The hull slices easily through the warm summer Chesapeake Bay under the power of full working sail, almost burying the lee rail when a 20-knot puff hits. Somebody mentions reefing, but I’m still steering with only two fingers, so we don’t. The boat is the new Beneteau Oceanis 40.1, and it seems to be having as much fun as the crew.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
Our test boat was built in a highly automated factory in France, as all Beneteau sailboats have been since the U.S. factory in Marion, South Carolina closed. Although the 40.1 is a production-line boat with standardized parts, there are plentiful options to suit most buyers. In addition to keeping price point down, this kind of standardization is also an advantage when an owner needs to replace something.
The Marc Lombard design features a long waterline, broad stern and a double-chine hull reminiscent of the classic aluminum French voyaging vessels found in harbors around the world. The fin keel carries a cast iron ballast bulb, and twin rudders are canted outward. The fact that there is plenty of form stability in this design means there can be less ballast in the keel.
A typical Beneteau fiberglass structural liner reinforces the hull, which is capped with an injection-molded sandwich fiberglass deck. The resin is polyester, the glass work is neat and smooth, and even the hidden spaces are nicely finished. The Beneteau 40.1 is built to CE standards.
The plumbing and distributed electrical systems are neat and proper in typical Beneteau manner. Spare cable runs make it easier to add wiring at any time, and USB outlets are strategically placed throughout the interior, a nice touch. The transom lowers to reveal a wide, two-level stern platform: a clever, efficient place for boarding and swimming that families will love.
Serious racers in areas without water depth limitations may prefer the performance version with a taller mast and deeper keel. However, the standard model should acquit itself well against other boats, too. If you want to transit the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the shoal draft version can do it, drawing 5ft 6in and clearing 61ft overhead.
The standard rig of the Beneteau 40.1 includes an in-mast furling mainsail and handy self-tacking jib. However, our test boat carried a bit of extra power with a 105 percent furling genoa. An optional Code 0 on a furler can be flown at the end of the bowsprit on light-air days.
Cockpit security and access are good. I especially appreciated the retractable footrests for the helmsman and midline table brace points for the crew and guests. I found good sight lines and reasonable comfort from both the windward and leeward positions while steering. As with most boats of modern flush deck design, there are no good grab points on the foredeck.
Our test boat had properly sized two-speed manual winches and lines leading neatly to stoppers. Forty feet is about the size where electric winches are welcomed by a lightweight or older crew, and they are also available on the 40.1 as an option.
Our standard-version test boat had two sleeping cabins, one head and a “workshop,” which consisted of a deep, unfinished space beneath the port-side cockpit seat. While the workshop provides lots of storage space for fenders and lines, access to it could be better. Other layout options include three or four cabins with one or two heads.
Like other Beneteaus, the 40.1 has plenty of headroom and large, open saloon. Unlike most Beneteaus, however, the galley is amidships to starboard and is C-shaped, a spacious plan with plenty of counter space for use at anchor or dockside. Underway, the cook may want a safety belt. There are good grab points overhead and beside the companionway. The countertops include tall, strong fiddles that will also make useful handholds.
There’s plenty of stowage inside the engineered-wood Alpi cabinets, which carry a dark walnut or light oak surface finish. The overall interior appearance is modern, simple and clean. Plentiful hatches overhead and fixed ports in the topsides flood the space with ambient light.
Both the forward and aft sleeping cabins provide easy access to spacious berths. The aft cabin and saloon both open to a large, bright head compartment with a separate shower lined with the same Alpi material as the rest of the interior. There’s a nav table aft to port with panel space for electronics, and a U-shaped dinette just forward of that.
On a breezy day in smooth water, the Beneteau 40.1 was exceptionally easy to handle, steadily returning 7.5 knots of boatspeed close-hauled in 15 knots of wind. On reaches, we topped 8 knots. A Beneteau representative explained that the double-chined hull submerges as a V shape when heeled, resulting in straight tracking. Whatever the cause, the helm stayed nearly neutral on all the courses as well as in the puffs while still returning gentle feedback that made steering a pleasure.
Tacking angles on this freshly launched boat measured about 90 degrees. I believe that could be improved with a bit of rig tuning or a more efficient battened mainsail. Overall, the 40.1 was fast and fun to sail.
Mechanical locomotion comes from a quiet Yanmar shaft drive. Maintenance access under the steps and through side panels is good. At a normal cruise setting of 2,400 rpm, I measured 7.5 knots. With the throttle wide open we achieved hull speed, just over 8 knots.
The turning circle was startlingly tight—about one boatlength—and just short of inducing whiplash. In reverse, the 40.1 handled perfectly as we moved backward in a straight line with no tendency to “kick” to one side.
The Beneteau 40.1 is quite maneuverable and goes exactly where you point it, either ahead or in reverse. Our test boat had a bow thruster, which is always a nice addition for sailors who need to thread through crowded marinas or want truly simple handling alongside a fuel dock.
The Beneteau 40.1 is a fine sailing, thoughtfully designed mid-size cruiser-racer from the largest sailboat builder in the world. By choosing your trim, rigging and electronics option packages, you can create anything from a friendly family-style boat to an enthusiastic racer with this versatile platform.
LOA 42ft 3in
LWL 38ft 5in
BEAM 13ft 9in
DRAFT 5ft 6in (shoal); 7ft 5in (performance)
SAIL AREA 790ft2 (100% FT)
FUEL/WATER (GAL) 52/62
ENGINE 45hp Common Rail
Ballast Ratio 28
SA/D Ratio 19
D/L Ratio 139
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNER Marc Lombard/Nauta
BUILDER Beneteau, St. Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, France
U.S. Distributor Beneteau America, Annapolis, MD, beneteau.com/us
PRICE $251,100 (base) at time of publication