Beneteau First 44.7

By Thomas Kjaersgaard

Beneteau’s First series is the world leader in production-built, racer-cruisers. The current series of First boats are the product of the teamwork of Beneteau and Farr Yacht Design, and includes the 36.7, 40.7 and 44.7. All have won Boat of the Year honours, and they have countless other accomplishments, such as IMS World Champion, Kenwood Cup champion, Sydney to Hobart Race class winner.

The Beneteau First 44.7 first experienced the global spotlight as a result of its excellent 2004 Sydney-Hobart result. Right out of the box, with only token preparation time, it suffered no breakdown or damage, in a race that saw carnage and 50% fleet retirement.

As with Beneteau’s First 40.7 and First 47.7, the 44.7 is built in France. Our test boat, Hull #124 owned by Tatiana Nazarova-Friesner and husband Monte, was ordered in September 2005, and as Colin Andrews of Anchor Yacht Sales who sold the boat points out, “this design really demonstrates (by the number sold already) that when Farr and Beneteau collaborate on a racer-cruiser, it is a global success”. The First 44.7 clearly satisfies the increasingly apparent demographic demand for “Bigger and Better”.

The First 44.7 is designed to perform well in IRC, with little aspiration toward one-design class development. The First 44.7 is the first of the current crop of First models that was designed with IRC in mind; IRC is a system of measurement which classifies a broad range of cruising and racing ballasted mono-hull keel boats for competition by providing ratings comprising single figure allowances based on time. As such, it should be, foot-for-foot, the fastest of all the First Series boats.

Consistent with their IRC design concepts, Farr specified a 145-147% #1 Genoa. The test boat has a 150% #1 for optimum performance under PHRF as well as IRC, and is the largest Genoa that will fit on the track. The First 10R, just coming out, is also designed for IRC and also designed with 145-147% Genoa. Above all, in context of performance, the pertinent part is really the shift in design from IMS to IRC, and as such, the 44.7 should be a very fast hull design.

Odyssey, another 44.7 from Lake Erie, which sports a triple-spreader mast with discontinuous rod rigging and 6’10” draft, differs from our test boat; it features 8’ 6” draft and a double-spreader mast with discontinuous dyform rigging–commonly referred to as the IRC rig. It will be interesting to see whether the one-rig/keel combination emerges as the better option.

The 44.7 is a true racer-cruiser, and it is a big boat, inside and out. Below is the standard First series 3-cabin layout, with 2 large double-berth cabins aft, each with 6’4” headroom, proper mattresses, hanging locker, shelving, opening ports, halogen lighting, and 110V outlets. There is a large, well-appointed aft head with 6’9” headroom, 110V outlets, shower with hot and cold pressure water, towel rails and accessories, and 12V shower sump pump. Five hatches boasting Ocean Air blinds give ample natural light and afford privacy when desired; all other windows /ports are easily opened.

Beneteau Fist 44.7 A Racer-Cruiser starThe owner’s cabin forward is a departure from the smaller First series. Forward of the salon is a Pullman bed (not just a berth), with a cushioned bench opposite on port. The forward head is adjacent, and immediately forward of the owner’s cabin. Storage abounds in drawers, cabinets and a hanging locker. The keel-stepped mast is enclosed in the owner’s cabin using a gorgeous pear-stained beech finish that is common throughout the interior. This wood, in both solid and veneers, produces a light, yet rich appearance. The floorboards are also made of a rich-looking, marine-grade hydropont, are sealed to resist any moisture.

To minimize weight in the fine forward section, the owner’s head is forward, instead of the berth and storage. The head is large and well-appointed. Overall, the owner’s cabin is virtually the equal of the cruising Beneteaus in size and luxury.

In the main cabin, featuring 6’8” headroom, is a large dinette to starboard, with a cushioned bench on centre-line featuring a clever mechanism that allows it to easily move under the table and be securely locked in either position.

The 20” flat-screen TV is on the bulkhead at the forward end of the dinette. To port is cabinetry providing both drawer and shelf storage, which looks as though it would be very secure in pounding conditions and at high heel angles.

The navigation station is immediately aft of the cabinet. It is large and comfortable, with the standard Beneteau dished seat. There is an abundance of vertical panel space for electronics installation; the boat’s systems wiring harnesses are well organized at the 12V and 110V panels.

The galley is well-designed and spacious for the racer who will also host family and friends vacation cruising. It has deep, double, stainless steel sinks, with hot and cold pressurized water mixer tap, sink covers which double as cutting boards, a gimballed propane stove-oven, a large refrigerated combination fridge/ice box, cutlery drawer, trash can, dust pan in the floor, and lots of stowage above and below the laminate counters. For comfort, there’s 6’5” headroom in the galley, an opening port and two halogen overhead lights.

Battery switches are easily accessed at the forward end of the port aft cabin berth; the breakers for the electric windlass and electric winch are there as well. There are three standard batteries: one 110A starting battery and two 140A house batteries. Our test boat has the optional 4th battery. A battery charger is also standard equipment. The batteries are clustered in the aft cabins to optimize placement of their substantial weight for performance. Engine access is excellent. The curved solid wood companionway stairs lift on a hydraulic piston for primary access, while panels on the aft face and sides of the engine compartment permit access to all parts of the engine. The 53 hp Yanmar 4JH4CE is mated to a Saildrive with a 2-blade folding prop. This engine and prop configuration is matchless in its lack of noise and vibration, and quick, precise response to wheel and throttle. An hour meter and fuel gauge are located in the control panel in the cockpit.

Ship’s plumbing includes both manual and electric bilge pumps, 105 gallon fresh water capacity in 4 tanks, located on the boat’s centreline, a pressurized water system with expansion tank, 12V sump pump in both showers, and flush thru-hulls. The system is easily accessed behind the dinette seatback.

Benetau First 44.7 - InteriorHull and deck construction and deck equipment are up to the usual high Beneteau First standards. Solid glass hull lay-up with structural hull liner chemically bonded to the hull, balsacore deck, with all bulkheads bonded 360 degrees to hull and deck, ensure strength and rugged longevity. The deck features a non-skid, gel-coat pattern that really works well. And the wide, level deckhouse provides a solid footing for crew even under challenging conditions.

The epoxy/fibre rudder and stock have self-aligning upper and lower bearings for precise rudder alignment. Eight mooring cleats make docking a snap; lifeline gates port and starboard provide for easy boarding. A stainless steel stemhead fitting incorporates a detachable anchor roller that includes a standard electric windlass. Stainless steel stanchions with semi-recessed bases and double lifelines connect to stainless bow pulpit with nav lights and to the stern rail with stern light and ring-buoy holder. There are double lifelines across the stern, which have pelican hooks for easy detachment to access the teak-slatted swim platform.

A stainless steel step on the transom allows easy access to the cockpit from the platform. Like all First series models, there is a teak toe rail and teak-slatted helm seat and cockpit seats. For those doing long distance races, there is secure life raft stowage with tether point under the helm seat. A 2-tank propane tank locker is aft to port, a deep locker is aft to starboard and two large cockpit lockers under the cockpit seats provide ample equipment storage for both racing and cruising.

Our test boat was equipped with Profurl’s removable drum furling system, and Sparcraft’s rigid boomvang and lightweight carbon spinnaker pole. Combine those niceties with a hydraulic backstay system, a fantastic traveller arrangement, a beautiful 63” leather-wrapped wheel, and comfortable and efficient helming positions; this boat is race ready, even though its simple and uncluttered appearance somewhat belies its prowess as a go-fast machine.

Virtually all lines are lead back to the cockpit area, where a large crew can still move comfortably. Winches are by Harken, and performed flawlessly, although with just 6 winches aboard, we expect they’ll all be in high demand. Beneteau has however installed several stoppers near the winches in the event a winch needs to do double duty. In addition, a Spinlock open sheave between the halyard winches and the stoppers on both sides, enable crossing halyards/control lines from port to starboard winch and vice versa. For the owners’ cruising convenience and safety, a Harken 48 electric self-tailing winch replaces the standard winch on the port cabin top aft.

The cockpit is spacious, and features inset teak in several places, including key seating areas. There are two huge primary lockers under the cockpit seats, and two extra deep lockers in the stern that afford plenty of storage space, and one vented locker for storage of gas cylinders.

 

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s July 2006 issue.

 

Specifications

LOA: 44' 11"

LWL: 37' 8"

Beam: 13' 0"

Draft (standard): 6' 10"

Draft (optional): 8' 6"

Displacement: 21,572 lbs. (approx.)

Engine: 54 hp.

Fuel Capacity: 53 gal.

Water Capacity: 106 gal.

Base Price Cdn. (2006): $341,340.00

Hull/Designer: Farr Yacht Design ®

 

Canadian Dealers

Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta:

Anchor Yacht Sales

www.anchoryachtsales.com

Maritimes:

Ocean Yacht Sales Limited

www.oceanyachtsales.com

Western Canada:

Westerly Yacht

www.westerlyacht.com

Quebec:

Boulet Lemelin Yacht

www.blyachting.com

Marina Gosselin

www.marinagosselin.com

 

Photo captions

Photo 1 - On the water, the Beneteau First 44.7 is sure-footed and exceptionally fast.

Photo 2 – The Beneteau First 44.7 - A Racer-Cruiser Star

Photo 3 - The interior of the Beneteau First 44.7 is open and spacious, and features 6’8” headroom

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