LAUNCHED in Cannes last year and having already been exhibited in Genoa and Barcelona, the new Beneteau Oceanis 55.1 is already proving popular with newcomers to the brand as well as owners of existing Beneteaus, writes YL boat test editor Andi Robertson. 

It is a big change from its predecessor, the 55, which was much more about maximising accommodation and sleeping options with five different variations sleeping up to ten people. But, in line with the new, earlier launched 62 and the 51.1, the Oceanis 55.1 is more about space, luxury and a much higher standard of finish.

As we learned during Beneteau’s autumn press test at Port Ginestre, just 15km west of Barcelona airport, the new 55.1 is really a couple’s boat.

The typical couple will have had a number of yachts before and know what it is they want; maximum space and facilities with the minimum of hassle under sail.

The couple will sail the boat entirely themselves. Perhaps one week a year, maybe two, they will have family along for their holiday, and occasionally there will be weekend guests. But it is essentially a yacht which is as big as most experienced couples will be happy to handle, although Beneteau told me they have already sold some to complete newcomers, so simple is the self tacking jib and the in-mast furling mainsail, which are standard.

There are three cabins with the option of two or three heads. Biggest selling point is the huge owners cabin with two showers and a toilet!

The Oceanis 55.1 also has the widest cockpit in its class. What is also useful is the little beds on either side of the companionway. Yes, it works as a sunbathing space in port, but really it’s for when you are on passage as a navigation position. You can lie there and control everything from your tablet and then go back to sleep on deck, always ready to act if there is a problem. You can interface all of the electronics onboard with your tablet or iPad.

The interior finish is simple and understated. A few years back Beneteau really started to push the rectilinear layouts, not afraid of straight lines and right angles and the 55.1 follows this trend. The brushed oak finish is lovely and, as Beneteau claim, for sure the finish and attention to detail is better than ever before, a new benchmark for the giant French brand.

This is mostly a Mediterranean boat, but will sell into the US and Australia as well as northern Europe. With the big, enclosed sprayhood and the option of enclosing pretty much the whole cockpit, you would still do yourself proud with this boat in Scotland and, with some good heating, you’d use it comfortably year round.

Compared with the preceding 55, the new 55.1 has more natural light, thanks to one more set of hull windows, and more deck hatches and ports. The deck hatches are all flush fitting, keeping the lines clean.

The cockpit is really an excellent layout. With all the lines led neatly back to the helm, you will single-hand the Oceanis 55.1 in most weathers, dropping in a reef at will. You might take the extra help to set the Code Zero and/or a gennaker. There are big 12in chart plotters above both of the helms, the position of which are spacious and safe. Switching to and from the self steering at the press of the remote, really makes it easy to work around the boat.

The massive, electrically controlled fold down transom bathing platform is great (2.85mx0.77m/9ft 4in by 2ft 6in), with an integral ladder. Gone is the ugly davits arch and instead now there are retractable davits which allow a big dinghy to be carried aft, but when it is in the water the davits can be retracted and you have a super clean deck.

Up front there is a deep secondary locker which is good for fenders and ropes.

The interior is by Nauta design in cooperation with Beneteau’s team. The spacious U-shaped settee to starboard really exemplifies what the new 55.1 is about. There is no pressure on squeezing in seating or berths. Here is a space where the couple may entertain occasionally but the feeling of space is tremendous, more akin to an older 70 footer!

The galley is to port and is beautifully equipped and super simple. Opposite the nav space is also a nice day to day office space for those who maybe need to deal with the admin of a business when away on extended cruises. The 45° companionway steps are great for all ages.

Our luck was not in when it came to the wind, or lack of it. We got a few knots which was enough to get the 55.1 moving gently along.

There was surprisingly little drag from the beefy transom, though we rather missed the option of a Code Zero which most will use under 10-12kts.

By all accounts, from my international colleagues who sailed the previous day, ‘you should have been here yesterday’, the new Oceanis 55.1 is a sprightly, easily handled yacht which moves beautifully and efficiently when the winds pick up. All of the handling is super easy, as is the parking thanks to the ‘dock and go’ system.

There are three keel options; deep, shallow or very shallow, unless you are sailing anywhere with draft issues, Florida or some parts of Australia for example, then you would always spec the deep keel option.

Overall, the Oceanis 55.1 is a welcome new offering, more specifically targeted at cruiser owners who know what they want; space, light, simplicity, luxury and a good sailing performance at a relatively modest price.

And on that subject, Simon Limb of Beneteau dealer Sunbird International based at Clyde Marina, Ardrossan, confirms that the new Oceanis 55.1 delivered and commissioned afloat on the Clyde for the coming summer with a good cruising specification would be £550,000 inclusive of VAT.