Beneteau Sense 43

This 43-foot offering doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as its big sister, the new Sense 50, but it does demonstrate that the Sense design concept can translate successfully into a significantly smaller hull.
Author:
Publish date:



That Beneteau is fully committed to coming out of the Great Recession with all guns blazing is amply demonstrated by the fact that it introduced not one, but two boats in its new line of Sense cruisers during the 2010-11 boat show season. This 43-foot offering doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as its big sister, the new Sense 50, but it does demonstrate that the Sense design concept can translate successfully into a significantly smaller hull.

bene_sense_43

Construction
The boat’s construction is entirely conventional. The hull is solid glass set in polyester resin. The deck is balsa-cored, and bonded and bolted to the hull. The ballast keel is cast iron. Finish quality is about average for a modern mass-production boat.

On Deck
All that separates the very wide cockpit from the saloon is three low steps. The companionway is enormous, so that traffic (and any boarding waves) can flow easily into the interior. The twin helm stations are pushed all the way aft (there is a collapsible sill to keep you from accidentally backing out of the open transom when stepping away from a wheel), so there is scads of space for socializing. The focal point is a collapsible table to starboard with wrap-around bench seating that converts to a sun bed.

All lines from the mast and boom are led aft to secondary winches on the forward end of the cockpit coamings, where they are easily accessible. There’s no traveler: instead, the main sheets to blocks on a large arch overhead. This arrangement works well, but I did miss being able to toss working lines down the companionway while sailing. The many lines coming aft are stuffed in two rather small line boxes in the coaming, and it is impossible to keep them neatly sorted. I’d also like to see a traveler on the mainsheet arch.

Perhaps the cockpit’s best features are the two enormous stowage lockers on either side. Big enough to easily swallow fuel jugs, sails, rolled up tenders and outboard motors, they should prove eminently useful to active cruisers. There’s even enough room to lay in a passage berth if you like, and the port locker has a fold-down vent beneath the hatch cover to facilitate this.

Accommodations
In conceiving these new boats, Beneteau and the Berret Racoupeau design group have bravely abandoned what has long been a central tenet of production cruising boat design. Instead of trying maximize stateroom and head space by cramming accommodations under the cockpit, they have instead focused on maximizing the key social spaces—the saloon and cockpit—and marrying them to each other as closely as possible.

bene_sense_43_2

On the Sense 43, the cockpit and saloon take up the aft two-thirds of the boat, and all the “sleeping rooms,” plus the one head, are situated in the bow. The saloon is very large and open, with sightlines, like those on a catamaran, leading outside the space in all directions. Large windows with integral opening ports face to starboard, to port and aft out to the cockpit. There are also small bulkhead windows forward that carry your gaze into the rest of the accommodation space.

The in-line galley is laid out to port behind a sturdy center island and has scads of counter space. The two sinks are a tad small and shallow, but there is lots of useful storage space along with a pair of excellent working areas on either side of the stove. The dinette and wraparound settee directly opposite are roomy and comfortable. For your evening entertainment there’s a large flat-screen TV that pops up out of the island facing the settee.

The nav station, which runs alongside the aft edge of the settee with a view through a window directly into the cockpit, is one of the best I’ve seen on a contemporary boat this size. The desk is quite long, with plenty of room for laying out charts and papers, and there is lots of room in the overhanging cabinets to install ancillary electronics.
The two staterooms forward seem perfectly functional and have good-size double berths. The guest stateroom to port, in my opinion, would work better with twin single bunk berths, as this would open up more floor space and make the boat an ideal vehicle for a couple with two children.

Under Sail
Like its big sister, the Sense 43 sails very well. The hard chines in the hull and the twin rudders allow for great directional stability, even when the boat is hard pressed. It also moves well in light-to-moderate wind with appropriate sails.

Our test boat carried a shoal-draft keel and was equipped with an in-mast furling mainsail, a self-tacking blade jib, and a gennaker on a continuous-line furler just forward of the headstay. In 10-12 knots of true wind off Miami Beach, we maintained 5.7 to 6 knots of speed sailing close-hauled in flat water at a 40 degree apparent wind angle. Cracking off to a close reach with the gennaker unfurled, our top speed increased to 7.6 knots. On a flat reach this dropped to 6.7 knots. On a broad reach, at a 135 degree apparent wind angle, it fell to 4.7 knots.

I found the helm to be smooth and well balanced. Sailing close-hauled with the sails trimmed properly I could keep my hands off the wheel for up to 10 minutes before the boat started slowly rounding up. Close reaching under the gennaker in nearly 15 knots apparent wind, there was light weather helm; on a broad reach the helm was neutral.

Under Power
The Sense 43, unlike its big sister, cannot be ordered with Beneteau’s new Dock & Go drive system, though a conventional bow thruster is available. During our test, the 43’s 54hp engine drove the boat in flat water to a speed of 6.5 knots at 1,800rpm and 9 knots flat out at 3,000rpm. The twin rudders provided good control when backing down, as long as rudder angles were kept relatively shallow.

Engine access, unfortunately, is somewhat compromised. For quick access the shallow companionway steps fold up in the conventional manner, but the engine is mounted far back in the space and isn’t easy to reach. Side access is through removable panels in the cockpit lockers. If you store much gear in those lockers, you’ll have some unpacking to do before you can pull the dipstick and check the oil.

Conclusion
The Sense 43 will be immensely appealing to those who want catamaran-style social spaces in a monohull boat that sails well and is easy to handle. Two couples or a family will be quite comfortable cruising the boat for extended periods. With its large cockpit, the Sense 43 can also accommodate a horde of guests during a long daysail.

Our Take
Pros

Bright, spacious saloon

Roomy cockpit

Good stability and sailing performance

Attractive styling

Cons
No protection from boarding seas aft

Less than optimal engine access

No mainsheet traveler

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more