How cruising boats have changed in 30 years. The Oceanis case

In this new column, we explore at a glance, with photographic comparisons, the evolution of boats that have written boating history over the past 30 years. By looking for differences in the hull, sail rig, and interior, we discover how technology and the market have revolutionized designs of the same series and length, and how new versions of successful boats are now a whole different thing than in the past.

For the first installment, we focused on a “family” size, 35 feet, and a range that has made history in cruising, Beneteau’s Oceanis.


The Beneteau Oceanis series is known worldwide, It is one of the best-selling cruising model series in Europe. With design by Philippe Briand, it has its beginning in 1985 with a 10-meter that will make history, the Oceanis 350, which will go on to trace the philosophy of all subsequent Oceanis: marine boat for day trips, short cruising or the family vacation, with good performance, comfort and competitive price.

The Oceanis 350 (pictured above) would be followed by as many as six generations around the same 10-meter length with slightly different names, same philosophy, but radical changes that kept it a top-selling model in the Mediterranean market. Here is the chronology of Beneteau’s most famous 35-footer, including the names of the naval and interior architects:

  • 1986 – Oceanis 350 first generation. Philippe BRIAND
  • 1993 – Oceanis 351, second generation. Jean BERRET; Olivier RACOUPEAU
  • 1996 – Oceanis 36 CC third generation. Jean BERRET; Olivier RACOUPEAU; Armel BRIAND
  • 1999 – Oceanis Clipper 361 fourth generation. Jean BERRET; Olivier RACOUPEAU
  • 2007 – Oceanis 37 5th generation. Jean-Marie FINOT; Pascal CONQ; Nauta Design
  • 2016 – Oceanis 35 and 35.1 6th generation, in production. Finot – Conq; Nauta Design


We start by comparing the differences in the hull, with photographs of theOceanis Clipper 361 from 1999 and those of the Oceanis 35.1 in production today, from 2016. Seventeen years later, can we say it is the same boat?

  1. The hull round hull of the Oceanis Clipper 361 has a maximum beam almost amidships: it immediately differs from the wide stern, angular hull, which favors the Oceanis 35.1’s load-bearing gaits. Despite appearance, the differences on maximum beam are only 10cm!
  2. The heaths (anchor point of the shrouds) that used to be between the deckhouse and the foresail, are moving further outward and are further back because of the more quartered spreaders; in the photo, the genoa sheets are inside the shrouds!
  3. The cockpit was deep, narrow in the stern, sized on the single center wheel, nothing like the modern open and spacious cockpit, where there is clear division between the helmsman’s area and crew seating.
  4. Bow slightly slender, a straight bow is preferred today; the length at the waterline is practically the same as the length overall.
  5. The mainsail track is moved to the bow of the drum; on the new Oceanis 35.1, the mainsail track disappears completely to simplify maneuvering.
  6. The anchor windlass previously “exposed,” is now instead installed and protected in the in the forepeak, decreasing its wear and tear and reducing its bulk on the deck.
  7. The portholes side aluminum, give way to large watertight windows integrated into the hull, portholes on the deckhouse are larger, there is more light in the cabin, and the aesthetics are more in keeping with the times.
  8. The hatches have tinted glass, are wider and no longer protrude, providing continuous walking surface even in the bow.
  9. Toeboard side drilled aluminum, gives way to the more aesthetically pleasing wood, partly because the anchor points for barber… are no longer needed today since only gennakers and asymmetrics are used.
  10. The delphiniera is present only in the new models, provides a Gennaker tack point (eliminating tangon, bowsprit), advanced point for the furling drum, and integrates the anchor support as the foredeck has become vertical.


Now let us examine two iconic photographs from Beneteau brochures, the deck of the first Oceanis 350 from 1986 compared with that of the sixth-generation 35.1 in production today:

  1. Winch: mounted on the mast on the first Oceanis, disappeared. Today all halyards and rigging are brought back to the cockpit and optimized for small-crew sailing.
  2. Mainsheet formerly in the center of the cockpit: today the mainsheet also disappears from the center encumbrances and is installed on the rollbar, leaving the cockpit clear.
  3. Stern enclosed with ladder, today stern fully open with fold-down swim platform and integrated swim ladder.
  4. Rudder single wheel in 1986, but today, as the cockpit is much wider, to provide visibility for the helmsman in the sickle cell, it becomes almost a must to opt for 2 rudders.
  5. Backstay single with turnbuckle: now replaced by double backstay and blocks to adjust tension.
  6. Candlesticks in large numbers along the foresail: now minimized both for aesthetics, but also because the boat heels less and offers better non-slip surfaces (and for point 1, there are fewer reasons to go bow-first)
  7. Rollafiocco: no difference but a surprise, in 1985 there was already’ the standard rollafiocco!
  8. Table? Not present in 1986, now installed fixed in the cockpit, folding with flap and storage.
  9. Vang A line and two blocks as kickers, whereas today it is a given to have a piston boom-vang that supports the boom even with the mainsail lowered.
  10. Downhaul As a result of the piston vang, the downhaul, to keep the boom raised with mainsail lowered or during reefing, loses its usefulness.


We compare photos of the interior of the1993 Oceanis 351, the2007 Oceanis 37, and take a look at the galley of the1996 Oceanis 36cc. Interesting to note the constancy of some choices, and the evolution of other solutions, over a time span of only 15 years.

  1. Galley side in the central gallery, which is easier to build and anchor to the hull than the modern L-shaped galley space division.
  2. Table, now foldable, more spacious, which when folded provides walkway to the forward cabin: appears as early as the third generation.
  3. Tienti-well interior along the sides of the cabin, disappear in favor of more discreet supports.
  4. Lighting, more light in the cabin thanks to larger portholes.
  5. Coatings, the ceiling is no longer constructed from slats, but from a single formed panel, with recessed halogen spotlights.
  6. Storage racks Thanks to CNC cutting of wood, storage racks and cabinets are easily designed and made anywhere, increasing storage space.
  7. Doors The cabin door with rounded edges gives way to a conventional, wider (and cheaper to produce) door with flush access from the dunnage into the cabin.
  8. Central Cockpit On the Oceanis 36CC, the idea of a long side galley with access to the aft cabin (sacrificing forward cabin) is explored, CC stands for Central Cockpit, central cockpit, which results in the need to redesign the spaces, a blue-water solution that will be abandoned in later series.
  9. Insulation The exposed fiberglass of the interior, goes to be increasingly covered by interior furnishings over the years, providing insulation and redesigning some volumes.
  10. Materials: you can’t appreciate it from the photos, but all the materials used in interiors today have special characteristics that make them very different from the simple marine plywood used 25 years ago… Non-toxic sanded surfaces for the kitchen, ants that can be washed with household products, anti-mold materials in the bathroom, silicone sealants in the interstices, dunnage with built-in anti-slip, heat-insulating and sound-absorbing panels in the engine compartment…

What about you, what differences did you notice that we missed?

Luigi Gallerani



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