BOAT REVIEW Beneteau GT50 Viva La Vida

September 2019 Launch Reviews
Words by Sarah Ell, photography by Kimi Knight
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Beneteau GT50
DESIGNER Nuvolari & Lenard
BUILDER Beneteau
CONSTRUCTION Infusion moulded GRP-balsa sandwich hull, decks and superstructure
PRICE AS TESTED $1.635 million
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 15.78M
LENGTH (Waterline) 14.98M
BEAM 4.38M
DISPLACEMENT 13640kg
ENGINE 2 x Volvo Penta IPS 600 435hp pod drives
FUEL CAPACITY 1300L
WATER CAPACITY 400L
Maximum Speed 30 knots
Cruise Speed 24 knots
ACCOMMODATION Two or three cabins. Three for this vessel.
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Social layout
  • Light-filled spaces
  • Air-step hull
OBSERVATIONS
  • Sedan styling
  • One level living
  • IPS plus bowthruster means easy handling at docking time

Translated from Spanish, ‘Viva La Vida’ means ‘long live life’ — a philosophy the owners of this new Beneteau Gran Turismo 50 have heartily embraced.


Viva La Vida the boat splashed down in Auckland a few months ago, the first of this top-of-the-line Beneteau to be ordered here. And so far it’s been love at first sight for owners Craig and Sharon Walker.
The Walkers chose the 15.8m boat to replace their previous 14.8m sedan-style launch, and are enjoying the extra room to move – and entertain family and friends.
“We were aware of the Beneteau range and were looking for a more user-friendly boat, as we’re both in our sixties,” Craig says. “The decision was also price-driven – what you get here is good value for money.” They were also sure they wanted another sedan; having the helm station at saloon level is “more convivial,” Craig adds, as well as the lack of stairs being easier on the knees.

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The Walkers had originally looked at the GT50’s smaller sister, the GT46, but were swayed to go big by the drive-in tender garage in the stern of the larger model. A large section of the transom (which also holds the electric barbecue) folds up on struts to reveal a Williams mini-jet tender, which is deployed straight into the water on rollers. This takes the struggle out of launching and retrieving when taking the couple’s small dogs ashore for ablutions.


Dogs aren’t the only guests – Viva La Vida is certainly a boat for sharing and will be well-visited by the Walkers’ children and grandchildren. With her large cockpit, which can be opened fully to the saloon via reflective-glass sliding doors, there’s plenty of room for entertaining a crowd.
There are also three large cabins down below – a ‘VIP’ cabin in the bow for special guests, a twin cabin to starboard and the massive master suite running athwartships below the saloon – two heads, a large entertainer’s galley and a spacious sun-lounging area on the bow.


But it’s not all about sitting around and relaxing. Craig was also attracted by Beneteau’s Airstep2 hull design system, which uses a series of stepped chines below the waterline to create a ‘bubble’ of air beneath the hull as it rises up onto the plane. The system is designed to reduce friction, thereby improving fuel efficiency, acceleration and top speed.
“I had read about it and it seemed like smart stuff,” Craig says. “Certainly, from our experience so far the ride, even in a bit of a chop, is magnificent.”
Viva La Vida is powered by a pair of 435hp Volvo Penta IPS600 pod drives, making manoeuvring easy, with a bow thruster added for good measure. There is also a second set of controls on the starboard side of the cockpit, for short-handed docking.
“It’s absolutely brilliant – although I’m still getting the hang of it,” Craig says of the pod-drive system. “My wife and I used to argue a bit coming into the dock when there was just two of us on the boat, but with this system, plus the bow thruster, it takes all the stress out of it.”


The boat cruises at between 16 and 25 knots, using 115 litres/hour between the two engines at 24 knots. Top speed is closer to 30, when you really need to get somewhere in a hurry.
By the way, if you’re thinking the name sounds familiar, Viva La Vida is also the name of arguably the best album by British band Coldplay (you couldn’t really call a boat A Rush of Blood to the Head). And there is a connection – the Walkers love music and concert-going as much as they love boating. The boat’s name has been monogrammed onto mats, glasses, a champagne bucket – all the important things you need for enjoying cruising.
We put that cruisability to the test on a crisp, clear winter’s day, heading off down the Waitemata Harbour. After carefully obeying the speed limit until we pass North Head, we open her up and power off out to Rangi Light.


The ride is kept steady by the Zipwake auto-trim system. It’s a calm day but when we encounter a bit of wake from the camera boat, Viva La Vida rides over it calmly, her high topsides and lower chines meaning not even a suggestion of a splash on the windows. The ride is also very quiet – even with the saloon door fully open to the cockpit we can still talk easily.
An enormous sunroof above the helm station and front of the saloon also opens almost half the cabin roof, letting in light and air. On a 14°C Auckland winter day the light is appreciated, but the fresh-air aspect will be more greatly appreciated when it’s at least 10° warmer.
Visibility is good from this high up, either relaxing in the saloon or at the elevated helm position, with its double seat. At the helm station is a large Garmin screen, for touchscreen navigation and boat management through Beneteau’s integrated Ship control system. The dashboard layout is simple and clean, with the throttle and pod controls to port and the Zipwake trim system to starboard, large switches and a traditional gimballed compass at the top.


The choice position, however, is anywhere on the settee. This is simply massive, especially when the saloon doors are opened and a small inset transforms it into one, long seating area, inside and out.
Inside, the dining table can be folded out to double its size and can also be lowered to create another berth if required. There is an ottoman for extra seating at the table, as well as another smaller settee on the starboard side. Aft of this is an integrated (and very well stocked) fridge drawer, which means those in the cockpit don’t have to go far to get another round.


The large cockpit, which also has seating across the back, can be covered with a telescoping shade at the touch of a button, and the large table folds out to generate even more entertaining space. Under the cockpit, accessed through one of the seats lifting up, is the engine and genset room, where there is additional storage space for fishing gear, tools and cleaning equipment.
The Walkers are among many Kiwi boaties today in choosing to go for a sedan-style launch, but the lack of a flybridge doesn’t mean the boat’s not for fishing. The Walkers enjoy dropping a line, and there is a substantial custom stainless-steel four-rod holder and bait-board arrangement on each side of the boarding platform. This platform can be lowered right down under the water to form a ‘beach’ for easy water access.
Down below, the galley is on the lower level, to port down a few steps from the saloon (although an alternative layout is offered by Beneteau for this model, with the galley ranged along the starboard side of the saloon on the main level). There is plenty of light and space down here though, especially when the sunroof is open.


The galley is equipped with an electric hob and convection microwave oven, domestic-size fridge and an under-bench freezer drawer. (On this boat, nothing is fuelled by gas: the stovetop is electric, there’s a microwave convention oven, and the outside barbecue is electric too.) Storage space is maximised through the use of a Hafele Magic Corner pull-out unit in the under-bench cupboards.
The space opposite the galley to starboard can also be a second living area or ‘snug’, but the Walkers opted to utilise this space for a guest cabin. This has standing headroom and twin beds which can be converted into a double. The forward VIP cabin, in the bow, has large through-hull windows and an aft-facing bed. It’s semi-en suite with the day head and shower.
Aft, lying under the saloon, the master suite is more like a hotel room than a cabin. It has large windows with settees below on both sides, standing headroom around the large bed and, up a couple of steps, separate head and shower compartments, with teak-look flooring and opening portholes.

Viva La Vida is kept at Hobsonville Marina, handy to the Walkers’ home at Kumeu – “a big part of having a boat is going down and doing a bit of work on it, playing with it and having a glass of vino on the dock on a Sunday afternoon,” Craig notes – but will also spend part of the summer based in the Coromandel, where the Walkers have a bach at Cooks Beach. After being boatless last summer while their new craft was being built the Walkers are more than ready to get out on the water this year with friends and family.
Craig admits he ticked quite a few of the ‘optional extra’ boxes when spec’ing up the base boat, but says “for us, this is the last throw of the dice – we thought we would get it right”.
Viva La Vida indeed.

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