Boat Review: Beneteau 58
Beneteau’s new Sense 50 created such a buzz last year that it was easy to forget that the French boatbuilding giant also launched a new flagship in 2010. There is no echo of the Sense line’s brash, angular styling in the Oceanis 58’s understated lines. The gentle sheer, the low-profile cabintop and the expansive teak-laid deck on the boat we sailed made for a head-turning package.
The Oceanis 58’s hull is a solid handlaid laminate of mat and woven rovings. Blister-resistant vinylester resin is used in the outer layers. A structural grid hull liner is bonded into place. Besides strengthening the hull it provides a base for furniture installation and helps distribute loads from the keel-stepped rig and bolted-on cast iron keel. The deck molding is a balsa sandwich strengthened with GRP beams, and an interior liner is bonded to it before it is craned into place and glued and screwed to the hull. Bulkheads are bonded in place.
Although the 58 is a more conventional boat than the Sense 50, it does not lack for interesting and well-thought-out features. For instance, the mainsheet is fixed atop a molded arch, keeping it well clear of the cockpit and also permitting efficient end-boom sheeting. It also serves as a support point for the dodger and optional bimini.
The cockpit is effectively divided into working and lounging areas. A pair of long and well-upholstered benches forward face each other across a large cockpit table that provides an essential bracing point. The dual wheel pedestals aft are each backed by a broad, comfortable helm seat, complete with padded backrests. Lines are led aft from the mast via under-deck galleries to halyard and primary winches located just ahead of the wheels; happily, the line stowage is well thought-out, so this area is not the snakepit seen on some boats.
The high point of the generally excellent deck and cockpit layout is the open transom, separated from the cockpit by a gate and a pair of steps. Many cruising boats of this size now sport enclosed dinghy garages, but here instead is a working area that will delight both coastal and long-distance cruisers. It can serve as a swim platform, fish-cleaning station, dinghy stowage area—you name it. There is stowage on the hull sides for fenders and lines and under the sole for a liferaft and other essentials. Should you want to dress this area up even more, it can be topped with an optional molded arch that serves as a base for antennas, solar panels and other cruising essentials.
Forward, a hefty windlass and a solid-looking double bow roller handle the ground tackle. The chain locker is accessed from belowdecks, though you must clamber down into a vast sail locker to do so. The side decks are wide and the teak laid decks provide excellent footing, though the cabintop is too low to brace yourself against and extra care must be taken when going forward in a seaway.
Longtime Beneteau stalwarts Berret-Racopeau designed the Oceanis 58’s hull, but Nauta Design is responsible for the bright, open and functional interior. Light streams in through a multitude of flush-fitting hatches and portlights, and not least through the plexiglass surrounding the main hatch. The saloon layout makes full use of the generous hull volume; there are seating areas seemingly everywhere you look.
On most big boats you can point to some areas where space has been wasted, but on the 58 there is a sense that every cubic foot of volume has been measured, assessed and allocated. The galley is vast; along with the separate fridge and freezer there is enough worktop space and stowage to keep any seacook happy; the chart table is more than large enough for a serious passage-planning session; and each of the ensuite heads compartments has a separate shower stall.
Both layout options feature a pair of cabins aft, one of which has twin bunks instead of a single large one. It’s ideal for children as well as for single adults. Other builders, please take note: this is a good idea. There is a choice between a single large owner’s stateroom forward or twin cabins. Throughout, the Alpi mahogany joinery is offset by pleasing trim and accents.
Systems throughout look to be high-quality and well installed. There is enough water and fuel tankage for ambitious voyaging and plenty of room to install a watermaker. Like most big modern passagemakers, the Oceanis 58 is a complex beast: it has a 12-volt system for lighting (all LED) and electronics, a 24-volt system for energy-greedy equipment like windlass and refrigeration, and of course a 120-volt shorepower system.
Going by the performance ratios, which are impressively sporty for a cruiser like this, the Oceanis 58 does not lack horsepower, and indeed she moved along sweetly in the light airs we experienced. Under the circumstances, speeds of 5 to 6 knots to windward were respectable enough. Although there was not a lot of feel in the helm in these conditions, she proved easy to keep in the groove once we got her trimmed properly.
There is some flexibility with respect to the rig—you can specify an overlapping genoa or a self-tacking jib. The latter option is attractive on such a powerful boat, especially if paired with a furling Code 0 for light air offwind work. The boat we sailed was equipped with electric Harken winches (the first option I would order) and easily adjustable genoa sheet cars.
Groupe Beneteau has adopted the 140hp 5-cylinder Volkswagen diesel for its big boats, and it is a smooth and sophisticated powerplant. Noise levels were insignificant with no discernible vibration. Cruising speed is an easy 8 knots. As you’d expect on a boat this size, the engine bay is spacious and service points are easily accessible. The engine carries both 12-volt and 24-volt alternators.
I was left with the impression of a luxurious and capable cruiser that will gobble up the miles quickly and comfortably, and is yet another testament to the quality of the modern production boat. The price is attractive too.
LOA: 59ft 10in
LWL: 53ft 11in
BEAM: 16ft 4in
DRAFT: 8ft 6in
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 285/269
Photo courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget