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Did someone say, Goldilocks?

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 29 Aug 2021 22:00 UTC
The Beneteau First Yacht 53 uses her sails to give the helmer the most enveloping feelings of power and control. The factory also loved this image © John Curnow

Going back a good while now, well into the pre-Covid era actually, I had the distinct pleasure of being granted a one on one meeting with Beneteau's then newest employee. Flagstaff Marine's Graham Raspass had set up the informal conversation with Gianguido Girotti, who had come to Australia to be part of Sydney's boat show.

It was a wonderful conversation, and I felt like G3 (as he is known), and I, got on exceptionally well. I was also privileged to see the faint outlines of a new vessel designed to bring back the spirit of racing and performance to Beneteau. Now despite it only being about six lines worth, you could tell it was going to be big, definitely super sleek with a very low hung profile, and certainly going to be about pace.

Eventually, the lines got a name, the form got filled in, the styling was revealed, and her overall positioning into the market was probably best summed up by two words, and they were - Right oh! This was Beneteau's First Yacht 53. Yes she was sumptuous. Yes, she was elegant, but she was also powerful in both overall form with her plumb bow, and significant haunches, let alone that towering stick.

Much closer to twice the mass of a current TP52 with their all-carbon light but strong raison d'être, the First Yacht 53 owns more than a few Aces, however. She'll give the village of TPs a nice scare uphill, but they won't have a full size stand up fridge jam packed with yummies, or the wine fridge stocked with other delectables, let alone three massive Staterooms, with the Master being better described as a boudoir, the penthouse, or royal chamber.

Matt Hanning was kind enough to give me the helm, even though he could not make it along that day. Don't you just hate meetings... Anyway, his Boat Captain Adam Mowser was on hand to ensure I did not run off with her. There is plenty of power in the light to move her mass along, and time with the wheel was an utter delight. She is a sailor's yacht all right. I do have to confess that taking snaps of her was almost as much fun, for she is quite possibly the most gorgeous thing going around, this side of a Wally.

Want to see what I mean for yourself? Well once lockdown ends, why not book Odin through MV Luxury Yacht Charters. Price of admission is bound to be worth it, and you can share with plenty, or play Captain Araldite all day and never give the wheel to anyone. Person with the gold makes the rules, after all...

Who said that?

Now earlier on in the year, when Delta was just an American airline, a symbol in an equation, and let alone the fourth letter in the Greek alphabet, we got to see and pour over the largest of Beneteau's Sport-Cruiser section of their reimagined First line-up. The First 27. She's ice cool, which could be why this particular one is called Blizzard, a bit funky, and loads of fun. Sounds like it is almost time to cue Rick James me thinks...

This all stemmed from Beneteau's purchase of Seascape back in 2019. So if I was delighted to see new Beneteaus that were all about the business end of the fleet, then her very new owner at the time was even more delighted to be on a trajectory skywards. That Skipper is Matt Allport, who said, "Having grown up 90 kilometres away from the coast, I'd never been on a sailboat until December 2018. So it was a big step to go from that to recently importing the first of the new generation Beneteau First 27s into Australia through Flagstaff Marine. My goal was to have a suitable boat that I could sail singlehanded for when I just want to get out onto the water, and then also start club racing shorthanded through the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club."

"To skipper Blizzard through my first race, as part of the Beneteau Cup on The 8th of May was exciting, for with the light forecast I knew the boat would perform well. We were third over the line in our division, which had 18 boats in total. I find the boat quite responsive to any changes in trim and steering with its twin rudders. We had the asymmetrical spinnaker up during the race, but there wasn't enough wind to reach planing speeds, where it is the most fun."

Here's Goldilocks.

Right oh. Now if the First Yacht 53, and First 27 are right on, could it be that the new Beneteau First 36 Racer/Cruiser is then going to be just right? Let's face it. 36-42 feet is always a popular sector, as they are easier to control, have far more pens (slips) to store them in, and these days the volume down below is quite the marvel, and they incorporate many a note to up range naval architecture.

Ponder for a second all those plumb or reverse bows, serious chines, full beams all the way to the transom, open cockpits, inboard sheeting angles, or how about the length of the prodders out front - like everyone now owns a Lamborghini Espada, Ferrari Daytona, or Jaguar E-Type.

So what exactly do we then know of the new Beneteau First 36? Well, we know one has been sold already into Australia, which is significant, especially as the official announcement was only on August 5. The foretriangle looks significant thanks to the long J, there's definitely form stability at its core, there are twin helms, so she must be reasonably beamy, there's possibly an in-deck traveller, all that glazing means she'll be light below, is lighter, yet decidedly stiffer than what has come before, and yeah, wait for it now... She planes downhill! Bye, bye beachball.

After all, someone has to take on all the 38s and 40s that reside in marinas and clubs the world over. That's a huge mission, so from design to engineering, naval architecture to R&D, the new First 36 has collected some of the best brains on the planet, who can all look to the stands and point up high to the scoreboard when it comes to results.

In terms of explaining it all, it could well be best to turn to the man who set this all up so many years ago. Flagstaff Marine's Graham Raspass commented, "After a long wait it is fantastic to see the launch announcement of the new First 36 from Beneteau. The First range has become legendary amongst racers as a racer/cruiser that delivers podium finishes, but also offers all the creature comforts for cruising with the family."

"So how to fill the gap between the First 27 and then at the top end the First Yacht 53 that combines an incredibly high-performance rig, and CAD/CAM optimised racing hull with a level of luxury and comfort never before seen in a yacht within this price range?"

"The new First 36 delivers excitement and performance in spades. Everything about the boat is designed to make her fast, with a downward planning hull, but still a hull capable of good upwind performance."

Of the Dream Team assembled by Beneteau for this project, Raspass commented, "The collaboration of designers is probably one of the most exciting working partnerships in recent times within the sailing industry: Structural Engineering - Pure Design and Engineering, Naval Architect - Samuel Manuard, Design - Lorenzo Argento, Project Insights - Giodesign. When you look at their credentials you can understand why the First 36 is such an exciting prospect for those who enjoy both club racing or extended offshore racing. She will be IRC rated and Category One capable."

In keeping with the current heightened interests in short handed sailing she will be equally at home with a crew of just two, as indeed she is with a full compliment of eight POB. Every detail of where the various controls, winches and clutches are located meticulously throughout the vessel.

"Flagstaff Marine secured the first boat to come in to Australia for delivery in mid-2022, and she will be displayed at the 2022 Sydney boat show. Such is the interest in this long-awaited model, this first boat has already been sold to an owner of many previous Beneteau's, who like us was excited about the capabilities and the total package of this new racer/cruiser."

I am confident this will be the first of many First 36 we will see sailing in Sydney and/or Pittwater over the coming years, and definitely a boat that is a worthy successor to its predecessors. She will ensure the legend of the Beneteau Firsts continues", said Raspass in closing.


Had a head scratch when I received an email that said Dufour 48 Catamaran. What the? They make monos, and at any rate, they are now owned by Fountaine-Pajot, and all they do make is cats. It seemed like someone was trying to slam the North ends of two magnets together. Ain't gonna happen...

Bit of reading, and hey presto, things got unearthed somewhat. Dufour were working on a cat before FP came along with a keen eye on their production capacity. The Fozzy Group from the Ukraine purchased the Dufour Catamaran tooling and intellectual property from FP in 2019. It would appear that the use was primarily for Fozzy's charter organisation in Croatia.

The sale included use of the Dufour Catamarans name for a period of time (thought to be four years), to maintain some confidence in the new owner's investment. Now FP own the brand, and name 'Dufour', which was all tied up in their purchase of Dufour from back in 2018.

So that time period was a crucial element in the whole equation, as it now would appear too in regards to leakage over from charter to private buyers. Accordingly, any announcement that Dufour Catamarans was purchased outright would seem to be completely incorrect.

Accordingly, as I can't be completely sure, and certainly have not seen said contracts, but I think the lawyers might have just got a brief slapped on their desk... Material breach is just that. Might simply be a bad day for the Jedi Mind Trick, or perhaps there's been a perimeter incursion by an unknown armed force. Time will tell, but in the meantime, if you like Dufours, but want a cat, just buy a Fountaine-Pajot. Otherwise it's a bit like putting the zola in before the gorgon - there's no such thing.

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Finally, many thanks for making Sail-World your go-to choice. We're always here to keep pumping out the news. Stay safe, and enjoy your time on the water.

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS