Just walking the docks at the Annapolis show last October, everyone could tell this boat was something special. First there was the banner proclaiming it had just won the top spot in the double-handed division in the Chicago-Mackinac Race. Then there was the cockpit, filled with really friendly Slovenian guys showing off a really clever midship hideaway outboard-engine well. If you took the trouble to board the boat, there were still more clever ideas lurking below: a nifty saloon table that converts into a centerline nav station with a motorcycle-type seat; a proper head with a lightweight folding magnetic door to enclose it; and integrated hanging gear bags that can be used to easily move kit on and off the boat.
So yes, I have to confess I was pretty pumped when I got the nod to test-sail the Seascape 27 (more recently renamed the Beneteau First 27) aprés-show not long before we voted it one of SAIL’s Best Boats for 2015.
Given the boat’s pedigree, I wasn’t expecting to be disappointed. Conceived by two hotshot Mini Transat sailors, Kristian Hajnsek and Andraz Mihelin, who tapped a top Mini and Class 40 designer, Sam Manuard, to help them flesh out their ideas, the Seascape, with its aggressive hard-chined hull, dual rudders, high-aspect square-topped mainsail, Compotech carbon-fiber rig and long retractable sprit, sure looks like a boat that can sail fast.
And it did. Bombing around the Chesapeake in 13 to 15 knots of true wind, we were easily breaking 10 knots under a big A-sail cracked just off a beam reach. Under the jib we made 6 knots closehauled on a tight 28-degree apparent wind angle. My genial hosts were boasting they’d made 15 knots under the furling gennaker earlier in the day, when the wind was blowing 20, and I am sure you could get this boat going nearly 20 knots if you pushed hard in the right conditions.
Equally impressive was how easy it all was. None of that mad Mini edge-of-a-broach panic: the hull’s chines and a hefty dab of ballast more than 6ft below made for a reassuringly stable ride. The helm was also precise and smooth, not at all twitchy, while the cockpit controls—managed via four Andersen winches and a host of Spinlock clutches, with other blocks and hardware by Ronstan—were all well situated and easy to use.
The hull and deck are constructed of unidirectional and biaxial glass vacuumed over a foam core and set in vinylester resin. Carbon fiber is used to stiffen the critical area under the mast and around the root of the swinging keel, which is controlled with a simple, manually powered hydraulic system that includes an easily replaced fuse that lets the keel kick up on impact.
I doubt many people will buy this boat simply to cruise it, but it does have enough amenities to make it livable for days at a time. There’s dedicated space for a cooler and swinging stove, a water tank can be installed and there are berths enough to sleep four in comfort, six in a pinch. Gunkholing in shoal water you can pull up the rudders as well as the keel. Even more importantly, the Seascape’s good sailing habits and controllability make it suitable for family outings.
Finally, there is the boat’s portability. The Seascape 27 is light enough that it can be hauled around on its trailer by a modest-size SUV. Even better, both it and its trailer fit inside a standard-size 40ft shipping container, so the boat can be easily whisked away to cool racing (and cruising) venues all over the world.
LOA 26ft 3in LWL 25ft 11in BEAM 8ft 4in
DRAFT 6ft 3in; 3ft 1in (keel up)
DISPLACEMENT 3,040lb Ballast 1,345lb
SAIL AREA 515ft² (main and jib)
ENGINE 9.8hp outboard
Ballast RATIO 44% SA/D RATIO 40 D/L RATIO 78
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNER Manuard YD