Sail­ing is a breeze aboard Beneteau’s new Ocea­nis 51.1, thanks to some smart sys­tems.


Once a yacht gets up around 50 feet, you might think that you’re go­ing to need all hands-on-deck to get her sail­ing. But aboard the new-gen­er­a­tion Beneteau Ocea­nis 51.1, the first of which has re­cently ar­rived here, it re­ally is as sim­ple as just push­ing a few but­tons.

We took this brand-new boat, de­liv­ered for the Auck­land On Wa­ter Boat Show in Septem­ber, for her maiden sail be­fore she was handed over to the new owner, with the team from 36 De­grees Bro­kers. A fine spring day, more breeze than ex­pected and a week­dayempty har­bour (apart from a lot of con­tainer-ship ac­tion) made for an en­joy­able in­ter­lude.

The se­cret of the Beneteau’s ease-of-han­dling is in the sys­tems: a 45m2 in-mast furl­ing main­sail and a self-tack­ing jib of around the same size, con­trolled by sheets which all run right aft, un­der coam­ings, mak­ing for an un­clut­tered deck. In­ter­est­ingly, Beneteau sup­plies in-mast furl­ing as stan­dard – slab-reef­ing is an op­tion. The com­pany points out that some 70% of new yacht own­ers opt for in-mast furl­ing.

The main­sheet is on a con­tin­u­ous Ger­man sys­tem, which brings the two ends of the sheet aft on ei­ther side, so the helms­man can con­trol it from large Harken two-speed elec­tric winches right at the wheels. On the pedestals ei­ther side are easy-to-view B&G touch-screens which dis­play a chart­plot­ter or in­stru­ment read-outs (and, im­por­tantly, can be used to con­trol the stereo), with the con­trols for the au­to­helm to star­board.

There’s a sec­ond pair of large winches here too (if you swap the self-tacker for the larger genoa), and the sail con­trol clutches are right at hand, so ev­ery­thing can be han­dled from the rear of the cock­pit. A nice touch here are the pair of rope tail bags, which have fold­down lids with squabs on top to make them an in­vis­i­ble ex­ten­sion of the cock­pit seat­ing.

Haul­ing the main out/in is as sim­ple as press­ing one of two but­tons (slow and fast) on the elec­tric winch. The main is also reefed this way – re­duc­ing its size by furl­ing it back into the mast.

Nor­mally it would be a bit of a per­for­mance short­handed to get all the rag up, but the sails are de­ployed in lit­er­ally a minute; al­most as soon as we are out of the ma­rina, we are off sail­ing down the har­bour, with­out any­one hav­ing to wield a winch han­dle, leave the cock­pit, or even stand up. Furl­ing it is just as easy, with no flak­ing, stack­ing or lazy-jacks re­quired.

Speak­ing of the cock­pit, it’s mas­sive. The hull shape doesn’t ta­per aft much from that 4.8m beam, and the twin wheels are set well back so there’s plenty of unim­peded en­ter­tain­ing space – enough for a cen­tral ta­ble with drop-leaf sides, for seat­ing eight or more peo­ple. There’s good head­room un­der the boom and the main­sheet blocks are po­si­tioned on the now-fa­mil­iar Beneteau arch above the back of the cab­in­top, a de­sign fea­ture that keeps the cock­pit free of sheets and clut­ter.

On this boat the arch is fit­ted with a soft dodger with clear pan­els, to main­tain vis­i­bil­ity while pro­vid­ing shel­ter. Un­der the dodger are a pair of sunbeds which look like the per­fect place to lie and read with­out get­ting fried by the mid­day sun.

Adding to the en­ter­tain­ment fa­cil­i­ties is a gas

bar­be­cue built into the tran­som, which swings out over the board­ing plat­form. This, too, is gen­er­ous, and folds down at the push of a but­ton. A large sec­tion of the tran­som opens up to cre­ate a large swim­ming and board­ing plat­form.

Side decks are wide and un­clut­tered, with the lines run­ning aft in channels below deck level – there is lit­tle to stub your toe on here. The mas­sive in­te­rior vol­ume and high top­sides means the cabin is sleek and low-pro­file at deck level.

Hull shape, new for this Ocea­nis range, is by French de­sign­ers Jean Ber­ret and Olivier Ra­cou­peau, who started out with rac­ing yachts be­fore mov­ing into large lux­ury yachts and pro­duc­tion

Beneteau’s track record in de­liv­er­ing pop­u­lar pro­duc­tion yachts is re­flected by its sub­stan­tial global mar­ket share.

boats. The firm has worked with Beneteau for more than 30 years, and for this de­sign has pro­duced a beamy, mod­ern-look­ing hull, with a pro­nounced chine for­ward and rounded aft sec­tions. This boat has the stan­dard T-shaped keel, but a 2.8m per­for­mance keel with lead bulb can be spec­i­fied if you’re go­ing for more per­for­mance.

The new-look deck lay­out and in­te­rior are by lux­ury yacht de­sign­ers Nauta. An­other new fea­ture of the sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion Ocea­nis is its fully-in­fused deck and hull con­struc­tion, to re­duce weight and add strength, and it is pow­ered by an 110hp shaft-drive com­mon-rail Yan­mar diesel.


Below, the large vol­ume gen­er­ated by the beam and high top­sides is re­vealed. There’s more than enough room to swing quite a large cat down here, with gen­er­ous head­room and plenty of light com­ing in from hatches above and through-hull win­dows at seat­ing level. The im­pres­sion of space is ac­cen­tu­ated by the large mir­rors on the for­ward bulk­head.

One of Beneteau’s best fea­tures is its com­pan­ion­way de­sign – more like a stair­case, in­clined at a very stately 45°. At the bot­tom, to port is the gal­ley, with a built-in wash­ing ma­chine/dryer and pull-out ice­box aft. There is also an in­te­grated fridge and two in-bench freezer spa­ces as well, along with a two-burner gas stove and oven, large sink, and plenty of drawer and cup­board space. A fore-and-aft-fac­ing set­tee runs down the gal­ley’s in­board edge, and wraps around into the nav sta­tion for­ward. Op­po­site is the spa­cious U-shaped din­ing area.

The aes­thetic on this par­tic­u­lar boat is suit­ably Kiwi-friendly, with rich ma­hogany cabinetry, lam­i­nated par­quet-style floors and cream uphol­stery, but there are many other in­te­rior fin­ishes avail­able, in­clud­ing a paler, brushed oak tim­ber.

Be­cause of the hull shape and the po­si­tion of the wheels so well aft, there is enough in­te­rior space for a dou­ble cabin each side aft, run­ning un­der the cock­pit. The cabin to star­board has a semi en suite head and shower, which is also ac­ces­si­ble from the sa­loon.

Up in the bow is the mas­ter cabin, with a walk-

The big­gest bonus is the ease of sail con­trol, with the main and jib sheets im­me­di­ately at hand....

around fore-and-aft dou­ble berth, a set­tee each side, and sep­a­rate en suite head and shower rooms.

And there’s one more cabin: a ‘crew berth’ up in the bow and ac­cessed through a deck hatch, large enough for a sin­gle berth and head. Many will prob­a­bly pre­fer to use this as a sail locker.


Tak­ing the Ocea­nis 51.1 for a sail is, quite lit­er­ally, a breeze. With its con­ser­va­tive sail area this cruis­ing model is built more for com­fort than speed, but is light and easy to steer, the helm re­main­ing re­spon­sive and un­loaded even in the puffs of cool spring breeze we en­counter when head­ing back up the har­bour. We never feel over­pow­ered or ex­ces­sively heeled.

The big­gest bonus, how­ever, is the ease of sail con­trol, with the main and jib sheets im­me­di­ately at hand, and the large, pow­er­ful elec­tric winches do­ing all the don­key work. The self-tack­ing jib and sheeted-each-side main means that the helms­man only has to tell the crew they’re tack­ing as a cour­tesy – no one has to do any­thing.

A larger, over­lap­ping genoa and/or code zero can be added to the wardrobe for ex­tra per­for­mance, as well as a 150m2 gen­naker. The rac­ing-style mast op­tion adds 1.5m of el­e­va­tion and an ex­tra 12m2 to the main.

Beneteau’s track record in pro­duc­ing pop­u­lar pro­duc­tion yachts is re­flected by its sub­stan­tial global mar­ket share. Much thought has gone into mak­ing the new gen­er­a­tion Ocea­nis 51.1 an easy-to-han­dle, su­per com­fort­able cruis­ing boat with masses of space, and clever sys­tems and stor­age fea­tures.

Per­for­mance fea­tures, such as a taller car­bon or al­loy rig with 30% more sail area and a racier keel, can be spec­i­fied for those who want more of a cruiser-racer, but for those who just want to get out sail­ing in com­fort with a min­i­mum of fuss, this boat ticks all the boxes. BNZ

CEN­TRE A wellde­signed ac­ces­sory – the swing-out gas BBQ. A re­ally clever piece of kit. FAR RIGHT Those roomy cock­pit set­tees will see good use as daybeds.

RIGHT The in-mast furl­ing sys­tem keeps things very sim­ple.

BELOW With the self­tack­ing jib, mak­ing your way up­wind is a sim­ple pro­gres­sion of fin­ger­flick­ing tacks.

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