Does Beneteau’s new entry-level Oceanis redefine what owners should expect from smaller yachts? Graham Snook travelled to Les Sables d’Olonne to find out
Beneteau has achieved something great with its new 30-footer. For a small production yacht sitting squarely at the entry-level end of the market, it has crammed the Oceanis 30.1 full of smart ideas.
The features and fittings on board are of a level normally only seen in higher-spec boats, and they’ve created a vessel that sails beautifully to boot.
Her owners will be spoilt into expecting every yacht they own after this one to have cockpit locker lights, accumulator tanks in the fresh water system and bronze skin fittings, but you might expect to pay a hefty premium for these features and excellent build quality.
So to find stacks of lovely details on the smallest Oceanis that Beneteau produce is very pleasing to see indeed.
The 30.1 has a strong family resemblance to the larger 46.1 and the 51.1, with their Pascal Conq lines and full-length hull chines generating maximum living space below decks while preserving a narrower waterline.
Her square-top mainsail and twin wheels look sharply modern, but her narrower beam – to make her easier to transport by road – should please traditionalists and result in a boat that tracks straight even without a hand on the helm.
These are bold claims, so does she live up to first impressions?
THE TEST VERDICT
The rulebook for entry-level boats says they should be built to a price, and well, a little bit basic.
With the 30.1 Beneteau have ignored the rulebook.
Again and again she surprised me with the attention to the details that have gone into her.
She is just what a starter boat should be, and she has lots of features that make life onboard easy and more pleasing – like the neat cubby holes, USB chargers where you need them and locker lights.
By the end of the test, I’ll admit, I was little bit smitten by her, she’s a cute, fun boat that was great fun to sail but she also has a little cheeky streak, a glint in her eye, that says there’s more to her than her appearance suggests.
WOULD SHE SUIT YOU AND YOUR CREW?
It’s a fact that most people don’t go out sailing in strong winds, especially if they are new to yachting or have younger members of crew, so the 30.1 has been tailored to the conditions most owners will go out in.
Because of that she sails really well in light winds. Of course she should be able to cope with a blow, but without taking her out in rough weather, I can only comment on the weather we had.
Her layout works well and, thanks to the broad bows if not her sub-three metre beam, she offers good use of the space down below without any area feeling compromised.
The optional fold up chart table is a case in point; it’s there when you want it, but not if or when you don’t.
It’s clear that from the outset a lot of thought has gone into the 30.1.
From disguising her narrow beam, to the way she sails, she is a great little boat. There is one problem with her though.
The thing is, that if you’re new to yachts and you buy the 30.1 you may not fully comprehend how much all the small details improve life on board – even if they are hidden from sight.
Only when you move to a bigger boat will it dawn on you how much Beneteau were spoiling you.
When that time comes, you’ll also realise that in order to get the things you took for granted, you are going to have to dig a lot deeper into your pockets.
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