Since it first began producing performance-oriented cruisers in 1976, Beneteau has achieved tremendous success in the American market; it is now the third largest producer in America, outsold only by Catalina and Hunter. Like them, Beneteau strives for contemporary, affordable designs that are efficiently built.
We recently checked out the 42s7 Owner’s Version, a recent addition to the First line, which continues Beneteau’s trend of offering boats, both in lines and accommodations, that attempt to establish a look that is distinctive in a crowd.
Beneteau, which advertises itself as the largest manufacturer of boats in the world, was founded in 1884 by Benjamin Beneteau to build trawlers for fishermen. Nearly a century later, in 1964, the company entered the field of motorboat and sailboat construction, and began employing fiberglass construction methods. Operation of the company continues under the direction of Annette Roux, who along with two brothers represents the third generation of family members to manage the company.
Beneteau introduced its First line of sailboats in 1976, a series of performance yachts that produced race-winning results on the international circuit. Ten years later, the Oceanis line followed, targeted to a market described by the company as those “enjoying the pleasure of the sea.” The combination of a strong American dollar and a then-growing boating market resulted in the company’s decision in 1986 to open a production facility in Marion, South Carolina, where both lines of boats are produced. The company has built more than 1,000 boats at its American facility. Annual gross sales are estimated at more than $70 million.
The Design Beneteau has commissioned the services of wellknown designers, mostly Frenchmen.
Andre Maurie designed the First 30, which won Boat of the Year Honors at the Paris Boat Show in 1978. Jean Berret designed Beneteau’s Admiral’s Cup winner in 1985 and the First 345 (PS December, 1991). PhilIipe Briand, who designed the French America’s Cup contender, drew the lines for the Oceanis 350 (PS November 1, 1995).
Bruce Farr, perhaps the most prominent designer of racing yachts in the world today, has designed the most recent additions to the First line. Prior to lofting the 42s7, Beneteau commissioned him to design a number of larger boats, including the 50.
Russell Bowler of the Farr office in Annapolis, who also was involved in each project, told us that the challenge in designing the 42s7 was to ameliorate the compromise between Beneteau’s desire to have large interior volume and, at the same time, have hull shapes that would satisfy the socalled performance cruiser.
In Bowler’s words, “The 42s7 has benefited from our early work with the company, since we have continued to tinker with the basic design to create a shape that produces a fast boat. We also have integrated new technology in the production phase to produce lighter boats more efficiently.”
Phillippe Starck, a designer of boat interiors, joined the team to style the accommodations.
The First 42s7 follows the Beneteau tradition of sexy, Euro-styled boats, though it does not have the wraparound windshields found on some models, nor does it have a completely plumb bow.
Rather, the boat has a soft, rounded profile, especially in the stern, where the transom is almost oval shaped. The deck is uncluttered, benefiting from a fiberglass halyard cover, a section of fiberglass under which are led to the cockpit all lines except jib and spinnaker sheets. The cabintop has an exceptionally low profile, especially for a boat that has 6′ 5″ headroom in the saloon. In turn, this means fairly high freeboard. With a light-to-moderate displacement of about 179, there’s not much below the waterline.
The Sparcraft mast is a 7 /8 fractional rig with two sets of slightly swept-back spreaders. The mainsail luff measurement of the cruising version is 47.41′; the racing version is 52.49′. Standing rigging is Navtec rod, and shrouds terminate more than 18″ inboard of the toerail, which facilitates easy movement along the sidedeck. The backstay has an adjuster. The sail area/ displacement ratio ranges from 17.8 to 19.5, depending on whether you have the standard or race rig.
Underwater appendages, however, are not Grand Prix racing shapes, though still slippery. The rudder is a conventional spade design, and the rudderpost is made of composite materials, a boatbuilding trend that saves weight. Three keels are available: a deep fin and two shoal draft versions, one with a bulb and another with winglets.
Two windows are molded into each side of the hull, as are four opening ports. Narrow, vertical windows are molded into the cabin just aft of the shrouds, and four hatches are situated on deck. The overall affect of this arrangement is an interior filled with light, even on cloudy days.
If you don’t like the maintenance of teak, you ’11 like the deck plan. The cabin top handrails are stainless steel, which, of course, are less expensive and lighter than teak. The only wood on the deck is a highly varnished teak toerail, and teak inserts in the cockpit seats. An aluminum toerail can be substituted.
LOA: 42′ 6″
LWL: 35′ 9″
Beam: 13′ 6″
Draft (deep) 7′ 7″
Draft (shoal): 5′ 11″
Displacement: 18,220 lbs.
Ballast (deep): 6,283 lbs.
Ballast (shoal): 5,840 lbs.
Sail area (cruise): 771 sq. ft.
Sail area (race): 845 sq. ft.
Sail area/disp. ratio: 17.8-19.5
Disp./length ratio: 179
Righting Moment: 115 degrees
The fiberglass halyard cover makes for a cleaner deck and reduces the likelihood of crew tripping over lines.
An anodized aluminum section on the bow doubles as the stem fitting and anchor roller. While this onepiece arrangement must be cost effective, the short roller will not easily accommodate a plow anchor … maybe a lightweight style, but those seldom stow well on rollers. On the First 42s7, odds are the anchor will be stowed below when underway. For regular cruising, you’d want to workout a better arrangement.
The anchor locker has a platform large enough to mount a windlass and stow a decent chain and rope rode. The drum of the ProFurl roller reefer also is below deck level in the anchor compartment, which keeps the bearing race out of the weather and the drum out of the way of the anchor when hauling the latter aboard. We’re glad to see Beneteau using the top notch ProFurl, especially after the headaches a number of owners experienced last year when some Isofurl systems failed and had to be recalled.
Standard running rigging for internal main and genoa halyards is 7 /16″ rope. Halyards, outhaul, Cunningham, and lines for the lsomat solid vang are led aft to six Spinlock stoppers mounted on the bridgedeck forward of Lewmar 44 self-tailing winches.
The mainsheet and traveler system, which is equipped with Harken blocks and track, is situated forward of the companionway. Though control lines are led to the cockpit, they are so far from the wheel that a singlehanded sailor will find this arrangement difficult to manage unless there’s an autopilot. Again, the emphasis is on racing with a crew.
The track for the jib sheets is laid at the inner edge of the toerail, which avoids stubbed toes. Harken track and turning blocks are standard equipment. A block and tackle arrangement that allows changes in sheeting angles while under load, a feature typically found only on racing boats, is a part of the system.
Stanchions are 24″, all through bolted and secured with backing plates, and double lifelines.
Aside from its most prominent feature-a 55″ destroyer wheel covered with dark leather-the cockpit is an unremarkable area. It is large enough to seat eight people and is contoured for comfort.
Two cavernous lazarettes are situated beneath the stern seat, which spans the width of the boat. Aside from being easily accessible, the covers are large enough for an adult to climb down into the area. On the Owner’s Version, there is a second lazarette to starboard; on the tri-cabin model, however, much of that space is lost .
The stern section also houses a swim platform and freshwater shower that folds down when in use; it is secured by the low-tech arrangement of a line running from the stern through a block on the platform and back to a cam cleat mounted in the lazarette.
A pair of Lewmar #50 self-tailing cockpit jib sheet winches will be adequate for flying light air drifters. Two additional winches will be necessary to fly a conventional spinnaker.
The plethora of ports, hatches, and a 5/8″ acrylic companionway hatch combine to bring in a lot of light. Combined with the 13′ beam and 6′ 5″ headroom, there is a feeling of spaciousness. Portlights can be covered by pulling out the roll-up shades.
Starck’ s interior of pearwood, plastic counters and smooth gelcoat surfaces has little nautical feeling. But for the sound of wind whistling in the shrouds, the feel is similar to that of a contemporary living room.
The boat we inspected is the fulltime residence of two professionals in Seattle who are experiencing the live-aboard life-style for the first time. Three months after moving from a three-bedroom residence, they have concluded that, with careful planning and the rental of a storage locker for seasonal gear, the 42-footer is spacious enough to meet their needs. The saloon and galley are about 14′ long.
The Owner’s Version has a large cabin aft to port, a head off the saloon, a second cabin located forward of the saloon, and a second head in the bow. The tri-cabin version has two smaller berths in the stern, and the same arrangement forward.
The centerpiece of the saloon in each model is a rounded settee furnished with brightly covered cushions. The dining area, which measures 72″ x 94″, includes a separate, moveable cushioned bench that doubles as a storage compartment. Additional seating is on a port side settee.
A nav station, which faces aft, is located at the end of the port settee in the saloon. Based on our cruising experience, we think navigators might prefer a larger space; the chart table is 31″ inches wide by 23″ deep, with two drawers and a small storage area under the table. The instrument panel is large enough for a basic electronic package (VHF, GPS, stereo); the addition of computers, CRT and plotters would require imaginative carpentry.
Wires run below the cabin sole in PVC conduit, and inside the cabin located in the nav station. Spade terminals are used, which should avoid failures found in some boards used on other Beneteau models. The company says that wires are unbroken between the board and appliances, reducing the possibility of failures. Repairs will be difficult. And, as electrical accessories are added, the panel will probably need to be expanded.
The L-shaped galley is situated to starboard, aft of the dining area. It is equipped with a gimbaled Eno threeburner stove. A single stainless steel sink is aft of the stove, as is the Frigomatic refrigerator, which measures 18″ x 13″ x 12″. Enclosed storage areas line the hull. A garbage container is mounted on a door. Counters are covered with Avonite, a white material similar to Formica.
The owner’s stateroom is a spacious, enclosed compartment located to port with 6′ of standing room. The berth is 6′ 7″ x 5″ 11″ and has 5′ of overhead clearance; a hanging locker and shelves on the port hull provide a modicum of storage, as does the aft head, which doubles as a wet locker.
The aft head, situated to port, is equipped with a stainless sink, hot and cold pressure water and a shower nozzle, toilet, and small medicine cabinet, but is rather cramped at 39″ long by 42-1/2″ wide. Showering in the space will be a challenge.
By comparison, the head in the bow is 46″ long, 62″ wide, so has significantly more elbow room since it spans the width of the boat. It has identical features, but with a larger vanity, a three-panel, mirrored medicine cabinet and sink, and toilet. Using a head in the bow, in even moderate seas, is an adventure, of course.
The forward stateroom has a smaller 6″ 5″ x 4′ 9″ berth, a settee large enough to seat two adults, a small hanging locker and storage drawers below the berth.
Some years ago, a spate of blistering problems gave the company a black eye. According to Mike Thoney, a spokesman for Beneteau, the blistering problem occurred between 1983- liner to a hinged, 16-circuit panel86 when a defective catalyst was used in hull lay-ups. Eventually, he said, the manufacturer of the catalyst established a repair fund and every boat produced during that period was repaired. Thoney told us that there have been no recurrences. Though that may be true, we know that on an industrywide basis, a certain percentage of boats, even those built without defective catalyst, can be expected to blister for other reasons. The company warrants the hull and deck structure for five years.
Construction is a three- step method that begins with the application of gelcoat, over which is sprayed Beneteau Watershield System, a polyester, which bonds to the gelcoat and prevents blisters. (Tests of barrier coats, including those conducted by Practical Sailor, have shown vinylester to be the best protection against blistering.) The hull is uncored, laidup with chopped glass, woven roving and mat, with unidirectional fabric used at the hull-deck joint. A layer of Trivera is applied on the topsides to prevent print-through, of which we found no evidence.
The second step involves installation of a molded, one-piece fiberglass grid of stringers and floors that runs the length and width of the hull. It is bonded to the hull with a polyester compound, then glassed around the edges with 10″-wide fiberglass tape. The grid incorporates the engine mount, supports for fuel and water tanks, and receivers for bulkheads, which are bonded in place with a polyurethane compound.
The balsa-cored deck is then jointed to the hull and bulkheads. The hull-deck joint is an internal hull flange that is bonded with 3M 5200 and fastened with aircraft rivets through the toe rail, deck and flange. Though we have a preference for fasteners with washers and bolts, and bulkheads tabbed directly to the hull and deck, Bowler said that boats in service in charter fleets have recorded thousands of miles with no movement of internal sections or leaks in the hull-deck joint.
Unlike some of the other Beneteau boats we’ve reviewed, the 42s7 has lead ballast, which is preferable to cast iron, the latter not being as dense and requiring epoxy coatings to keep it from rusting.
We sailed two of the 42s7’s, though in less than ideal conditions for a test.
On the first, we sailed in a winter race in light breezes on flat seas with a relatively new owner and inexperienced crew.
With practice, our neophyte skipper executed quick tacks, and the boat accelerated quickly, considering the conditions. The deck layout made crew movement and sail handling uneventful. (A year later, the same skipper and crew won their class in the 125-mile Newport-Ensenada race, in 12-15 knot winds.)
The live-aboard couple completed a three-week cruise shortly after purchasing their boat and reported that except for its light air performance, the boat met their expectations. They feel that a drifter is a must in winds below six knots. Later, they encountered 15 to 20-knot winds and 4′ to 6′ waves while crossing a 40-mile strait, eventually shortening the genoa to keep the rail out of the water. They said that lazy jacks on the fully-battened mainsail are necessary because of its size and weight.
Under power provided by a 50-hp. Yanmar diesel, she motors at 6-7 knots. We found the helm to be very light; one half turn of the wheel produced a 180-degree turn, and she completes 360 degrees in a reasonable circle. The boat also backed in a straight.
The 42s7 is a boat that will flee before a storm, claw off a lee shore, and provide crew comfort above and belowdecks. We like Farr’s Beneteau designs because they present lower profiles and fast hulls.
We prefer more traditional interiors to Starck’s, but that is a personal matter. From an objective standpoint, they are bright and nicely finished. But they may give headaches to owners forced to deal with wiring or other problems in which the structural pan inhibits access.
While Practical Sailor readers report that Beneteau maintains a pretty good customer service department, much of the gear is French and obtaining replacement parts may at some point prove difficult.
Base price of the boat, including sails, is $183,500. A racing version, with a taller mast and assorted gear, sells for $200,000 without sails. For comparison, a Catalina 42 lists for $155,000, a Sabre 402 for $224,900 and a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 42CC for $214,600.
Beneteau USA, 8720 Red Oak Blvd., Suite 102, Charlotte, NC 28217; 704/527-8244.