The winner: On the other hand, the Beneteau sailed well, too. In 8 knots of breeze, it sailed along closehauled at about 6 knots, and when cracked off to a reach, the speed increased to just under 7 knots. On deck, naval architects Berret Racoupeau created an appealing and modern look, giving the 49 a clean, uncluttered foredeck, a cabin top with a slight arch, and a spacious cockpit featuring twin helms and a walk-through transom.
Below, Beneteau brought in Italian megayacht designers Nauta Yachts to give the 49 an elegant air from stem to stern. Cabinetry is made from moabi hardwood, which is offset by light-colored fabrics and paneling to give the saloon and cabins a bright and airy feel, prompting one judge to remark on its warmth. From a well-equipped nav station to a pop-up flat-screen television by the forward bulkhead, it offered lots of comforts for family cruising.
In the end, much of the decision came down to price. The Jeanneau sat at the high end of the category, with a stated cost of $360,000, while the domestic-built Beneteau was priced at $310,000. For the speed-seeking sailor, the difference in dollars would more than allow the Beneteau's shoal-draft keel to be replaced with a deeper performance version and the substitution of a more powerful suit of sails.