THE SENSE range by Beneteau is fully ten years old now and it has been a big success worldwide. The concept was very much about bringing some of the space, stability and appeal of catamaran sailing, and adding a little sprinkle of power boat ideas to produce a different, super spacious and comfortable, adaptable big yacht, writes Yachting Life boat test editor Andi Robertson.

The range is really for couples who will maybe bring aboard friends and family on an occasional basis and the interior by Nauta is much more in keeping with a luxury Mediterranean apartment. Hence we are, again, offering a modestly priced cruising yacht which will go anywhere and double as comfortable real estate.

I recently saw the Sense described as for ‘live aboard’ but to me that rather describes a yacht for couples on a seemingly endless odyssey eking out their budget, but really the Sense will appeal to those who want to cruise for extended periods in nice places.

All of the interior elements are much more linear hence it feels and looks more like a chic metropolitan flat or studio. There are no aft cabins. In the forward based cabins and living areas, space and light are a fundamental priority. There is no need to squeeze in beds. The Sense is about no compromise comfortable living, at an affordable price. And the other fundamental principle remains key; moving the living spaces away from the noisy engine.

The new Sense 51 is really an update of the successful Sense 50. It is the same Berret Racoupeau Yacht Design hull, but with modifications to the deck and cockpit and to aspects of the interior.

One of the key changes from the 50 to the new 51 is the stern. Previously the transom was open, but now there is a large, full width electric powered drop down transom which adds security in every dimension, not least for getting on board and off.

The new configuration allows a big sink/wet bar to be integrated to port and a barbecue griddle to starboard.

Also new, exciting and innovative is to be found overhead in the cockpit: The ugly arch has been superseded by a semi rigid SmarTop fully retracting bimini roof. This is set on the longitudinal lateral supports. The aftermost lateral rib is rigid and strong enough to bear weight in order to facilitate mainsail handling at the back of the boom.

And for me this really is the exciting bit for those who are looking to lengthen their season or their range of uses. Add a good set of side panels, you can be almost totally enclosed. So the Sense 51 really could be the big, robust cruiser for all seasons.

The deck line is unchanged other than cosmetically, with the line taken further forward. As ever the decks all round are super clean and really flat. There is space forward on the expansive bow for a big sun pad. At the front now there is a robust bowsprit which will set a cruising asymmetric (185sq.m) or a furling Code Zero (180sq.m), or why not have both.

Mid-bow there is a staysail anchor point. The options are for a furling mainsail of 53sq.m or conventional easy stacking main of 63sq.m. Other options are for the smaller self tacking jib or 105% genoa. Personally I’d recommend the big, fully battened main, self tacking jib and both big headsails if your budget goes that far. If not, asymmetric it is.

The Selden twin spreader rig is unchanged, nice and powerful but robust and easy to set up.

The hull maximises form stability and with nearly four tonnes of ballast on a 15 tonne displacement that is a ballast ratio of close to 40%.

Access on board is top notch and the cockpit is big, spacious and super safe. Liferaft stowage is in the cockpit sole locker as you step on board. At the helm positions there is ample space and security, with easy reach to the Harken H60.2 STC winches, the electric option being almost universally specified.

At either helm station there are B&G Triton displays and B&G Zeus 9 or 12 in multifunction touchscreen units. The secondary winches are a little forward but of course workable when the pilot is engaged.

The acrylic companionway door is trifold and now concertinas to port rather than the drop down electric system previously fitted. The three step companionway is easy and inviting.

The 51, like the 50 did before, offers two cabins with their own heads and a third space which can be a bunk room or an office in which the desk space can be converted to a bed. There’s a nav station to port, galley to starboard, stove neatly hidden and lots of storage in a proliferation of cupboards.

We tested the Sense 51 at Port Ginestre by Barcelona where the world’s sailing media gathered for the annual Beneteau press test.

Of the four boats we sailed there, it was on the 51 that we enjoyed the best breeze, some 8-9kts on an otherwise light day on the Med.

Once again it was pleasing to realise that for all that the Sense is a big, hard chined 51 footer, it moves along smoothly while remaining exceptionally easy to handle. We could make between 7.1 and eight knots unless hard on the wind, tracking nicely and easily. It really does what you expect it to, with good manners. It will swallow miles in comfort and really do what the owners want of it.

The Sense 51, a welcome evolution, really continues my appreciation of the Sense range. There may be something of a diversion from the conventional modern cruiser, something of an acquired taste, but it’s a great concept and a great execution.

Cost wise, Simon Limb of Beneteau dealer Sunbird International based at Ardrossan and confirmed that for the Sense 51, the price delivered, commissioned and afloat at Clyde Marina is £440,000 including electronics, bowthruster and a good specification, all inclusive of VAT.