Go Fast or Go Easy: We Compare Four Sailboats - 03/30/2018
Beneteau First 35 Carbon Edition
Beneteau First 35 Carbon Edition
Beneteau Oceanis 35.1
Beneteau Oceanis 35.1
Beneteau Oceanis 38.1
Beneteau Oceanis 38.1
Beneteau Oceanis 41.1
Beneteau Oceanis 41.1

We are comparing four sailboats, all by Beneteau, the largest selling sailboat brand in the U.S. Sailboats are not what they used to be a generation ago -- they're a lot more comfortable and easier to sail these days – and much of this change was pioneered by Beneteau. Beneteau not only offers both race- and cruise-oriented hulls, large and small sail plans and different deck layouts, but also several cabin options for most of their boats. Compare these four boats to see the difference in functionality.

THE COMPARISON STARTS HERE

Beneteau builds three lines of sailboats:

  • The First models range from 20' (.51 m) to 35' (.89 m)
  • Oceanis from 31' (.79 m) to 60' (1.52 m), and
  • Sense from 50' (1.27 m) to 55' (1.40 m).

Oceanis models are designed for cruisers who want sailing simplicity; Sense vessels are luxurious; First is for racers and sport sailors.

Racer/Cruiser. What differentiates a "racer" from a "cruiser?" Look at the First 35 Carbon Edition and the Oceanis 35.1. The First is 1'4" (.41 m) longer in LOA; the two boats are virtually equal in displacement, but the First carries 780 sq. ft. (72.5 sq. m) of working sail vs. 585 sq. ft. (54.4 sq. m) for the Oceanis. Sail area means horsepower, but also potentially more work for the crew; folks not wanting to work up a sweat traveling between Points A to B usually prefer a cruising boat. But some people like having more strings to pull; for them, a First is the first choice. For more details on the First 35 Carbon Edition and the Oceanis 35.1, 38.1, and 41.1, read on. As always, contact BoatTEST.com with any questions.

Go Fast or Go Easy
Beneteau's First 35 Carbon.

Beneteau's First 35 Carbon Edition carries her sail on a 56'8" (17.3 m) tall rig, 6' (15.2 cm) taller than on the Oceanis 35.1. The carbon fiber mast is light and stiff, and supported by rod rigging which helps the sails hold their shape better as the wind builds. (Wire rigging stretches a bit under strain.) It also reduces windage. The Kevlar backstay is adjusted by a cascading-block array convenient to the helmsman. A carbon-fiber bowsprit in a housing makes setting the asymmetrical spinnaker easier, as well as keeping weight out of the bow.

Halyards, sheets, and other control lines lead to the cockpit, which is laid out for efficient sailing or racing by a crew of three or four. The traveler is just ahead of the wheel, and can be adjusted by helmsman or crew. The First 35 Carbon Edition has a single wheel whose pedestal tilts to port and starboard, so the helmsman can sit to weather or to leeward.

Adding backstay tension on a fractional rig like this one induces mast bend, which flattens the mainsail, allows higher pointing and reduces heel. It's an adjustment that go-fast sailors fiddle with constantly.

Interior. Once across the finish line, the crew will enjoy the First 35's nicely appointed cabin, with double berths fore and aft and a full-beam dinette amidships. There's an L-shaped galley and a chart table. Joinery is blond Alpi-manufactured pseudo-wood that's both attractive and easy to maintain. Gone are the days when racing sailors slept on spare sails or soggy foam mattresses; the First 35 Carbon Edition is as comfortable as most cruising boats.

Go Fast or Go Easy
Beneteau Oceanis 35.1.

Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 is less about competition and more about cruising comfort -- but she should sail well, too, and with minimal effort, using just the mainsail and 105% jib. We think she would be fun to use for Wednesday night races at the club. The arch ensures the boom is well above noggin level, and keeps the mainsheet clear of the cockpit. Performance sailboats carry the boom low, to maximize sail area and aerodynamic effect, but that's not as important aboard a cruiser as crew convenience and safety.

Twin Wheels. The 12'2" (3.71 m) beam Oceanis 35.1 carries twin wheels and rudders, so when heeled over, the leeward rudder is deeply immersed for added control in all conditions. And the twin wheels allow the captain to pick his favorite vantage point. A slight chine worked into the hull adds stability, and also room below decks, where there are twin double cabins under the cockpit.

2/3 cabins. Beneteau offers both two- and three-cabin layouts, with L-shaped or fore-and-aft "long" galley, in two trim levels. We think most cruising sailors will find a setup that fits.

The added sail area, sail controls, and other "go-fast" gear found on race boats add speed that's crucial for racing, but not so much for cruising. Sailing skill is more important. A well-sailed cruiser will beat a poorly-sailed racer of similar LOA almost every time.

Go Fast or Go Easy
Beneteau's Oceanis 38.1.

Beneteau's Oceanis 38.1 is essentially a bigger version of the 35.1, with more room both above and below decks -- room for two or three double cabins; one head with a separate stall shower, or two heads; L-shaped or long galley; L-lounge around the dinette, or face-to-face seating across the table. In each layout, the official master stateroom is forward.

Aft, Beneteau will fit the Oceanis 38.1 with side-by-side double cabins, or one portside double and extra stowage space to starboard, accessible from the cockpit. On deck, there are twin wheels with plenty of space between them for easy access to the drop-down swim platform. Jib-sheet winches are just forward of the wheels; an easy reach for the helmsman. The mainsheet's trimmed with a winch next to the companionway.

We think most buyers will want the optional arch, but even without it, the boom's high enough to pass over most people's heads. The cockpit is wide enough for a permanently mounted drop-leaf table on the centerline. Wide cockpits can be hard to negotiate when heeled over, so the handholds on the optional table will be handy. A liferaft locker is under the cockpit sole.

The arch provides good handholds for leaving the cockpit to go forward; it has LED lights for a light at night; it does away with the mainsheet bridle, and gets the sheet out of the way; and it's an ideal place to anchor cruising canvas.

Go Fast or Go Easy
Beneteau's Oceanis 41.1

Beneteau's Oceanis 41.1 is the boat for those who think big, or who want to go on extended cruises and need more stowage space and comfort at sea. Her cockpit's the largest of any boat her size, according to Beneteau, and becomes even larger when the swim platform's deployed. It's not just for swimming; it facilitates boarding the dinghy. When folded, the swim platform nestles into the transom and becomes the after end of the cockpit.

Accommodations are in two or three cabins, with one or two heads, in a variety of layouts. Six hullside windows provide extra natural light, beyond that from the six deck hatches. Standard joinery is Alpi mahogany, but light oak is optional and will make the cabin brighter.

The Iron Jib. Unlike the other Oceanis models in this roundup, the 41.1 has a Yanmar diesel spinning a conventional propeller; the other boats have Sail-Drives. A three-bladed folding propeller and a bow thruster are optional.

Cruisers often like to explore shallow bays and coves, and while experienced sailors accept running aground as part of cruising, it's not much fun. Beneteau fits the Oceanis 41.1 (and other boats in the Oceanis line) with either deep or shallow keels. The deep keel draws 7'2" (2.18 m), shallow just 5'6" (1.68 m) -- that will not only let the 41.1 sneak in closer to the beach, but should also minimize running aground during gunkholing adventures.

As always, contact us if you have questions about any of these Beneteau sailboats.

Ask A Question About Any Of These Boats

Beneteau First 35 Carbon Edition

Beneteau First 35 Carbon Edition Interior Beneteau First 35 Carbon Edition Interior
  • LOA: 35' 7" (10.85 m)
  • LWL: 30' 7" (9.32 m)
  • Beam: 11' 11" (3.63 m)
  • Draft: 7' 5" (2.26 m)
  • Mast Height: 56' 8" (17.3 m)
  • Displacement: 13,360 lbs. (6,060 kg)
  • Sail Area: 780 sq. ft. (72.5 sq. m)
  • Auxiliary Power: 29-hp Yanmar Sail-Drive
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Beneteau Oceanis 35.1

Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 Interior Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 Interior
  • LOA: 34' 3" (10.4 m)
  • LWL: 31' 10" (9.70 m)
  • Beam: 12' 2" (3.71 m)
  • Draft: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
  • Mast Height: 50' 8" (15.4 m)
  • Displacement: 12,195 lbs. (5,532 kg)
  • Sail Area: 585 sq. ft. (54.4 sq. m)
  • Auxiliary Power: 30-hp Yanmar Sail-Drive
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Beneteau Oceanis 38.1

Beneteau Oceanis 38.1 Interior Beneteau Oceanis 38.1 Interior
  • LOA: 37' 9" (11.51 m)
  • LWL: 35' 2" (10.7 m)
  • Beam: 13' 1" (3.99 m)
  • Draft: 6' 10" (2.08 m)
  • Mast Height: 54' 4" (16.6 m)
  • Displacement: 15,102 lbs. (6,850 kg)
  • Sail Area: 748 sq. ft. (69.5 sq. m)
  • Auxiliary Power: 30-hp Yanmar Sail-Drive
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Beneteau Oceanis 41.1

Beneteau Oceanis 41.1 Interior Beneteau Oceanis 41.1 Interior
  • LOA: 40' 9" (12.42 m)
  • LWL: 37' 4" (11.4 m)
  • Beam: 13' 9" (4.19 m)
  • Draft: 7' 2" (2.18 m)
  • Mast Height: 61' 11" (18.87 m)
  • Displacement: 19,350 lbs. (8,777 kg)
  • Sail Area: 882 sq. ft. (81.9 sq. m)
  • Auxiliary Power: 45-hp Yanmar diesel
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