The new Beneteau Oceanis 38 has been designed using a ‘flexiboat’ concept and is available in three guises. Duncan Kent tested her in Palma
Beneteau’s renowned Oceanis cruising yacht range has recently been updated, the 38 being the first of the new boats with three different model options – Daysailer, Weekender and Cruiser. This new style of building means a new owner may choose a less well-equipped yacht at first, but with the intention of upgrading at a later date using a pack system.
You need to be a bit careful when choosing which model to buy, though, as not all can be upgraded all the way to the top-spec Cruiser. For instance, the Daysailer version comes with no plumbing for hot water or wiring for a good number of items, so you’ll have to buy the Weekender in the first place if you want to add these later.
Beneteau says this concept will be extended to some of the Oceanis range later this year, but will not yet be implemented on the larger yachts. Personally, I think it should go one step further by launching a bluewater version with all the essentials for long-term offshore cruising already supplied and fitted. Although, maybe 38ft (11.6m) is now considered too small for bluewater work – judging by the kit still on the options list Beneteau certainly seems to think so.
The winds were fickle when we set out, but thanks to the hot spring sunshine a sea breeze filled in later in the afternoon. Despite a relatively low ballast ratio she felt reasonably stiff and directionally very stable. With the genoa and mainsail being the same area and the mast very central in the boat, she is well balanced – possibly to the point of being a little ‘dead’ to the helm.
That aside, her twin rudders reacted quickly to the wheel, even astern and under power. Her chines offered a noticeable increase in form stability particularly when the wind picked up and we were trying to see how close she would point with the Code-0 sheeted hard in.
She’s not the fastest cruiser around, but neither is she particularly slow. Handling her is a doddle and she gives no indication of any odd quirks to catch you out – although we were blessed with only 10-12 knots of true wind.
Speeds ranged from 5 knots close-hauled with the genny sheeted in hard some 34º off the apparent wind, to a maximum 8.2 knots with the Code-0 pointing at 70ºA. Off the wind the same sail helped us keep 4.5 knots+ on the log, despite the now fading breeze. In all she is entirely predictable under sail and her relatively conservative sail plan makes her easy and safe to handle with just two crew.
While I get the idea behind it, I’m not sure the three-level concept will really improve interest in this yacht. To many a 38-footer is simply too big and expensive to moor to realistically be considered a Daysailer. Some might choose the Weekender with the intention of upgrading later,?I suppose, but I can’t help feeling most will simply choose to buy the full Cruiser if they like the boat. After all, there’s another £65K+ worth of goodies you can bolt on if you like – and you’ll need most of it if you’re planning any long offshore cruises.
She’s an easy boat to sail with an assured, but undramatic performance and the cockpit layout works well – both for moving about under way and for loafing around at anchor.
Comfort levels can be quite reasonable, provided you order all ?the necessary bits, and her bright, open interior makes being below pleasurable and relaxing.
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