Graham Snook has his expectations overturned by a sporty 'First Line' edition of Beneteau's latest yacht
Symbiotically linked through the wheel, helmsman and yacht talk to each other.
Small commands are given, the yacht powers forward and feeds back through the feel on the helm.
Get the design right and that sensation of power and control is intoxicating, but if the balance is wrong, it can sour the whole experience.
Happily, Beneteau have got the steering on its new 46ft yacht right — very right, as it turned out.
That’s not all: the saloon is modern, bright and spacious, the owner’s cabin has acres of space and the cockpit is well laid out for those who want to sail while others can relax in comfort.
The 46.1’s predecessor, the Oceanis 45, was lapped up by private owners and charter companies alike, and the 46.1 offers more: more space, more berths, more sail area.
Charterers will be happy with the option of berths galore and easy handling, and private owners can opt for better performance.
So will she become the most popular boat Beneteau have produced, as the Oceanis 45 was before her?
THE TEST VERDICT
Beneteau has succeeded in producing cruisers that strike the right note with customers for the last 20 years, and the 46.1 promises to do just that. It hits what is the core of the new yacht market at the moment, as evidenced by the slew of 46-footers launched recently.
The concept and layout of the 46.1 has already been well proven in the Oceanis 45, while offering improvements in the feeling of space, an attractive new aesthetic, and class-leading practical details such as engine access and cockpit stowage.
It did all this while still delivering a perfectly balanced sailing performance and helming pleasure. Admittedly, this boat was a pre-production prototype and there were a few rough edges.
The layout we tested offered plenty of space, but personally I would prefer the longitudinal galley option which offers more stowage in the galley and gives all three cabins en suite heads, which is ideal for larger groups.
WOULD SHE SUIT YOU AND YOUR CREW?
The mid-40-foot market is awash at the moment so you’re spoilt for choice of new 46-footers.
Beneteau have just made the decision harder, especially with its ‘First Line’ edition.
This sporty version adds more spice and should, on paper at least, be quicker than her rivals in the same price bracket.
A comfortable cruiser with some added oomph, yes please! She also wins over her rivals for cockpit space and sail handling.
Where the 46.1 really scores, though, is with the helm, which felt light, rewarding and made her a really enjoyable boat to sail.
Not everyone will want the extra speed the First Line offers, and if space and comfort are the priority, then the regular 46.1 ticks these boxes too.
Once Beneteau address the finish quality issues I saw here, then the 46.1 has all the ingredients to beat her rivals in this size bracket.
You get a lot of boat for your money, but the First Line adds a fair amount to the final price.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Price as tested: £383,850
LOA: 14.60m (47ft 11in)
Hull Length: 13.65m (44ft 9in)
LWL: 13.24m (43ft 5in)
Beam: 4.50m (14ft 9in)
Draught: 2.35m (7ft 9in)
Displacement: 10,597kg (23,362 lb)
Ballast: 2,735kg (6,029 lb)
Ballast ratio: 25.8%
Displacement / Length: 127
Sail area: 120m2 (1,29 sq ft)
SA/D ratio: 25.3
Diesel: 200 litres (44 gal)
Water: 370 litres (81 gal)
RCD category: A
Designer: Pascal Conq
UK Agent: Ancasta / Fox’s Yacht Sales