BÉNÉTEAU ANTARES 9
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