|Perfect Package Extended|
Andi Robertson sails the Beneteau Oceanis 34 Marseille and declares it the perfect family cruiser that ticks all the boxes.
LAST year the Beneteau Oceanis 31 was one of my boats of the year. A perfect little package which does just about everything in a neat tidy easy to handle boat which performed admirably. And good looking to boot.
Now it’s been supplanted by the Oceanis 34 which does everything the 31 does, but with a little more space and room.
It is the perfect family cruiser; light and spacious for her size with an excellent, modern, easy driven hull and simple, spacious deck layout.
Yet, try to put your finger on what these smaller Oceanis designs do best and it is not easy. They are simply good across the board, excellent average marks across the score card if you like, and that is what Beneteau are especially good at.
They address a worldwide market and hence have to look at what has the broadest appeal and, for me, yachts in the Oceanis range are especially good. They have a distinctive, almost chic image. Not only do they have sympathetic easy lines drawn by Finot Conq, but the interiors by Nauta at last seem to have the balance right between looks over functionality.
We sailed the Oceanis 34 briefly during the annual Beneteau world press test in Marseille. Sometimes these events can put on the rose tinted glasses, but the Oceanis 34 really does have many attributes which will appeal to the owner looking for a simple, easy to use family cruiser which offers excellent value and which will hold its price. Bear in mind that this is an excellent time to buy a new boat - if you can do it. It seems like money has never been cheaper – if you can get it, and dealers are keen to move boats.
In France where some Beneteau dealers were, on average, selling a boat a week they are now selling a boat a month.
There are good reasons to choose the Oceanis 34, but it will also sell well simply because of its size. It is big enough to accommodate a family or a pair of couples using it for weekending or holidaying, but it is also of a size to keep the costs and the handling under control. With modern hull shapes and the cruising chute that we used, it is as easy and quick to eat up miles on a modern 34 footer like this as it is on an older, more traditional hull design.
We always end up drawing attention to the Finot Conq pedigree, but it is certainly true of the 34 that there is definite learning from the Open class boats - the Vendée racers, the Mini’s and the Classe 40’s. The stern sections are powerful, the max beam drawn out and the forward sections are still fine with a near to plumb bow.
The sheer line is also appealing, with a gentle rise to the bow and the coachroof proportions, while being generous to not dominate the look of the boat.
The cockpit and deck layout are excellent, well thought out and executed. Like the 31, the cockpit makes a virtue of maximising seating space in every area, and again this is a boat you will sail from the cockpit as an entire crew, rather than there being only enough space for those who are in the work positions. This, of course, means maximum seating space when the boat is at anchor in the sunshine. There is an excellent fold up table and the lifting stern seat is good too. Locker space is good for the size of the boat.
The rig is a simple 9/10th alloy mast with twin spreaders, deck stepped. Mainsail is a standard fully battened dropping into a stacking system, while the decent sized furling genoa is easily handled but develops plenty of power for lighter days.
The standard deep keel draws 1.87m, but there is a shoal keel option which reduces the draft by half a metre.
The cockpit is kept well clear of clutter with the mainsheet track in front of the companionway. The full length wood toe-rails are excellent and serve a useful purpose as well as enhancing the lines of the hull and deck.
Features which we really like about the 34, some in common with the 31, are the easy close and open companionway system and the lifting helmsman’s bench seat, the cockpit table with integrated lighting, excellent anchor locker with electric windlass, and the stern quarter lifts on gas struts to reveal liferaft (or tender) and gas locker stowage.
Our sail was a little brief, but such is the nature of these things. It was enough to see that the Oceanis 34 moves along nicely in the moderate breeze. It feels positive and light on the helm and is easy to balance upwind requiring little attention to the helm. This is a boat which seems to perform well across the wind range and from what we could ascertain, seems to sit up with good, comprehensive sail controls which work well.
As with the 31 the 34 seems to perform admirably under cruising chute, which gives the boat an extra boost when reaching, and it rolls out nicely to sail a deep angle downwind as well as sailing higher than 90° in the lighter breeze.
In lighter winds this will be as efficient as putting on the engine!
Down below there are two interior options; a three cabin layout with twin aft cabins symmetrically about the centre line which moves the heads to starboard, forward and leaves a smaller aft facing nav station. As with the 31, my one gripe is that the space for mounting instruments then looks like a boxy afterthought.
Otherwise the saloon is excellent with good headroom and a nice, airy feel. The use of space in the main seating area enhances comfort and maximises seating rather than unnecessary floor area, but the overall ambience is excellent.
The forecabin is also impressive, with a good sized central double, adequate headroom and natural light, and a little bit of living area plus a small vanity table.
Overall the Oceanis 34 is an excellent example of the perfect family cruiser which does most things well, ticks all the boxes and will doubtless sell well given the current economy.
• On the water price delivery, commissioned in Scotland, for the Beneteau Oceanis 34 with a full inventory including either layout, elegance pack, electronics pack, sprayhood, autopilot and VHF. All for £101,500 inc VAT. Full details available from Ardrossan based Beneteau dealer Sunbird UK Ltd.