Beneteau Oceanis 41 and 45: The Chine, a Syndrome
They were once seen primarily on steel yachts, but now, on production boats such as Beneteau’s new Oceanis models, it’s all about the hull chine. "Boat Review" from our March 2012 issue.
All the new Bavarias have them. So do the latest offerings in the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey and Hunter lines, as well the subjects of this review, the 2012 Beneteau Oceanis 41 and 45. We’re talking about distinct hull chines, at one time, due largely to fabrication matters, an exclusive feature of metal boats. The design feature began turning up in fiberglass production boats, though, when Beneteau introduced its redesigned First models, and later the company carried it to its Sense line. It turns out that a chine—in the case of the new Beneteaus, a subtle, angled crease, almost halfway up the freeboard, that runs continuously for the full length of the hull—can do more than make a welder’s life easier.
In fact, when cutting-edge yacht designers embrace them—and few fit that description better than the French naval architecture collective Finot-Conq, who collaborated with interior stylists Nauta Design on the 41 and 45—they’re clearly worth a closer look.
Let’s first address the obvious: If a chine allows a builder to extend the beam farther outboard, even by just a few inches, the resulting increase in interior volume over several dozen feet can be significant. And a voluminous hull form will certainly accommodate more beneficial stuff (wider berths, particularly forward; better storage; generous floor plans) than a narrow one.
Interestingly, however, during our Boat of the Year testing last fall, the sheer capacity of the boats proved to be a double-edged sword. Except for their lengths, the 41 and the 45 that our judges inspected were virtually identical boats (the 45 does have more interior options, which we’ll address in a moment) with the exact same layouts on deck and below. But largely for proportional reasons, our panel preferred the smaller of the two yachts.
BOTY judge Ed Sherman summed up the prevailing sentiment: “When I went down in the cabin of the 41, I immediately felt more comfortable than on the 45. The dimensions were such that I knew that if I got in rough seas offshore, everything was manageable, and there were good handholds throughout. It just felt good. The spacing was right on the money. And it sailed beautifully.”
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Indeed it did, and the same could be said of the 45, which brings us to the second, less apparent advantage of a chined hull: It theoretically promotes better stability, particularly when sailing on the breeze. In the past, many production boats that carried their beam well aft—and boy, do these Beneteaus fit that bill—were susceptible to round-ups and steerage problems when overpressed upwind with too much canvas. However, we sailed both new Oceanis models on breezy Chesapeake Bay days with steady winds in the mid-teens, and they both handled and performed superbly.
First up was the 41. The twin, low-slung Goiot helms provided instant feedback, and the boat trucked to weather with a fully unfurled main and slightly overlapped jib set on a generous double-spreader, fractional, high-aspect rig. Hard on the wind, the boat notched 7.1 knots and later topped off at 8.4 knots when cracked off to a beam reach. Control was not an issue. At all.
“Now that was fun,” said Alvah Simon, reluctantly handing over the wheel so another judge could have a go.
It was even breezier when we boarded the 45, with puffs in the low 20s. Upwind, sailing slightly overpowered, we rolled up the main and jib to about 90 percent of their total sail areas and were rewarded with a mannered boat making nearly 8 knots. (Side note: I’ve never been a huge fan of furling mainsails, but I gained a new, unexpected appreciation when we blew the outhaul to roll in the sail and the boat snapped to attention, completely tamed and depowered, all from the comfort of the cockpit.) Once off the breeze, with an attendant drop in apparent wind, we couldn’t resist unfurling everything once again to press on full sail and registered 9.3 knots on a screaming beam reach. The chine, the judges agreed, felt just fine.
Though Beneteau’s synergistic, joystick-controlled Dock & Go system is an optional feature, Simon found that the combination of the Yanmar diesel, with a conventional bow thruster—the setup on our test models—provided excellent tracking and maneuverability in both reverse and tight quarters; the judges (all of whom, admittedly, are expert boathandlers) agreed that they’d prefer to put the funds for that not insignificant five-figure Dock & Go package toward other equipment or into the cruising coffers. Less cocky sailors will be perfectly happy with the Dock & Go.