by Greg Jones
Blue Water Sailing
Around Cape Hatteras In The New Beneteau 57
Testing Beneteau’s cruising flagship offshore proves the boat to be as comfortable as she is sleek and fast
When we passed by the breakwater at the end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in hull number two of the new Beneteau 57, the wind and seas picked up nicely, transforming what had been a fairly calm overnight passage down the bay from Annapolis into what was promising to be a jolly, 250-mile blue-water romp around Cape Hatteras to Myrtle Beach, S.C. The wind picked up nicely almost as soon as we cleared the breakwater, putting us on a close reach on port tack until we cleared Cape Henry. By the time we rounded Cape Henry and altered course to south southeast, the wind had gone from 10 to 15 knots to a steady 20 and our point of sail was transformed from a close reach to a beam reach. Life was good.
The big center-cockpit sloop, displacing 47,300 pounds, parted the waves like Moses in the Red Sea and except for the occasional overachiever that washed over the foredeck, the ocean stayed right where it belonged. In the cockpit, seated comfortably in front of the big stainless wheel, we had less than a spoke of weather helm. Holding course was effortless, as one would expect from a hydraulic system, but the clean wake told us that we weren’t expending a lot of sail energy with excessive weather helm.
There is that moment when the boat first hits deep water and the swells of the open sea when your spirits lift in time to the deck rising to the next wave. On a big boat, that motion has the grace of a debutante’s curtsy and the steady forward motion of a train.
Bruce Farr is the man to thank for this, Beneteau’s latest addition to the big end of their fleet, and the 57 combines the consummately crafted finish work evidenced in the softly glowing interior woodwork with a serious, seagoing, solid fiberglass hull and balsa-cored deck. Farr’s racing credentials are second to none: it is a rare finish line that doesn’t have a Farr boat near it, and cruising anchorages worldwide are familiar with Farr boats as well.
This was the first offshore sail for this boat, a delivery to its first owner, and while we have seen many new boats that have gone to sea for the first time have teething problems, difficulties with items that haven’t been fully checked or assembled, that wasn’t the case with this boat. The previous afternoon and night had seen conditions that occasionally required motoring, and the 160-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled Yanmar was a silent servant, with the engine quiet enough, motoring along at 2,000 rpm, to make conversation easy in the cockpit and sleep very comfortable in the saloon or any of the berths. In still water we made 7.8 to eight knots, and throttled back to a nearly inaudible 1,000 rpm we graced along at three knots.
Creature comforts are well taken care of. Each cabin, and there are four in each of the two versions, has its own heat and AC controls, and the only problem we had was that in some of the cabins the air outlet is at the top of a cabinet, precisely the sort of place you put that extra sweater or perhaps reading material after you turn out the perfectly positioned halogen reading lamp. There is room at the sides or front of the cabinets and that is where the outlet should be located.
Most of the electrical system is 24-volt DC, with the engine starter and its related components being 12 volts, and all the high-draw accessories, such as the windlass, the winches, the 10.7 horsepower, 257 pound MaxPower bow-thruster, fridge/freezer and various pumps, are 24 volt. This makes perfect sense, because the wire size can be much smaller with a 24-volt system.
One of the reasons BWS does its boat reviews over the course of an offshore passage is to test the boat in its element. No amount of extrapolating can determine a boat’s sea manners after a few hours tacking around a harbor. I looked forward to the our first meal at sea, because the galley seemed to be well set up, tucked to port beneath the cockpit with ample counter space and cross ventilation from opening ports on the hull side and into the cockpit.
Dinner our first night offshore was chicken enchiladas for four, a large pan that had been prepared in advance and stuck in the Frigoboat freezer. The top-lifting door to the freezer is 21.5x11.5 inches; it was a pleasure to work with a freezer that was so big. Next to the freezer is the four-burner Eno stove, with a dry storage compartment beneath it. Across from the stove is the dishwasher, next to a sliding set of drawers with wire baskets, just right for fresh fruit. Our only concern was that the sinks are outboard, but with the sinks well above the waterline it would take a considerable amount of heel for them to cease draining properly. The galley was designed for sailors who like to eat well, apparently. We stowed food for four for five days and it didn’t make a dent in the capacity. The stowage spaces are broken up into sensible sizes, are easy to get to, and, as with the wire baskets, aren’t all designed to hold canned goods.
The forward-facing nav station, to starboard by the companionway steps, is a properly sized nav station, combining the need for paper charts by providing a working area of 49x22 inches with a semi-surrounding bulkhead big enough for radar, chart plotter, SSB or whatever combination of electronics you decide on. A 26x22-inch space under the desktop provides chart stowage in the usual manner. The seat was comfortable, and it was easy to brace yourself in while working, but a footrest to the navigator’s left would have been helpful at times.
Topside, the large, leather covered stainless steel wheel sits to port of the companionway, resembling more a power-boat than a sailboat in its location, but no powerboat would have a wheel 32 inches in diameter. A pedestal-mounted wheel, set in the aft end of the cockpit, is an option. With either option, the companionway sets lightly to starboard of the centerline.
The primary winches are aft of the steering station, requiring nothing more strenuous than wrapping on the sheet and pushing a button to come about. Within reach of the steering station is the port secondary winch, and its mate is mounted similarly to starboard. The forward section of the cockpit has a glass windshield around the forward portion, and its stainless steel frame makes a sturdy attachment point for the dodger. The windshield provides good weather protection, even with the dodger down, and the racy look is definitely European.
More of the Med-inspired good looks show up at the stern, with the “back porch,” some nine feet of teak-covered real estate we found to be a stable place to watch the sea going by, and would be the ideal spot to stow a hard dinghy to sail around the anchorage. With the dinghy gone, a few deck chairs would make for a decent dockside lifestyle.
Beneteau has a clever folding swim platform-cum-dinghy dock incorporated into the center section of the transom. Pushing a button causes a sliding door to retract and, within a few seconds, you can descend the two steps to what is nearly a water-level platform. On either side of the stern platform is a massive lazarette, with plenty of room for fenders suitable for a 57-foot sloop.
With the wind at 125 degrees apparent and steady at 20 knots, we found that with just the headsail, we sailed at 8 knots on the GPS and the knotmeter, with its instant readout, showed us hitting 8.5 down swells but only slowing to 7.8. We were carrying delivery sails, sparing the new sails for the owner’s first miles, and the headsail we carried was slightly smaller than the regulation 1,069 square feet. We were nonetheless very pleased with the performance, and putting up the main kicked the speed up to 9.5. As with much else in life, timing is everything, and 9.5 knots would put us at the entrance to Myrtle Beach too early in the day, so after doing the numbers, we sailed along in comfort, using just the headsail.
Access to the engine is, after you remove a few panels in the aft head and the companionway to the aft cabin, little short of remarkable. All sides of the engine can be reached, and there are two lights in the engine room. We checked the oil and belt tension on the new engine each time before starting it and found it easy to do.
The motion at sea was as easy as one would expect it to be for a boat of this size, and much better than some racing boats of a similar size. The hull shape, while thoroughly modern with a lot of room in the aft section, has not made undue concessions to speed at the sake of comfort. There is enough volume in the forward part of the hull to ease the boat’s way in waves; the wind never got above 30 knots during our 500-mile boat test, but the conditions we did encounter produced a smooth, seakindly ride.
Beneteau’s new 57, priced very competitively and with the sea manners and good looks that have made them a leader in production boats, fits perfectly at the big end of the Beneteau line. BWS likes the boat, and we published a full technical and design review in May of 2003. We were eager then to have a chance to sail Beneteau’s latest offering, and after sailing, motoring, anchoring, preparing meals and standing watches during a coastal delivery, we are satisfied.
LOA 57’9” (17.60 m.)
Hull length 56’5” (17.20 m.)
LWL 49’3” (15.00 m.)
Beam 16’4” (4.98 m.)
Draft (deep) 8’6” (2.60 m.)
Draft (shoal) 6’11” (2.10 m.)
Ballast (deep) 15,212 lbs.
Ballast (shoal) 16,534 lbs.
Displ. 47,400 lbs.
SA (100%) 1,402 sq. ft.
(130.3 sq. m.)
Mast above water 76’9” (23.40 m.)
Ballast/Displ. (deep) 32%
Ballast/Displ. (shoal) 35%
Fuel 127 gal. + 49 gal. opt.
(480 ltr. / 185 ltr.)
Water 265 gal. (1,000 ltr.)
Base Price US$500,000
Farr Yacht Design Ltd.
613 Third St., Suite 20
Annapolis, MD 21403
24 North Market St.
Charleston, SC 29401
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