Bénéteau wanted to reinvent the cruising yacht for the cruiser of today. Chris Beeson thinks the French giant has broken the mould with this 46-footer
Bénéteau Sense 46 – video and review
What’s she like to sail?
She’s got a 42½ft waterline and lots of canvas, so you wouldn’t expect her to slouch around, but we achieved some very respectable passage speeds while doing just that: 7-10 knots for the most part, in a fine cruising breeze with full mainsail and genoa. She never felt hard-pressed, sat very comfortably on her chines and stretched her legs. There wasn’t so much as a sniff of losing control. I wandered around below while under sail and never found myself without a hand-hold or leaping to find one. There’s nothing relaxing or family-friendly about someone tearing around from winch to winch in a mucksweat, spitting oaths as they attempt to wrestle a boat into submission. We’ve all seen that. In many ways this is the cruiser of today in that, like our cars’ engine management systems, microwaves or mobile phones, she makes cruising easy. She’s quick without any apparent effort, delivering leisurely performance thrills; the cockpit is spacious, line-free and protected, giving family and friends a comfortable ride; the helmsman can pull off pretty much any manoeuvre required just by flipping on the autopilot and pressing a few buttons. What’s not to like?
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
This is where she trumps any monohull of her size. She’s fully kitted up for any amount of anchoring, with a big windlass and plenty of stowage forward. Aft there’s stowage on the bathing platform for the kedge, shorelines, snorkelling kit, everything you need to enjoy an anchorage. With the seats flipped up and the transom pushed down, getting to the water is literally a step and a jump. There’s a shower to rinse off the salt, then you can stroll into the cockpit for a drink and a snack, handed up direct from the galley, as the two are so well integrated. The one possible issue is space to ship a tender, but it could be stowed on the foredeck using a halyard and an electric winch.
Down below she works tremendously well as a holiday base. The saloon is spacious and seats plenty with the jump-seat deployed, the galley has a good flow to it, light and ventilation are peerless and there’s a space for passage planning, sending emails or filing your holiday photos. Cabins are stylish and practical for bay-hopping. Conceptually she’s brilliant.
Would she suit you and your crew?
Without wanting to labour the point, to criticise this boat for her inability to provide a safe cockpit in a North Atlantic gale, or to concern yourself with her swathes of windows ‘vulnerable’ to 30ft beam seas is to miss completely the purpose of this boat. She’s not designed for that, in the same way that a Smart car isn’t designed for the Paris-Dakar, and you’d be irretrievably cracked to attempt it.
Bénéteau worked out that a great many boat owners park their boats in the sun and use them for weekends and holidays, port- and bay-hopping. The families of these owners want comfort and facilities, luxurious appointments, some fun sailing and to explore anchorages. Bénéteau believes they want to do it with a touch of sophistication, in a way that doesn’t automatically split those on deck from those below, and that those below would rather not feel entombed. If that’s you, and there’s a strong chance it could be, roll up. Plus, with a baseboat price of £233,000, it delivers an awful lot of cleverly, practically designed boat for the money.