Boat Test: Oceanis 41
Revamped hull design incorporating chines give this 41 footer the feel of a bigger boat.
Claims of stress-free luxurious sailing are easy to make, Phillip Ross decides to see if the claim deserves to be staked with the Oceanis 41
Beneteau like to revamp their boat range regularly to furnish each new and/or maturing market. The Oceanis update began three years ago and, in hindsight, it was good timing along with the global financial crisis.
The rollout of the Finot-Conq redesign through the ten boats in the Oceanis range came with the latest innovation in hull design for production yachts - the hull chine.
In one architect’s pen stroke (well two really for both port and starboard) owners rethinking their budgets could afford yachts of a smaller size with an interior volume close to the next size up in the range. The bonus was the better sailing motion, the widened and flattened aft chine sections provided.
To Beneteau the Oceanis yachts are all about delivering comfort.
Beginning with its stable, but high-performing hull and finishing with exterior deck space and interior form.
Keeping the overriding ethos in mind for example the cockpits take full advantage of the hull chine, mainsail sheeting is on an arch that keeps the traveller out of the cockpit and twin wheels enhance flow.
Down below is designed with a modular layout providing every owner and every crew with the boat suited to their need, complete with layout solutions and trim levels tailored to their own requirements and lifestyle at sea.
Comfort also means an easy ride and the Oceanis hull form follows a well trod path in melding speed with smooth travelling. Luckily for our test review we got a good Sydney Harbour nor-easter with 15 to 20 knots and the assistance of Vicsail’s accomplished Beneteau staff Micah Lane and Michael Coxon to push the boat hard.
On the wind
With this Oceanis design naval architect’s Finot -Conq have moved the goalposts or, more correctly, the main mast.
The mast is so far aft on this design that the support post appears halfway along the saloon, inadvertently acting as a useful handhold down below. This results in a genoa that is larger in area than the mainsail, which is unusual for most production boats.
My understanding is that early designs incorporating hull chines had problems with the standard sized mainsail transferring too much weather helm to the skipper, resulting in unwanted roundups. Not what a cruising sailor wishes to contend with. The larger headsail area now counters this problem and, once again, providing unexpected benefits for the owner. The larger E measurement (fore tack to mast base) is larger than normal giving wonderful sunbaking lounging area on the deck.
Having two of Australia’s best 18 footer skiff sailors on board, from Beneteau agents Vicsail, it did not take much to convince them to put this theory to the test. We put the boat hard on the wind in 15 gusting to 20 knots and cranked the furling headsail on, backwinding the main. As can be seen by the images here, the Oceanis 41 heeled over onto its chine which transferred the pressure into forward motion. This tends to dig the bow in a little bit, which is why chined boats have rounder fore sections, but was easily controlled even with a complete novice on the helm while I took the photographs from off the boat. Weather helm was negligent.
Once we eased away to 1300 off the bow in 12 knots of true it shot up to over eight knots of boat speed, yet remained stable and in control.
I thank the Vicsail staff for allowing me to ‘pressure test’ the boat.
As mentioned above, the larger fore triangle allows for a nice expanse of fore deck for lounging, exactly what Oceanis is about.
Running rigging runs aft from the mast close to the centreline and hatches are recessed all adding to the useability of the deck for a cruising social life.
Adding to this is the targa style traveller arch which, much like the chine, has provided a multitude of benefits to the boat. It raises the messy spaghetti of mainsheet and traveller ropes out of the cockpit and also provides a solid base for attaching biminis and dodgers for protection.
The supplied review boat had a full dodger and bimini that allowed excellent headroom (guesstimate 190cm), visibility all round and access in and out of the side deck. The bimini was a strong support and handhold when heeled and easily folded away to open the spacious cockpit when wishing to watch the night stars.
A spacious cockpit comes with the chine as well. With the steering stations outboard and a transom that cleverly folds down to become the bathing platform, the cockpit becomes one long convivial meeting place. Extra width provided by the chine lets the foldable cockpit table open to be a useful dining setting.
Modern construction techniques have made for advances in cabin area.
The move of the mast step from the forward bulkhead is a case in point. Usually the ring frame strength was required to disseminate the strain from the mast and its rigging. Light and strong however, the Oceanis 41 can incorporate hull windows as well as windows in the companionway bulkhead to allow better light throughout the aft cabins and saloon.
Interior designers favoured by Beneteau, Nauta Design, have used the extra area the chine provides to make a 41 footer almost feel like a 45 footer down below. Five steps down the companionway and the cabin opens up to a plush looking saloon. Open plan seats five to six around the expandable saloon table with a movable navigation table on the port side converting to a nav station or a nice two person morning tea side table.
Headroom in the saloon is 195cm with 185cm in the fore cabin stateroom.
Cabins and the berths they hold are large enough to easily accommodate the two persons claimed.
There are three cabin/head configurations and a deep or shoal draught hull.
Modular layout construction means that any available space has a cupboard door placed over it ensuring storage space is no problem, especially when combined with plenty of bilge space including the ubiquituous wine rack.
The Yanmar 40hp engine is easily accessible from behind the companionway steps and the aft port and starboard cabins.
Beneteau provide three different on water options: Avantage, Charter and Elegance and other options include the docking pack and numerous added extras.
A starting base boat price of under $300,000 for a 41 foot yacht allows plenty of room to optimise.
Verdict: a sea-kindly, easily-driven hull form with a well-appointed fitout all for an accessible base boat starting price.
Draught (standard): 2.05m
Draught (shallow): 1.55m
Genoa (104%): 42.1m2
Base boat price: >$300,000