by George Day
Blue Water Sailing
Big Easy in 42 feet
Early this spring the BWS staffspent a day test sailing twoidentical Beneteau 423s on Rhode Island's Narragansett Baywhile shooting photographs for the special section on Seamanship that ran in the June issue. (Theboats were loaned to BWS by Bareboat Sailing Charters, www.bareboatsailing.com, based in Newport, R.I.). We put the two boats through their paces in allconfigurations of sail trim, including an extensive test on how bestto heave-to.
During the day we had the opportunity to get to know the boats well and to see how theymight be suited for extended cruising and living aboard. Designed by Group Finot and built inthe Beneteau USA facility in South Carolina, the 423 is the essential cruising Beneteau - modern, commodious, easy to sail and extremely well thought out forshorthanded cruising.
In fairly light breezes the 423 will sail upwind at four to fiveknots and at about 45 degrees offthe wind. When tacking, the boat carried her speed through the tack and then quickly gatheredsteam when the genoa was setand driving. Off the wind theboat sailed best on a broad reachand would have benefited froma cruising asymmetrical spinnaker. Dead downwind, with the genoastrapped out wing and wing onthe spinnaker pole, the boat slipped along easily and had very little tendency to wallow or wander.
We did not have enough wind during the sail trials to really test the best ways to heave-to in the423 but found that a scrap ofmainsail and about half the rolledup genoa trimmed to windward,with the helm over to windward, held the boats at about 60 degrees off the wind. Because of the hull's high topsides the windage of thebow acts almost like a low reefed stay sail, so in stronger breezes the best approach may be to heave-towith only a scrap of mainsail strapped in and with the travelercranked to windward.
The BWS staff was pleased with the 423's sailing performance, ease of handling and the layout of deck hardware. We were all reminded again how the development ofmodern cruising hulls and the innovation in cruising gear, when applied creatively, can take the strain out of sailing a mid-size cruising boat.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
But the 423 is a cruising boat first and thus has been given as much interior volume as possibleon its 38-foot waterline. By today's standards, the boat's beam is amodest 12 feet, 11 inches, which is carried fairly far fore and aft from amid ships, thereby maximizing the interior and creating a hull with alot of initial stability.
The design brief called for a nearly flush deck forward, whichis a pleasure to work on and offersample space for sunning while in harbor or stowing a dinghy when heading offshore. To create theflush deck effect, with the blisterraised cabin over the saloon, the boat's topsides needed to be quite high, which makes the boat dry when beating into a chop.
The bow is fine enough to cut efficiently through the waves but buoyant enough to prevent bluewater from streaming aboard in bad conditions. The stern is broadwith a very straight run for thewake as it leaves the hull.
Under the water the 423 sports a bulbed cruising fin keel - available in shoal or deep drafts - and a large composite spaderudder. The hull's underbody has avery fair parabolic cross section,which gives it an easy run throughthe water and will do much to dampen pounding when sailing to windward in a chop.
The rig and deck layout havebeen carefully conceived for easy sail handling. The boats we sailed had the standard in-mast main sailfurling system and a 140-per centroller-furling genoa. When leaving the harbor a single crew can rollout the main and trim it and then roll out the genoa and trim it inunder three minutes and with very little effort.
The standard boat has two selftailing Lewmar sheet winches andtwo self-tailing winches on eitherside of the companionway forhalyards, mainsail control lines and the main sheet. If you reallywant to cut the sweat from sailtrim then upgrading to electric sheet winches would do the trick.
The 423, like the rest of theBeneteau line, has a solid fiberglass hull that is reinforced with acomplex interior grid of floors andstringers. The interior bulkheads and furniture fit neatly into the grid and are then fiber glassed in place. Once the internal systems and furniture have been installedthe deck and head liner are attached to the hull with mechanical fastenings, high-strength adhesive and fiberglass tabbing. The end product is extremely rigid and strong while being relatively light.
Beneteau has worked hard tosimplify the installation of systems on board to make all necessary items as accessible and easy tomaintain as possible. Engine access is very good as is access tothe electrical panel, fresh watersystem and thru-hulls.
The difference between the two versions lies in the position of the galley. In the double-aftcabins arrangement, a Euro-style galley runs along the saloon'sport side. In the two-cabin version,the galley is positioned aft and to starboard and forms a large C-shape. Of the two galleys, theaft version will be better forlong hauls at sea, yet you have to forego the second aft cabin to get it.
The saloon had a large, comfortable dinette, with a bench seat amidships, that will easily seat five adults. In the two-cabin version, a bench settee is built-into port.
The 423 has plenty of storage below decks for all of the personal gear and galley supplies most couples will need for living aboardand extensive cruising. The two cabin version has a large cockpit locker to starboard that will beuseful for stowing docking gear, a spinnaker, spare parts and extra jerry jugs of diesel.
The finish of the 423 belowdecksis handsome and comfortable. Doors and drawers all fit tightly, and the detail work aroundthe bulkheads and inside lockers is good.
For couples who commonly sail alone and invite guests from time to time, the two-cabin version with the extra cockpit locker stowage may make sense. For families that need all three sleeping cabins, or for those who want to put their boats into charter part-time, the three-cabin version will work better.
During the sail trial the BWS staff was constantly impressed with the way the The large dinette will seat six boats handled and how easy they were to sail. The hulls are slippery and move even in light breezes.With the 55-horsepower Volvo at cruising revs, the boats cruised along at 6.5 knots and can reach seven at maximum revs.
Like other production boats from Beneteau, Jeanneau, Catalina and Hunter, the basic 423 out ofthe box is well enough equipped for coastal cruising. But the boat is also a well designed platform onwhich to assemble all the cruising gear you might need or want for more extensive sailing.
The 423 is strong and stable. For normal cruising in temperate climes and the tropics - where most of us sail - the 423 represents a good cruising option that is also a very fair value.
Sailing and cruising are meant to be fun, and by making the sail plan so easy to use and offering accommodations that are commodious and attractive, Beneteau has gone a long way to helping owners find that fun.