- Bow thruster
- Lighter and faster than the previous Oceanis 41
- Huge cockpit
- Common rail 45hp Yanmar
- Electric winches
- Update of Oceanis 41
- From one of the world's biggest builders of Cruising yachts
- Quiet under engine
- No traveller
- A lot of boat for the length and the money
When it comes to creating cruising yachts, you’d expect Beneteau to know their stuff. The new 12.4-metre Oceanis 41.1 is no exception, beamy and comfortable with a hint of race performance.
Of course it is only since the 1980s that the brand has become a powerhouse, which now exports hundreds of
cruising yachts, cruiser-racers and powerboats around the world. The latest model to land on our shores is the 12.4-metre Oceanis 41.1, an update of the Oceanis 41.
The hull design is by French naval architects Finot-Conq and has the features you would expect from the marque:
plenty of beam and volume, a generous cockpit and a semi-chine, which increases the boat’s form stability when it is heeled.
The major difference between the 41.1 and its predecessor is it’s lost a bit of weight — more than 600kg, actually. New Zealand agent Conrad Gair of brokers 36 Degrees says Beneteau’s engineers worked through the boat’s specifications to work out where extraneous weight could be trimmed — aspects like nonvisible
linings and bulky detailing on the transom — to make the boat lighter and therefore improve its sailing performance.
“Beneteau pride themselves on being the innovator in production boats,” says Gair. “When the 41 came out, it had all the bells and whistles — it was an amazing boat — but firstly it was too expensive, and secondly it was too heavy. For the 41.1 they managed to save 25,000 euros on the base boat price, and carve out almost 700 kg of weight.”
Visually, another change is in the design of the arch over the front of the cockpit, which acts as the frame for the dodger and bimini. While it’s still a substantial structure, it is now slightly more raked and its height means visibility is unrestricted.
It is also the anchor point for the mainsheet block. There is no traveller, the mainsheet instead running through a block on the top of the arch then forward on the boom almost to the gooseneck before being split and running back aft to the cockpit winches.
“Everyone is trying to get away from having a traveller on a track,” says Gair. “It comes back to safety, but also elegance, to a degree.
“When you have aft sheeting, a lot of load goes on the back of the boom, so running the system this way is a massive positive for safety. It has a massive advantage for sailing performance as well, because you can get the boom centred when it’s block to block.”
We meet Gair and his colleague Russell Hopper at Westhaven. Getting on board was a breeze, with a large, almost full-width boarding platform across the transom, which folds up at the touch of a button. It can also be operated using a remote control like a garage door opener — you can tap it as you walk down the dock and the transom will fold down ready for your arrival.
Getting the Beneteau out of her ‘parallel park’ in a corner near the Pier 21 travelift proves less of a problem than you might expect, thanks to the bow thruster (an optional extra on this model). With very little fuss we’re away from the dock and heading out onto the harbour.
Our first boat test day had to be postponed due to the furious spring weather; today it has clocked back the other way and the inner harbour is glassy. We motor down towards Devonport in search of wind while chatting about the boat and getting our bearings.
The yacht’s cockpit is huge — Gair says it’s around 25 per cent larger than other similar-sized boats in its class — and there’s certainly plenty of room for entertaining. The double wheels are placed well aft, with fold-down seats behind them if you prefer to sit and drive, or for lounging about when at anchor. The demonstrator boat has been spec’d with a pair of B&G chartplotters each side, adjacent to each of the styley white-finished carbon wheels — and, smartly, placed outside the wheel’s circumference, so the helmsman can make adjustments without
sticking their hand through the spokes.
There’s also plenty of room between the wheels, making access to the boarding platform and gear-loading easy. The large teak table has leaves which fold down when sailing and create a generous table which can easily seat six. The boat is powered by a 45 CV/HP common-rail Yanmar diesel — the first of its kind in New Zealand — which makes the engine quieter, smoother-running and more efficient than older-style diesels. Conversation is easy even when we are powering along at around 7 knots at 2000 revs.
For a sailing boat, there is remarkably little ‘spaghetti’: there are just three winches, and very few sheets. Gair has fitted the demonstrator boat out with the optional German mainsheet system, which splits off the boom and sheets to both sides, so the jib can be trimmed on one winch and the main on the other.
“It’s made to be super-easy,” Gair says.
The only other winch is up on the cabin top, for halyards and reefing, and is fully electric. Instead of being foot-operated, this new two-speed Harken model is fingertip controlled — you literally just press and hold a button and the winch does the work for you. The first reef is set up with a fixed point so it simply folds itself down into the ‘lazy bag’ on the boom when the reefing line is brought on and the halyard eased.
While buyers can opt for the standard dodger from Beneteau, Gair has had one custom-made in dark navy by the local Doyle’s loft, which fits perfectly and provides shelter above and excellent visibility forward through its large clear panels. A bimini is on the way to cover the rest of the cockpit, which will create a large outdoor room ideally suited to spending time outdoors in New Zealand’s nigh-radioactive sunlight.
There is very little wind about — for a change — but we hoist the sails easily utilising the electric winch and get lightly under way. The boat has been designed to carry a 105 per cent overlapping furling jib, which we use on boat-test day, but Gair has also had a self-tacker track fitted, for the convenience of those who like their sailing to be pretty hands-off.
“We’ve already had people looking at the boat who want to get into sailing but aren’t that confident,” Gair says. “So we can make it so that it has the bow thruster, has the electric winches, the headsail looks after itself and so on.
“You can set it up so you can just get on and go sailing and drive it like a car, or you can tweak it up for racing. You can customise the boat to suit.”
Customisation is evident in the interior, too. Beneteau’s manufacturing process is modular, so each section of the boat is manufactured separately and fitted together. This means getting exactly what you want is easy: there are 22 different interior layouts and colour configurations available for this model alone.
Gair said for the demonstrator they chose to go with a layout which would be popular with Kiwis: a double cabin forward, with a pair of quarter-berths aft, and a single head and shower, semi-ensuite from the starboard aft cabin. Other options include having a second head forward in the master cabin, which makes this area smaller and means the bed is on an angle, rather than the hotel-style semi-walkaround of the demonstration boat.
The immediate first impression of the interior is how light and bright it is. Finished in light satin oak and taupe panelling, with cream upholstery, the lightness is also boosted by large windows not only up high in the cabin top and overhead hatches, but also two large eye-level through-hull windows, which enable great views when seated. This visual link to the outside world not only provides extra light but also reminds you you’re out
boating, rather than just sitting inside a funny-shaped room.
The large galley has a large sink, two-burner gas cooker and a capacious fridge-freezer, which can be accessed from the top or sides. A nice design feature is the pull-down cupboards along the cabin side, which fold down from the top rather than opening in the traditional fashion, and have catches hidden in the negative detail on the top edge. There’s also a handy wine-bottle holder built into the table, so you don’t lose your drinks when some idiot motors into the bay and flicks their wake around.
Another nice touch is the companionway steps: there’s no going backwards down a ladder here, just a wide, easy set of stairs set at a 45-degree angle and curved slightly so you can still stand flat on them when the boat is heeled.
But it’s not all about cruising comforts: “Beneteau really do want them to sail well,” Gair says. Unfortunately it is too light on the day of our test to deduce much about the sailing performance, but having spent the winter racing against several other Beneteau models in the RNZYS winter series, I can tell you they are no slugs.In the little time we spent in breeze, we managed 4.5 knots in only around 4–5 knots of true wind speed.
Beneteau knows its onions when it comes to building boats of this type, and it knows how to supply both what the majority wants and the little details that make boat owners feel special. It’s a lot of boat for 41 feet (12.4 metres), and it’s a lot of boat for the money. The base boat starts at NZ$390,000, although obviously adding on a few of those nice extras will raise the price.
If you rocked into an anchorage in this boat this summer, you can be sure to make a lot more new ‘friends’ wanting to enjoy the ease of your boarding platform, the comfort of your cockpit and the views from the saloon. You might just have trouble getting them to leave.