The contrast from my last article about the 60 feet Oyster 595 seen in Duesseldorf to this 35-footer couldn´t have been more stark, but thinking of it there is an interesting aspect: Even “small” boats like this Oceanis 34.1 are truly “volume-wonders” if compared to boats 15 or 20 years old. This, of course, is possible because of modern hull design. What a nice co-incidence: The new Oceanis 34.1 has been designed by one of my favourite naval architects, Marc Lombard.

Welcome: A brand new Oceanis 34.1 arrived

We received another brand new and beautiful Oceanis 34.1 during Duesseldorf Boat Show and – freshly inspired – I used the chance to jump aboard to check her out. In the following I am able to show this yacht in a direct comparison between the standard 2-cabin version and the 3-cabin version: And how hull design directly influences interior volume.

How modern hull shapes create Volume – and Performance

In the past decade cruising yacht hull design had been going through a kind of revolution. Fueled by a booming charter market and the skyrocketing demand for boats offering large interior volumes even for small- and mid-sized boats, naval architects combined their learnings from making wide-sterned planning hulls conceived for Open and Maxi racing yachts with the boat builder´s design briefs.

A contemporary sight: Wide stern

The product are boats which carry their maximum width through to the transom. This brings more form stability (and less ballast in the keels), hard chines and flatter bodies increased sailing performance on reaching points of sails (at the price of lesser pointing capabilities and upwind-slamming). There is not a single big production boat brand not following this path, almost all setting up their boats with double rudder configurations.

Tulip shape: More volume above waterline

I realized this “breakthrough” thoroughly back in 2018 when Beneteau launched their Oceanis 51.1 – maybe this wasn´t the idea of Beneteau, but this was the first time I got aware of this. The hull shape of the new 51.1 was a true head-turner at that time. With the hard chines running through from the stern all the way to the bow, Beneteau introduced a rather radical “tulip”-shape for their seventh generation of Oceanis cruising yachts. Relatively slim underwater hull, less wetted surface, the body of the boat grew wider only well above the waterline. It looks easy and common sense – it was revolutionary back then.

Comparing 2- and 3-cabin ships

Nowadays many boats use this tulip-shaped cross section, like the Excess 11 or 14 and even brands not belonging to the Groupe Beneteau took over this concept in more or less strict adaptations. For boats mostly sailed in low to moderate wind conditions and preferably on “vacation courses”, reaching points of sail, those hulls proved to be exactly what the market wanted. And I do not only mean the charter companies. Soon, “ordinary” owner-sailors discovered the advantages of these new hull designs.

Differences between 2- and 3-cabins

Looking at the interior layouts available in the new Oceanis 34.1 for example, you can see the differences between the “charter version”, the 3-cabin boat, and the “owner version” with 2 cabins. Clearly, to earn money and rent out boats, more berths mean more people who can share (hence: afford) the cost of a charter trip. Perfect boat. For an owner, who mostly sails alone or as a couple, some as a small family or with occasional guests, 2 cabins are just perfect: And a big bathroom most welcome.

Rear sight: Port side cabin entry

If you closely look at the picture above, taken during Paris Boat Show 2021 aboard the 3-cabin-boat on display there, you can see that in the aft section there are two doors for the two aft cabins. There is a galley to starboard side and the (only) bathroom to port side. If you want to get a full walkthrough in the 3-cabin-version, click here. Now, compare to the 2-cabin “owner-boat” below:

Rear view 2-cabin version

The galley remains the same and for most part the bathroom on port side as well, but instead of an entryway to the cabin door, we now have a full bulkhead just next to the stairway down to lefthand side: This is where the new, bigger bathroom is now situated. What this gain of volume really looks like can be seen on the next pictures.

Standard vs. XXL-bathroom

Let´s begin with the charter-version 3-cabin boat: The bathroom will merely accommodate one person, bigger sized crew members will have to step aside over the toilet to being able to close the door. To the left side of the picture, right next to the toilet, the bathroom “ends” as behind that bulkhead the entrance to the port side aft cabin is situated.

The “small” head, 3-cabin version

Of course this bathroom is a full-sized shower: By pulling out the tap from the sink, it turns into a shower that can be attached to a holder on the front-bulkhead. No problem to take a shower here. The downside is: The whole bathroom will be we all over the place, including the wooden surfaces and the toilet. Especially with full crew this is kind of uncomfortable as the bathroom will always be wet and damp. Not so in the 2 cabin-version.

Entrance to the shower cabin

Where we have seen the bulkhead there isn´t one now. The toilet is a toilet and behind a small wall – with a solid shower enclosure – a full fledged shower compartment opens up. No wooden veneers will be wet anymore, there is much more space to get wet and rinse off the salt off your body, even bigger persons will enjoy an XXL-shower-experience. There is a nice window as well, natural light and better ventilation.

Big shower cabin

Clearly, this bathroom is the one you want, when you buy this boat. Depending on the use case and the number of people usually sailing with the yacht, two cabins often do the trick. A nice side-effect: At least for most boat brands the two cabin versions are the standard layouts whilst more cabins (and less bathroom) automatically mean more budget. But it´s not just the bathroom that grows.

XXL-stowage: Now that´s a locker!

I am a bit sad that I did not take a picture of the cockpit locker of the 3-cabin boat seen in Paris because that would have been a great comparison to the cockpit locker available to skippers opting for the owner-version of the boat. Standing in the shower, you will discover a small door.

Big shower cabin

This is actually a very small door that barely allows to crawl oneself through: Slim people will still find it challenging to get through. But it is sufficiently sized to have certain things within grabbing range put immediately next to this door. Looking through it, you grasp the sheer size of what is behind: The former port side aft cabin´s half, which is essentially empty and functions as a big-ass cockpit locker.

Voilá …

I wouldn´t call it a workshop. This concept is brilliantly umgesetzt by “true” blue water brands like Garcia, Allures or Hallberg-Rassy where the owner can walk into a full-sized workshop wit tools, a schraubzwinge and can reside over a true walk-in engine room. It would be an exaggeration to call the locker on the 34.1 a “workshop”, but, give you climb inside either from the cockpit or from the shower, the volume is amazing indeed!

Aft locker rear view

It´s not too long ago since 35-footers have been the “bread and butter”-size for boat builders and 10 to 11 meters boat length was considered a proper yacht size. Even today a load of people call this the perfect size for a boat: Affordable both in the initial purchase budget needed and also in affording maintenance and outfitting. Now, with a big locker like this, the 34.1 (and other 35-footers) are still most boat for the buck, I´d say.

Which one is for you?

The choice, which boat and which layout is best suiting, is always the evaluation of each individual use case of the boat. For a family of four, the 2 cabin-yacht may be perfect when the kids are still small. Even my kids, now 6 and 9 years old, love sleeping together. Families with preteens and teens maybe don´t want to put their offspring together into one cabin: The 3-cab-layout would be the best choice.

Which one would be yours?

The standard sailing couple with occasional guests, of course, choose the 2-cabin variant. On the contrary, charter companies often choose both: If your target group is the big group sharing the boats to afford them and you are on a hot, hard market, the 3-cabin layout is the boat to go for. If you want to offer a more “exclusive” charter experience and maybe earn more from higher rates, the “owner-version” suits best.

Time to bring her in the water

No matter which layout you prefer: The origin of those high-volume hulls is a fascinating story. Of course, performance-wise and especially when it comes to pointing and upwind capabilities, this isn´t the most attractive path the industry took. But the companies build what they can sell: The market for big-sized coastal nice-water low-/moderate-wind cruising boats is vast, so they did respond. I´d say that 90 per cent of “us” sailors are using the boats exactly this way, so it´s perfect. These boats do exactly what they are meant to do – and they are doing it just fine.


Also interesting to read:

Marc Lombard on designing cruising yachts

The Oceanis 34.1 with lifting keel, seen in Paris

At the Oceanis production in France