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sail_boat_review-beneteau_oceanis_50-largeHaving the pleasure of attending the Miami boat show this year, we made it a point to see the new Beneteau 50. First impressions at dockside were that this boat was a perfect fit in the high performance cruising niche. The surprise is that new manufacturing methods and processes employed in making this boat have reduced the selling price putting this boat in play especially with our present dollar leverage. Honestly, for those wishing to cash in and sail into retirement, this boat might be the ticket. Or put this boat up against a cottage. With the hassle of commuting and the related costs, it looks like a very reasonable option. This boat would be a natural to cruise up and down any Canadian coast with ease; to make way for California or Florida as winter approaches would be the natural step.

Its tall rig and powerful main would make it perfect for the light air on Lake Ontario; its long waterline and underwater configuration and performance-looking hull would handle any breeze thrown at her.

From the off the boat perspective, the unique coach roof and squared off elliptical windows are pleasing and work well with the lower hull ports. The mainsail arch is well done and fits this design perfectly. If required, a dodger is easily designed to fit on the arch, perfect for hot sunny days and for longer haul cruising.

The rig is what I would have expected to see: a 9/10 set up with swept back spreaders. A fully battened mainsail (yes) with the lazy jack system and a 140% overlapping genoa are standard and the sail will pack up perfectly with a nice easy controlled drop down.

This boat looks like it's built to sail and early reviews speak to its sailing performance but with all the shorestyle one could ever want; it is easily driven and well balanced. With the design acumen of Berret Racoupeau for the hull and deck and the Italian flair brought forward by Nauta for the interior, the Beneteau Oceanis 50 is perfectly placed for the emerging big boat at a reasonable price. For the record, the deck is a sandwich construct using balsa and glass making for a light but very strong structure.

Buy this boat and you'll be free to tour anywhere you like. If I owned this boat, personally, I would be joining the World Cruising Club whose wonderful events would be a perfect launching pad to tour offshore. But understand one thing: this boat is made to sail and sail hard. Its performance characteristics and great balance will show its form in almost all conditions.

Entering aft, the wide cockpit typifies the new design trend for big and roomy, deep and safe and promotes being socially over extended at the dock. The seating is well done too with great back support. The center cockpit table is perfectly sized and boasts great storage and also has a great handrail feature. I love this new life raft storage design; its brilliant getting all that low and below ad out of sight. The large walk through gate adds to the sense of size but all well within the design proportions required, as defined by the great twin steering stations. It's evident, too, that Beneteau has worked hard to ensure the great winch placements. This cockpit has great ergonomics, its well laid out to sail and be sailed. There is just no nonsense in this boat's approach.

Sail control lines are lead aft to the coach roof as one would expect with the mainsheet traveller forward of the companionway on its neat arch ensuring a very clean cockpit. Access forward is a breeze and safe with the wide decks and robust double lifeline configuration. Visibility is not an issue with easy sightlines forward.

Even with all the praise above decks, it's down below where this boat (and for that matter Beneteau) shines. Nauta's super yacht DNA shines though with a layout that looks more like a 70-footer with its huge main salon boasting long and wonderfully deep settees and to port a huge offset table. In addition, there are two well-located and solid though moveable stools amidships that allows six to sit comfortably to dine. The table will drop to provide an additional double berth. The mahogany treatments on the furniture are a perfect match for the laminate flooring that has a nice lightly treated non-skid finish. The viability for natural light to shine through makes the space feel even larger. The use of a unique fabric on the bulkheads and overhead also adds to the brightness and elegant feel.

A wonderful navigation station complete with all the electronics one would need in a wonderful array is placed to starboard. The configuration with electronics placed outboard allows the table and area to double up as an additional seating area and it's a great place to work if need be.

The port side U-shaped galley did not disappoint with centerline placed twin sinks, a three-burner stove outboard. A top loading fridge/freezer is companioned with a huge (130 Litre) front-loading refrigerator and there is tons of counter space to boot. Adding a dishwasher or micro would be a simple task as the room is easily there.

In terms of accommodations and cabins, the fore cabin is very well done with its centerline double berth, its sit down area and accompanying en suite that's complete with head, shower and storage. The Oceanis 50 offers two layouts: a two-cabin version forward and aft with a bow cabin optional, or a two forward cabins and 3 aft cabin option again with a bow cabin optional. In both cases, there are two heads.

Our take at CY is that Beneteau has hit a home run with this boat. Its performance, its price and its pedigree all come together so well that it would be hard to top in its class.

By John Kerr

To see if this boat is available, go to www.boatcan.com to check listings!