Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beneteau First 42s7

A few days ago a Beneteau 42s7 arrived on our dock in Marina La Cruz. The owner, an Aussie, bought the boat in L.A. and is sailing it home to Australia. The 42s7 is a big sister to the Honcho, so naturally I jumped at the chance to go for a sail aboard her. We left the dock around 11:00am and sailed a nine mile beat out to Punta de Mita in a breeze that started at about 6 knots and built to about 16 as we approached the point. Flying a fairly tired dacron main and 120% roller furling jib and towing a dinghy, we weren't exactly setting any speed records, but I did get a good sense of how the boat might perform if it was set up in racing trim.  Handling, as you would expect from a Farr design, is crisp and positive.  In light air the boat was sticky, but I attribute that to the small jib and the dinghy we were towing. As the breeze built to about 10 knots the boat began to come alive, and by the time we got close to the point, we were passing all the other boats in sight in spite of the tired sails and dinghy. It is very clear to me that this boat, in racing trim with a good suit of sails will be a pretty effective racer.

Beneteau 42s7
This and all other images of the 42s7 were taken from, where there are several of these boats listed for sale

Here are some dimensions and stats:
LOA:  42'- 6"
LWL: 35'- 9"
Bmax: 13'- 6"
Ballast: 5,840lb (std), 6,283 (race)
Draft: 7'- 7" (race), 5'- 11" (standard), 5'-6" (shoal)
Sail Area: 771sf (std), 845sf (race)
Displacement/Length ratio: 178
Sail Area?Disp ratio: 17.8 (std), 19.5 (race)

The boat we sailed aboard has the deep keel and standard rig. This is a good combination where there is plenty of water, but the deep draft limits where the boat can be cruised. The taller racing rig includes running backstays, which most cruisers would object to. The hull, rig and foils were designed by the Bruce Farr office while the styling and interior were done by Philippe Starck. The Honcho's styling and interior were also done by Starck, with the hull and foils by Jean Berret. While the Honcho has impressive sailing performance in view of it's cruising accommodations, the 42s7 is certainly the better performing boat for its size. Drawing from their vast experience with racing yachts, the Farr office gave the 42s7 a slippery hull with a fine entry, relatively narrow beam and fairly powerful stern sections. This hullform is more racer than cruiser and that racing pedigree makes the hull a pleasure to look at.

On deck, the similarities between the 36s7 and 42s7 are obvious. Both boats have sleek cabin trunks and very distinctive styling. In my opinion the 36 is the better looking boat with regard to the decks. Designed after the 42, it shows subtle refinements to the shape and details that I find more attractive and functional. With that said, both boats suffer from cockpits that are too small for really comfortable cruising or racing efficiency. Being from sunny California, I like big, comfortable cockpits and it would have been very easy for the designers to make the cockpits longer and more spacious, thus making them better for both cruising and racing. The cabin trunks on both boats are very wide, leaving little space to move around the decks. I understand the reasoning behind this, a wider cabin trunk means a more spacious interior, but my preference would be to go with a slightly narrower cabin and wider decks.

Large dinette

The 42s7 has a unique swimstep arrangement. It pivots out of the transom to create a large and convenient platform, and when in the stowed position, fairs into the transom. There is a lot to like about this arrangement but I would be just as happy if the builder had opted for an open transom. As you know, I had to build a swimstep on the Honcho and would have been much happier if it had been built with an open transom or at least had a serviceable swimstep molded into it. I should say, however, that within the crowded confines of the 42s7's cockpit, everything is egonomically sound and well designed. This particular boat has the mainsheet traveler mounted just forward of the helm, which is good from a sailing standpoint, but makes it difficult to lie down on the cockpit seats and take a snooze, which is very important to me. Fortunately Beneteau molded a beam into the cabin top where a mid-boom traveler can be installed, and many of the 42s7's have that arrangement. I was aboard one with a mid-boom traveler not long ago and its cockpit is definitely a friendlier place without being bisected by the traveler.

The 42s7 has the same type of cabin portlights as the 36s7. They open outward instead of inward. this has the benefit of making them better at keeping water out of the boat, but the drawback of being magnets for jibsheets. In fact, the Honcho had a broken portlight when we bought it because a jibsheet got caught on it sometime in the past. We are very careful about them when sailing.

The 42s7 has lots of space below. This is due in part to the smallish cockpit and the wide cabin trunk. The 36s7's interior layout is, in my opinion, just about perfect for a small cruiser. Having lived aboard the boat for several months now, I can say that it's as comfortable and functional as can be expected in a small boat. The same is true, for the most part, of the 42s7.  Beneteau offered both a two-cabin, and three-cabin layout in the 42s7. The three-cabin version was probably intended for the charter business, with three large double cabins and the galley strung along the port side of the main salon. This galley arrangement would work well in an apartment but is not suitable for an ocean going boat. The two cabin version has a large and well designed 'U' shaped galley aft to starboard in the main cabin. With the large dinette and tasteful design elements, it's a nice layout for living aboard and entertaining.  Sleeping arrangements are great for cruising. The owner's suite, just forward of the mast, includes a large pullman berth, lots of lockers and storage, and a private head and shower in the bow. There is also a large private stateroom aft to port, with an adjoining head. The only downside is the lack of good sea berths. Queen size berths are great at anchor, but when you're at sea, you want nice deep berths with secure lee cloths or boards.

Two cabin layout.

I occasionally hear critical remarks about the structural integrity of Beneteaus. After living aboard one, and crawling all over many of them looking for cracks and flaws, I can say that with regard to structural elements every one I've been aboard has been very well designed and built. I did reinforce the stemhead on the Honcho, but there are dozens of unreinforced 36s7's sailing around without stemhead problems. There are lots of Beneteaus out there that aren't pretty, or particularly good sailers, but I'm pretty certain they are all structurally sound.  If I had the time, I'd gladly jump aboard my friend's 42s7 and sail it across the Pacific to

Overall, I like the 42s7 quite a lot. It's big enough to be comfortable at sea, fast enough to make sailing it exciting and it's nice looking too. I plan to do some racing aboard one in a few weeks...I'm looking forward to that.


  1. Looking at buying 42S7 and using it for coastal and club racing.
    How did you find the racing?

  2. If you're planning to only race the boat and not cruise, there are probably better options than a 42s7. But if you plan to cruise AND race, the 42s7 is a really nice package for a 42 footer that sells for $100K-$120K. In the one regatta I sailed aboard the boat I was impressed by its upwind speed more than anything. The boat I sailed was laden with roughly 1,500 pounds of cruising gear so it was a bit sticky downwind. Without that extra weight it would have been a lot of fun to sail under a big kite. The boat can be fitted with a standard or a tall rig. I believe they added a couple of feet to the height of the mainsail (P dimension) and kept the foretriangle the same, so unless you plan to sail in light air all the time, I don't think the tall rig offers any meaningful advantage except for the bigger spinnakers. Beneteau made the mainsheet in two configurations: traveler in the cockpit or on the cabintop. Ordinarily I'd opt for the cockpit mounted traveler, but after sailing both versions, I'd choose the cabintop traveler because the cockpit is pretty small. The unique geometry of the deck takes a bit of getting used to, but it works well for club racing.

    The 42s7 really shines as a racer cruiser because it's reasonably fast and has a very comfortable interior (the 2-cabin version). The main salon is big and roomy, and the galley is very functional. Like most Beneteaus, it lacks good sea berths so you'll want to think about that. My friends, Torben and Judy Bentsen own a 42s7 and raced it extensively on San Francisco Bay, then sailed it through the Canal and across the Atlantic to Denmark. He still owns the boat and occasionally visits this blog. So Torben, feel free to add your comments here!

    Another friend, Stewart Cannon, bought a 42s7 in Los Angeles back in 2010 and promptly sailed it, mostly singlehanded, across the Pacific to his home in Australia. I think these voyages are a fine testament to the boat's seaworthiness.

    Good luck with your search for a boat and send a photo of your new ride.