Superb on water footage
Issue: June 2005
By the time you read this, the latest Beneteau 750 Flyers will have already arrived on Aussie shores. However, Beneteau were so excited about the release of its new Air-step hull technology that it felt an international media launch was warranted. So, quite unexpectedly, this member of the Modern Boating team found himself attending the sea trials of these new boats in the Mediterranean off Valencia, Spain.
Once there my only problem was that my rusty high school French was not good enough to explain the complex manoeuvres I needed to get great running shots of the boats. So I turned to a Portuguese colleague who was also on the flybridge of this rather impressive 12m Beneteau Antares that was being used as the photo boat.
"Do you speak English'"
"OK, can you translate'"
So with my Portuguese mate translating my English to French in Spain, as we belted along at more than 30 knots, we eventually got some rather unexpected and exciting shots.
Beneteau's Air-step design differs from other stepped hulls because it uses forward- facing 'steps' moulded into the hull to reduce friction by stopping water re-adhering to the hull after it passes each step. This stepped design also has an airpressure intake that forces a cushion of air under the hull that further increases performance and softens the 750 Flyer's ride considerably.
The final cog in Air-step's wheel is the use of 'aft runners' to compress air during tight turns. This helps maintain control and allows for good acceleration out off the turn. We tested these new boats in extremely choppy conditions and the hulls literally spent most of the time in the air, more than living up to their 'Flyers' name. Even so, with three people onboard none of the team got wet and the ride was extremely soft considering the conditions. During this media launch we tested a twin-engine Open Flyer, a single-engine Open Flyer and a single-engine Walk Around version with a cuddy cabin. All of the boats are based on the same hull and top-end performance and acceleration varied, but their rough sea handling was consistent. The single-engine Walk-Around Flyer has plenty of family appeal, top-notch Euro styling and a layout that includes a cuddy cabin with vee-Berth, enclosed head and a small galley. The kids will love the walk-around bow seating, because it converts into a sun pad. This boat also features a good deep anchor well with optional windlass.
Flyer 750 Walk-around
The subtle use of exterior teak trims on the combings and underfoot further enhances the Euro styling. It accentuates the boat's curves using highly polished stainless steel and blue and white upholstery. But small features such as the lift -and-lock access door to the aft deck step show just how much attention to detail was paid during these new boat's design stage.
The three-bucket seats around the helm look a bit awkward, but this set-up allows individual seat adjustment and good access to the grab handles. The driver's seat is well positioned in relation to the helm and the dash features standard engine instrumentation, plus an optional Raymarine GPS/chartplotter.
By the time we got behind the wheel of this boat the wind had picked up and the chop was producing a lot of spray. However, the high fared bow kept us all dry, much dryer than we expected. The 250hp Suzuki four-stoke outboard strapped to the transom delivered a good balanced ride. And even in the sloppy swells we managed to get plenty of air under this 2.2 tonne hull. The test craft was fitted with many options ranging from a sunbathing pad, extra cushions, teak decks, refrigerators, the chartplotter and electronic windlass. In Australia, the base boat should cost around $115,000.
During the test we obtained the following reading from the onboard GPS. In more ideal conditions I am sure a higher top speed could be obtained. At 3000rpm the 250hp Suzuki four-stroke did 12 knots; 4000rpm, 23 knots; 5200rpm, 33 knots; and 5500, 38 knots.
Flyer 750 Open
The 750 Open is the lower cost option in the Air-step Flyer series. She has a centre console, bow seating, a larger cockpit and less accommodation. The hull is the Beneteau Air-step design, but the rig behaves like a much lighter boat.
We had two rigs to put through their paces, one with a single Suzuki 250hp four-stroke and the other with twin 140hp Suzukis. The twin-engine Flyer had more power out of the hole and could make much tighter turns, while the single-engine boat seemed a bit easier to handle and wound out to roughly the same speed.
The handling of both versions was similar to the Walk-Around Flyer. The hulls turn well, respond quickly to trim changes and handle the slop and chop easily.
On-water tests of the twin-engine rig produced the following rpm-to-speed readings: 8 knots at 2600rpm; 14 knots at 3000; 20 knots at 3600rpm; 33 knots at 5000rpm; 37 knots at 5600rpm and 42 knots at 6200rpm.
It's worth noting that John Waters from JW Marine Australia, has already set-up a local boat with twin 135 Hondas fitted with slightly bigger props. This produces a similar top end to those we tested in Spain ' somewhere in the vicinity of 50mph.
These Open Flyers enjoy all the smick Euro finishes of the Walk-Around version, but they also show the versatility of the hulls, depending on the options chosen.
For example, the twin-engine Flyer doesn't have teak combings, but still has buckets seats. On the other hand the single-engine rig has a moulded bench seat with a storage unit fitted for fishing tackle. More compartments can be added if required.
The rig can be set-up as a luxury family runabout or a more practical off shore fishing platform. Depending on options fitted and the engines chosen, the Open Flyer 750 will cost upwards of $108,460, while the locally set-up twin 135hp Honda rig costs around $120,000 before any options are added.
The finish and build quality of all the boats was extremely high. The solid fibreglass hulls get their strength from the use of a bonded structural inner moulding and the decks are made from a Balsa/fibreglass sandwich construction.
Those familiar with Beneteau yachts in Australia will know that it has established quite a reputation over many decades as a production boat builder that doesn't cut corners. The fact that they bought along the original Flyer prototype to the sea trials ' it kind of looked like a crash-test dummy boat ' illustrated the extent of development that went into the hulls prior to their launch.
The Beneteau 750 Air-step Flyer range will satisfy many marine pallets. Whether it's a family-focussed rig with all the bells and whistles, or the simplified single engine open craft , they all enjoy the exceptional ride and handling delivered by Beneteau's newly patented and aptly named Air-step technology.
Specifications: 7.50 Walk-around
HULL LENGTH: 7.0m
MAX HP: 300hp
Specifications: 7.50 Open
HULL LENGTH: 7.0m
MAX HP: 300hp
The Story So Far
Beneteau has been building boats for more than 100 years. It all started in 1884 when Benjamin Beneteau, a fully qualified shipwright, founds Beneteau Boatyards in Croix-de-Vie, France, to build trawlers for fishermen.
From these humble beginnings Beneteau has become a worldwide company with a reputation for building high quality sailing and powerboats.
The Beneteau Group has more than 4000 employees and a covered factory area of 263,479sq m. With its 18 production sites, Beneteau now has a large presence in more than 30 counties.
Managing Director, of the Beneteau Group, Bruno Cathelinais, said that having laid its extremely solid foundations, the company has grown and matured, consolidating its assets daily. 'The strength of a company finds expression when everyone works as a team around a clearly defined strategy, with a shared passion.' he said.
JW Marine, as the importer of Beneteau powerboats will continue the tradition and the passion for future owners of Beneteau powerboats, with its constant quest for progress that will provide customers with the highest degree of safety and comfort on the water.
Beneteau also produce a large range of high quality performance and cruising yachts.
Words & Photos by Andrew Richardson