mix due to the needs of their customers. The First range is made of the sport cruisers up to 30 feet, then the performance cruisers from 30 to 50 feet and lastly the luxury performance above 50 feet. The First 36 and the First 44 are both in the performance cruiser segment. Boats that are bringing a certain level of interior but are keeping a proper deck layout for fast cruising or racing. This is the offer and I think we have created a very attractive setup for this kind of clients.”

A Lounge-like interior

NO-FRILLS-SAILING.com: “Let´s dive a bit deeper into the new First 44: Having the same principal designers, the boat from the outside looks like a compact version of the First Yacht 53 – what are the main characteristics of the First 44?”

Damien Jacob: “When we started to work with Lorenzo Argento some five years ago, the plan was already to start with the 53-footer at first. But beginning with the largest boat of the range can be tricky because the design features are not always replicable on smaller boats. So, once Lorenzo won the design contest together with Roberto Biscontini, we asked him to make a preliminary draft of a full range of First from 30 up to 60 feet to make sure we could keep a coherence through the range. The 36 and the 44 were actually drafted at the same time as the 53. Features like the step to the side decks have been kept down the 44. Then if you look carefully at the First 36, you will notice that the “free floating” side decks on the transom of the 36 replicate the shape of the helmsman seat of the 53. What we introduce on the 44 in comparison to the 53 or the 36 is the dual deck gear layout. Each of these two boats have only one layout. However, on the 44 we have one layout for shorthanded crew and another one so the boat can be sailed fully crewed. That’s the major difference.”

Cruiser? Racer? Both!

NO-FRILLS-SAILING.com: “So we will have a First 44 and a First 44 Performance – what are the differences of both boats and which sailors will be buying which of them?”

Damien Jacob: “As said, the main difference is the deck layout. The First 44 has been thought for fast cruising with a limited number of people to handle the sails. However, combined with the optional water ballast, there is no need for 10 crew on the rail to get the most out of the boat! That’s that the beauty of First: Speed made easy. We really aim at delivering accessible performance. Then, the First 44 Performance has a deck layout designed so that a full crew can handle and trim the sails. Foam decking instead of teak for weight reduction and antiskid properties. There is also an extra long bowsprit of 1.5 meters to carry larger downwind sails. We have also worked on having lighter technical installations on the inside: Piping, electricity and such. Overall, with all the bells and whistles for racing, that´s carbon mast, performance keel and so on, the boat is about 600 kilograms lighter, which can make a huge difference.”

First 44 in 2 configurations

NO-FRILLS-SAILING.com: “I remember seeing a pretty solid analysis of the F36´s competition by Andraz Mihelin – where are the main competitors for the new First 44? Which boats is Beneteau trying to aim at mainly and what are the core advantages over these boats in the 44?”

Damien Jacob: “44 feet, to be honest, for us is really the core, or let´s say, the heart of the market. We are not lacking competition which makes it even more exciting! Solaris, Grand Soleil, X-Yachts, J Boats or Italia Yachts, just to name a few … all the main players are there! On the performance aspect, I can only say that Roberto has already proved on the 53 that he is able to design boats very rewarding at the helm. A First should be fun to sail, one should fight to get behind the wheel! The water ballasts, as on the 36, will also be an advantage in order to make performance more accessible. They will not be high-tech as on the Figaro 2 with complicated valves to operate. Everything will be electrically operated from the helm station. Concerning the comfort aspect of things, we have decided to keep a similar dinette as on the 53. The feedback is quite good especially on the fact that it is more practical than the traditional C-shape when 6 people are onboard. Also for the more cruising orientated owners, we have a dinghy garage which is unseen on the competition. I would say, a pretty neat offer.”

Optional Dinghy-garage

NO-FRILLS-SAILING.com: “I guess we will be able to see the boat in real life during Cannes Yachting Festival in September – how tough is the current delivery situation, supply chaos and currency issues, like inflation, regarding boats in general and how does this situation affect the First-range?”

Damien Jacob: “That is no secret that the boating industry, as any other industry, is struggling with the supply crisis. I can tell you that we all would rather much prefer to focus on other subjects. But dealing face-to-face with this crisis is key to make sure we get parts on time for production so that future owners can enjoy their boat as soon as possible. Be sure our purchasing and supply teams are all hands on deck on a daily basis to tackle this issue!”

A nice wide open transom

Damien, thank you so much again for this delightful chat and your exclusive insight. I am looking forward to seeing you guys in France hopefully soon and the First 44 live at the pontoon.


You might as well be interested in reading these related articles:

First Yacht 53´s revolutionary interior concept

New Version? New boat! First 27 walkthrough

Seeing the new First 36 for the first time