Let’s start with an almost trivial question. Who is the typical owner of the new First 36? A fellow journalist asked designer Lorenzo Argento, one of the minds behind this Beneteau yacht. He replied: “Someone like me who wants to go sailing fast and have fun, whether cruising or racing. But without spending too much money.
Beneteau wants to create a cornerstone in the high-performance cruiser/racer market, i.e. to give a mass-produced model the features of a fast racer, but with everything needed for cruising. In short, a cruiser that knows how to plane without problems, while maintaining ease of use. Let’s give you a few figures to get you into the orbit of this project: the length is 11 metres, the beam is 3.80 metres, she weighs 4.8 tonnes, she has a sail plan of 80 square metres when sailing upwind, which becomes 180 when sailing downwind, and a draft of 2.25 metres. Add to this the fact that the naval architecture was designed by Sam Manuard, a master of large-course yachts (Mini 6.50, Class40) and you’ll soon realize that she is decidedly sporty. If we stop at the identity card, we might wonder how a craft of this type can be a “cruiser”. With cruising we don’t just imagine comfort, but also ease of use.
The First 36 is the result of years and years of experience in offshore racing yachts, with Sam Manuard in fact, but resting its foundations, from a structural point of view, on the work of the PURE Design & Engineering team, whose collaborations include structural calculations for America’s Cup, IMOCA and TP-52 yachts. With these foundations in place, Lorenzo Argento and Gigodesign, together with Beneteau and Seascape, have shaped and equipped a boat that can meet the demands of cruising and racing. The main point is the very low weight. How? With a fibreglass composite structure made by vacuum infusion, including the bulkheads and most of the interiors that actually contribute to the boat’s structural strength. So no extra furniture or anything.
When looking at her from the quayside, the almost four-metre width is not fully perceived. The beam is certainly large, but you don’t really get the feeling of how much space there really is on board, at least not until you get on. This aesthetic “lightness” of the transom can be attributed to a ploy on the two seats with a gap underneath that lightens the line.
What is immediately apparent when looking at the deck is its simplicity and cleanliness of lines. In front of the two helm wheels there is a winch that allows the helmsman to manage the mainsail and steering from a seated position. At the same time, just below this position is the mainsail and backstay throttle on either side. Between the two rudders there is a central locker for storing all the wings. The cockpit, as you may have guessed, is very large and for those coming from an older generation of boat the feeling may not be immediate. In race mode the cockpit is almost entirely clear. For cruising, on the other hand, we have a large dining area with a central folding table (with two additional seats). Drifters will have no problem finding what they need on the fly: everything is visible and extremely tidy.
As mentioned above, the interior is largely structural. The layout is the classic three-cabin one. In order to maximize saloon space, especially the chart table which is back in the spotlight (thanks also to the increasingly popular “smart working” trend), the space used by the head has been reduced to a minimum.
How? With a fold-down wash basin that allows several functions to be concentrated in a smaller area. Descending the stairs you immediately notice a large insulated refrigerator. This makes it more spacious and deeper, but also gives you more room to move around on board. When preparing food, a removable chopping board (under the oven) connects the refrigerator island with the kitchen, creating an XL worktop.
As above, minimalism prevails, but there is more. White is often complemented by wood, which covers the edges of all furniture, including doors and the fridge. This is not only an aesthetic choice, but also a practical one as they often serve as handrails. The three cabins are spacious, but they are also designed, particularly in the stern, as areas not only for sleeping but also for stowing, for example, sails when racing. The bunks can be folded down by one half by sliding the slats of one half under the other.
Salone – Beneteau First 36
For the test of this new Beneteau the venue was, as usual, Porto Ginesta, Spain. The conditions? Winds of up to 25 knots and strong seas, lots of rain. In short, ideal for putting her under real stress. There are six of us on board, including Lorenzo Argento. We pull up the mainsail with a hand of reefing and open the code zero. The sensations of speed and manoeuvrability are confirmed even with the rudder in our hands. At a speed of 11 knots at around 100 degrees in real time, the rudder is smooth and the boat rolls along great. Even the waves don’t particularly bother the boat, giving the idea of a well-dimensioned and stable hull. Upwind, without pushing particularly hard, at 50 degrees to the wind, the boat sails at over 7 knots without any particular problems.
As we were saying before, the 3.8-metre beam (out of the 11-metre length of the boat) is not trivial to move around, especially when sailing more heeling. Let’s not forget that this boat is in fact a “high-performance cruiser”, suitable for those who like to go sailing even more.
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