Beneteau has a well established reputation for quality yachts in Australia, but few boaties realise the French boat builder also produces a large range of luxury motoryachts with similar high levels of finish and workmanship. In fact, they have as many powerboats in their range as yachts. The Modern Boating team first saw the Beneteau motoryacht line-up at the 2004 Sydney International Boat Show. And it was clear that Beneteau's approach to powerboat design was distinctively Mediterranean. Stylish, open outdoor areas, the balanced use of timbers and laminates, generous access around the boat's periphery and less emphasis on interior volume, adds to this motoryacht's appeal.
Beneteau's approach is a bit different to other European builders ' more style with more space topside, but there's a little less room in the saloon. Fast forward six months and we are out on Sydney harbour. I am at the helm; the bow is pointing east and best of all it's not costing me a cent. The only trade-off is that I don't get to keep the keys at the end of the day. So, what will the keys to this excellent flybridge cruiser set you back' A base model costs around $771,000, but for that, the new owner gets control of more than 12 tonnes of Euro style, powered by twin Volvo 480hp diesels that deliver a top speed close to 30 knots.
The generous use of teak decking and light cherrywood panelling below deck, creates a boat that feels a cut above the average production boat. The walkways around the main cabin are wider than most 50 footers we've been on and the bowrail and high bulwarks extend almost completely aft, so all your guests can move about the boat with security. The foredeck boasts sun pad, so the girls can soak up a few rays, while at the stern a wide teak-laid swim platform gives easy access to the water. And while the photos in the slick Beneteau brochure bombshell babes, frolicking kids and twilight drinks ' were shot in Europe, they perfectly reflect much of the Aussie boating scene.
Below deck the large forward stateroom boasts a large island bed, extensive highgloss cherrywood trim, flat-screen TV and plenty of storage. The other two cabins have a double in one and two singles in the other, both with the same high standard of finish. There's also a separate bathroom for guests, so the owners can retain their privacy at all times. Both bathrooms enjoy natural light and the showers have a clever revolving Perspex door that keep all the spray from the showers contained. Another innovative facet of this boat is its easy access to all the helm electronics via the starboard bedroom. Any electrical problems can be easily traced to their source.
The main saloon is bathed in natural light and features the lower helm station, a leather settee and an open galley on the portside. It is not one of the biggest saloons we have seen on a boat of this size, but it's certainly one of the brightest and well finished. With the fully equipped galley to port, on the starboard side the leather lounge/settee wraps around a cherrywood table that can be moved into the aft cockpit if required. The settee faces the entertainment unit, bar and glassware cabinet. The bar also extends from the galley, so it effectively adds to the overall available bench space. With so much attention paid to the outdoor areas, I guess something had to give. For example, the wide exterior walkways do encroach in the saloon a little, but even so, the interior is well equipped and far from crowded.
However, when you weigh-up the craft as a whole, this layout offers more useable space than most vessels of this size. A quick look at the aft cockpit confirms this, it's quite generous, covered and flows through to the swim platform. This is the area where most people will be dining or relaxing when at anchor. Above the steering wheel (helm sounds better) is a panel where the VHF radio and flat-screen TV are located. There is no airconditioning onboard; however, there are big opening windows that do a great job of cross ventilating to keep the saloon comfortable. Moving outside, the teak-laid aft cockpit has a wide, sealing transom door to the swim platform.
A davit extends out from the combings allowing easy launch and retrieval of the tender, which can be stowed on the swim platform when underway. The aft cockpit has a permanent settee located in the starboard corner, which, combined with the moveable table and extra seating, creates the ideal area for al fresco dining as the sun sets over the water.
Topside the layout is interesting to say the least. Beneteau has managed to cram a lot into a modest bridge deck perhaps a little bit too much. The bridge has two seats at the helm, a table and settee and a good-sized sun pad. The helm seats feels like it has been designed for small people it's comfortable, but people are a bit close to each other. One big helm or a bench seat might have worked better.
Other creature comforts include a wet bar with teak drink holder, a cheese platter, a folding teak table with even more drink holders and a music system. What more could you want' The bridge helm is equipped almost as well as the one downstairs and offers great visibility from its forward position. The layout of some switches and controls take a little getting used to, but this shouldn't take you too long.
Up and running the Beneteau really shines. The twin turbocharged Volvo 480hp engines put the hull onto the plane effortlessly. She is an extremely quiet boat when underway, but the sense of power is always present. Her almost 1000hp of grunt gives a top speed of around 30 knots, but she cruises comfortably in the low to mid 20s. The hull feels balanced and needs minimal attention to trim. The heavily-flared bow ensures dry performance at sea. The hull planes at around 16 knots, but a slow, non-planing speed of 12 knots makes for a leisurely and fuel-efficient cruising speed. Access to the engine room is via a hatch in the cockpit floor.
This arrangement does block access to the saloon when it's open, but it does ensure that all the mess from engine work remains outside. It is difficult to cover the number of features that this craft has to offer in this short article, but be assured at sea they speak for themselves. Beneteau has delivered a vessel that offers tremendous style, performance and a balanced combination of indoor and outdoor facilities. She's a vessel that's ideally suited to Aussie conditions.
Words and Photos by Andrew Richardson