by Quentin Warren
Blue Water Sailing
The new 43-footer from Beneteau is a lively performer with refined living quarters
Two and a half years ago, Beneteau introduced a new
member of their offshore cruising-boat fleet to the American sailing market at the 2000 Annapolis (Md.) Sail Boat Show. It was the Beneteau 473, an updated approach to the production cruiser, bringing elements of Open 60 thinking into a genre aimed at families and passagemaking, at sailing in comfort and style. Among those elements were a narrow bow, generous beam and a broad transom, features with which the design office behind the project, Groupe Finot, were only too familiar. BWS shipped aboard hull number one for a 400-mile outing to evaluate how well the concept worked (see “Redefining the Family Passage-maker,” BWS April 2001). Tellingly, Beneteau would take over 70 orders of that boat in the ensuing 10 months.
Last fall Beneteau unveiled a new boat based on the design attributes of the 473, smaller in size but no less committed to the cutting-edge guidelines of its predecessor. It is the Beneteau 423, and it is an important boat for Beneteau because it does a lot of things well, from performance under sail to amenity at anchor. It is a spry 43-footer, yet it provides sensible, straightforward accommodations with style and aesthetic flair. Like the 473, in terms of popularity and sales this one hit the ground running as soon as it was introduced in October.
If one were to locate the 423 in the Beneteau range for purposes of description, it would fall most appropriately into what the company once called in the U.S. their Oceanis series. Beneteau developed the Oceanis line over a decade ago as the cruising counterpoint to their high-performance First series. Significantly, however, what the 423 does is to narrow the distinction between the two camps by embracing refined sailing abilities without compromising the cruising angle. In fact, it is probably safe to say that in this boat Beneteau has upped the ante on both scores—performance and comfort. The Groupe Finot hull is efficient, and the accommodations package optimizes volume, tankage, storage and livability. You get a lot in 43 feet here, including a sophisticated design package, first-rate construction and a truckload of standard features, all for a sailaway price of $185,000. That’s hard to beat.
Blue Water Sailing enjoyed a day aboard 423 hull number one on Chesapeake Bay off Annapolis following its international debut. We have yet to go offshore on this boat, but in our time aboard we found plenty to recommend it. The vessel we evaluated was a two-stateroom version with a conventional-hoist “Classic” mainsail and the optional three-blade folding prop. The keel was a standard medium-draft cast-iron 5’7” bulb affair, the engine a standard low-rev, high-torque Volvo 55. Conditions were flat water and eight to 12 knots of variable breeze.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
As noted, Beneteau and Groupe Finot have sought to streamline the Oceanis concept with advanced hull forms and a firm commitment to performance. The infusion of Open 60 thinking so evident in the 423 is demonstrated by the degree to which the boat’s beam is carried aft, resulting in that classic wedge shape marked by a fine bow, beamy midsection and wide stern. Regarding this point it’s important to emphasize that it is beam—not volume—that carries aft, with an obvious effort to avoid deep U-shaped sections and their attendant payload and drag. Granted, accommodations and storage aft all benefit, but the point is, the boat remains lightweight and buoyant, reaping more in the way of form stability than enhanced real estate. Form stability allows it to be lighter and faster—you need less ballast to induce stiffness and less sail area to make it go.
So you end up with a relatively lithe boat, and a look at the numbers bears that out. To put it all in perspective, we’ve chosen to compare the 423 in terms of the math to a contemporary 42-footer, the Sabre 426. We sailed aboard the Sabre in September and presented it in our December 2002 issue, and it is interesting to note the differences between these two vessels. The standard Beneteau 423 with a Classic conventional-hoist rig weighs 19,797 pounds, carries 5,836 pounds of ballast and flies 753 square feet of sail area. The Sabre 426 tips in at 24,500 pounds, carries 8,650 pounds of ballast and flies 920 square feet of canvas. Displacement/Length (D/L) for the Beneteau is 154; D/L for the Sabre is 234. Ballast/Displacement (B/D) for the Beneteau is 30 percent; B/D for the Sabre is 35 percent. Sail Area/Displacement (SA/D) for the Beneteau is 16.5; SA/D for the Sabre is 17.4.
What does this tell us? The numbers alone with their formidable deltas might suggest that the Beneteau 423 is lighter and faster, the Sabre 426 heavier and stiffer. We’ve been aboard both, however, and can report that the empirically derived distinctions are far more subtle. Both boats are nimble and responsive, both are fun to steer and efficient upwind. But conceptually they are very different. The Sabre offsets greater displacement with more sail area to drive it and counters this with a sturdy ballast ratio. The Beneteau, on the other hand, opts for substantially less displacement, along with reduced sail area and a stabilty profile that places more emphasis on hullform with an associated reduction in ballast. It is an easily driven yacht with good light-air potential.
Beneteau has become accomplished at building dependable parts on a production scale and the 423 doesn’t break the mold. The hull is built to CE Offshore Category A standards of hand-laid solid fiberglass, with an anti-osmotic vinylester barrier coat followed by what the builder calls “a zone-specific stitchmat laminate schedule to meet the specific strength requirements of each different section of the hull.” Typically, Beneteau reinforces the hull with a high-strength structural GRP liner laminated using nonwoven stitchmat fiberglass and unidirectional rovings for optimum load distribution, especially in critical areas such as chainplate terminations, keel attachment, and compression-post bearing for the deck-stepped spar. Hull and liner are bonded chemically with a proprietary polyester adhesive compound. Beneteau calls the process poly-bonding and insists that the chemical bond is in fact 100 percent. The deck is balsa-cored with solid fiberglass in the way of any load bearing or hardware mounting. Major bulkheads are bonded 360 degrees to hull and deck for monocoque structural integrity.
SYSTEMS AND ACCOMMODATIONS
Beneteau has gone with the latest-generation low-rev Volvo auxiliary aboard the 423 and the gains in noise reduction are worthy of mention. The engine is located beneath the companionway steps, which hinge upward on pneumatic springs for ready access. So often in the case of boats this size and similarly configured, engine noise is a necessary evil and something taken for granted, a bane on being down below and a source of unpleasant vibration generally. On our test we spent time in the saloon under way at 2,500 revs and found the noise level entirely benign, no doubt the result of a motor that is indeed quieter and a meticulously insulated compartment. This may be the quietest 40-footer we’ve been aboard.
There is what amounts to 360 degree accessibility through the com-panionway and by means of opening panels as you move aft, although by needs on a boat of this size that access is restricted in certain places such as where the galley wraps around on the starboard side in the two-cabin version. The battery complement—a 100-amp start battery and a 200-amp house battery—is located at the engine in a dedicated, well-secured station easy to get to. In a nod to systems consumers, Beneteau has included room for a generator in the sail locker beneath the cockpit on the starboard side. Seven 110-volt outlets and a 28-function 12-volt distribution panel describe the circuitry, with conduit factory-led for both standard and optional wiring. The freshwater cache is a sizable 154 gallons in two built-in tanks—one forward beneath the V-berth and the other aft in the port hip. Fuel capacity is 53 gallons in a rotomolded polyethylene tank.
Interior accommodations are available in two versions and the differences between them are significant. Moving bow to stern, the two-cabin scheme that we evaluated includes a V-berth forward with its own head and shower, then a cheerful saloon with an oval dinette/settee to starboard opposed by a longitudinal settee and forward-facing nav station to port. Both settees, if rigged with proper lee cloths, would make comfortable sea berths. Aft is a medium-tight, L-shaped galley niche to starboard, the companionway as described amidships, then a master stateroom to port with its own generous head and shower and an athwartships double berth back in the hip.
A three-cabin scheme includes two smaller doubles port and starboard aft, which, it would appear, use locker space dedicated to sails and gear in the two-cabin scheme. The two heads remain the same in both versions, however the galley in the three-cabin boat is moved over to port longitudinally along the side of the hull in place of the settee described above, and the nav station is switched over to starboard. The three-cabin plan gets the job done, but the two-cabin plan is arguably more appealing with the galley out of the shared living quarters, and space in general freed up throughout the main and aft cabins.
Common to both versions is well executed cabinetwork featuring highly varnished cherry-stained douka, a fine-grain mahogany-type wood. There is plenty of light and ventilation by way of Lewmar opening hatches in half-a- dozen different sizes ranging from size 54 to size 0. Central to the main saloon is a glorious skylight across the deck that opens up the cabin immeasurably with a big dose of light and extended space. The combination of bold upholstery, refined joinerwork, elegant finish and all this openness provides for a striking and satisfying interior.
DECK, RIG AND UNDER SAIL
The 423 benefits from a generous aft cockpit because of its beamy stern sections, and this becomes a focal point of the boat. It is as much a congenial gathering spot as it is a comfortable place from which to steer. There is terrific access to the transom swim/boarding platform which is opened up by virtue of paired backstays, and because of the vessel’s low profile there is great visibility forward. All lines lead aft through organizers to the cabintop port and starboard where a pair of Lewmar 40 CSTO self-tailers provide the elbow grease. Our test boat was equipped with an optional electric maneuvering winch in this location, an option that we would recommend highly. The mainsail enjoys mid-boom sheeting to a traveler forward of the companionway, which keeps the cockpit clear.
We sailed with Beneteau’s optional Classic conventional-hoist rig, which would be our preference in the first place because of the performance benefits accrued over furling rigs. The furling rig on this boat is a standard item. The mast is deck-stepped, supported by a compression post below. The boat is set up as a masthead sloop with a 140-percent genoa on headstay roller furling. The sail is sheeted to Lewmar 48 CSTO coaming winches; we would opt for a bigger size here, and, in fact, Beneteau offers Lewmar 54s as an option. The side decks are narrow but there is good access forward inboard over the cabintop, which blends cleanly into the foredeck. There is no intermediate stay. All the way forward is a double anchor roller and a self-bailing anchor locker with a buried Horizon Express electric windlass.
Our outing in variable to medium wind was pleasurable. The 423 as noted is a light boat with a modern underbody and this allows it to shine in conditions that would see plenty of other 40-foot cruising boats struggling for headway, in some cases without even steerage. It is very responsive at the helm, the product of an efficient keel and well-balanced composite rudder. The boat accelerates well and has no trouble in medium conditions tacking inside of 80 to 85 degrees of true wind.
It’s not late-breaking news that Be-neteau is adept at building good solid boats on a high-volume production basis. We were impressed with the integrity of this one, particularly in areas behind the scenes such as where the chainplate terminals are secured to the GRP hull liner grid. This is a massive structural element clearly designed to handle a lot of load. It reflects the thinking behind the fabrication of the boat overall. The 423 has a sporty feel to it under way, and it responds to the slightest tug on the wheel as a solid unit moving through the water as one.
Without having gone offshore it is impossible for us to comment on the behavior of the 423 in high winds and big seas. Being relatively light, it is apt to be a candidate for the early reef, but with a wide buoyant stern and powerful rudder it is optimized for control. The installation of an intermediate stay for foretriangle reduction in heavy weather is nearly always advisable on a sloop headed over the horizon, but this is an issue best addressed by Beneteau and Groupe Finot. Other items to consider include the optional autopilot and gennaker package. Suffice it to say, however, the 423 is a fine cruising boat with excellent performance potential.
And, as we remarked at the outset, at a $185,000 sailaway price, it’s also a good deal. The 2003 package lumps more than $6,000 of additional stan-dard equipment aboard including Raytheon ST60 Tridata and Wind, a Standard Horizon DSC-capable Intrepid VHF with a cockpit-mounted RAM remote mike, stereo equipment, a microwave oven, hot/cold cockpit shower and more. Bottom line: The 423 is a slick-looking boat with correspondingly slick sailing qualities developed in the vernacular of the 473 that preceded it two years ago.
LOA 43’2” (13.2 m.)
Hull length 41’8” (12.7 m.)
LWL 38’7” (11.8 m.)
Beam 12’11” (3.9 m.)
Draft (std.) 5’7” (1.7 m.)
Draft (shoal) 4’9” (1.5 m.)
Draft (deep) 6’11” (2.1 m.)
Ballast (std./shoal) 5,836 lbs. (2,647 kgs.)
Ballast (deep) 5,569 lbs. (2,526 kgs.)
Displ. (std.) 19,797 lbs. (8,980 kgs.)
Displ. (deep) 19,530 lbs. (8,860 kgs.)
SA (furling, 100%) 720 sq. ft. (66.9 sq. m.)
SA (classic, 100%) 753 sq. ft. (70.0 sq. m.)
Mast above water 54’4” (16.6 m.)
Ballast/Displ. (std) 30%
Ballast/Displ. (deep) 29%
SA/Displ. (furling) 15.7
SA/Displ. (Classic) 16.5
LPS 120 degrees
Fuel 53 gal. (200 ltr.)
Water 154 gal. (581 ltr.)
Auxiliary Volvo D2-55 diesel 55-hp
Designer Groupe Finot
Price $185,000 (sailaway
24 North Market Street
Charleston, SC 29401
1, rue Pierre Vaudenay (les Metz)
78350 Jouy-en-josas, France
Ph: 33 (0)1 39 46 20 02
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