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Beneteau uses the 8’3” (2.52 m) full beam of its Flyer 6 and the boat’s deep forefoot to add significant space inside the boat as well as to greatly enhance handling and ride characteristics in challenging conditions.
Mission of the Flyer 6 SPORTdeck
All three boats in the Flyer 6 line are built to the high-quality standards while also keeping the boats quite simple to provide affordable entry-level runabouts. This family-oriented SPORTdeck can handle the mission of just about any bowrider, but with a hull better suited to unprotected water than many bowriders we come across.
Offshore Boating. Americans should keep in mind that its contemporary sportboats find their bloodlines were spawned on the summer-resort lakes in the Midwest and northern New York state. Here, not only captains of industry, but also the middle class have had summer cottages and houses for nearly a century. Most the great brand names originated on these lakes from the Finger Lakes to Minnesota. But France is not known for inland lakes. With its miles of Med, Atlantic, and English Channel coast line so close to the majority of its population, little wonder that its sportboats must be able to handle far more challenging conditions.
In a word, the Flyer 6 series, even though it is only 19'11" (6.07 m) long, is designed for coastal waters.
The relatively wide beam forward provides seats with deep storage beneath and there is a sun pad filler available for the bow. The aft seat flips open into another large sun pad.
Beneteau stripped the bowrider down to it’s bare elements, and then provided virtually all of the essentials for a family sportboat, but not much else in order to keep the cost to the consumer down. There is no superfluous upholstery or a kickin’ sound system, just the necessary cushions, but the materials used are what we’ve come to expect on well-built boats.
New Thinking. Beneteau rethought the bowrider concept with a strict emphasis on practical features for everyday boating -- like the spacious cockpit and bow, generous storage, large sun pads both fore and aft that give the boat utility. Options such as a marine toilet, electric anchor windlass and a full bow-to-stern sun shade system allow individual owners to match amenities to their specific needs.
Seaworthiness Comes First. Underneath it all, Beneteau built a hull that provides the family a comfortable ride and gives the skipper complete confidence in any reasonable sea. Beneteau’s Air Step hull increases economy markedly -- significantly more efficient in our tests aboard hulls of a similar Beneteau model without AirStep.
In the wide bow, cushions for seats and a filler for the notch between provide plenty of room for stretching out. The extra-wide foot well provides room for people to sit around a table if one is used.
The squared-off, nearly vertical hull sides forward provide wide seating and expansive storage above the waterline in the bow, while the deep-V forefoot adds yet another deep locker below the waterline on the centerline of the boat.
The Hull Shape is Different
Beneteau’s reinvention of the bowrider begins below the waterline. The unique hull shape helps the company fulfill its overriding concept of a safe, comfortable, family-oriented bowrider for coastal work.
Drawbacks to a Traditional Deep-V Hull
Conventional wisdom says a deep-V hull handles rough water well at higher speeds. It does, but at the cost of fuel efficiency, a propensity to roll at rest, and a balance sensitivity to lateral weight distribution. Also, when underway deep-V hulls are also known to roll a bit more in a beam sea.
Over the decades, many naval architects have modified the deep-V, typically by keeping the wave-cutting, high-deadrise angle in the bow forefoot, while warping the bottom sections to flatter angles at the stern for better economy, speed and increased stability.
The wide beam carries well forward, but then a double chine narrows at the bow and creates a deep-V.
Fine Entry. The Flyer 6 hull keeps a particularly fine entry forward. The bow is even a little concave in cross section. This very fine entry cuts smoothly through the small, steep chop that springs up in protected waters from strong winds.
Deep Forefoot. As the waves get bigger, such as those often found in coastal waters, that convex shape lets the bow cut into each wave softly, but as it sinks deeper into each wave, the progressively wider cross section of the hull provides incrementally more buoyancy, therefore more lift.
Testimonial. We have run this boat offshore the Atlantic Ocean on a sloppy day and were impressed by how well she handled relatively high and steep waves at the inlet as well as the swells offshore.
Pronounced Flare and Wide Bow
The Flyer 6's concave cross-sections forward serve another purpose, as well. It throws spray out, away from the boat. Add to that Beneteau’s wide reverse chine, which deflects that spray back down toward the water to keep the deck dry.
Above and Below Buoyancy. But the real secret is the wide bow. Think of the bow of a 20’ rigid-hull inflatable. Once that big air tube hits the water, it won’t sink, no mater how big the wave. The wide bow of Beneteau’s Flyer 6 hull serves exactly the same purpose, providing reserve buoyancy to keep the bow above the seas -- even in six footers.
In addition to the natural buoyancy of the deep forefoot, the key is also to keep that bow light. In this way, weight doesn’t overcome the advantages of the hull shape.
The hull is injection-molded and a vacuum is pulled to complete the process. Balsa is used in the hull and no synthetic core material can equal its puncture strength versus weight. Delamination is also far less likely with a properly manufactured balsa core vs. other materials. Anywhere thru-hull fittings attach to the boat, the balsa is replaced with large solid fiberglass pads. The transom is similarly reinforced. Because a coat of vinylester resin is used below the waterline, hydrostatic water osmosis is not a danger.
Measured Weight. Beneteau cuts fiberglass by computer, with the strands of each piece oriented to maximize strength, and then they infuse precisely the correct volume of their proprietary resin into the mold. This assures complete bonds between the balsa core and fiberglass inner and outer skins, as well as the ideal ratio of resin to fiberglass through every inch of the boat.
The result is not only light, but also provides a thinner hull for its strength than PVC core -- inches saved inside the boat.
A double chine forward quickly narrows the wide bow into a conventional, deep-v forefoot.
Important Bottom Shapes
Lifting Strakes. Ridges running fore and aft on the hull, common to most deep-V designs, add horizontal running surface to help lift the boat higher out of the water and thereby increase speed and fuel economy.
Reversed Hard Chine. Essentially this is a large lifting strake right where the hull bottom turns up into the hull side. This creates lift, mitigates rolling at slow speed or at rest, helps the boat dig into sharp turns, and deflects spray outward and down.
Up in the bow, the Flyer 6 hull actually has a double chine -- one near the waterline and another a bit higher on the hull side. This helps widen the deck and seating above the waterline while keeping a narrower hull beneath. The double chine also adds one more chance to deflect spray outward.
The aft end of the hull is considerably flatter than traditional deep-V boats, thereby increasing lift and stability.
This illustrates how air funnels beneath the Air Step hull and creates a sheet of drag-reducing bubbles beneath the stern.
Air Step Technology
The Step. Cutting a step into a hull -- a sudden change in a boat’s bottom, running from chine to keel, which steps the stern section of the hull up a few inches closer to the water’s surface -- dates back to early twentieth-century hydrofoil race boats.
Suction from the boat’s forward motion draws air in through the notch created where the stepped bottom and hull side meet at the chine. That air funnels beneath the stern, allowing the entire back of the boat to ride on a theoretical cushion of air bubbles. The air cushion reduces drag, thereby increasing speed, fuel economy or both.
Drawbacks to Traditional Stepped Hulls. But stepped hulls can be a bit tricky to run right around minimum planing speed. With the boat moving along at, say, 16 knots, someone moves aft in the boat and the resulting weight shift buries the air notch into the water a bit. Now the step isn’t drawing in as much air, drag increases and the boat slows below planing speed, say to 9 knots.
Channels recessed into the hull bottom trap air and funnel it aft.
Adding just a bit more power to get back above planing speed lifts the notch higher out of the water and pulls more air beneath the boat, decreasing drag and accelerating past the desired 16 knots to 20 knots or more. Traditional stepped hulls also tend to lose their drag-reducing bubbles in sharp turns.
Careful step design and electronic engines that adjust throttle to automatically compensate as engine load changes mitigate this problem on larger boats, where one person moving about doesn’t affect trim much. But a 180-pound guy changing position on a 20-foot, 3,000 lb. (1,363 kgs.) boat is going to change trim noticeably.
The air spreads across a recessed bottom, so the stern rides on drag-reducing air bubbles.
Drawing Air from Elsewhere
AirStep, Mark I. In its original iteration, which we tested in 2011, Beneteau’s Air Step technology gains the efficiency of a step but overcomes this medium-speed problem by drawing air beneath to the keel distribution point by means of air tubes from topside.
The result, according to our side-by-side comparison of the original, clamshell-vented Air Step design and an identical but non-vented 24’ (7.32 m), 4,400 lb. (1,996 kgs.) hull, was a 20% increase in fuel economy. Stunningly, the vented boat we tested, powered by a pair of 115-hp outboards, outperformed its non-vented sister ship powered by twin 140-hp outboards.
AirStep, Mark II. With this new Flyer 6 hull, the company now draws air from the bow. That wide, convex, flared bow funnels air into 4’’ wide channels cut into the hull, which run aft, to the stern. A slightly recessed pad cut into the stern traps the air beneath, decreasing drag, without the liability of that notch in the hull side to suddenly squat below the water. Further, and certainly more important, two large holes in the bottom of the boat are eliminated.
Increased Stability and Tighter Turning
Beneteau contains the air bubbles sucked below in a recessed section of boat bottom that spans most of the width of the boat, but stops before reaching the chines. This keeps direct boat-to-water contact at the outboard edge of the hull, where it adds stability and aids in sharp turns.
Bow seating offers plenty of room for several people to spread out.
A good place to begin a bowrider review is at the pointy end of the boat -- except this boat doesn’t quite come to a point. Beneteau’s rather unique hull shape, creates a wide, squared-off bow with deep storage beneath the seats. The bow really is as wide as most tri-hull bowriders.
But unlike tri-hull boats that lose storage down low in the hull, the deep center forefoot of this Flyer 6 hull results in a centerline storage compartment deep enough to fit two wakeboards -- a trick usually seen only on conventional V-shaped hulls. Conversely a conventional V-hull, triangular in cross section from rub rail to keel, typically gives up storage space outboard, beneath bow seats.
A privacy tent creates a changing room and head in the bow.
Instead of a Porta-Potti to empty, Beneteau uses a full marine toilet.
Family Friendly Amenities
The Flyer 6 SPORTdeck’s family-oriented amenities also begin in the bow. Storage here is so generous that Beneteau offers an optional marine toilet (not just a Porta-Potti) beneath the port bow seat. A privacy tent raises to turn the bow into a head. No more fast dashes to the closest marina when a little one has more to do than can be done over the stern.
The standard anchor bow roller and optional anchor windlass, which is controlled by a wand, is another example of rethinking family boating. Now Dad doesn’t have to use sheer muscle to pull the boat into the wind, or rely on someone else to drive the boat forward to slacken the anchor line. Anyone aboard can raise the hook.
The helm provides room for all the essentials and then some, in a dark color to reduce glare.
There really isn’t much room for innovation in a 20’ (6.09 m) bowrider helm, but what is here has been well thought out. Beneteau includes space for a navigation screen, engine display and a depth finder. The compass, tucked away inboard and beneath the windscreen, isn’t in an ideal location, but it’s completely usable without encroaching on prime space for electronics, which are viewed far more often today than a compass.
The hydraulic steering wheel doesn’t tilt, but it’s positioned well for both sitting and standing. The ignition key, kill-cord switch and other electrical switches are outboard where they’re easily reached but difficult to bump accidentally.
A storage nook molded into the dash between the steering wheel and shift/throttle has an adjacent 12-volt electrical outlet.
The boat’s unusually wide beam pays off with room for both captain’s and companion’s seats to swivel 360-degrees, while still leaving plenty of room between them.
Beam Pays. We did find one surprise at the helm and the companion station across the boat. Thanks in part to the boat’s 8’3” full beam, both seats swivel 360 degrees without hitting the inside of the cockpit combing (a problem we find on many similarly sized boats). That seems like a small thing, but the ability to swivel without first adjusting the seat comes into play when looking aft while docking, while driving during towed watersports, and even when simply turning aft at anchor to join the conversation in the cockpit.
The wide beam and bench seat pushed far aft gives the Flyer 6 SPORTdeck a spacious cockpit, while the lines of the hull create high gunnels for security.
Large, Secure Cockpit
A few surprises popped up in the cockpit, too. First is its size, it is slightly larger than many boats on the market thanks again to the 8'3" (2.51 m) full beam. Second, and more importantly for a family with small children or pets, the 32" (80 cm) average height from cockpit sole to gunnel keeps everyone safe within. The walkthrough to the transom is blocked by an upholstered seat back/gate that’s stoutly made of stainless steel. It locks securely into a socket in the deck or pivots out of the way to pass through.
Thanks to clever design that pushes this bench seat a foot farther aft than most boats, the cockpit has plenty of legroom.
Even with the sunpad deployed, there is still plenty of room between it and the helm chair.
Sun Pad and Bench Seat. That seat back/gate melds with the upholstered seat back of the aft bench seat, which conceals two more interesting designs. First, the bench seat bottom folds forward, doubling its width into a large sun pad. But more significantly, that entire seat is mounted far aft, actually precluding the engine from tilting all the way up, out of the water.
This clever trick does mean the seat must be folded forward, into a sun pad, when storing the boat with the engine tilted up, but that’s a small inconvenience when it gains useable cockpit length on a 20-foot boat. With the aft seat in its normal position, the outboard tilts up enough to run in shallow water or beach the boat.
A telescoping stainless steel swim ladder fits into a recess in the swim deck in the swim deck storage. A hatch accesses a locker.
The aft bench seat folds forward and another panel raises for the outboard to tilt completely out of the water during storage, but this small accommodation allows Beneteau to position that bench seat about a foot farther aft, creating a larger cockpit.
The optional wakeboard tower compliments the lines of the boat well.
Watersports Tower and Sunshade
The optional wakeboard tower folds forward for trailering by loosening a large knob on each aft leg.
Without the tower, a typical Bimini top covers from the aft bench seat forward to the windscreen. But a common complaint from boat buyers, Beneteau says, is not enough sun protection. To keep little ones shaded anywhere aboard while at anchor and docked, an additional sun awning secures to the front of the Bimini top and extends forward all the way to the bow, where supports holds it aloft.
The Bimini covers the entire aft cockpit, with the sun awning stowed in a boot held against the forward Bimini support.
While at anchor or docked, the sun awning zips to the front of the Bimini top, and the aluminum support attaches to the bow rail.
The optional Bimini top, shown here on the Flyer 6 SPACEdeck, covers the entire cockpit, while at anchor, the extended bimini extends fully forward covering the bow.
Certainly this boat isn’t for everyone. Some will want a more plush interior. But it’s hard to come away from any of Beneteau’s Flyer 6 boats unimpressed. It’s clear the company considered carefully its vision for a bowrider, and then executed that vision particularly well in this SPORTdeck.
As mentioned above, we have taken this boat offshore off the coast of France in conditions not really appropriate for more standard low-freeboard American Midwest bred deckboats. For boaters considering coastal work or truly big lakes, the Flyer 6 SPORTdeck should be considered.
Innovation reaches levels we seldom encounter aboard similarly sized boats. Given the boat’s quite reasonable price, particularly when considering Beneteau’s impressive construction and uncompromising choice for materials, the Flyer 6 SPORTdeck is sure to cause many people to step back and take a fresh, hard look.
= Standard = Optional
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