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Overview

In 2014, the Oceanis 38 won titles as prestigious as European Yacht of the Year in 2014 and SAIL’s Best Boat alongside the NMMA Innovation Award. These awards complement the development behind the upgradeable cruiser that was first launched by Bénéteau a few months ago. Whether in Daysailer, Weekender or Cruiser mode, the Oceanis 35 embodies the stunningly sleek and seductive concept of a “3-in-1” cruiser.

Boattest.com Review of the Beneteau 35 (2015)

Overview

Beneteau offers varying accessories intended for the three distinctly different missions. There are also several features that can be installed or removed in minutes to further tailor the boat to the upcoming trip. In reality, there is nothing on the Cruiser, either standard or optional, that can’t be added as an option to the base Weekender version. Many options -- the forward cabin partition, for example -- can be added years after the boat is built.

Choosing the Daysailer, on the other hand, narrows the options significantly above deck and considerably below deck. Even the basic electrical system and cabin lighting is minimalist, and the Daysailer is not plumbed for hot water, with no easy avenue for expansion of either electrical or freshwater systems. At BoatTEST we suspect the majority of Daysailers will go to sailing schools or used on small lakes where there is little reason for amenities below.

The Difference Below Decks. Most of the changes -- either between versions of the boat or day-to-day alterations -- happen below decks. The interior layout and design is by Nauta Design. Major choices here include a full galley versus just a sink and countertop; long settees both port and starboard versus a U-shaped dinette; and whether the boat includes one, two or three private sleeping cabins.

Forward Cabin. The most noteworthy ephemeral change is whether the forward cabin remains open to the salon -- eight large windows and two overhead hatches flood the open space with daylight. Even with the forward cabin closed off with its hard bulkhead and door for privacy, the salon still feels quite open for a boat this size.

The Oceanis 35 On Deck

In all three versions, the Oceanis 35’s large cockpit proves equally useful for daysailing, cruising, club racing, or entertaining on the hook. An interesting fold-out transom makes for easy boarding from the dock, a convenient step into a dinghy for a night ashore, or an ideal snorkeling platform perched above far-away coral reefs. This is not available on the Daysailer version.

Two Sails + Two Optional. The standard sail plan is the 102% genoa and the mainsail. The headsail has roller furling as standard. The mainsail falls into lazy jacks and a lazy sail cover bag as standard. Optional is roller furling in the mast.

The optional sails are an asymmetrical spinnaker and a staysail. The spinnaker tacks to the headstay and does not need a spinnaker pole and works best on a broad reach. The staysail comes with track and a self-tending car for the clue and works best in fresh conditions going to windward when shorter sail and self-tended tacking is desired

Mainsail Handling. The mainsail is handled completely by a winch on the cabin rooftop. The main halyard is raised and the sheet is trimmed by the same winch. A bracke of cam cleats stop the halyard, sheet and other lines when not being adjusted.

Mainsail Sheet Arch. The mainsail sheet arch frees the cockpit or cabin top from being divided by a mainsheet traveler. This allows unhindered movement within the cockpit and from cockpit to deck. Equally important, by having the boom over 7' (2.13 m) above the cockpit deck the boat's owner does not have to worry about crew injury in the event of an unexpected jibe. This means that less experienced guests or family can be put on the helm and be allowed to stand in the cockpit in most conditions without concern about potentially injurious results.

Cruisers will appreciate the arch as a stout place to secure the spray dodger, and the dodger’s forward end is not hindered by a traveler across the front of the companionway.

Headsail Sheet Winches. These winches are located port and starboard within reach of the captain behind either wheel or by crew sitting in the cockpit. These winches handle both the genoa sheet and the roller furling line. These winches are also used for the sheets for the asymmetrical spinnaker, if one is used.

Helm and Cockpit Seating. Long seats down either side of the cockpit are separated by a permanently affixed folding table with storage within and handrails for safe passage in rough water. A removable folding table is another option here that leaves the cockpit sole completely unimpeded when not needed.

Dual Helms

The helmsperson sits on teak seats outboard of the helm or on twin bench seats that fold out of the way when using the full width of the stern swim and boarding platform.

Steer From Leeward or Windward. The advent of the twin steering stations was started in America's Cup racing so that the captain could optimize his view of the sails, seas, and competition. Usually that meant steering from leeward, but sometimes from the high side, and during the maneuvers at the start twin wheels were a definite advantage. It wasn't long before this concept was picked up in cruising boats and now many of them are so equipped.

Twin wheels in cruising boats have all of the advantages mentioned above but others as well. For example, when sailing short-handed as most cruisers do, the captain can be positioned near the sheet winch that will need activation and steer at the same time. Some boaters simply prefer to sit either to leeward or windward close to the rail and this is best accomplished by twin wheels. Also, it is handy to have two people at the steering stations for instruction.

Redundancy is Good. Each helm also includes an additional handrail and compass as well as space for electronics. The downside to having two helms is that some might opt for duplicate port and starboard electronics, so in this case there would be some added minor expense. The upside is that today’s networking of navigation and radar displays syncs port and starboard units or allows independent usage. Duplicated displays also provide redundancy if one fails. We'd spring for dual instruments.

Visibility is excellent, and having two helms located far outboard becomes particularly convenient when maneuvering alongside a dock. Engine controls are located inboard on the port helm pedestal. Reaching the shift lever from behind the starboard wheel requires a half a step inboard, but not more than the required step outboard from a centerline helm to look over the side at a low floating dock.

Depending on interior cabin configuration, the cockpit also includes a huge storage locker accessed through the starboard cockpit seat, or a shallower locker here when the third sleeping cabin is below.

Stern Boarding Platform/Teak Beach. The folding transom creates a 8’4” wide platform for swimming and boarding from a dinghy or floating dock. While not shown in this photograph provided by Beneteau, our test boat was fitted with twin helm seats that fold down from outboard, enclosing the area while underway. Twin lifelines across the stern add safety.

The entire assembly lowers using the swim ladder as a handle, but this was much easier than it might seem. Anyone able to trim a sail in moderate wind can certainly handle this task.

Once lowered, this platform is the perfect height for boarding from most floating docks or dinghies, and it’s ideal for swimming and sunbathing.

Hull Shape and Below the Waterline

The hull, designed by Finot-Conq Architectes, carries her wide 12’2” (3.71 m) beam all the way aft. The hard chine widens the boat above the waterline, where it adds interior volume in the aft staterooms and optional shower stall -- as well as form stability.

That chine also helps sailing in several ways. The boat is narrower at the waterline, thereby reducing wetted surface and drag while also allowing the boat to heel just a bit in light wind. But as the wind picks up and the boat heels, that chine puts progressively more beam in the water, which provides more buoyancy aft to reduce heeling and lift atop following seas.

The Oceanis 35 -- like all Oceanis vessels -- is designed to sail on her lines without an excessive amount of heel. This is a welcome design parameter for most guests and newbies who are often disoriented by inordinate heeling.

Twin rudders ensure full control if she should be heeled beyond her lines, and offer an extra measure of control when sailing down wind in fresh or sloppy conditions.

Three keel choices -- 6’1” (1.85 m) deep keel, 4’9” (1.45 m) shoal keel, or a 3’9” (1.14 m) centerboard version. In this way the Oceanis 35 can be tailored to the local waters, or the draft needed for one's waterside dock during a moon tide.

Performance

One of the chancy things about testing sailboats is that without the cooperation of mother nature performance under sail cannot be judged. Such was the case our day aboard the Oceanis 35. When we took the boat out it was a flat-calm mill pond. We will up-date this section when we are able to test the boat in decent conditions. Watch this space.

The Iron Jib

Standard power for the U.S. market is a 30-hp Yanmar diesel powering Yanmar’s saildrive. Our test boat was further equipped with a folding prop. This combination proved quite responsive to both throttle and rudder commands in forward gear. While it took quite a bit of throttle at times to illicit the desired response in reverse -- a common characteristic of props that fold -- her twin rudders and adequate horsepower ensured positive handling around the dock, even while backing into a slip.

Abbreviated Galley. The Daysailer or Weekender galley includes a large countertop with a sink, a self-opening trash can in the cabinet beneath the sink, and open storage cubbies behind the countertop against the hull. The refrigerator beneath the countertop abaft the sink is standard on the Cruiser, optional on the Weekender and not available on the Daysailer.

A small settee fills the area forward of the galley but aft of the forward sleeping cabin, where the oven and forward cabinet are shown in the photo above, taken aboard the Cruiser version.

Full Galley. The Cruising galley includes the identical sink and refrigerator. In place of the settee, though, the expanded galley includes a gimbaled two-burner propane stove with oven as well as another large storage cabinet with a countertop above, and more storage outboard.

In either configuration, a rectangular hull-side deadlight outboard of the stove (or outboard of the settee with the short galley), and a huge window above in the trunk gives the entire galley daylight and a view. A small opening portlight within the large window, as well as an overhead hatch, provide ventilation.

Expand the Galley Later.The expanded galley stove and cabinetry can be added in place of the settee even years after the boat is built. Beneteau sells the module as a factory-built kit.

Removable Bulkhead. A partial arch-shaped bulkhead is structural, but it leaves the forward cabin and salon open, creating a single, voluminous cabin. The open feel is accentuated by Beneteau’s Alpi Blond Oak veneer used for clean, unembellished cabinetwork.

This open layout also capitalizes on the tremendous daylight brought in through the four forward hull-side deadlights, two on each side of the bow, as well as the huge windows in the cabin sides and the pair of opening hatches overhead. The companionway hatch brings in more light from above.

Forward Cabin

With the privacy bulkhead removed, the forward sleeping cabin is an open extension of the salon. This open layout is ideal as a one-couple cruiser or where kids can sleep forward while adults enjoy privacy aft. The open arrangement works quite well when daysailing, too.

Separated from the Salon. When guests aboard dictate installation of the privacy bulkhead, the forward cabin is still spacious and includes small settees on either side of the boat. Large rectangular deadlights in the hull side near the bow and an opening hatch overhead bring in daylight, the view and air.

In Lieu of Hanging Lockers. A drawer in the foot of the bed and lockers beneath settees provide the only fixed storage here. Rather than blocking the openness of the two adjoined cabins by building hanging lockers, Beneteau provides overhead luggage hooks and offers perfectly sized garment bags. One might look at this as hanging lockers that are packed at home and wheeled aboard, or as the upscale way to do what sailors have been doing for eons -- living out of duffle bags.

Aft Cabin Bulkhead Placement. The area beneath the cockpit is divided roughly two-thirds into a very large sleeping cabin to port, and one-third storage locker accessed through a typical cockpit locker hatch.

The other option back here, which cannot be altered once the boat is built, divides the same space into two equal cabins. Either or both can be finished by Beneteau with a typical fore-and-aft oriented quarter berth, and the cockpit locker seat becomes much shallower in order to raise the overhead below.

Head and Shower Option. The other immutable change that happens concurrent with the division of the stern is the shower location. In the two-cabin layout in the Weekender version an optional separate stall shower is installed just aft of the head to starboard.

With three cabins the shower is eliminated, leaving the head with a pull-around curtain and retractable shower curtain, making it a wet head.

Or Leave it Unused. Beneteau also offers an option to leave one or both stern cabins unfinished in both the Daysailer and Weekender configurations. Bed and seat platforms are built, but neither doors, shelves, lights, portlights, upholstery or cushions are installed. These areas become huge storage compartments or platforms for sleeping bags in camping mode.

Aft Cabin Choices. Our test boat had the two-cabin layout with an athwartship bed that is somewhat larger than queen size. We had ample standing headroom just inside the doorway with more than adequate elbow room here for changing clothes as well as sitting headroom at the edge of the bed.

Berth Options. The real difference between the two-cabin and three-cabin stern is as simply as this: With the two smaller aft cabins, guests crawl into bed across the head of the bed, and then turn 180-degrees to sleep, head toward the bow -- a typical quarter berth that’s been around for many decades.

If the single, larger aft cabin is chosen, guests still crawl into bed, but from the side, which is much more natural -- like a queen bed pushed against a bedroom wall.

In either aft cabin configuration, portlights open both to the deck and into the cockpit, providing cross-ventilation.

One Head Fits All. The Oceanis 38 offers just one head in one location. In three cabin layouts, it is a wet head with pull-around curtains, as the three-cabin layout does not offer a separate shower

Aft Shower Stall. Our test boat, with the two-cabin Weekender layout, included an optional shower just abaft the head that’s entered through its own door from the salon. The shower included a seat with storage beneath, cubbies for soap, shampoo and the like, a mirror and an opening portlight.

Observations

While it isn’t uncommon for builders to offer an array of options to further tailor a boat to an owner’s needs, Beneteau has really taken the concept well beyond what’s common. Rather than a menu of options to select from, the Oceanis 35 can be built virtually a la carte.

"Lay-Away" Plan. While the ordering process might seem daunting -- which options can accompany which others, and what can or can’t be added later -- Beneteau teaches dealers how to assist purchasers through the choices. The end result is the unique creation of each buyer. An added advantage is the ability for an owner to buy a basic model and then add to the boat later, perhaps when next year's bonus comes through. In this way the cost of the deluxe version of the Oceanis 35 can be spread across many years.

Additional Information

Design: Finot-Conq
Interior layout and design: Nauta Design
Length Over All: 9.99 m - 32'9" (Day Sailer)
Hull Length: 9.97 m - 32'9"
Hull Beam: 3.70 m - 12'2"
Light displacement: 5207 kg - 11.476 lbs
Fuel tank capacity: 130 L - 34 US Gal
Fresh water capacity: 130 L - 34 US Gal
Mx Engine Power (HP): 20 CV-20 HP
Propulsion: Sail Drive
CE Certification: A8 - B9 - C10