Beneteau 54: Where the Living's Easy
This new flagship was built with an eye to comfort in port and performance on the water. A boat review from our September 2009 issue
The berths in each of the cabins are fitted out not with mere foam cushions but with structured mattresses, something BOTY judge Ed Sherman commended. "I like that they used two mattresses, which simply made it easier to get to the equipment compartments." He found the propeller-shaft seal under the aft berth difficult to access but the other engine-access points very accessible. The owner's suite forward in the three-cabin layout we sailed features an island queen and a spacious head with separate stall shower; a four-cabin layout is also available. A separate quarters for crew, with a berth and a head, is accessed through a hatch in the foredeck.
BOTY judge Ralph Naranjo was impressed with the evolution of Beneteau's engineering in this boat and others we sailed. "The signs of good engineering fall, for example, in the chainplate realm, where the tie-rods work well." He was pleased, too, to see stainless-steel keel bolts and lead ballast, at a time when other high-volume builders are moving, seemingly backward, to mild steel and iron.
We sailed the Beneteau 54 in light conditions, which showed off the advantages of the boat's low displacement-to-length ratio of 118. In scarcely more than 6 or 7 knots of breeze, we close-reached at a pleasant 4.2 knots. Under the power of a 110-horsepower Yanmar diesel at 2,600 rpm, we made 8.1 knots; at a fast-cruise rpm of 3,400, we made 8.6. "Boy, this boat really trucked along!" said Ed. The noise under power ranged from 92 to 94 decibels, placing it in the quietest third of this year's fleet.
For all the boat's volume, the Beneteau 54 proved a well-laid-out boat to sail shorthanded. Genoa-sheet winches are installed within easy reach of the twin helms, and the three or four steps from the helm to the cabin-top sail controls are uncluttered. The companionway itself features a sliding hatch and folding louvered doors, which may be fine for near-shore sailing; those who venture farther should add more seaworthy drop boards. The bridgedeck area leading to the companionway provides a comfortable "pit" to brace yourself in while you're winching control lines.
The boat we sailed, hull number two, had a double anchor roller, but only one hawse hole for an anchor rode. Access to the chain locker was through the crew quarters, making it difficult for a single person to sort out hockles in the rode or twisted links in the chain. This was one case where we felt the designers' emphasis on clean styling may have been taken one step too far; we would've preferred an opening into the anchor well from deck. On the plus side, the foredeck provides ample room to store a 10-foot dinghy on passage, something we were pleased to see.
All in all, after sailing and exploring the Beneteau 54's interior, I'd say it stands worthy of its flagship title.
Tim Murphy is a CW editor at large.
LOA 54' 9" (16.69 m.)
LWL 49' 2" (14.99 m.)
Beam 16' 1" (4.90 m.)
Draft 7' 6" or 5' 11" (2.29/1.80 m.)
Sail Area 1,329 sq. ft. (123.5 sq. m.)
Ballast 11,000 lb. (4,990 kg.)
Displacement 31,574 lb. (14,322 kg.)
Water 256 gal. (969 l.)
Fuel 125 gal. (473 l.)
Mast Height 75' 5" (22.99 m.)
Engine 110-hp. Yanmar diesel
Designer Berret Racoupeau and
Basic Sailaway Price $575,000