Beneteau began building boats in France in 1884 when Beneteau opened shop for the purpose of constructing trawlers at Croix-de-Vie. Eighty years later, under the direction of his granddaughter Annette Roux, Beneteau built its first fiberglass sailboat. It is the largest builder of production sailboats in the world, producing twice as many boats as its nearest competitor.
Beneteau also manufacturers Jeanneau and Wauquiez boats and Lagoon catamarans.
Beneteau builds two distinct lines-the First and Oceanis. Introduced in 1976, the First line is targeted to performance cruisers; the Oceanis line, first marketed in 1986, is targeted more to all-out cruisers, or as a company brochure says, to those “enjoying the pleasure of the sea.” The company ranks third in sales in the US, behind Catalina and Hunter.
Among corporate objectives is the sale of boats in sufficient volume to compete with American builders such as Catalina and Hunter. It accomplishes this goal by taking, advantage of several factors: a) consistent ownership and cash flow; b) a work management process that has designers and production personnel working together for more efficiency on the floor; c) the economies of scale and purchasing power of a monolith; d) automation that reduces the cost of labor; and e) in-house capabilities such as milling its own logs, rather than buying planks from a lumber yard.
A factory was opened in Marion, South Carolina, in 1984; it has since produced more than 1,000 boats, and also houses a customer service center.
Beneteau boasts that its products have logged more than five million miles during more than 1,000 ocean crossings.
Bruce Farr has developed a reputation as one of the world’s best designers of fast racing boats. His designs have competed in the America’s Cup and Admiral’s Cup. Prior to the 40.7, he designed a Beneteau 50-footer and the Fast 42s7.
Mike Thoney of Beneteau distinguishes the First line as having more contemporary styling than the Oceanis, greater emphasis on performance (without compromising on cruising accommodations), fractional rigs, optional deep keels, and high aspect ratio rudders.
Russ Bowler of the Farr office said it took three years to get the 40. 7 from the drawing board to the production line. Beneteau’s charge was to develop a cruiser that could be raced at the club level, and that would sell hundreds each year.
“The challenge was to match performance while producing a cruising boat with suitable accommodations,” he said.
Bruce Farr said the 40.7 hull is “developed from our IMS pedigree which gives it good all around performance. The bow is relatively fine for-ward for upwind work with straight runs aft for high speed off the wind. These virtues have been retained in a hull with greater volume to provide space for cruising accommodations, and added displacement that comes with a cruising interior.”
The 40.7 was “originally developed to be a good all round performer under CHS (a British handicapping system), which favors heavy boats, compared to length, and full interiors,” Farr said. “It has been gratifying to see this design do well in top level IMS competition.”
Both the keel and rudder reflect the designer’s current approach to producing performance-oriented appendages.
The boat’s numbers certainly suggest it will have better-than-average performance compared to its peers in the cruising world. The sail area/displacement (SAID) ratio is 21.01, the displacement/length (D/L) ratio is 160.6, the ballast/displacement ratio is 36.23, and its length/beam ratio is 3.20. Then again, this isn’t exactly the sort of boat one would take on a circumnavigation or perhaps even a trans-oceanic passage where most serious cruisers would prefer more keel and heavier displacement for sea kindliness and necessary stowage.
Polar diagrams indicate the potential for speeds of 6-plus knots sailing in 20 knots of breeze within 32 of true wind. Predicted boat speed exceeds 12 knots when sailing in 30 knots of wind at 140.
The boats target PHRF rating is 54, which means shell be competing against 38-44 footers; however, a one-design class has been formed in Chicago and others are forming on both coasts.
The 40.7 is built in France.
Among the challenges facing the designer and Eric Ingouf, the Beneteau employee who works on advanced production techniques, was a requirement that weight-per-foot be reduced as much as possible without compromising strength.
To that end, the team employed techniques first introduced with the Beneteau 25 to eliminate surplus weight in the laminations, keel and cabinetry.
While Beneteau will not divulge the specifics of the lamination schedule, Thoney provided general information on the process.
Hulls are hand laid-up using precut sections of glass wetted out with vinylester and polyester resins.
“Pre-cutting assures proper sizes and reduces waste,” Thoney said. “Vinylester resins are employed to protect against blistering.” The latter, Thoney said, is a recent change; earlier models used the Beneteau WaterShield process, which was intended to accomplish the same objective at lower cost. Though the company experienced its share of blistering problems with earlier models, our surveys of owners and surveyors report few incidents in newer boats.
The hull is solid fiberglass into which a fiberglass pan is bonded while still in the mold to assure that hull shape is retained. Thoney estimates the hull to be 5/8″ thick. The pan incorporates solid fiberglass longitudinal stringers running from bow to stern, and six athwartships floors. The pan is bonded to the hull with a polyester compound. Solid fiberglass supports for fuel tanks, the engine, chainplate tie downs, and the keel frame and mast step also are molded into the pan, as well as the foundation for bulkheads and cabinetry, which are fiberglassed to the hull and bonded to the deck with a strong adhesive.
Wiring and plumbing runs are protected inside PVC and flex tubes.
The hull-deck joint is an internal hull flange bonded to an external deck flange with polyurethane glue and stainless steel bolts and nuts, over which are laid the teak toerail, which is secured with stainless steel screws. The modern adhesives used for hulldeck joints are incredibly strong, making through-bolting less important.
The deck is fiberglass cored with balsa; however, areas in which deck hardware are mounted are solid fiberglass. Hardware is fastened with stainless steel fasteners and backing plates.
Standard equipment on the boat is a 7′ 9″ deep lead keel; an optional 6′ 2″ keel is iron. A new coating system developed in France that is compatible with International Paints is now employed to prevent peeling problems that occurred with other models. Joe Foss, manager of customer service, said there have been no instances of peeling on the first 250 boats. Still, lead is better than iron.
Tides Marine now builds the rudders, which have carbon fiber rudder stocks, rather than the stainless steel previously employed. In factory tests, carbon was determined to have four times the breaking strength of stainless steel, and also has a greater elasticity, which prevents breakage caused by side loading while underway. It is also significantly lighter. Most importantly, it can be bonded to the rudder, which avoids the common problem with steel stocks of water migrating into the rudder. Upper and lower rudder bearings are self-aligning.
It’s always a pleasant surprise to find something new on a boat, and the 40. 7 has one of the most interesting cockpit features we’ve seen: removable cockpit lockers located aft of permanent slatted teak cockpit seats.
When secured in place, the lockers provide seating and are large enough for storing the typical assortment of dock gear, cleaning supplies and spare headsails. When racing, the lockers may be removed to provide standing, straight-on access to the primary winches and sidedeck – very clever.
There is a 60 leather covered destroyer-style steering wheel with the bottom recessed below the sole; it is easy to reach from either rail.
Seats for crew and guests are contoured and comfortable.
A well for the propane tank is located in the port corner of the cockpit and is vented overboard. A locker large enough for an inflatable dinghy is to starboard.
A requirement in France is dedicated cockpit space for a life raft canister. In the Beneteau 40.7 it is situated below the helmsmans seat. Joe Darby, owner of Darfin Yachts in Chicago, who provided our test boat, said the area is the perfect size for a garbage bin, or a container of chilled beverages.
A teak slatted swim platform equipped with a stainless steel ladder is accessed by unlatching the twin lifelines connecting the stern pulpits and stepping over the transom; a swinging door would make for easier access.
Farr designed wide, nearly level decks with diamond nonskid that allow easy movement forward when underway. Stainless steel handrails on the coachroof coupled with double lifelines on 26″ stanchions provide additional safety. We like the fact that the stanchion bases are partially recessed and unlikely to be toe stubbers.
Mast, standing rigging and deck hardware are all high quality, though one owner thinks serious racers will opt for larger diameter, non-stretch halyards to replace standard equipment. Foss, however, told us that boats after #156 have upgraded rope.
The mast is a Sparcraft 9/10 fractional rig with triple spreaders; Sparcraft also manufactures the boom. Standard equipment is rod standing rigging and a Sparcraft vang. An optional Navtec hydraulic backstay adjuster will improve sail trim and performance on the race course, but is an unnecessary expense for most cruisers. The test boat performed well without tweaking the backstay.
Running rigging is led aft to Spinlock XT rope clutches for mainsail, genoa and spinnaker halyards, one reef line, and outhaul and topping lifts. The installation of two turning blocks with space for six lines is a plus, compared to the typical arrangement with four, three-part blocks.
An interesting departure from typical setups is the mainsheet tackle. A double-ended sheet runs forward under the boom to the mast and then aft through turning blocks on both sides of the deck to a stopper. This placement allows trimming of the mainsail from either side of the boat, or by crew sitting on the rail.
Primary winches are Lewmar 50 self-tailers. Lewmar 44 self-tailers are mounted on the coachroof. Spinnaker winches, also Lewmar 44s, are an option.
The mainsheet traveler has Lewmar ball-bearing cars. The genoa sheet cars are adjustable under load.
The interior was fashioned by Beneteau’s in-house designers and has a more traditional, nautical feel than the Park Avenue styling of the Philippe Starck Interiors.
The companionway ladder has three solid fiberglass stairs covered with a teak veneer; the steps are contoured to prevent falls while the boat is heeled. We particularly liked the brushed aluminum handrails running from the cabin sole to the top step.
Removing the stairway provides access to the engine. Batteries housed below the bottom step are easily serviced. An interesting addition to the stairway is a 1″ diameter hole on the engine cover into which a fire extinguisher can be inserted in the event of a fire in the engine compartment, a requirement of the French Bureau Veritas.
Light and ventilation belowdecks are provided by four Lewmar hatches on the bow and coachroof, three opening ports on each side of the saloon, and two fixed ports in the hull below deck level.
The centerpiece of the saloon is a 44″ long, double-leafed table situated amidships with seating on 3″ thick cushions on each side of the boat. With leafs down, there is unimpeded room to move forward, though racers complain it occupies space that could be used for sausage bags.
Stowage behind each settee is in two compartments enclosed by wood panels measuring 10″ deep and 30″ long; the French touch is evidenced by a dedicated wine locker. There is precious little stowage below the settees, which house polyurethane water tanks.
The galley is a rather ordinary Lshaped area with 6′ 5″ of headroom. It is furnished with a double stainless steel sink equipped with pressurized hot and cold water, a 12-volt refrigerator and gimbaled Force 10 two-burner stove. However, though there’s adequate room for pots, pans, and utensils, the working surface is so small that galley mates will find preparing big meals a challenge unless covers are provided for the stove and sinks. That solution, however, creates its own obvious set of problems.
Conversely, we’re impressed with the size of the nav station, especially compared to boats on which they appear to be an afterthought.
The chart table measures 41″ x 24 “, and has a hinged 32″ x20″ top. There’s room in the cabinetry for necessary electronic equipment, as well as a hinged instrument panel. All of the wires are color coded. And there is a self-diagnostic function that alerts you to electrical failures. For example, if a cabin light burns out, a light on the panel appears.
Storage in a cabinet on the bulkhead aft of the seat provides a home for binoculars, charts, and gear; a second, 22″ X 22″ locker is beneath the seat. We were pleased to see a design that reflects the importance of work done at the nav station.
The interior layout reflects the French penchant for multiple double-berth staterooms-two mirror image cabins in the stern, a third in the bow.
Headroom aft is 6′ 3”. Each stateroom has a 78″ x 60″ wide berth surrounded by varnished wood veneers and a foam-backed hull liner that provides both thermal and acoustic insulation. Ventilation is provided by a port in the cockpit footwell.
The hanging locker has room for six full sets of foul weather gear. Storage space below the starboard berth is shared with an aluminum fuel tank.
Aft of the port stateroom, a removable panel provides access to electrical and plumbing equipment, the steering system, and through-hulls.
Forward of the saloon is the third stateroom and the head. Our first impression of the stateroom was that it would be adequate for one adult or two munchkins but our tape measure proved otherwise; headroom is 6′ 2″, and the V-berth is 7′ 3″ long and 5′ 9″wide at the head, so will be large enough for average-size crew.
Similarly, the head seemed smallish. Accessible from the in cabin or forward stateroom, it has 6′ 2″ headroom. One owner, who described himself as being 6′ 3″ tall and weighing 230 lbs., said the size of the head was a selling point for him. Despite his comments, we think showering in a 40″ x 24″ space will be tight.
Wiring runs and plumbing are easily accessible. Amidships is a centralized manifold or sea chest to which a number of hoses are routed and empty through a single through-hull.
The interior will be suitable for casual cruisers and can be adapted to the needs of racers, though making sea berths out of the double berths aft isn’t the most desirable solution for sleeping securely and comfortably at sea. The wood surfaces are as smooth and well-fitted.
We sailed the 40.7 on a humid day on Lake Michigan, and talked with two owners who cruise and race their boats. Both gave their boats top marks for both windward and off-wind performance. One commented that “She likes some wind.” Another said, “She loves high wind.” Both described their boats as being very stable.
Under power, they reported that a 30-hp. Volvo diesel equipped with a low-drag Saildrive and two-bladed propeller powered the boat at 5-7 knots; they described her as being easily maneuverable, as we learned on our test sail.
We sailed in 8-12 knots of true wind with a 150% genoa and mainsail. Our first impression was that the boat is easily balanced. Sailing in 12 knots of apparent wind, we practiced ‘no hands’ sailing within minutes of departing the marina. In these light conditions we had little tension on the backstay, the vang was off, and the jib halyard was soft. The knotmeter displayed speeds of 5.8-6.2 knots
Beneteau advertises that sheeting angles are 10, so in the same wind we hardened the sheets and sailed to within 36 of apparent wind at 6.75 knots.
In lighter winds of 9 knots we footed off 10 and saw speed increase by 1/2 knot.
Winds died completely before we were able to hoist a spinnaker and test her downwind performance. Both owners reported speeds of 8-10 knots in 12-15 knot winds sailing high jibe angles.
The Farr and Beneteau design teams appear to have produced a versatile boat that will satisfy club racers and cruisers with a penchant for speed. She’s spacious and nicely finished. Longer-term cruisers may have to convert one stateroom to stowage.
Priced at $154,900, fob East Coast port of entry, the boat’s list of standard equipment includes a suit of sails, ProFurl furler, and Volvo engine. Spinnaker gear, racing sails, and a complete electronic package will add $10,000-$30,000 to the purchase price.
The Beneteau 40.7 incorporates a number of clever and sensible design features that we like, such as the plumbing manifold and removable cockpit seat modules.
Contact- Beneteau, 24 N. Market St., Suite 201, Charleston, SC 29401; 843/805-5000.