JACK OF All Trades, Master of None. There are many big, modern cruising boats which seek to offer a little bit of everything, but end up compromising so much that the overall offering is weak, bland and unsatisfactory. I don’t think that accusation can be levelled at Beneteau’s Oceanis 55. Since I first sailed the boat a few years ago in the Med it has remained one of my favourite moderately priced, spacious, go anywhere cruisers in the 50-60ft size range, writes YL boat test editor Andi Robertson.
The Berret Racoupeau hull and deck has a fabulous Nauta Design interior. The whole look and feel is totally modern and contemporary. Many of the Oceanis 55’s coming out now are specified with a metallic gel. Our test boat had a lovely, bright bronze colourway in the gel, not a wrap, and that really enhances the quite aggressive angles of the hull shape and softens it in other areas.
The boat we were generously lent for the test is Crazy Diamond which belongs to an owner from the north east of Scotland. It is his first owned boat although he is a widely experienced yachtsman. The boat is pretty much fitted with most of the essential extras, and a little bit more. And like many of this model which will sell into Scottish and northern waters, it is set up for Scotland right now, but has everything for extended cruising, including AC and a genset, as it will probably go to the Med in a few years time.
It is worth adding all these so called ‘extras’ when the boat is in build on two counts. It is usually cheaper and easier to fit then than retrofit, and almost always when the boat is finally sold on these are desirable essentials in the marketplace. That is to say that your boat maybe won’t fetch a premium price with them, but for sure without them you will be haggled downwards.
The hull is characterised by a strong flat chine aft which is carried well forward of the shrouds, a flat bow section and wide, powerful transom mirroring the form of the modern IMOCA and Volvo Ocean Race one designs and their predecessors.
There are four big hull windows which allow a lot of natural light into the saloon, but allow a wide vista from the saloon and cabins, maintaining the visual connection with the seascape and the elements outside.
Other Oceanis 55 hallmarks are the slanted small window at the forward edge of the coachroof joining the full length roof windows.
Natural ambient light really is in abundant supply in all the different areas of the boat and that really enhances the extraordinary feeling of space. This is because there is a less noticeable difference in light levels as you move fore and aft, the full length of the boat. The cabins are still light and feel spacious.
The cockpit really is excellent. Beneteau still embrace the flat, angular feel and that makes for wide, inviting surfaces for example on the coachroof, the huge foredeck space which is great for lazing around in the sun and the cockpit itself has good coamings which of course are not only protective from spray and waves coming on board, but also are just the right height for lying on the invitingly big sun pad cushions.
There is lots of space for evening al fresco dining and post sail sundowner cocktails. Yet there is more than enough secure, safe space for those working the boat.
At 55ft most are unlikely to have paid crew, but there are versions which lend themselves to charter work, and this boat would earn its keep admirably doing both private and paid for sailing. As such the work areas of the cockpit are clearly defined:
The control lines fall to hand, the main winch plinths are either side of the wheels, ropes are all led under the deckhead and there are big tail lockers at the aft end of the cockpit seats. All of the essential controls are or can be push button, including the self steering, so the boat can be set up to be sailed from anywhere on board.
I love the big, easily worked bathing platform/fold down transom which gives great walk through access into the cockpit and below decks, and there is a good, deep bathing ladder too.
Our boat, as can be seen in the pictures, has a full length bimini cover over the cockpit which has zip on sides. It comes down relatively easily and is a bit of a personal preference thing. But when it is miserable at an anchorage or on a chilly, drizzly night it leaves so much more space available and gives a nice ‘transition’ zone where you are neither indoors or out.
We had a good 14-18kts for our short, sharp Gare Loch test sail, with a puffy gusty breeze coming down off the hills on a cool summers day. It was more than enough to rekindle my love for this boat. It never ceases to surprise with its speed and handling. We pressed the bow down in the puffs and the response is noticeable acceleration. Yes, it feels a bit like driving a wonderfully powerful modern truck than a sports car, but with grip from the twin rudders you really felt like you could do anything.
Upwind it had a desirable urgency and great grip, it sits on the chine and keeps driving even when overpressed and yet with the control on the helm you can feather it nicely to lose power. Off the wind we surged to 9.5 to 10kts with ease under white sails.
From a performance point of view I kind of figure the Oceanis 55 is a blank sheet of paper. I’d rather like her in the Med in 20kts of sea breeze trundling along under Code Zero. However I just can’t get too enthusiastic about the in-mast furling main. But, needs must, and they are perfect for short handed sailing such as we were doing.
The interior options are many: four cabins with two toilets, three cabins plus two toilets which is better known as an owner’s version with the ensuite stateroom forward and one toilet aft that serves the main cabin as well as an ensuite function for the starboard aft bedroom. Then there are four cabins and four toilets, or as the charter world decrees, five cabins and three toilets. That’s the one with two double aft cabins, two double forecabins and a twin bunk cabin to starboard. Also there is the option of the crew cabin forward with foredeck hatch access.
The main saloon is just fabulous. Big, wide spacious and light with a good big saloon table and wide seating to starboard. The nav station or office space is aft facing to port opposite the galley which can be set up with every modern convenience. It’s a genuine kitchen work space from which to entertain or be self contained and self sufficient for extended cruises.
The Oceanis 55 is a dream boat at an achievable price. It offers go anywhere comfort, a little piece of premium real estate which will hold its value and which can move around the hotspots and not so warm spots of Europe and beyond.
It is great value, is set up easily and sails beautifully.