Boats

2011 Best Boats Innovation Award: Beneteau Sense 50

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In many ways, the Beneteau Sense 50 was the hit of the Annapolis boat show. The 50-foot performance cruiser with modern Euro styling was tied off in a small square basin just a few feet longer than the boat. Every hour on the hour her crew cast off the dock lines and spun the boat in its own length, stopping every 90 degrees to drive directly sideways up to the dock. It did so with ease, even in a brisk wind. The performance never failed to draw a round of applause from the watching crowd.

The technology that makes this possible is Beneteau’s new Dock & Go system, comprised of a powerful bow thruster coupled to a rotating sail drive that spins through 360 degrees in less than a second. An autopilot supplies positioning, heading and rate-of-turn information. The system is controlled with a simple joystick. It takes sophisticated software and some complicated machinery to translate joystick movements into commands that simultaneously rotate the sail drive and power it and the bow thruster to smoothly move the boat in any direction. But from the operator’s perspective it is very easy to use.

This kind of technology has been available in the powerboat world for several years now, and as such is well tested and proven. But this is the first time we’ve seen it on a sailboat. The Beneteau system is a joint effort of Groupe Beneteau and ZF, an automotive giant and major manufacturer of marine transmissions. At one stroke, Beneteau has taken the stress out of docking in difficult and tight quarters. It is a considerable achievement. As of 2011, the system will be offered on all larger Beneteaus and Jeanneaus. For more information, visit beneteauusa.com

SPECS

LOA: 49ft. 2in
LWL: 49ft. 2in
BEAM: 15ft 11in
DRAFT: 5ft 6in
DISPLACEMENT: 31,195
SAIL AREA: 1,313 sq ft

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