The moment I set foot on the teak-decked swim platform of the Beneteau 49, I started to notice the nice touches. Like the insert, with its latching door, that's set in the transom and designed to hold a life raft. Remove the insert, and a generator can be installed. The athwartships seat across the back of the cockpit also has an insert, and it neatly folds up, down, and out of the way to provide access between the twin wheels. The large centerline cockpit table is built-in with fold-up wings. On its aft end is a chart-plotter pod that swivels to afford the helmsman a good view on either tack. The cockpit seats are long, with coamings high enough to lean on comfortably though not too high to make getting forward difficult. Nice corners fore and aft will be good to be wedged into in a seaway, and squared ends will make good backrests for stretching out in calmer conditions.
At the end of a 3- or 4-foot alley, the cupped companionway steps lead down to an interior styled by the Italian firm Nauta Designs, well known for its megayacht interiors. The designers have done a nice job compromising between stylishness and the need to use the interior at sea; fiddles and handholds abound in warm, light, and airy surroundings.
When the light gets too bright, blinds pull down inside a deck liner/valance that keeps them in place when the boat's heeling.
The designers have abandoned the notion of stylish but uncomfortable curved settees for straight seats. The saloon table cleverly swivels and folds up for sailing and expands for dining; open for business, the table seats eight. Opposite the table on our demo boat was a settee. Under the floorboards amidships is a small sump-a feature that's rare but appreciated in modern, shallow-bilged boats. Mounting the bilge pump there keeps water concentrated in a small area and helps keep the rest of the bilge dry.
Forward, there's a large, teardrop-shaped double berth with another pair of hull ports. The forehatch supplies ventilation and more light. The large head has a separate shower enclosed by a curved sliding door. I wouldn't be surprised if the company rethinks that shower door soon; it didn't close easily on our demo, and when I did get it closed, I found the enclosure a bit tight. A hatch above the shower ventilates the head. Opposite the head are a good-sized hanging locker and a vanity with a seat.
The nav station is to starboard of the companionway, and no bulkhead obstructs the view forward. The chart table is big enough to accommodate charts with a minimum of folding. There's plenty of room for a plotter, radar, and other instruments.
The galley is to port, with a gimbaled three-burner stove and oven. The galley has a number of seagoing elements, including a refrigerator door that opens from aft so neither tack will distribute the contents over the cabin sole. The sinks are close to the centerline so they don't fill on either tack, although they could be a bit deeper. There's plenty of storage space.
Another head with shower is aft of the nav station, next to the companionway steps. One quibble with both heads is that no fiddles grace the Corian countertops.
The aft cabin on the two-cabin layout I sailed featured good use of the available space with a large double berth angled at 45 degrees. Judicious placement of pillows will make this a comfortable sea berth-at least on port tack. There are hanging lockers port and starboard, a vanity on the centerline, and six opening ports and hatches for light and ventilation.
The louvered companionway doors will be excellent for keeping the boat ventilated, but they'd have to be modified if the boat were going offshore. And I wouldn't hesitate to take it offshore after a few modifications. The Beneteau 49 seems well-built and quite comfortable for a crew of four. But that's not really its main purpose; it's meant to be a cruiser for a family or a pair of couples. And for that purpose, it'll be superb. It's one of the reasons it received Cruising World's 2007 Boat of the Year award as Best Full-Size Production Cruiser.
The cockpit is laid out for shorthanded sailing, with the Lewmar 65 primary winches just forward of the wheel so the helmsman won't have to roust a relaxing crewmember to trim the jib. The mainsheet is led back to the coachroof at the forward end of the cockpit, though, so someone will have to get up to adjust that. All control lines and halyards are led aft through stoppers to winches on either side of the companionway.
When moving toward the bow, anyone with meaty fingers would have a hard time gripping the handholds without skinning knuckles. That aside, the teak deck is wide, and the house provides a substantial brace as you move forward. The anchor is set over a stainless-steel sprit that stows it out of the way of the jib-furling gear. A 1,600-watt windlass hauls the rode into a large anchor locker. Immediately aft is a large locker likely to be used to stow fenders and dock lines.
The 9/10ths rig features a large main and a 140-percent genoa; both furl and are set on a deck-stepped, anodized-aluminum mast with double swept-back spreaders. A rigid vang helps keep the main under control. I didn't get to sail the boat in any breeze, but I found it acceptably nimble in drifting conditions. Boat of the Year judge Ed Sherman said the 49 was "stable and sure and wasn't going to surprise you with any quirks," and he thought that it sailed well and handled nicely in the 10 knots of breeze the judges had for their test.
The Beneteau 49 is a sprightly performer thanks to its modern underbody and powerful sail plan. It comes with all the creature comforts for which cruisers could ask, attractive avant-garde styling, and a price that offers an excellent value.
LOA: 49' 6" (15.09 m.)
LWL: 43' 8" (13.31 m.)
Beam: 14' 9" (4.50 m.)
Draft: 5' 9" (1.75 m.)
Sail Area (100%): 988 sq. ft. (91.8 sq. m.)
Ballast: 9,480 lb. (4,300 kg.)
Displacement: 26,500 lb. (12,020 kg.)
Water: 150 gal. (568 l.)
Fuel: 63 gal. (238 l.)
Mast Height: 63' 6" (19.35 m.)
Engine: 76-hp. Yamaha
Designer: Berret Racoupeau
Beneteau USA, (843) 629-5300,
The Beneteau 46, A True Little Sister
The Beneteau 46 shares many of the 49's genes, from the almost identical hull design by Berret Racoupeau and the Nauta Designs interior to the same use of stripes to make it appear leaner on the water. Hardware in many instances is identical, fuel and water tanks are the same size, and the forward head and cockpit are from the same mold. Only the lack of a locker in the forepeak and a foot of shelving in the saloon let slip the difference between the two boats.
It's hard to say which is more desirable: the larger, faster one with more elbowroom or the smaller, less expensive one (the price is $240,000) that has the same layout. And I imagine that's exactly the way the marketing geniuses at Beneteau planned it.