These days, it’s becoming rare for a production boat—no matter how good it is—to survive more than a few seasons before falling victim to the perceived demands of the market for newer, fresher, ever more modern styling. Like most other big builders, Beneteau has pretty much renewed its entire model range over the last three years, but two of its most popular boats are examples of that rare breed, designs that have survived a decade in production—20 years, in one case.
The First 20 (pictured above) and First 25S (below) are the latest evolutions of the French builder’s two smallest models. The smaller boat was introduced in 1992 as the First 210, and was a runaway success; even now these twin-rudder lifting-keel boats command high prices on the brokerage market (when you can find one for sale). It has remained substantially unchanged apart from cosmetic overhauls and new designations (First 211, 217), though the latest version has a square-topped mainsail and more sail area to boost its already peppy performance.
Introduced in 2003, the five-berth First 25.7 now becomes the First 25S, and it too has a bigger square-topped mainsail and lots of cosmetic and detail changes. A viable coastal cruiser or daysailer, it can be had with a fixed fin keel or a centerboard.
In deciding to import these two versatile little “starter boats” from France, Beneteau USA is adding new breadth to a brand that’s become loaded with options in the over-40ft market, but has lacked entry-level models to bring new buyers into the fold. And that can only be a good thing.
Luca Brenta’s designs embody a purity of purpose that’s evident only at the extremes of the daysailer market. At one end is a simple mass-produced hull with a rig, a rudder and only the most essential gear; at the other is much the same thing, except build numbers are lower, and quality and price tags are exponentially higher.
The Italian designer’s latest creation, the B42dc, is an evolution that retains the clean lines and minimalist styling of the B42, but has a larger cockpit and reduced interior space. There’s room for up to 10 people in the extended cockpit. All lines are led aft in galleries under the deck, and a hydraulic package controls the backstay, vang, traveler and jibsheets.
Belowdecks there is nothing much at all, apart from a head, a handbasin, a few sailbags and some bunk cushions. Instead of attempting to conceal structural components with liners or paneling, Brenta has turned them into design features. The entire interior is finished in gleaming white gelcoat. This is a nascent trend among Europe’s low-volume, high-end builders; I wouldn’t bet on it becoming popular over here, where the perception is that if it’s not slathered in expensive joinery, it’s not high quality.
And here’s one for the windburn enthusiasts—the SeaRail 19, a new trailerable trimaran built in Vietnam. With lines by multihull design demigod Nigel Irens and a dry weight of 650lb, this boat should really fly. Builder Phil Medley reckons it’ll make a fine family dayboat, but you’ll find no cruising-type frills here, though there is room for a chemical toilet in the tiny cuddy. Medley has developed systems for folding the amas and raising the mast that allow this entry-level speedster to be rigged and launched in just 15 minutes.
Photos courtesy of Beneteau, Luca Brenta & SeaRail