First Class 10 Exterior Sailing Very Fast, Very light, and Very French.
By Carol Nickle and Bryan Gooderham
As we drove down the gravel road to MacDonald Marine Services in Hamilton on a Saturday afternoon in May, Dan Maitland rolled down his window and introduced himself as he passed in the other direction. "We're just going for beer. We'll be back in five minutes. The boat's tied up by the crane." A brief while later, beer stowed in the galley, we set sail on Dan's brand-new First Class 10, the first one to be delivered in Canada. A new model in 1983 from Beneteau of France, the yacht is the latest in the company's First Class racing line. Beneteau, a well-established yacht manufacturer, markets a range of boats from comfortable cruisers to the First group of club racer/ cruisers to the First Class series of uncompromising racers. Jean Marie Finot of the Finot/Fauroux design team says, "The First Class 10 is a pure speed boat not only for the pleasure of cruising but also for one-design racing." And therein lies what may be the rub. The First Class 10 is very fast and very French, but with an IOR rating of 32.7 for its length of just over 34 feet. 

As the design team has made no concessions to the measurement rule, we think it may have its work cut out for it sailing to its rating in a mixed handicap fleet racing environment, or upwind in any sort of seaway. The First Class 10 is an example of the ultra-light displacement school of thought and displays typical design characteristics.
It sports an incredibly light displacement of 5,500 pounds, but does have a relatively deep draft. Its lines show a fine bow with very flat midsections, combined with a narrower beam and wider aft sections than typical IOR racers. Long, low topsides sweep back to an open transom, with a Gallic scoop extending the waterline at the stern.


The sailplan has a tall seven-eighths fractional rig, and lots of sail area. The result is a boat that is scorchingly fast, particularly downwind. We sailed Dan Maitland's boat in the protected water of Hamilton Bay on an unsettled afternoon that started with sunlit zephyrs and ended in a gusty downpour. The speed and acceleration of the First Class 10 is awesome; we had no problem outpointing and outpacing a companion 32-footer, even when its engine was turned on to keep up! Given the light displacement and the lofty rig, we were also impressed with its stability, which is enhanced by a fairly deep keel and the weight of the engine located amidships directly over the keel.
Tiller steering on the First Class 10 is comfortable and positive. The yacht is responsive to small movements on the helm, which produce quick and definite results from the deep spade rudder, but the touch can't be described as sensitive or light. Steve Calder from North Sails Fogh, who came along to fine-tune some of Dan's new sails, observed that as the wind pipes up the helm feels more spritely and the boat handles well.
Steve particularly liked the length adjustment on the tiller extension-it has a positive latching mechanism that works quickly and easily.


The cockpit of the First Class 10 is extremely well -designed for steering comfort and racing efficiency. The inside of the cockpit coaming provides a comfortable backrest, and its outside edge forms a smooth curving lip to the deck at just the right angle for seating as the boat heels. The traveler bridge reserves the aft end of the cockpit for the helmsman and keeps the mainsheet close enough for him to handle.
Teak railings line the inside edges of the cockpit seats, providing a welcome foot or handhold. A recessed channel runs along the back edge of the cockpit seats to drain water aft. Atop the cabin is a two-part sliding hatch, which can be slid forward for access to the interior from the cockpit or aft to open the cabin top for a spinnaker takedown.
The First Class 10 has a fiberglass hull with molded-in longitudinal and lateral stringers in a grid pattern to ensure suitable rigidity for the hull. Bulkheads are layered to the hull with fiberglass to provide additional stiffness. The deck is fiberglass with balsa core in open areas to reduce weight, but areas of high stress under winches and other hardware are made of solid fiberglass.


First Class 10 Exterior and Interior A foray under the cockpit floor inside the boat revealed a clean, neat and well finished interior gelcoat surface. The double-spreader mast, produced by Z-Spar in France, is well made, although we thought the cast-aluminum gooseneck fitting was of less than premier quality on the particular boat we sailed. As well, we suggest that rod rigging rather than stainless steel wire would be a useful addition on such a high-performance boat. Otherwise, the First Class 10 comes equipped with all the latest go-fast hardware.
Standard equipment includes a double groove headstay, adjustable jib leads and adjustable running backstays led to self-tailing winches. The mainsail is controlled by a solidly functional French manufactured traveler system and a sophisticated mainsheet arrangement with a second block-and-tackle mechanism to give extra purchase for fine-tuning under load.
Since the mast and rigging are designed so that the mast can be bent to optimize sail shape, serious racers might consider adding a second set of independently adjustable lower running backstays. We did notice that all this rigging results in a lot of "spaghetti" in the after part of the cockpit, which could be alleviated by some well placed sheet bags.


Deck hardware is all of high-quality racing pedigree, but winches, stoppers and other hardware are secured under the deck with oversize washers and lock-nuts rather than the backup plates we would prefer to see. Halyards lead to winches on the aft end of the cabin top; sail changing would be easier if these were self-tailing like those for the running backstays.
Unfortunately, rather wobbly stanchion bases do not do justice to the sturdy bow and stern pulpits.
As a sensible touch of convenience, the caps for both water and fuel tanks can be opened or tightened shut with a winch handle. The interior of the First Class 10 makes intriguing use of the limited space resulting from the racing design. It features a double berth aft cabin as well as the usual V berth forward, and has a huge table in the middle of the cabin. (As one wag remarked, the French priorities of eating and sleeping are quite evident!) The low freeboard and very flat bilge mean that standing headroom isn't possible, but Beneteau has taken care to make the interior comfortable and inviting while keeping it light and uncluttered.


The teak veneer headliner and bulkheads complement the table and the teak-and-holly cabin sole very attractively, but it really would look that much nicer if screwheads were countersunk and plugged. The remaining interior walls are covered in either a cream-colored, foam-backed vinyl or a pile fabric.
We are a little dubious of the durability of this covering and its appearance after several years of hard racing. The double-hinged table resting on the engine enclosure just aft of the mast is the focal point of. the main saloon. It is sufficiently big to serve dinner for six, but Dan Maitland thought he would cut it down to a smaller size since it might be cumbersome for racing.
Stowage in the saloon and the rest of the boat is adequate, bearing in mind that this is a high-performance yacht and is not intended for extended cruising. The V berth forward is generous in size but has virtually no privacy from the adjacent head compartment. Both the head to port and the hanging locker to starboard are small and streamlined; one is reminded again that this is a racing boat.


The head compartment does not feature a sink or counter space, and a considerable amount of the space in the one good-sized locker is occupied by the unadorned fuel tank. We thought the tank might be enclosed and a shelf built into the locker.
We also wondered whether the small, light, plastic toilet is sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of
the sea. The galley, to port of the companionway, is simple and serviceable. It has a two-burner alcohol stove, a single basin sink and a modest amount of locker space, but no icebox. Opposite the galley is a functional navigation area. The chart table is roomy, but we would like to see the separate lid hinged rather than resting in a slot along the back edge.
A sliding door aft of the nav station opens into a double-berth compartment- we hesitate to call it a cabin underneath the cockpit floor and the starboard deck. With the door open we found the space roomy and light enough to be comfortable, but with the door closed it felt a trifle claustrophobic. In spite of a small, round porthole opening to the cockpit, ventilation in warm weather could be a problem even with the door open.
To port behind the galley is a large sail locker which can alternatively be fitted with a pipe berth. Access to the engine and mechanical systems is by and large straightforward. Since the engine is under the table, removal of the table top and base leaves the engine completely exposed. However, it seems odd that the engine panels, with ignition, tachometer and temperature gauge, are located .on the forward end of the engine box behind the mast.


The First Class 10 is fitted with a folding propeller that works adequately in forward gear, but was noticeably less effective guiding the boat in reverse. The electrical panel, located in the navigational area, did not appear to have any spare breakers; nor would it be easy to reach the back of the panel to add extra wiring. The Beneteau First Class 10 will provide plenty of sailing excitement for those who enjoy the exhilaration of flat out performance. It exhibits a distinct French flair in both design and décor that provides a contrast to the main- stream of North American yachts. Aided by the recent decline in value of the French franc, the First Class 10 is priced at a reasonable $59,250 (plus $660 for spinnaker gear) with relatively few added extras in the form of factory options.
In areas where First Class 10 fleets arise, one-design racing could be very dynamic. Whether or not the design is at all capable of living up to its IOR rating remains to be seen. Dan Maitland planned to begin the season finding out how his boat measured up against the LOR (Lake Ontario Rule) fleet. Whatever the handicapping outcome, sailors of the First Class 10 will have the satisfaction of knowing they are aboard a very fast, very uncompromising design.


Originally Published in Canadian Yachting’s July 1984 issue.


Specifications:
LOA………….34ft 4in
LWL………….29ft 6in
Beam………..9ft 9in
Displacement ..5,500lbs
Ballast………..2,200lbs
Draft…………..5ft 11in
Berths…………6
Fuel Tank Capacity…4.3GAL
Engine…………Yanmar 2-Cylinder
13-HP Diesel
Sail Area(Main&Jib)…700ft2
IOR Rating………32.7
Base Price(1984)….$59,250

Carol Nickle is an independent financial consultant, and Bryan Gooderham is the owner of Bryan Gooderham Yacht Service and a member of the Crew of the Sorc and Admiral’s Cup Racer, Amazing Grace.

 

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