Motorboat & Yachting - - CONTENTS -

TESTED With out­board power and sleep­ing room for four adults the 9 is a ver­sa­tile cruiser

LOA 27ft 1in (8.25m) BEAM 9ft 8in (2.95m) EN­GINES Twin 200hp Suzuki DF200 TOP SPEED ON TEST 34 knots FUEL CON­SUMP­TION AT 20 KNOTS 23 lph FUEL CA­PAC­ITY 600 litres PRICE FROM £92,923 inc VAT PRICE AS TESTED £131,720 inc VAT CON­TACT www.beneteau.com

When Bénéteau launched the pre­ced­ing Antares 8.80 in 2012, the com­pany took its first ten­ta­tive step into the sports fisher mar­ket, spin­ning a Bar­racuda 9 from the same hull and launch­ing it si­mul­ta­ne­ously. It made sense, keep­ing the de­vel­op­ment costs down for the first of a new genre for the group.

In fact the Bar­racuda proved a huge suc­cess, spawn­ing a four-strong range and giv­ing Bénéteau the con­fi­dence to de­velop sep­a­rate hulls for the re­place­ments of both mod­els. As a re­sult, the new flag­ship of the Antares out­board range (at least un­til a planned 10-me­tre ver­sion is launched) gets its own be­spoke hull, which doesn’t need to pan­der to the com­pro­mises of un­der­pin­ning a sep­a­rate model. More vo­lu­mi­nous than its per­for­mance-fo­cused Bar­racuda sis­ter, it has al­lowed the new 9 to be com­pletely re­de­vel­oped rather than sim­ply up­dated.

In con­cept the for­mula is much the same – a com­pact 9-me­tre Sports Util­ity Ves­sel (SUV) with four berths on the lower deck. But in ex­e­cu­tion it’s as though Bénéteau asked its ex­ist­ing Antares own­ers for a com­pre­hen­sive up­grade wish list be­fore check­ing out ev­ery com­peti­tor at a boat show for good mea­sure. There are some se­ri­ous up­dates to this model, and it starts be­fore you even step aboard with a new look that is curvier and sleeker, giv­ing the boat a far less util­i­tar­ian look than its pre­de­ces­sor, while an op­tional blue-grey hull adds a lit­tle colour (it changes be­tween the two colours quite no­tice­ably de­pend­ing on whether the sun is out) .

When you step on board those up­dates come thick and fast, start­ing with a slid­ing tran­som bench that pushes aft to max­imise cock­pit space but slides for­ward when you need to raise the en­gines. The star­board side deck is wider but also lower, the re­sult­ing deep bul­wark mak­ing for safe deck work and easy ac­cess for­ward (the port­side deck is raised and nar­rower, but still ac­ces­si­ble). Op­tional twin 300-litre fuel tanks in­crease space in the lazarette by split­ting the stan­dard sin­gle in two.

Head through the triple-sec­tion slid­ing sa­loon doors and you’ll find that the lay­out of a dinette to port op­po­site a gal­ley be­hind the star­board helm re­mains as per, but again much thought has gone into im­prov­ing both the style and use­ful­ness of this area.

The look is lifted by a smart white gloss fin­ish to the gal­ley front, with its soft-close draw­ers, con­cealed fridge and smoked glass top that hinges to be­come a splash-back. Over on the

port side, the for­ward dinette seat now can­tilevers eas­ily back to cre­ate for­ward-fac­ing seat­ing next to the helm, a huge im­prove­ment. And for the helm it­self, a new slid­ing door gifts the helms­man di­rect ac­cess to the side deck as well as mas­sively im­prov­ing the flow of fresh air on a warm day, aug­mented by the sin­gle large slid­ing roof hatch framed by a pair of long glass sky­lights. The lower deck also ben­e­fits from up­grades, the most sig­nif­i­cant of which is doors sep­a­rat­ing this area into two proper cab­ins. The for­ward cabin gains scis­sor berths that can be brought to­gether to cre­ate a large dou­ble berth, or split into two sin­gles. Even the heads is larger, tak­ing full ad­van­tage of the hull’s vol­ume.


All that ex­tra in­te­rior on a boat that mir­rors the 8.80’s hull length and beam leads to the in­evitable ques­tion, has it com­pro­mised the han­dling? Beneteau dealer The Boat Ex­change’s home port of Ply­mouth pro­vides the per­fect an­swer. At sub-15 me­tres we’re al­lowed to run fast in the smoother wa­ters in­side the break­wa­ter be­fore head­ing out into the rolling swell of the Chan­nel (which the boat had crossed the day be­fore on its re­turn from the Jersey Boat Show in a cred­itable seven hours).

Point­ing the boat di­rectly into the short steep chop does re­sult in a fair amount of ini­tially off-putting bang­ing as the hull im­pacts the waves. But if you an­a­lyse what you’re feel­ing rather than hear­ing, it’s far bet­ter than it sounds – the open in­te­rior act­ing like a large sound­ing board. Adding 50% trim tab to the trimmed in mo­tors im­proves things still fur­ther.

Al­though Windy aren’t go­ing to be los­ing sleep over the hull dy­nam­ics, it’s a per­fectly ac­cept­able ride con­sid­er­ing how much vol­ume has been eked out of the 9-me­tre hull. Bear away and it de­liv­ers a qui­eter, more com­fort­able but ad­mirably sta­ble ride run­ning beam on to the sea and down­wind. The in­evitable spray that oc­ca­sion­ally cas­cades across the curved wind­screen is dealt with eas­ily by two large pan­to­graph wipers that pro­vide great cover­age. Self-park­ing for the wipers would be a use­ful im­prove­ment, al­low­ing a one-touch wipe rather than need­ing to turn it off at the end of the sweep. The helm seat has a lift bol­ster but it’s more use­ful for pro­vid­ing eas­ier ac­cess to the side door than cre­at­ing a stand­ing drive po­si­tion – the seat’s height and the vis­i­bil­ity of­fered by the large win­dows mean a seated po­si­tion feels nat­u­ral. The ven­ti­la­tion of­fered by the slid­ing port win­dow, side door and roof would be wel­come on a hot day, al­low­ing you to keep the aft sa­loon doors slid shut. This would cre­ate an acous­tic bar­rier against the en­gines which, whilst near silent at low speed, be­come quite rau­cous once plan­ing.

At WOT the 34 knots at 5,900rpm we achieve is a lit­tle down on Beneteau’s claimed 38 knots at 6,100rpm with the same Suzuki DF200 200hp mo­tors and prob­a­bly re­flects the less than per­fect sea con­di­tions. Yamaha and Mer­cury are also avail­able, all in ei­ther twin 150hp or 200hp guise and there are plans for a sin­gle 350hp op­tion in due course. There is in­evitable com­pro­mise in pro­vid­ing great ac­com­mo­da­tion in a com­pact boat with gen­uine off­shore cre­den­tials (it’s an RCD Cat B rat­ing), but Bénéteau has man­aged the bal­anc­ing act well, as an em­pha­sis geared to­ward com­fort­able liv­ing rather than off­shore wave pound­ing prob­a­bly mir­rors the aver­age owner’s us­age pat­terns fairly ac­cu­rately.

Beamy new hull and out­board en­gines cre­ate space for two proper cab­ins be­low decks

HELM Slid­ing side door and deep bul­warks make it easy to helm sin­gle-handed

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