BOAT REVIEW Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 First Line Skyfall

February 2022 Yacht Reviews
Words by Sarah Ell. Photography and video by Roger Mills.
OUR RATING
4.5 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 First Line
DESIGNER Marc Lombard/Nauta Design
BUILDER Beneteau Boats
PRICE AS TESTED $POA
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 12.87M
LENGTH (Waterline) 11.99M
BEAM 4.19M
DRAFT 2.27M
ENGINE 1 x Yanmar 45hp
FUEL CAPACITY 235L
WATER CAPACITY 330L
Mast & Rigging Aluminium and SS, North Sails
ACCOMMODATION Three cabins
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spacious interior for a 12m yacht, with light, bright decor below decks
  • Beamy vessel so heel is minimal
OBSERVATIONS
  • Twin rudders provide good response and feel
  • Bow thruster makes docking a breeze and power winches ensure easy sail handling

If you’re a retired airline pilot with a bit of a need for speed, you’re probably looking for performance as well as comfort when choosing your cruising yacht. That’s what led Mark Taylor to the Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 First Line.


Taylor, who retired in 2020 after captaining Boeing 777s around the world, has long wanted a yacht of his own, having been brought up around boats and competition water-skiing with his sister. He’s also been involved in motorsport, so when it came to choosing and specifying the boat he plans to spend the next phase of his life cruising, he wanted something a little bit out of the ordinary.

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Taylor chose the First Line model of the Oceanis 40.1, which has a taller mast, deeper draft and a performance-orientated boom and deck gear package. With the support of broker Robbs Hielkema of Beneteau agents 36 Degrees, he also had a custom set of sails made by Roger Hall of North Sails in the Bay of Islands: a package of main, jib and gennaker, with a code zero next on the list. With the addition of these and a few other optional extras, his new yacht, Skyfall, certainly adds up to something a bit special.
The Oceanis 40.1 was named 2021’s Best Monohull Cruising Boat Under 50 Feet by Sail magazine, and was praised for its combination of cruising comforts and sailing performance. The naval architecture is by French luxury yacht designer Marc Lombard, and is in keeping with the philosophy of Beneteau’s longstanding First range, which adds a performance edge to cruising yachts. The hull has a pronounced chine running its entire length, lower down towards the bow and rising up towards the wide transom. The boat has twin rudders, which make for very steady and responsive steering, and the wide stern and chines keep the angle of heel comfortable even when the wind rises a little.


We took a trip up to Gulf Harbour to check out Skyfall – any trip out of central Auckland is like a little holiday these days – and jumped aboard via the two-step electric boarding platform that folds down out of the transom, with a telescoping swim ladder. This platform, along with the cockpit seats, are finished in teak. While on the day we photographed the boat it was in its original factory livery, it’s soon to have a bit of a facelift thanks to the application of a dark grey metallic vinyl wrap and signwriting. Also on order but slightly delayed due to the usual Covid-related issues is a large dodger and bimini to provide shelter in the cockpit.


One of the first things you notice is how open and uncluttered everything is. The large cockpit is free of lines and provides plenty of space for relaxing and entertaining. The central table has fold-out leaves, and there’s enough room for six or eight to sit around it. There are also two large lockers for storage under the cockpit floor, as well as a deep locker in the bow which proves to be a good place to stash the fenders.
There are no sheets and lines in the cockpit at all. The mainsheet runs to a bridle on the low-profile cabin top, rather there being a traveller running across the cabin top or in the cockpit, and the German continuous mainsheet system runs forward and then back aft to winches by the steering wheels, along the cockpit coamings. The jib sheets and controls for the cars run back here too, to a bank of jammers, so you can lock off the mainsheet on one side and swap the jib over when you need the winch for tacking or gybing, or load up the gennaker sheet when you’re ready for some downwind.


Taylor opted to make life a little bit easier in the sail-control department – after all, cruising isn’t mean to be hard work. Three of the four winches are two-speed Harken electric, and the mainsail folds down into a stack-pack on the boom. Hall recommended using batten cars rather than slugs for the main, which makes hoisting and getting the sail adjusted just right much easier. The jib is furling, and although there is an option for a self-tacking jib on this boat, Taylor has gone for a traditionally sheeted version.


And although he plans to mostly use the boat for cruising, there is a bit of a racey touch in the form of the twin Carbonautica race-style wheels. These are set right aft, and a little seat folds down off the pushpit each side for the driver to sit on. There’s also an adjustable foot chock which can be deployed if the helmsperson wants to stand when the boat is heeled. To starboard right by the wheel are the throttle, autohelm and bow thruster controls, as well as a B&G chartplotter, while in front of the port wheel there’s two smaller readouts for windspeed and depth etc.


Down below, there’s a lot of space for a 12m boat, thanks to its high topsides and 4.18-metre beam. Taylor opted for the three cabins, one head configuration, which maximises cabin space. There are a pair of quarterberths aft, with decent headroom and hanging lockers, and the starboard cabin is semi en suite with the large head and shower compartment. One nice touch in the bow double cabin is the optional extra of a small sink with a fold-out tap inside a cabinet, which means you can brush your teeth, have a drink of water or wash off the sunscreen in the privacy of your own space.


The saloon layout is not your typical Kiwi configuration: the galley is c-shaped and forward, on the starboard side, with a two-burner stove and large chiller accessed from both the top and side, double sink and plenty of storage. Facing the galley is a u-shaped saloon seating area, with a small nav station aft, at the base of the curved steps. The interior look of the boat is kept light and airy by pale engineered-timber and upholstery, and large through-hull and deck-level windows.
Heading out of the marina for a sail is easy: Another extra Taylor decided on was a retractable bow thruster, which makes manoeuvring the boat in and out the berth a breeze. The power winches make short work of getting the sails up, and we’re quickly set up and enjoying a beautiful sail.


Skyfall comes onto the wind easily and sits steadily in the groove. With a bit of puff on and a little heel, she settles comfortably with minimal heel, the twin-rudder setup providing steering that feels both responsive and secure. The bear-away is smooth, and you get the feeling that she’s keen to get up and go, with a bit more breeze.
While the light breeze and a welcome burst of sunshine would have made it the perfect opportunity to try out the bright blue gennaker, which lives in a sock system for super-easy hoisting the retrieval, unfortunately the halyard decided not to cooperate fully —but once that minor hitch is ironed out it will look spectacular and provide another sailing option.


Skyfall is the first yacht Taylor has owned, and he’s had great pleasure in bringing this long-held dream to reality. He might have retired from his life in the sky, but there’s no doubt plenty more exciting adventures await on the water.

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