The 40ft yacht market is fierce, so has the Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 got what it takes to make an impact on the family cruiser market? Graham Snook heads to the Solent to find out
Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 – the spacious family cruiser
The Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 – a spacious family cruiser
A 40ft family cruiser is the must-have in any production boat builder’s arsenal.
With a hull length of 11.99m they limbo neatly under the 12m pricing band found in many Mediterranean marinas – making them cheaper to moor.
For most, it’s a Goldilocks size of yacht, neither too big nor too small, just right for two adults and a few children.
While the hull length is limited, the beam is not.
If you’d parachuted onto Beneteau’s new mid-range cruiser, you could be fooled into thinking she’s 3ft longer than she physically is – not just the numbers on the hull.
The Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 replaces the Oceanis 41.1 which was shorter by 1cm of hull length.
Space is a great thing for family cruisers and charter, and the two areas where the 40.1 shows off her length-defying ability are the social areas of the boat: the cockpit and the saloon.
The cockpit is long and wide, and the helm has the high pushpit to prevent them from falling off the transom – it would be hard to stand further aft and remain on board without it.
What this does, though, is give the helm a commanding feel, with 39ft of yacht stretching ahead of you.
Down below, Beneteau has taken the beam to whopping 4.18m (13ft 9in); that’s 30cm (1ft) more than the 2010 incarnation, the Oceanis 40, and while the hull is 2cm narrower than previous 41.1 model, the interior is wider.
What sort of witchcraft is Beneteau using?
Big things are rarely known for their agility or speed, but what’s good about all this space is that it hasn’t come at the expense of her performance or handling.
On the water, her twin rudders had grip in abundance.
Even when well-heeled she stayed in control and responsive to the helm; just what you want from a coastal cruiser.
This boat had the standard in-mast furling mainsail and optional genoa and tracks; a self-tacking jib is standard.
With full sails and 20 knots over the deck she was impeccably well behaved, although if the wind was any stronger, we would have been reefing.
Twin stainless-steel wheels are standard; the helm was well balanced, quite light and felt good though the lighter composite wheels would just have improved the experience.
On the wind, she didn’t disgrace herself, considering her mainsail was batten-free with the standard Dacron in-mast furling sails.
If she’d been the sportier First Line edition with a taller rig, deeper keel, and performance slab-reefed sails she could have shone.
Exploring the helm of the Beneteau Oceanis 40.1
The high freeboard and full-length chine of the Marc Lombard designed hull keep her decks dry.
When she was pushed, without waves and water marching along the deck, it didn’t feel worrying or precarious.
Her beam has given her broad underwater forward sections, and these did get a few slaps from the wake of passing shipping.
The steering wheels are only 59 cm (1ft 11in) from the transom, there is a narrow flip-up seat attached to the pushpit, but I felt it was comfier to stand, or sit on the side deck.
Although the wheels are so far aft, with a high pushpit you feel neither penned in nor vulnerable, and only when sitting far outboard did the split backstay makes its presence felt.
There are good lift-up foot blocks with a stainless-steel support.
There is a deflector under the support, as soon as you lift the sole high enough the support hangs down and lowering it will either send the bar one way or another depending on the angle of heel; to either support or stow the footrest.
Under the foot blocks are the neatly hidden filler caps for fuel and water.
Between the wheels is a large lazarette locker (and gas locker) which, along with two sole-depth cockpit lockers, give a reasonable amount of deck stowage.
Going forward the deck narrows to 25cm (10in) while passing the sprayhood – a small price to pay given the feeling of space inside.
At the bow is the optional bowsprit that protrudes well forward.
Getting to the end fitting is a precarious 70cm (2ft 4in) stretch from the furling genoa, which is already 40cm (1ft 4in) forward of the pulpit.
The forestay is attached to the stem and there’s a single bow roller to port that feeds directly to the windlass.
There’s a decent drop for the chain into the good-sized anchor locker, a handy rail by the lid shows it’s intended for fender stowage too.
The standard self-tacking jib sheet is led to one of the two companionway winches.
With the optional up-wind pack, we had a bigger furling genoa, tracks, additional clutches, and two Harken 46ST winches located forward of the helm, which are a generous size and work well.
For the crew, they are a little far back, but for the helm, they are easily within reach.
The mainsheet goes to the Harken 40ST companionway winch from a bridle forward of the sprayhood.
The cockpit is well laid out although the genoa sheets do run along the coaming top, so best keep this a finger-free area, especially for the younger members of the crew.
The optional large cockpit table has built-in stowage for a liferaft (accessible from aft).
The table is wide and has excellent handrails on either side.
One feature I missed were rope bins to keep the lines from the aft winches. At 1.4m (4ft 7in) her freeboard is very high.
This gives more room inside and over 1.86m (6ft 1in) headroom throughout.
The downside is that it’s around a 90cm (3ft) step up from a pontoon to the toe rail, so you may need to rely on a fender step.
The fold-down transom makes boarding a doddle from astern though.
What lies beneath
Below, you’re met by a huge saloon and C-shaped galley.
Not only is the beam carried aft, it also achieves its maximum further forward than normal.
The result is a living space that is 3.75m (12ft 4in) across.
This sets the 40.1 apart from her rivals.
As wide as she is, Beneteau hasn’t been overly generous with the natural light.
She is light, and for warmer climes the fewer windows the better, but on a wintery day in the Solent I’d hoped for more.
The low coachroof makes narrow windows, the three overhead hatches are good for ventilation but small – where usually you’d expect a 60cm hatch there’s a 44cm – and those large hull windows on the outside are only half-length inside.
That said, the frugality with which LED lights consume power means that the living space feels more welcoming and stylish when the interior is illuminated.
Moving forward, there are good, deep fiddles around the galley, but no handholds to port – except for the overhead handrail that would be out of reach to shorter crew and children.
The saloon table is fixed and large enough to seat the number of crew most will sail with.
If you were to increase the berth count to the maximum of 10 (of which more in a moment), it would be tight though.
There’s stowage beneath the C-shaped saloon seating too, and the bunk boards on hinges mean they don’t need to be moved to access kit.
There is a large, deep and most importantly easy-to-access locker under the aft seat, at the chart table, at almost 1m (3ft 2in) long and 30cm (1ft) deep it provides excellent stowage.
There’s stowage behind the seatbacks, and you can also see how creative Beneteau has been with the construction and assembly of the seat carcasses.
These slot and screw together to form a rigid structure on the hull’s tray moulding which reaches up to the chine.
To elevate the seating and make the most of the width above the chine, the sole is raised, giving a whopping 40cm (1ft 4in) deep bilge.
Put some watertight plastic boxes in there and you could hide the sort of tools and spares that other boat owners will be puzzling where to stow such items, and you don’t lose the rest of the stowage space to rarely used items either.
The standard finish is walnut Alpi.
This yacht had the stylish white oak Alpi which helped keep the interior light.
The use of light furniture and this wood finish could so easily have become a lesson in bland – with acres of beige blending into one another, but Beneteau has used contrasting dark inlay strips and painted corner posts and door frames to visually break it up.
The chart table follows this path and its painted surround forms nice high fiddles.
The table itself is 83cm (1ft 9in) wide (60cm x 83cm, 1ft 9in x 2ft 9in), although the inside is narrowed by the support for the lid’s gas strut and the internal structure to 60cm (1ft 9in) wide.
It was good to see an easy-to-read digital display for batteries and tankage.
Access behind the switch panel is simple, and the wiring neat and the fuses are well labelled.
This was the three-cabin, one-head version.
A two-cabin, single head layout is standard.
You also have the option of one or two double cabins aft, while forward is the choice of a double cabin, a double with an en suite heads, or two cabins (one with bunk beds, the other with an offset double and an en suite).
Galley options for the Beneteau Oceanis 40.1
This version had the forward cabin without the heads, the area aft of the berth was almost too big, it seems a waste not to add a heads compartment, but not everyone wants to sleep in a cabin adjoined to a toilet.
If that aligns with your thinking, consider adding the vanity unit with a sink and more stowage.
Beneteau has made the forward cabin bright and stylish, with sliding blinds for the hull windows, fabric-covered panels at the head of the berth and deep full-length shelves along the hull sides, but lying on the owner’s berth it was disappointing to see the plastic fittings which secure the shelf and the gaps around the finish of the forward bulkhead.
There is a GRP pelmet moulded in the headlining to hide this finish, but this only covers the area when you’re standing.
Likewise, the channels for the different layouts remain visible in the headlining.
Beneteau is not unique in leaving these visible, but a fabric panel over them would have been more in keeping.
Under the large 5ft 6in-wide forward berth was a wide slatted base.
This was fixed over the forward water tank, so there was no stowage; unless you accessed it through the slats.
Outboard of the berth are shelves; while these might lack fiddles, they do have USB charging points.
The galley is large, C-shaped and set forward, and had nice details like soft closures on the drawers.
The galley stops short of the central compression post inboard; this is to allow access into the forward cabin if you opt for the four-cabin layout.
If you don’t select this layout the area is left open and unused.
While it adds to the great feeling of airiness and gives bracing to use the sink while sailing, if Beneteau was to add a unit in this space and extend it aft, past the existing galley locker, it would increase the galley’s already good stowage and give the galley what it lacks the most: bracing when on a starboard tack.
If you have no ambitions to cook at sea and let’s face it, many who coastal cruise don’t, then a lack of solid bracing isn’t an issue.
The stove area did have a crash bar, to which a bum strap could be attached.
The galley has a good amount of stowage, or excellent if you include some of the saloon stowage too.
There’s a twin sink and outboard is the top opening bin.
Lift the lid in the work surface and you can shuffle peelings into the deep bin with ease.
The joys don’t end there: because the bin isn’t under the sink there’s space in abundance there.
Aft, there’s one of the biggest fridges I’ve seen in a 40 ft yacht.
It’s 190L, well arranged and, when you select either of the trim level packs, a front opening is added.
Unless you have the arms of a gibbon, you’ll need the door to get any contents from the bottom – it’s 73cm (2ft 5in) deep.
The heads compartment is good, and it’s nice to see a separate shower compartment that can be used without getting the floor by the toilet and door wet.
The aft cabins mirror each other. If you opt for the layout with only one aft cabin, the starboard cabin remains the same.
The one to port becomes a tech space accessible from the cockpit or saloon.
The only differences are in the port cabin where there are the circuit breakers for the shore power system, and the starboard aft cabin can access the heads directly.
Both berths are 1.36m x 2.04m (4ft 6in x 6ft 8in) with good space above them.
The cabins are separated by individual stowage space for each cabin and forward of this (aft of the engine) is the calorifier.
There is an access panel for the stern gland/propeller shaft but it’s not the easiest to access.
There’s tankage under both berths (water to starboard, and fuel to port) and access to either side on the engine.
The engine access is a bit tight as companionway steps only lift to horizontal, they’re well supported by gas struts, and once you’re under it you can access all you need to.
The engine compartment is well soundproofed – a removable panel has been added to the front end to stop the sound dissipating under the floor.
Just forward of the engine, under the floor, is the water pump and in front of that is the bank of four 100Ah house batteries.
The test verdict
There are some areas of the Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 where she shone with clever ideas and attention to detail.
There were, however, other areas that frustratingly let her down.
With a little bit of fine-tuning she could be a cracking yacht, but when you’re paying a few hundred thousand pounds for a yacht, should the last thing you see at night be the plastic fittings under the shelves or structural adhesive glinting from the gaps overhead?
It’s a shame when so much thought has gone into areas like the saloon and galley to have it undermined by other parts of the boat.
I hope that the Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 becomes a better yacht.
2020 was a strange year, and with many boat shows having been cancelled, production facilities slowed or closed throughout the industry, it can’t have been easy.
Hopefully, some of the finish wasn’t representative of a yacht that will arrive in six months.
This was only hull nine and this might have been a wholly different report had it not been an early boat, built during a global pandemic.
Would she suit you and your crew?
As family cruisers go, the Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 has a lot to offer.
A comfortable and good-sized cockpit, a vast and spacious saloon, and a large practical galley for use in port.
She ticks the good-to-sail box too, she has a nice reassuring feel on the water and is impeccably behaved; all that we’ve come to expect from Beneteau.
She may not appeal to the older traditionalist, and indeed with her high freeboard, it’s quite a distance to the pontoon.
You’ll win no friends if you’re the first boat in a raft alongside a pontoon, but in areas like the Med, the height from the deck to the water is not an issue.
She’s vying for a piece of the hotly contested sub 12m pie.
The Hanse 418 and Bavaria C42 are her closest rivals, both have a 40ft hull and a beam over 4.15m (13ft 7in).
All three of these boats have their strengths and weaknesses.
The Beneteau Oceanis 40.1 has the most spacious layout of the three boats and if that’s what you want from your family cruiser, no other yacht in her class can compete.
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