Beneteau 31

I’m always impressed when a boat design shows you can teach an old dog new tricks. Thirty-one-foot coastal-cruising designs have been around since builders started using fiberglass to build hulls, so it’s easy to think that it’s all been done before. But the new Beneteau 31 has innovative solutions and incremental changes that have a positive effect on comfort, functionality, aesthetics, and
Author:
Updated:
Original:

I’m always impressed when a boat design shows you can teach an old dog new tricks. Thirty-one-foot coastal-cruising designs have been around since builders started using fiberglass to build hulls, so it’s easy to think that it’s all been done before. But the new Beneteau 31 has innovative solutions and incremental changes that have a positive effect on comfort, functionality, aesthetics, and sailing performance. I took one out for a spin off Padanaram, Massachusetts, in flat water and a perfect 12-knot sea breeze. Here’s what I found.

ben31sail300

The hull is built of solid hand-laid fiberglass with a solid-fiberglass structural grid bonded in place. Vinylester resin is used as a barrier coat to combat osmotic blistering. High-load areas are solid fiberglass reinforced with stitchmat, and the deck is also reinforced with solid-fiberglass deck beams. The main bulkheads are bonded to both the hull and the deck.

Simple, good ideas abound on deck. First, the companionway: Instead of the cumbersome hatchboards that most boats seem to have, this boat’s companionway “door” can be opened and closed easily and slides out of the way (thanks to a clever hinge system) just under the sliding companionway hatch. In bad weather the door can stay in place and open like conventional companionway doors. This feature may well make conventional hatchboards obsolete. Next, the helm seat not only opens to provide easy walk-through access to the swim area at the stern, but has a gas strut to hold it open—a welcome substitute for removable helm seats that need to be stowed. Other deck features—comfortable cockpit, well-equipped steering pod, decent anchor locker—are well executed and, all told, result in an excellent setup.

A 31-footer necessarily has limited interior space; it’s a question of trade-offs. On this boat maximum space is devoted to the main living space, so the saloon is spacious and comfortable. The galley is equipped with excellent stowage and counter space, and there’s even a sit-down nav station with a small table. The saloon’s large fixed windows and hatches make it bright and airy feeling, though ventilation is limited to two small opening ports and one small opening hatch. The aft cabin has a large berth and a hanging locker, though not much headroom. The V-berth forward is more suited for kids than adults, but it does have a hanging locker. In all, the accommodation plan is well suited to coastal cruising.

ben31interior300

I wish all my test-sailing days were like the one we had on Buzzards Bay. Under full main (cross-cut Dacron, with conventional battens) and 105 percent roller-furling jib, we soon had the boat power-reaching at over 6 knots in 12 knots of breeze. Speeds stayed in the 5s when we hardened up on the breeze. The boat tacked effortlessly through 85 to 90 degrees and tracked like the proverbial freight train. The boat was beautifully balanced and returned just the right amount of weather helm. It responded sweetly to puffs and the mainsail-dominated sailplan was well suited to the conditions.

Maneuvering under power in the marina was a no-surprises affair. We goosed the throttle to get the boat backing straight, had the water flowing over the rudder in no time, and had no trouble bucking a bit of crosswind to get into the slip. The engine at (2,700 RPM) pushed the boat through the water at over 5 knots and could easily hit 6 knots at full throttle. Excellent sound insulation lining the engine box helped create a quiet ride both on deck and below.

Conclusion: The new Beneteau 31 offers a collection of good ideas and incremental improvements that have a real impact. It’s well worth a look for anyone in the market for a new coastal cruiser.

The new Beneteau 31 offers a collection of good ideas and incremental improvements that have a real impact. It’s well worth a look for anyone in the market for a new coastal cruiser.

Pros:

•Clever companionway door designs

•Large cockpit locker

•Easy swim-platform access

•Sailing performance

Cons:

•Limited saloon ventilation

•Cabin space taken up by saloon

Specifications:

Price: $109,000 (sailaway, FOB Marion, SC) includes sails, basic instruments, ground tackle

Builder: Beneteau USA, 843-629-5300, www.beneteauusa.com

Designer: Finot/Conq Assn. (boat), Nauta Design (interior)

Related

Shelly-forward-last-day

Charter Advice for First-Timers

Never chartered? No worries. A vacation under sail can be the most memorable time of your life. That said, it also pays to be prepared by doing some reading, building your skills and listening to what the experts say. First and foremost, not all charter grounds are created ...read more

HugoBoss

Video: Vendeé Update

Last week Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) led the fleet across the equator. As one of the class' top sailors who's been on the Vendeé Podium twice, it seemed possible that Thomson was going to grab an early lead and hold on to it all the way around the world. But early on Saturday, he ...read more

AdobeStock_229409051

Chartering Again for the First Time

It’s been a rocky road of late for the charter industry, especially here in the Western Hemisphere. First came hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean followed by Dorian in the Bahamas. There has also, of course, been the coronavirus, which burst into global prominence ...read more

01 LEAD cedaryachtclub_onedesign18_hike

An Interview with Ayme Sinclair

In recent months, US Sailing, like many organizations, has been taking a closer look at diversity to ensure it’s doing the best job it can of introducing people from all backgrounds and ethnicities to the sport. As part of this effort, this past summer it organized an online ...read more

125768940_10222759720523627_5373654001582879638_n

US Sailing Presents Adaptive Sailing Panel

On Tuesday, November 24, US Sailing’s Leadership Forum will present the latest panel discussion in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series. This event will focus on adaptive sailing and provide practical recommendations for organizations looking to expand their adaptive ...read more

02-IMG_5971

A Carbon Neutral Circumnav with Jimmy Cornell

Historic anniversaries have always held a special fascination for me, especially if they mark a significant nautical achievement. In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ would-be voyage to India, I organized a transatlantic rally that followed the historic route of the ...read more

DJI_0068

SAIL Podcast: Jimmy Cornell’s Carbon-free Circumnav

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with bestselling author and pioneering bluewater sailor Jimmy Cornell, who set out November 19 on yet another circumnavigation aboard a newly designed, carbon-neutral Outremer 4Zero catamaran. The voyage, which ...read more

emirates-600x

Emirates Team New Zealand Splashes the last of the AC75s

Emirates Team New Zealand unveiled its second-generation AC75 yesterday, joining the other three America's Cup teams with boats in the water. In just over 100 days, this boat will attempt to defend the Cup for the Kiwis, but there's plenty of racing between now and then, with ...read more