Yacht of the Year 2008
Cruising or racing, this European lady is up for it
If you want to know where production cruiser/racer design is going, look no further. Development in Beneteau’s First lines of craft had been quiet until 2007, when the Beneteau’s First 50 introduced a fresh new style. It’s almost anti-traditional because folding doors hide the navigation instruments, sink and stove and the stowage areas. Nothing is allowed to interfere with the clean horizontal lines created by the grained white oak trim.
This is a sports cruiser, a very fast, very pleasurable racing yacht with a wonderful interior. The 50 has a modern IRC (handicap system) style hull with a healthy beam and hollow waterline entry.
On the First 50 the whole transom folds down to create a landing platform. There are twin wheels for easy walkthrough. There’s no mainsheet traveller; instead the designers have provided a central mainsheet electric winch on a pedestal on the centreline whose only job is to control the angle of the boom to the centreline. The mainsail’s leech is controlled by a hydraulic vang.
The headsail winches are mounted just ahead of the wheels, so the helmsman can winch if he must when sailing short-handed, but there’s room for the crew to do the work efficiently when racing. The rest of the cockpit is clear as the secondary winches are on the coachroof.
This boat has an aluminium three-spreader mast the black finish and rod rigging show it has the optional S-pack.
To achieve the clean deck, control lines are led through channels each side of the green-tinted clear panels on the centreline.
The large master cabin is forward with en-suite and there are two cabins aft. The galley has an icebox, fridge, freezer, and a four-burner stove with oven.
This is an easy boat to sail. The helm is quite firm but perfectly geared. A teak foot brace behind each wheel helps locate the helmsman when the boat heels. Another on the centreline is valuable as it can be a long way from the lee wheel to the windward when the boat is heeled.
The helmsman can see the headsail tufts when sitting on the windward side without craning the neck or leaning outboard.
It’s a class act. It’s high style and Beneteau have been here before.