Andi Robertson finds the Beneteau Oceanis immensely desirable, with a pragmatic streak
THE OCEANIS 50 sits somewhere near the head of that growing genre of go-anywhere blue water cruisers which offer a high degree of comfort, space and light, but sell at a sensible price.
It blends a good all round sailing performance with a spacious interior and a strong aesthetic and ambience.
This boat will have a broad appeal. As you would expect it leans slightly more towards the performance end of the market than say the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey DS, but stops well short of competing with the First 50.
It is a lot of boat for the money. This is also a boat for the present as well as the future, not one that the average owner with designs on that size range will have to wait until retirement to enjoy.
It firmly addresses the European market for a big, spacious luxury boat which does not cost the earth, that will double as the summer villa in the Med or the country cottage in the UK and Ireland. One summer in the western Med, the next one the Adriatic, Greece, Turkey - the possibilities are endless.
One market it addresses squarely would be those looking to the ARC and beyond. It has the space and accommodation but also a performance orientated hull which is easily driven and well balanced.
The hull and deck are by Berret Racoupeau while the interior is by renowned Italian superyacht specialists Nauta.
A day trip to Valencia produced a fascinating backdrop, sailing out of alinghi’s America’s Cup base, with three or four different syndicates out on the water trialling and testing as we put the brand new 50 through her paces.
The latest Oceanis adds something that was lacking previously for this line - a defined style. The slight blister coachroof and squared off elliptical windows and the three eyeline ports in the hullside may echo bigger, grander superyachts, but the effect is appealing.
The boat drew admiring glances and interest from within the alinghi base, and there was a steady queue of local visitors and possible customers desperate to take a look.
That styling carries through the proportions and the details. The cockpit is big and roomy, but it feels safe as well as sociable.
The stern has a patented walk through gate, and the transom houses a big liferaft garage, with an offset bathing ladder. In the cockpit the twin wheels are well proportioned and sited, with the main primary winches easily at hand.
There is a central table which is functional and of a sensible size, containing an oddments locker, bottle storage and with a good handrail around it.
Cockpit size is excellent, spacious and with a natural split to the helm’s area.
Access to the sidedecks is also good and there is plenty of good working area on the teak decks.
The main sheet track runs across the front of the companionway serving the single line sheet which runs forward paralleling the vang before coming aft to the clutch on the coachroof.
The rig is pretty standard for the genre, nine tenths with twin aft swept spreaders. The standard main is full battened with lazy jacks and a stacking system which works well and is ideal for this size of boat. The standard genoa is a 140% overlap.
With 7-9 knots of breeze which, of course, faded to next to nothing as soon as it was this correspondent’s turn to steer, the Oceanis 50 really proved an excellent package on the water.
We purposely sailed it short-handed, with just two working at a time and the boat was excellent, well balanced and tracking really well.
The helm on our boat still needed a little sorting out for final balance, but upwind the 50 felt business-like and purposeful, making a good 6.8-7.4 knots upwind without too much effort across the wind range we had.
It tacked well and needed only a little encouragement to accelerate, but once the momentum was building it was noticeably smooth and built steadily.
Moving around the cockpit, working was easy with generally good ergonomics in every area. It is a boat which is designed to sail and be sailed, rather than simply a floating accommodation barge with sails or a glorified day sailer which some of this type and size definitely are.
As the breeze softened we headed downwind under gennaker, which was launched and retrieved with ease by one of us with a squeezer, and again the boat proved pleasingly effective, using the long waterline to full effect.
All the time there was a definite feeling that the boat was pushing no more water than it needed to, leaving a relatively untroubled wake. Certainly the boat had ample sail area for the lighter winds, and it is a cruiser which will reward persistence when the breeze drops rather than simply prompting the early use of the engine.
Below decks is where the 50 really comes into its own. The styling is wonderful, and clearly has the modern superyacht touches. The main saloon is spacious, but laid out to keep things useful and compacted. There are no dance-floor areas, but instead there are long, deep and excellent linear settees and a big offset table to port.
There are two good sized island stools which are removable and opposite, the starboard settees are long, deep and comfy. It is clearly a big and accommodating area to entertain, whiling away those evening hours at anchor. The table drops to convert to a double berth.
Aft and to starboard is the good sized nav station, well up to expected size and spec for this size of boat. The nav table is good sized and is completely unobstructed forward, that is to say that all the instrumentation is mounted outboard and so this does form an additional seating area when the boat is busy, or it remains a good area for those who maybe need to take their day-job work afloat with them.
To port the galley is set quite well back in the boat, using the base of the companionway steps as the double sink area and additional work top area. There is plenty of good working space.
All the essentials are there: a 130 litre front opening fridge and a deep, 100 litre ice-box, plus a big cooker with twin burners, oven and grill, a good sized sliding racked vegetable cupboard, ample drawers and cupboards. The dishwasher, microwave and freezer are all additional extras.
There are two layout versions, one with two double cabins aft and two heads, or the two cabin version which offers one big aft stateroom with an offset angled double berth. Up front the double is centreline and spacious.
The forecabin is really excellent with a sit down vanity area opposite the big en suite toilet and shower room, and plenty of stowage space. And the aft cabins are every bit as good. All the way through the boat, especially in the saloon, natural light is excellent, really heightening the feeling of space.
Overall the Oceanis 50 is an immensely desirable, but pragmatic package. It will appeal to those moving up through both the First and the Oceanis range as a moderately quick but safe and predictable cruiser which will go anywhere with some enviable style, and in terms of value for money it packs a lot of punch.
• Beneteau Oceanis 50, £185,000 plus VAT, delivery and commissioning. More details from Sunbird International Yacht Sales at Clyde Marina.