Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

Beneteau 523

Groupe Beneteau is the largest sailboat manufacturer in the world. It comprises four separate companies—Beneteau, Jeanneau, Lagoon, and CNB—that operate independently but share economies of scale. At first glance, Beneteau and Jeanneau may appear to be competing for the same buyers, but in reality each line is designed to fill wide (and separate) swaths in the marketplace. Jeanneau has had great
Beneteau523

Groupe Beneteau is the largest sailboat manufacturer in the world. It comprises four separate companies—Beneteau, Jeanneau, Lagoon, and CNB—that operate independently but share economies of scale. At first glance, Beneteau and Jeanneau may appear to be competing for the same buyers, but in reality each line is designed to fill wide (and separate) swaths in the marketplace. Jeanneau has had great success with distinctively styled deck-saloon boats, while Beneteau has established a strong foothold with more traditionally styled cruisers and racer/cruisers. So when I approached the new Beneteau 523 on the docks in Miami and was struck (yet again) by the fact that the majority of new sailboat designs are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, I wasn’t all that surprised. Measuring slightly over 52 feet, the 523 is part of Beneteau’s Flagship line and represents a natural progression up from Beneteau’s smaller models.

On Deck

My first impression was that the boat’s proportions seemed right. That’s no small accomplishment with 16-foot beam to accommodate a spacious interior and freeboard tall enough to provide considerable headroom. The 523’s appearance benefits from its low-slung coachroof. The cockpit is both functional and comfortable. Dual helm stations are separated from the cockpit by molded-in steering pods that allow the helmsman to have a comfortable seat, access to all controls, and excellent visibility on either tack. Meantime, crew in the cockpit can stretch out on 6-foot-long teak-trimmed seats or have lunch at the sturdy (permanent) teak cockpit table with fold-down leaves. The split helms provide easy access to the walk-through transom and swim platform below. The cockpit also contains several large lockers that can easily swallow dock lines and fenders.

Belowdecks

The 523 will appeal to anyone who longs to trade up from a smaller boat. Going down the companionway steps brings you into a bright, airy saloon that would be a perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon at anchor. The interior layout is noteworthy for the intelligent use of the available space. The linear galley running along the starboard side of the saloon offers considerable counter and stowage space. The forward-facing nav station at the base of the companionway steps has a good-size chart table and a comfortable contoured seat. The dining table is offset to port and has room for six to eat comfortably. The long, curved seat that runs along the outboard edge of the settee will make an excellent seaberth (on the starboard tack); a bench seat set amidships has fiddled counter space and a bank of drawers built into the backrest. This obviously provides good stowage for cutlery and the like and makes a sturdy (and necessary) brace point for moving around in the saloon.

I was particularly impressed with the master cabin forward. It has an ensuite head and a 6-foot, 6-inch-long walk-around double berth with a high-density-foam mattress. The cabin is furnished with two large hanging lockers, several cabinets with vented doors, a dressing table, a bench seat, and two drawers under the berth. The two guest cabins aft are smaller (each has a double berth and a small hanging locker), and each also has an ensuite head.

Under Sail

The breeze never topped 10 knots for our test off Miami Beach—not ideal to determine top-end speed or to see how a boat performs in heavier weather, but enough to determine basic characteristics and light-air performance. Cracked off a bit from hard on the breeze and with the sails trimmed for maximum power, we were able to get boatspeed to nudge 5 knots in the zephyrs. No doubt this results from a high sail area-displacement ratio—18.7—and a D/L ratio of a surprisingly low 132. This is a light boat for its size, and it was devoid of cruising gear. The downside to this nimble light-air performance will likely be a need to reef early when the wind picks up. We tacked through 95 degrees. The helm was light and responsive, and the boat cut quietly through the water. The helmsman can easily trim the jib (with the push of a button) from behind the wheel, but another crewmember (or a push of the autopilot and several steps forward) will be needed to trim the mainsail, which runs to a cabintop winch.

The boat was well-mannered under power. Backing out of our tight slip in the marina was effortless thanks to the optional bow thruster. The boat stopped quickly and pivoted predictably when we needed it to. Top speed under power was 7.6 knots, and excellent insulation kept engine noise to a minimum.

Conclusion

The 523 shows that a new boat design doesn’t have to be revolutionary to be effective. Its lines are pleasing, traditional, and nonthreatening. The accommodation plan makes excellent use of the available interior volume (especially in the master cabin)—not by reconfiguring a traditional layout, but rather by skillfully executing subtle refinements and enhancements. The boat is manageable enough for a cruising couple and big enough to accommodate three cruising couples. Its long waterline and light displacement promise good speed potential. If you’re looking for more interior room and don’t mind only having one seaberth in the saloon, the 523 is well worth a look.

Price: $465,000 (base, FOB East Coast) including sails and Raymarine navigation electronics pack.

Builder:Beneteau Yachts, Marion, SC; tel. 843-629-5300

Designer: Groupe Finot

Construction: Hand-laminated solid-fiberglass hull with internal fiberglass grid reinforced with unidirectional rovings. Deck is built of hand-laid fiberglass and cored with end-grain balsa. Hull-to-deck joint is an inward-turned flange that is bonded and through-bolted. Bulkheads are bonded to both the hull and the deck. Pros: Good use of space, excellent master cabin, comfortable helm stations. Cons: Only one seaberth, smaller aft cabins.

Specifications

LOA - 53'1"

LWL - 47'11"

Beam - 16'

Draft (std/opt) - 7'6" or 5'11"

Displacement - 32,800 lbs

Ballast - 10,935 lbs

Sail Area (100% foretriangle) - 1,200 sq ft

Power - 100-hp Yanmar

Fuel/water/waste - 119/251/22 gals/head

Electrical - (1) 140-amp starting battery; (4) 140-amp house batteries; 80-amp alternator

Displacement-Length ratio - 132

Sail Area-Displacement ratio - 18.7

Ballast ratio - 32%

Related

Waterlines

The Power of Sails

I suppose it isn’t merely a coincidence that I’ve made significant changes to the sailplans of the last three cruising boats I’ve owned. The first project was the biggest. My old Golden Hind 31, Sophie, had lots of charm and character, but her sloop rig was laughably small. ...read more

01-LEAD-BahiaCobre

Charter the Sea of Cortez

Chartering and the notion of going “off the beaten path” may sound self-contradictory. Charter companies tend to put bases where demand is high and they can turn a profit, so if you’re lucky enough to find an outfit and a destination that gets away from the typical—say yes. To ...read more

22D6FB6F-AA49-4784-A3A8-960F5A7CE330

Cruising: Anchoring Skills

Watching charterers make a run for the last mooring in a cove is fun—and weird. I always wonder why so many would rather try to catch a mooring than drop the hook. Maybe charterers don’t trust their anchoring skills, but it’s harder to drive up and grab a buoy than most people ...read more

BD-TJV21_Malama_063

11th Hour Breakdown in the TJV

11th Hour Racing’s Mālama kicked off the second week of the Transat Jaques Vabre with keel problems, forcing co-skippers Charlie Enright and Pascal Bidégorry to adjust for a more conservative approach to the race’s remaining 2000 miles. “We’ve been dealing with a lot of ...read more

2021-rolex-y-of-y-email-graphic

Rolex Nominations Open

Award season is upon us, and US Sailing is looking for the next Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex since 1980, the annual Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards recognize individual male and female sailors ...read more

04-IMG_3448

Buying a New Main Sail

I’ve always known the importance of having good sails. As a low-budget boat punk, I prioritize making sure I can get where I’m going with the help of the wind, as opposed to under power. It isn’t necessarily my goal to be engineless, or basically engineless. It just happens that ...read more

WAC

VIDEO: Protocol and Class Rules of the Next America’s Cup

The Defender, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and Challenger of the Record, INEOS Britannia, have announced the protocol and class rules for the 37th America’s Cup. According to team CEO Grant Dalton, “As the oldest trophy in international sport, the America’s Cup maintains ...read more

Chartwork

Are You Ready to Bareboat Charter?

Judging your own readiness is never easy. That goes double for chartering and running a yacht on vacation. What I hear most often from first-time charter guests is that they’ve been sailing for decades, so how different can it be to charter? The truth is it’s very different ...read more