Sunday, December 27, 2015

Beneteau Oceanis 38 Review

A few weeks ago we were sailing off Long Beach, California and noticed a new Beneteau Oceanis 38 sailing along on a similar course to ours. It was the first time I had seen one under sail and I must say it moved along nicely on a close reach in about ten knots of wind. We bore off onto a parallel course and sailed for a quarter mile or so with them. The boat looked good and moved well under what appeared to be a 105% jib and roller furling mainsail. I regretted that I didn't have my camera at the time.

In studying the hull, the first thing I noticed is that it's quite beamy and slab sided with hard chines running nearly the length of the hull. The sheer is straight and it appears that the waterlines below the chines are finer than the plan view of the boat would suggest.
With its straight sheer,  vertical transom and stem, the Oceanis 38 looks husky and seaworthy. Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of Beneteau.

The hull was designed by the firm of Finot/Conq which has vast experience with this basic hullform, including the Pogo 12.50 and other very successful offshore racers with very wide beam and hard chines.

Pogo 12.50, also designed by Finot Conq.Notice that the boat is heeled about 15 degrees and the starboard rudder is almost completely out of the water. Photo courtesy of Finot-Conq.  
The stern of the Oceanis 38, a more conservative approach to hard chines than the Pogo.

The Oceanis 38 is offered with shoal, deep and lifting keels. Upwind performance will suffer with the shoal version. Both of the fixed keels are cast iron with a molded-in bulb. This is another boat with a very large fold-down transom panel. I like the looks of the Pogo a bit more, but given the intended purpose of the 38, it's probably better to have the "Tailgate".

This view shows the slippery proportions of the hull below the waterline along with those of the shoal keel. The rudders look bigger than shown in the drawing. I like the way the boot stripe is terminated about four feet forward of the transom.  Photo courtesy of
The deck design of the Oceanis 38 incorporates some interesting innovations. The cabin trunk is fairly low and sleek, with hard edges and squared off windows that complement the squarish proportions of the hull. The arch at the aft end of the cabin trunk provides a base for the mainsheet and support for a dodger and bimini. With this arrangement there is no need for a mainsheet traveler and the sheet is led to a cabintop winch.

The Oceanis looks husky under sail. I think it will show good speed reaching and running, but suffer a bit going hard on the wind.
With over 13 feet of beam there is lots of room on deck and the cockpit is huge.
The cockpit is a study in straight lines and hard edges. Notice the cockpit table. It's massive and incorporates large drop-leaves and plenty of storage capacity. Instrument displays and engine controls are located at the helms. Having the mainsheet blocks located up on the arch opens up the cockpit for lounging and entertaining. It could also be considered a safety feature since there is no chance that a guest would get fouled in the mainsheet or hit by the boom. Jib sheeting angles are wide, but that's probably alright on this boat because its proportions are designed more for comfortable cruising than sailing hard on the wind.

The mast is deck stepped and, with the chainplates out at the sheer, it will accommodate jibs of up to about 105%. The standard mainsail is set up with a stackpack arrangement, with in-mast furling optional. Notice that the backstay is split with an adjuster on the port side. The stemhead fitting is designed with the anchor roller about 18 inches forward of the stem of the boat,  which probably isn't far enough to prevent the anchor from bouncing off the hull occasionally.

Beneteau offers three main interior options, Daysailer, Weekender and Cruiser. The daysailer includes a V-berth, galley sink and refrigerator but no stove, a head, chart table, a large quarter berth platform without a mattress and plenty of storage space. There are no bulkheads between the companionway and the forward end of the v-berth, so the boat is pretty wide open. I'm not sure who this configuration would appeal to, but it does offer the possibility of starting out with a bare bones interior and adding more later.

The Weekender comes in two or three cabin arrangements. The galley is the same as the Daysailer, but I believe you can order the stove with this version. The major difference is the inclusion of the quarterberth. Again, this is a wide open layout.

Weekender version is wide open from  the companionway to the bow.

Two-cabin Cruiser version incorporates a bulkhead between the salon and V-berth as well as a full galley
The cruiser version also comes with a single aft cabin or twins. I'm not sure who would buy the fairly sedate Daysailer version of this boat. At 38 feet, I would want my boat to be capable of spending at least a week at the island, and I don't see why you couldn't day sail the Cruiser just as easily as the Daysailer. It would be interesting to know which version of this boat is the best seller.

In the Oceanis 38 Cruiser version a bulkhead divides the forward cabin from the salon. 
The Oceanis 38 offers an interesting contrast to the Varianta 37. In this boat Beneteau seems to be trying to appeal to a variety of customer types, ranging from bare bones to full cruise by the use of multiple furnishing and outfitting options. The Varianta went for a basic but fully outfitted boat with much more limited options. As the number of choices for boats in this size range increases, each brand must find ways to differentiate itself from the competition. It will be interesting to see how the Oceanis fares in this competitive market segment.

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