Boat Review: Beneteau Oceanis 38

At the last Annapolis boat show everyone was talking about Beneteau’s new multi-personality performance cruiser, the interior of which can be changed so much it defies the limits of what can be considered a production boat. This model doesn’t just evolve from previous concepts, it leaps off the drawing board and challenges you to imagine its perfect use.
Author:
Updated:
Original:
The Beneteau Oceanis 38 shares the angular good looks of the rest of the Oceanis line and also breaks new ground in the area of interior design

The Beneteau Oceanis 38 shares the angular good looks of the rest of the Oceanis line and also breaks new ground in the area of interior design

At the last Annapolis boat show everyone was talking about Beneteau’s new multi-personality performance cruiser, the interior of which can be changed so much it defies the limits of what can be considered a production boat. This model doesn’t just evolve from previous concepts, it leaps off the drawing board and challenges you to imagine its perfect use.

Construction

Like most of Beneteau’s recent designs, the Oceanis 38 has aggressive angular lines with a nearly plumb bow and a slightly reverse transom. The low cabintop provides a nice profile while belying the amount of volume and headroom below.

Beam is carried well aft to a wide stern, but the boat’s twin rudders allow the hull to grip the water regardless of heel angle. A hard chine flowing from well forward all the way aft also helps keep the Oceanis 38 sailing up to five degrees flatter than it otherwise would. For anyone who’s had to brace themselves in a gust, that certainly makes a difference.

The hull is molded in polyester, with a hull liner bonded in at the beginning of the assembly process to increase stiffness. The deck is injection molded with a Saerfoam core to increase strength and reduce weight, after which it is secured to the hull with adhesives and screws, and then “trimmed” with a 1-inch toerail. The keel is cast iron. The rudder stocks are stainless steel.

<iframe src='http://players.brightcove.net/3791031131001/S1tihGFI_default/index.html?videoId=4078402960001' allowfullscreen frameborder=0></iframe>


On Deck

Beneteau offers the boat in three flavors: Daysailer, Weekender and Cruiser. Most of the differences are in the interior, but there are some variables on deck as well. Specifically, the Weekender and Cruiser come standard with a mainsheet arch over the cockpit and a drop-leaf cockpit table to help entertain a crowd for sundowners.

Twin helms open up the middle of the cockpit, and there is good access from the companionway all the way aft, where Beneteau’s signature hinged transom drops down into a formidable swim platform that seems to add another dimension to the deck plan. The side decks are wide and easy to maneuver on, and there are good handholds on the cabintop.

The 9/10ths fractional rig is supported by double sweptback spreaders and flies 748 square feet of sail split between a 103 percent genoa on a Facnor furler and a traditional mainsail, built by Elvstrom. The deck-stepped Z-Spars mast has been moved aft and is centered over the keel to create a slightly larger foretriangle for more power. Most of the rest of the deck hardware is Harken, including both primary and cabintop winches. Nav electronics are B&G throughout.

The “Cruiser” version with the bulkhead separating the forward cabin from the saloon removed to make the interior open-plan

The “Cruiser” version with the bulkhead separating the forward cabin from the saloon removed to make the interior open-plan

Accommodations

I spent more time aboard this boat examining the clever details of the interior than on any other at the show. The more basic choices include two or three cabins and one head, and the Daysailer incorporates only a sink in the “galley,” allowing for a large open social sitting area. The other two models add galley modules incorporating an optional stove with oven, a microwave, a fridge and a storage cabinet.

In the two-cabin Cruiser layout, the extra space aft to starboard is used for a stand-up shower. It’s not so much a stall as a small shower room into which you and three close friends could easily fit. It will also make a fine wet locker when not in use. In the three-cabin layout, the shower is in a smaller compartment to port that is otherwise designated a hanging locker. All three interiors make the most of the 6ft 5in headroom and include a removable forward bulkhead that separates the master stateroom from the saloon. Without it, the boat seems huge below, and for couples, this will most likely be the preferred configuration. The bulkhead panels can be replaced and removed easily but will have to be stored off the boat. Many owners will probably just keep them in the garage and opt for the wide-open look that makes this design so alluring.

In yet another clever feature, Beneteau has partnered with luggage designer Longchamp to develop what they call the “rolling locker,” a stylish roller bag you can pack at home and then transport to the boat. Once aboard, it hangs neatly from one of the built-in handles on either side of the V-berth. Unzip and, voila, you have an instant hanging locker.

You can also modify each of the three basic layouts with various cabinet modules, which admittedly gets a bit confusing. I suspect most owners will choose a kind of a hybrid layout that borrows what they like best from the various standard configurations of the boat. You can also add or remove features further down the road, allowing you to fine-tune the boat as your family grows and your sailing needs change.

Under Sail

Our test day after the show was the kind that makes sailors cry. With a vanishing breeze, we did our best to get a feel for the boat’s sailing characteristics, which meant hoisting the main, unfurling the jib–and waiting.

At one point a 7-knot “gust” accelerated the Oceanis 38 to 3.8 knots at a 45-degree wind angle—almost in an instant. With just under 15,000lb of displacement, it doesn’t take much for this boat to pick up its skirts and go. Having sailed the Oceanis 45 and 48, both of which have similar hull shapes, I also know that when things get a bit brisker the energy that would otherwise go into heeling is transformed into forward momentum with this kind of hull form. Basically the boats just heel slightly, sit on that hard chine, find their groove and take off.

Tacking in such a light breeze isn’t easy, but even with our slow speed, the boat responded without hesitation. The big jib came through the wind easily, and the fully battened mainsail powered up effortlessly. We tacked through 90 degrees and sliced through the water too much rejoicing.

Although we had four people aboard, most sat idle, and it took very little to singlehand this boat, which will make it that much more fun for quick daysails or extended short-handed cruising. With the optional asymmetrical spinnaker on a top-down furler, this boat would also be a real kick on a reach.

Under Power

The 30hp Yanmar saildrive pushed the relatively light Oceanis 38 at 7.1 knots at 2,700rpm all the way back to the dock in flat water with no headwind. On the way, we stopped in the fairway to investigate her tight quarters maneuvering ability. With its twin rudders, the boat backed straight as an arrow and turning was precise. I can’t imagine really needing the $30,000 Dock & Go upgrade, which adds a 40hp engine, a swiveling drive leg, a joystick control, and a bow thruster. But then again, it never hurts to have a little extra maneuverability in a really tight marina.

Conclusion

Time will tell if this multi-tasking boat can find long-term market appeal. Nonetheless, kudos to Beneteau for taking a chance on a fascinating design concept. The company has truly both set the production boatbuilding world on its ear and put the “r” back in revolution

Specifications

e-BeneteauOceanis38Plans

LOA 37ft 9in

LWL 35ft 2in

BEAM 13ft 1in

DRAFT 6ft 9in (std); 5ft 3in (shoal)

DISPLACEMENT 14,930lb

BALLAST 3,945lb

SAIL AREA 748ft2 (with 103% genoa)

FUEL/WATER/WASTE (GAL) 34/34/21

ENGINE 30hp Yanmar with saildrive

ELECTRICAL 80AH; 80AH (engine)

BALLAST RATIO 26%

SA/D RATIO 20  D/L RATIO 154

What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios

DESIGNER Finot-Conq

BUILDER Beneteau, St.Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, France

U.S. Distributor Beneteau America, Annapolis, MD, 410-990-0270, beneteauusa.com

Related

2020-06-01_13-53-06

A New Era for Sailing Program Safety

As states begin to lift restrictions on gathering and marinas open back up, many sailing programs are still wary, especially since sailors from different households will necessarily be in close quarters, whether on their boat, in a launch or at a yacht club. Most will not be ...read more

MTcyNTIwMzc1NDYzMTkyNDkw

Zipwake

Zipwake Series S, the world's first inexpensive dynamic trim-control system, incorporates a state-of-the-art family of durable, fast-acting interceptors. The system is fully automatic, and is designed to significantly enhance performance, fuel economy, comfort and safety when ...read more

CCA-story-2048x

Safety Culture Starts with the Skipper

Sailing might not be the first pastime that comes to mind when you think of extreme sports, but that’s not to say risks don’t abound. The Cruising Club of America tackles many of them head-on in their newly released guide for skippers, Creating a Culture of Safety: The Skipper’s ...read more

GMR19_F53_0539

Boat Review: Beneteau First Yacht 53

Luxury performance-cruising isn’t entirely new. You can go fast and still be comfortable. You can even race if you make the right tradeoffs—or so says Beneteau, which recently launched its First Yacht 53, in the process also reinventing the company’s “First” brand. Design & ...read more

BirdonBoard

Cruising: Birds of a Feather

One of the neatest things about sailing offshore is the other lifeforms we encounter. We smile when we see flying fish skimming over the surface of the sea. We cheer when dolphins leap and dance in our bow waves. We are duly reverent when mighty whales sound and spout, and ...read more

pirate-marlin-logo

Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament

This Spring has felt a bit like a slow day of fishing but it’s almost time to time to Bait…and Switch. The Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournaments offer something for every member of your crew. Exceptional fishing, fun times with family, old friends and new. Our run is short, our ...read more

Tusk.00_00_16_21.Still001

Tusk by Spyderco

Spyderco's Tusk knife combines a blade and marlinspike to create a multitool perfect for marine use. Made with corrosion resistant materials like titanium and LC200N steel, a nitrogen alloyed steel, and Spyderco-exclusive locking mechanisms, this knife is one of the toughest ...read more

IY11.98_fTaccola©DJI_0200

Italia 11.98 Performance-cruiser

This past winter, SAIL principal editor, Adam Cort, checked out the new Italia Yachts’ new 11.98 performance-cruiser at the boot Dusseldorf show in German, and says he can attest to the fact it’s a boat more than worthy of the attention of North American sailors. Available in ...read more