Ed­i­tor’s Log

Cruising World - - Contents -

It’s said you can’t buy hap­pi­ness, but you cer­tainly can pur­chase fun, which is ex­actly what Groupe Beneteau did this past July when it ac­quired Slove­nian sail­boat builder Seascape and its line of four sporty speed ma­chines that range in size from 14 to 27 feet.

Rather than try to cram as many crea­ture com­forts and ap­pli­ances as it could be­tween bow and stern, Seascape’s ap­proach was to keep its boats uniquely sim­ple but amaz­ingly ver­sa­tile, as I was to find out one fine blue-sky day in Newport, Rhode Is­land, last Septem­ber. But more on that in a minute. First, here’s the back story. Seascape was launched in 2008, at the height of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, by Kris­tian Ha­jnšek and An­draž Mi­he­lin, sailors who had each waged a cou­ple of Mini Transat 650 cam­paigns. They say it oc­curred to them at the time that it would be bet­ter to make money from sail­ing, rather than spend it on sail­ing.

So, while the rest of the planet was wring­ing its hands and count­ing spare change, the guys teamed up with Mini Transat de­signer Sa­muel Man­uard and came up with a line of boats that share three things in com­mon: light hulls, heavy cen­ter­boards and am­bi­tious sail plans. And right out of the chute, they came out kick­ing. Their boats were a hit in Eu­rope with rac­ing sailors. Then, the Seascape 27 was named Best Cross­over Boat of the Year for 2015 by our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion, Sail­ing World.a year later, the Seascape 18 was named Sail­ing World’s Best Recre­ational Racer. And the year after that, the same ti­tle was awarded to the Seascape 24. Clearly, the boys from Slove­nia were on a roll.

As Sail­ing World ed­i­tor Dave Reed put it in his write-up of the 24, “They’re clever, high-qual­ity builds that sail well. Their un­in­tim­i­dat­ing sim­plic­ity in­spires ad­ven­tures un­der sail.”

Ad­ven­tures, yes, but let’s be clear. These are not “cruis­ing” boats, which is why our Boat of the Year team had never stepped aboard one. Sure, the 27 has a head, and all the mod­els but the 14-footer have at least a V-berth and min­i­mal­ist cabin to get out of the weather, but that’s about it.

The French builder brought the 18-foot and 24-foot mod­els, re­branded as Beneteau Firsts, to Newport and set up camp on the dock at Fort Adams a few days be­fore the Newport In­ter­na­tional Boat Show opened. The road­show also in­cluded the new Fi­garo 3 foil­ing race­boat and the Ocea­nis 46.1. The idea was to give its U.S. deal­ers and ed­i­tors a look at what’s new.

Just after I ar­rived at the fort, three of us, in­clud­ing Kris­tian Ha­jnšek, set off on the Seascape, er, I mean, First 18, sail­ing along­side the 24, with four or five peo­ple aboard. Both boats were mo­tor­less (out­boards are an op­tion), so we hoisted the square-top main at the dock and back-winded the jib to get un­der­way. Nearly as soon as we were clear of the fort, Kris­tian pulled out the bowsprit and set the spin­naker that was stored in a bag on the port­side fore­deck. In about 10 knots of breeze, we took off like a shot. There was more than enough room for the three of us in the 18’s wide cock­pit, and sneak­ing a peek be­low, I was in­trigued by the comfy-look­ing V-berth. As we jibed our way up to­ward the Newport Bridge, I day­dreamed about a sporty ride to Cut­ty­hunk, then an overnight an­chored in the marshy part of the har­bor where big boats dare not tread.

Sadly, we were on a sched­ule, and far too soon, Kris­tian tugged on the re­trieval line and pulled the chute back into its cage. Wow, that was easy!

I jumped on the tiller for the ride back up­wind. Kris­tian strapped the jib in tight and played the vang and other con­trol lines to power up or damp down the main as the breeze de­manded. His small ad­just­ments more than tamed the puffs. And the 24 couldn’t shake us.

Back at the dock, I joined Kris­tian’s mate An­draž, also now a Beneteau guy, on the 24. Sit­ting be­low, un­der the small raised cabin house, he showed me a table that can be set up in min­utes, the boat’s sim­ple elec­tri­cal sys­tem and how seats slide out from un­der the cock­pit should guests come for sup­per. They also widen the set­tee berths to turn them into proper bunks.

The boat was built for day­sail­ing and one-de­sign rac­ing, but I couldn’t help but won­der if a demo model might be avail­able some­time to go for a proper cruise. It would be fast, fun and, if your kit in­cluded a cooler and camp stove, to­tally doable. My only other ques­tion: When can we go?

Beneteau’s newly ac­quired Firsts — the 18’s in the fore­ground — may be Spar­tan, but they sure are a hoot t0 sail.

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