Three Beneteaus on test

Peter Poland doc­u­ments the Océa­nis range by Beneteau – the char­ter cruiser that changed boat­build­ing and the cruis­ing mar­ket for­ever

Practical Boat Owner - - Contents -

Peter Poland com­pares three gen­er­a­tions of Océa­nis cruis­ers

When Beneteau’s First 30 hit the scene in the 1970s, most boats were bought for pri­vate use. But as soon as fly­ing to dis­tant cruis­ing ar­eas be­came cheaper and eas­ier, in­creas­ing num­bers of these yachts were snapped up by the fast-ex­pand­ing char­ter in­dus­try.

The rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive Firsts helped change the image and ap­peal of char­ter­ing, which ceased to be the ex­clu­sive do­main of the su­per-rich.

The Firsts’ good value, per­for­mance and spa­cious ac­com­mo­da­tion ap­pealed to or­di­nary fam­i­lies who wanted to hire a yacht for their an­nual sail­ing hol­i­days.

How­ever both Beneteau and the char­ter op­er­a­tors soon twigged that there was more busi­ness to be done if they of­fered a less ‘sporty’ range of yachts that could pro­vide even bet­ter and more spa­cious ac­com­mo­da­tion. Af­ter all, a fam­ily look­ing for a re­lax­ing sail­ing hol­i­day will be more in­ter­ested in ex­tra com­fort and laid-back cruis­ing than in fre­netic crew­ing and flat-out speed.

And so the Océa­nis range burst onto the mar­ket. The 350 (de­signed by An­dré Briand in the mid 1980s) led the charge.

As char­ter op­er­a­tors piled in to buy these boats, a new pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity was later set up in the USA to help cope with in­creas­ing de­mand. Beneteau and its clients – both pri­vate own­ers and com­mer­cial char­ter op­er­a­tors – had hit a seam of gold.

The1986 Briand-de­signed Océa­nis 430 (re­branded the Moor­ings 432 by the char­ter com­pany) was the next top-seller. It was an ideal size for char­ter­ers and set the bar high with its three- or four-cabin lay­out, two heads com­part­ments, ex­cel­lent lin­ear gal­ley and com­fort­able U-shaped sa­loon set­tee with ex­tra seat­ing on a cen­tre­line bench.

And al­though Beneteau’s Océa­nis range has now been evolv­ing for around 30 years, the orig­i­nal con­cept was so good it’s still hard to im­prove on the 430’s lay­out for fam­ily cruis­ing.

Three mod­els, three eras

Over the years I have sailed three dif­fer­ent Océa­nis mod­els from three dif­fer­ent eras – the 440 from the 1990s, the 373 from the 2000s and the 48 from 2012. The dif­fer­ences de­scribed here show how the range has evolved.

OcŽa­nis 440/Moor­ings 445

My first Océa­nis ex­pe­ri­ence was on a Bruce Farr-de­signed Moor­ings 445 – ef­fec­tively an Océa­nis 440 – that was in­tro­duced in the early 1990s. My den­tist, friend and se­rial Hunter-buy­ing cus­tomer Tim Har­ri­son char­tered one and, along with a cou­ple of Kiwi chums, I joined his fam­ily crew for a Caribbean ad­ven­ture. Ever the keen racer, Tim aimed to join the One De­sign Moor­ings 445 Char­ter Class that formed part of Tobago Race Week. Then we planned to go cruis­ing in the Wind­ward Is­lands.

When we pitched up at the char­ter base on the is­land of Gre­nada, we couldn’t miss the large fleet of Moor­ings 445s. Like us, many were pre­par­ing to set off on the night pas­sage to Tobago, head­ing out across an open ex­panse of what looked like lumpy and breezy ocean. But first we had to load our clob­ber and ini­tial sup­plies into the ample stowage ar­eas in­side what was to be ‘home’ to six of us for two weeks.

At that time I was a British boat­builder and had been fight­ing French com­pe­ti­tion for many years. So, some­what cyn­i­cally per­haps, I hoped to be unim­pressed by a well-used Beneteau char­ter yacht. But this Moor­ings 445/Océa­nis 440 was sleek and at­trac­tive on the out­side and wel­com­ing on the in­side. I had to ad­mit that it looked good, even if the dark wood­work and white leatherette up­hol­stery were not to ev­ery­one’s taste. Two weeks of hard sail­ing and com­fort­able liv­ing aboard proved these first im­pres­sions to be spot on.

The 445 comes in dif­fer­ent for­mats with ei­ther sin­gle or twin aft dou­ble cab­ins. The for­mer lay­out has a large U-shaped gal­ley aft to star­board and a chart ta­ble amid­ships to port, while in the twin aft-cabin ver­sion the gal­ley be­comes ‘lin­ear’ on the port side of the sa­loon and the for­ward-fac­ing chart ta­ble moves aft and to star­board. Both ver­sions have the same large dou­ble berth fore­cabin with en suite heads and shower. One or both of the aft cab­ins have heads com­part­ments.

Be­ing a char­ter yacht, our ver­sion was the twin aft-cabin ver­sion. The skip­per and his wife took one of these and I spread my­self out in the other; while the Kiwi hus­band and wife were given the lux­u­ri­ous fore­cabin. The skip­per’s young son was con­signed to a sa­loon set­tee.

We spent our first week rac­ing in Tobago, then fol­lowed this with another week cruis­ing up to Union Is­land and the ex­quis­ite Tobago Cays be­fore trundling back down the lee­ward side of the Gre­nadines to Gre­nada. Our boat did ev­ery­thing we asked of it – in com­fort and with ease.

The Océa­nis 440/Moor­ings 445 has the same el­e­gant hull lines as the Bruce Farr-de­signed First 45f5, so per­for­mance and han­dling are sure to be good. A deep spade rud­der gives ex­cel­lent con­trol and a rel­a­tively long fin keel with a winged tor­pedo at its base pro­vides good di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity, a bal­last ra­tio of 31.7% and a DLR of 195.6. Com­pared to many later Océa­nis mod­els the 440/445 has grace­ful over­hangs, a rel­a­tively fine bow and a more mod­er­ate beam right aft.

Our first night’s sail across to Tobago in a stiff wind and lumpy swell showed the boat’s mo­tion to be easy and mod­er­ate. Its progress in a sea­way is ap­pre­cia­bly less noisy than on newer mod­els with their

This 1992 Océa­nis 440 is one of many orig­i­nally built for The Moor­ings Caribbean char­ter fleet. She’s for sale at $89,000 on Sail­boatList­

Team Har­ri­son near the front of the Tobago Re­gatta fleet of Moor­ings 445s. This pow­er­ful yacht was en­joy­able to sail and com­fort­able to cruise

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