The Mini Class has long served as a feeder into the wild world of singlehanded offshore racing, offering huge adventure in a 21-foot package that emphasizes performance over all else. However, while this works well for the hard-core, 20- and 30-something crowd, Minis are cramped, highly strung raceboats that oftentimes stretch the definition of the term “enjoyable sailing.” Enter the second of our two performance monohull winners, the Seascape 27 (more recently renamed the Beneteau First 27), the brainchild of former Mini sailors who wanted a high-performance, offshore-capable steed that’s both safe and comfortable enough for (limited) cruising.
At first glance, the boat’s slab-sided, hard-chined design, twin rudders, large, retractable sprit pole and open cockpit appear to be all business. However, upon stepping aboard you quickly discover the boat’s softer, cruising-focused side, including an enclosed head (with innovative, iPad cover-esque closure “doors”), cushioned berths, a centerline nav station, a centerboard and generous sail lockers. Couple these amenities with one of the most innovative retractable “integrated outboard” auxiliary power systems that we’ve ever seen, a stiff, powerful hull form and GRP vacuum-infusion construction—as well as positive buoyancy built into the bow and stern sections—and the thought of spending time cruising the boat doesn’t seem at all far-fetched.
While the boat can easily be cruised, her primary design brief is to serve as a shorthanded offshore racer that’s capable of winning trophies— a Seascape 27 claimed top honors in the double-handed division of the 2014 Chicago-Mackinac Race. This cool little boat sports a fat, square-headed mainsail, a stern-mounted flush traveller, carbon-fiber spars and sprit pole, a massive gennaker and fully adjustable headsail leads. Best yet, the boat can be easily trailered to regattas or distant boat ramps, or—for overseas events or to avoid a lengthy beat to windward—packed into a 40-foot shipping container.