The Oceanis 51.1 has been a big success for Beneteau, now the Oceanis 46.1 follows many of the same principles and, after sailing the new First Line model at Beneteau’s global press test on the Med at Port Ginesta by Barcelona, I feel sure this boat will be even better. Suffice to say the boat we sailed in Spain was hull number 121, writes Yachting Life boat test editor Andi Robertson.

THE Oceanis 45 is a hard act to follow. It was 2012’s European Yacht of the Year in the Family Cruiser division, but the new Finot Conq design makes small but significant steps in improvement, light space and ambience inside coupled with a great, easy living, easy worked deck layout.

The new Oceanis 46.1 which was recently proclaimed European Yacht of the Year 2019 at Boot (see German show report), uses a stepped hull chine similar to that on the best selling 51.1 which was a Berret Racoupeau design but on the new, smaller sister the chine is full length right to the bow which allows fuller forward sections, while still not increasing the wetted surface in the bow, nor widening the waterline beam up front.

So you gain the hull volume for the forward cabin – it’s 0.5m wider than with no chine – but you don’t pay a penalty in more drag or wider, flatter forward sections as a penalty.

Correspondingly, the forward berths are 15cm wider.

The chine, as we know, adds stability and some grip when heeled. As designer Pascal Conq says, ‘We have greatly improved hull stability and eliminated added resistance through digital tank testing. We decided to give her a twin rudder to improve control under sail. As for the configuration of the First Line version, you might be tempted to beat upwind even when you are cruising!’

The First Line 46.1 which we sailed is the performance version of the standard Oceanis 46.1, turbo’d up with a mast which is one metre taller, together with a bigger genoa and a deep lead keel. The sail area is said to be 28% greater than on the normal 46.1. And it looks the part too with, in our case, a grey and white hull and smart graphics.

We did not have any more than nine or 10 knots of light sea breeze, but using the genoa and the Code Zero the First Line 46.1 was delightfully quick and easy to sail with a simple, easy worked layout and loads of lounging and chilling deck space.

The cockpit is massive, but safe. There is a large fold down bathing platform which is great at anchor or in port, with excellent access through into the cockpit and below. The cockpit table will seat up to eight people and the ropes are kept well clear of this area. The First Line does not have the arch.
The primary and mainsail winches are sited right back on the cockpit coaming where the helm can reach both and so the boat is well set up as standard. Better, if budgets allow, to fit the electric powered winches, not because of the loads, but just simplicity and economy of movement. There are ample stowage spaces for rope tail management, though not great. You can also have a plancha griddle back here, built into the aft quarter so you can grill your steaks or fish or veggie burgers here and eat them in the cockpit.
At the aft end of the coachroof there is space for a couple of sun lounging pads, but these can’t really be used under sail because of the mainsheet track.

As these press events go, our sailing time on the new generation 46.1 was slightly limited and at an arbitrary time. There is no opportunity to sit around and wait for the Garbi, the Barcelona sea breeze to really kick in, and as usual there were a few other media types on board, this time well mannered.

I was very impressed with the new Oceanis 46.1. We could keep up with or pass any of the other boats on the water and testers who were with us who have gone up against the 51.1 say the 46.1 is quicker and more nimble. With such a spacious interior and a magnificent owners’ suite forwards it does beg the question ‘why go bigger?’

It is light on the helm and feels extremely responsive and with the genoa we moved smartly upwind in the modest breeze, easy enough to find a solid groove as it climbed nicely off the keel.

We were probably doing 7.1 to 7.3kts upwind in just 10kts of true wind although not trying to be too close-winded. But the real pleasure is in rolling out the super adaptable Code Zero which gives just a little more speed close reaching at, say 60 to 65° TWA, but which really gets the boat moving well at wide reaching angles. Best of all, if you are that way inclined, there is little trimming needed and you could really set your course, set the sails and sit back and enjoy the passage.

Would you go for an asymmetric kite as well? That would very much depend on your style of fast cruising. As the angles open then the Code Zero does become sloppier, less efficient and harder to trim, so I would always say yes.

In the short Med chop the Oceanis 46.1 really was pleasant and quick to sail. The Nauta design interior is the crowning glory, the yacht’s raison d’etre. The big hull side windows, the coachroof windows and overheads bring in loads of light, also allowing a nice panorama when you are seated inside.

There are two finish options; white polished oak which works well for the clean, contemporary feel or mahogany. The main saloon feels big and spacious, with a decent sized settee to port which has a forward facing nav station at the front end and a big, modular U shaped space to starboard. There are two small plinth style box seats as well as a nice big, accommodating wrap-round settee.

The galley is excellent too with a large, lift top cool box as well as standard fridge. There is a load of worktop space, excellent storage and an outboard facing double sink to the left of the cooker. To me this makes more sense as, for example, you are moving fore and aft to drain hot food not across from one plane to another, and it is also a shorter distance.
The forecabin is amazing, more akin to a 55 footer. It is indeed spacious with a centre line double berth which has a big slide out drawer below. There is an excellent separate en suite heads and a separate en suite shower room. Again it’s hard to believe you are on a yacht which is a smidge over 45ft long.

Overall the new Oceanis 46.1 adds up to an excellent package, taking the modern family cruiser to a new performance level with loads of light and space below decks.

It is adaptable, solid and reliable, but with a swift turn of speed. And at this size you might choose to move periodically, doing some years in the north of Britain before heading to the Med and the sun. Why not?