As they approached the First 30 to conduct their dockside evaluation during the boat show, the BOTY judges may have been just a little skeptical of this performance-oriented 30-footer’s cruisability. But that skepticism turned into appreciation as soon as they stepped below, and they were downright enamored with how the boat sailed. As a result, the Beneteau First 30 was named the Best Small Cruiser, 30 Feet and Under.
It’s not easy to include all the accommodation features that make for comfortable cruising—standing headroom, full-size head and galley, decent nav station, roomy saloon, and good-size sleeping cabins—in a 30-footer that’s also good-looking and whip fast under sail, but the First 30 does just that. The main saloon is bright and airy, and it’s also much more creature-comfort oriented than what you might find on older 30-foot performance cruisers. The cabins have ample bunks and adequate stowage. Nearly 6 feet of headroom in the saloon creates a good sense of space, while the light-colored varnished woodwork and clean lines are downright stylish.
Meanwhile, during the test sail, none of the judges wanted to give up the tiller because the boat was just so fun and responsive. The dual rudders provided superior control, even when the heel angle increased in the puffs, and the judges noted how this little thoroughbred sliced to windward at 6.5 knots in 12 knots of breeze.
The judges found the cockpit to be comfortable and the sail controls to be well planned and efficient. A tweak here and there was rewarded by another quarter of a knot, though it was just as tempting to contemplate the benefits of simply setting the sheets and then humming along for 20 or 30 miles on a coastal cruise.
- The use of space throughout the interior is excellent.
- The boat’s torpedo bulb keel, powerful sail plan, and dual rudders make the First both fast and forgiving.
- The boat significantly ups the ante regarding what’s currently available in the 30-foot-and-under range.