The Beneteau sailboat line has long represented a kind of continuum, both in terms of the many models the company is offering at any given moment and over time. This does not, however, in any way diminish the quality of its individual boats. Just the opposite. Case in point: the Beneteau Oceanis 46.1, a performance-cruiser that not only makes lots of sense but is a joy to sail.
Design & Construction
The Oceanis 46.1 is vintage Beneteau in terms of basic construction. The hull is molded in polyester, while the deck is comprised of an injected fiberglass/foam-core sandwich, with a molded-in anti-skid; the deck-stepped, double-spreader mast is aluminum; and both the shoal and standard-draft keels are cast iron. The “basics” of this boat, however, represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of all this boat has to offer.
Like its predecessor, the Oceanis 51.1, the Beneteau Oceanis 46.1 boasts twin rudders, a prerequisite aboard a modern cruising boat that carries its beam well aft. Also like the 51.1, the Pascal Conq-designed 46.1 features a “stepped” hull, in which the canoe body flares dramatically to a chine immediately above the waterline, thereby allowing Beneteau to maximize interior volume while maintaining a narrow entry forward.
Also forward is a substantial fixed sprit for flying a Code 0 or asymmetric spinnaker, and keeping the hook away from the boat’s plumb stem. Finally, a turbo-charged First version of the boat is available, which includes an extra 3ft of mast, 28 percent more working sail area, Harken Performa winches and a deep, lead-bulb T-keel for better righting moment.
The overall look is both purposeful and very Euro. However, to my eye, there’s also something vaguely reminiscent of the old C&C line in the boat’s cabintrunk profile forward—and that’s a good thing. The standard rig includes an in-mast furling main, but a conventional main is also available. A track for a self-tacking jib is located just forward of the mast. Genoa tracks are also located close inboard alongside the cabintrunk.
The deck combines a nice mix of comfort and practicality. Aft, the boat’s substantial beam provides room for a fantastic cockpit, complete with twin wheels and twin benches that are both plenty long and (equally important) well-proportioned for lounging.
Group Beneteau long ago elevated drop-down swim step design to high art, and the motorized, articulated platform on the 46.1 is no exception. Not only does it include a considerate extra step, it also serves as a nice platform for tending a swing-out grill concealed in the starboard helm seat. A pair of lounging pads to either side of the companionway completes the cockpit’s “comfort” package, so to speak.
As for the practical side of things, when retracted the swim step forms a nice backstop for preventing errant children and tools from going overboard aft. There are also a pair of retractable davits for lifting the dinghy out of the way on passage; and the optional mainsheet arch, in addition to anchoring the dodger incorporates a pair of fantastic handholds to either side of the companionway as well as handholds outboard for moving around in the breezy conditions.
Similarly, the twin helm stations, not only to provide a clear vantage point forward and of the rig, but are within reach of all the necessary winches and stoppers for trimming sail. In fact, all the winches are located here, i.e., there are none forward of the companionway, thereby freeing up the necessary space for the aforementioned lounging areas. I especially like the more minimal binnacle style Beneteau is going with these days, and the sizeable cockpit table includes sufficient storage space for a liferaft. A pair of sturdy handrails toward the center of the cockpit table are a nice touch.
Forward, a molded-in toerail provides additional security, and while the uppers terminate outboard the lowers are secured just outboard of the cabintrunk providing a clear pathway to the bow. Once there, you’ll find a wonderful belowdecks sail locker just aft of the anchor locker, complete with ladder—exactly as it should be for digging out those reaching sails.
Accommodations are another area in which Beneteau excels and has scads of experience, and the basic layout of the Oceanis 46.1, though a fairly conventional one, is very well executed.
The owner’s stateroom is forward and voluminous enough (thanks in part to that stepped hull) for an island bed, separate head and shower compartments, and his and hers hanging lockers.
Saloon options include an L-shaped galley to port of the companionway or an in-line galley to port in place of a settee. The latter becomes necessary if you want to have a separate shower/head for each quarterberth. In fact, Beneteau offers the option of as many as five separate cabins and four heads, although such extravagance will likely only appeal to charter companies. The L-shaped galley includes a top-opening and front-opening fridge, and a compartment at the base of the companionway gives you something to lean up against while cooking.
There is a choice of satin “light oak” or mahogany in the joinery work. Whatever material you choose, the combination of hull windows, ports and overhead hatches will ensure there is plenty of natural light belowdecks when the sun is up.
The day of our test sail we had a steady 10 knots of breeze on Narragansett Bay, which made for effortless sailing, whether hard on the wind or reaching along under a Code 0.
It’s easy to forget in this day and age that a 47-footer displacing over 23,000lb—lightship no less—is a big boat. Yet you hardly ever really notice it aboard the Oceanis 46.1, thanks to the boat’s well-thought-out hardware, which on our test boat included Harken 50 electric primaries, Harken 46 electric secondaries, Spinlock stoppers, a Profurl genoa furler and a Facnor continuous-line furler for a light-air Code 0. (Nav electronics were all B&G with an MFD at each helm.)
Also aboard our test boat, we carried a North Sails 3Di Nordac cruising headsail and a standard in-mast furling main. Despite the limitations of the latter, we managed an impressive 4.5 knots on a close reach, even as the true windspeed feel away to a bare 6.2 knots. Bearing away, we unfurled the Code 0 at the same time the wind picked up a bit and were soon going just over 8 knots with 11 knots of wind.
My experience has been that the boats in the Oceanis line are also more than up to the rigors of passagemaking, and I’d love to see how this boat does off-soundings. Then again, vast majority of times most owners will be taking the boat out in conditions much like those we experienced during our test sail, and for that the boat was absolutely perfect.
Time was, backing up a sailboat could be an adventure, but not anymore, thanks to today’s rudders, and especially when you have a bow thruster at your disposal—as was the case threading our way in and out of the packed marina at Fort Adams. Under power with the standard engine swinging an optional Flexofold folding prop, we did 3.3 knots motoring into a slight headwind at 1,000 rpm. Throttling up to 2,200 rpm yielded a very acceptable 6.9 knots.
Beneteau has been in the business for a long time, and you pretty much know what to expect from one of the world’s biggest boatbuilders. This, however, in no way diminishes the fact that the company continues to produce outstanding boats, including this very nice new performance-cruiser.
LOA 47ft 11ft LWL 43ft 5in Beam 14ft 9in
Draft 7ft 9in (deep); 5ft 9in (shoal); 8ft 8in (performance)
Air Draft 66ft 8in (standard); 69ft 11in (performance)
Displacement 23,356lb (lightship)
Ballast 6,028lb (deep); 6,746lb (shoal); 5,678lb (performance)
Sail Area 920ft (self-taking jib, furling main)
Fuel/Water (GAL) 53/98
Engine 57hp Yanmar (80hp optional)
SA/D 18 D/L 128 Ballast Ratio 26
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
Designer Pascal Conq (hull); Nauta Design (deck/interior)
Builder Beneteau, S. Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, France
U.S. Distributor Beneteau America, Annapolis, MD, 410-990-0270, beneteau.com/us
Price $450,000 (sail away) at time of publication