We tried out the largest of Bénéteau’s small First series: the First 27 is an eight-metre boat that is fun to sail and is very easy at the helm. It is an excellent way to try out competitive sailing
di Luca Sordelli
Get them young and don’t let them go. That seems to be the policy adopted by Bénéteau, at least as far as sailing is concerned. That is the reason behind the relaunch of the First range, starting from the bottom with the acquisition of Slovenia’s Seascape, a brand that in recent years has confirmed its standing throughout Europe with its small, fast boats that are easy to handle.
These are boats that have a racing feel, but are never too extreme. So for young people, sailing schools and for people who want to compete without coming up against the most taxing and expensive classes. There were designed by Sam Manuard, who is also the man behind the excellent Mini 6.50 series. The first to appear on the scene was the Seascape 18 (5.55 metres), followed by the 27 and then by a whole range that also includes the 24 and the 14. A
ll four have a series of very distinctive, and important, characteristics: a hull with a very pronounced chine, a drop keel, a good sail surface/displacement ratio, a long bowsprit and a deck that is clear and easy to handle. And finally, all four start planning easily. A new First 53 will arrive in September, which is made in Italy, designed by Lorenzo Argento and has waterlines by Roberto Biscontini.
I tried the 27 from the First range, which the Caprera Sailing Centre also liked, having bought two for the courses it runs in Sardinia. It is made of fibreglass and vinylester resins, using infusion techniques. A feature is the twin rudders and the open stern. The mast, boom and bowsprit are made of carbon fibre, and there is no backstay. The standard sail plan is for a 28 square metre, square top mainsail, a 21m2jib and an 80m2asymmetric spinnaker, to which you can add masthead spinnaker at 7/8ths and a code 0.
For the test we found an offshore wind and calm water, so a perfect day in other words, at Port Ginesta, a few miles from Barcelona. It was a moderate breeze of some eight to ten knots, and fairly stable. Sailing close to the wind we did a constant five to six knots, and the main thing that I appreciated was the First 27 ’s stability.
It is fast, it reacts quickly and naturally tends to run on rails. There were two of us on board, which is not a lot for the job on the gunwale and keep the boat straight when gusts of around twelve to fourteen knots arrived. But the First nevertheless showed that it reacted very softly.
The chines that run a long way forward make themselves felt, that boat rests on them and starts to run lightly over the water. The bow never tends to dip. I think that is a very good starting point for a l, as is the presence of a foresail, that with just a set of reefs make it easy to handle this eight-metre boat, even when it really starts to blow.
The First 27 has a drop keel, and the standard fitting of this is manually operated, but there is also a hydraulic version. Its 600-kilo weight is 43% of the overall displacement and it is not a bayonet mechanism, but rather works on a pivot system and that causes one of the few things that I didn’t like about the boat: even when the drop keel is hauled right up, the draught is still nevertheless nearly a metre.
That is a lot not just when you are sailing in shallow waters (and that could be a problem for sailing schools), but also when you want to put it on a trailer. On the other hand, it should also be pointed out that this solution, without the bulb at the end of the keel blade, is actually one of the main factors that make the boat not very rigid during righting, with none of the nervousness normally associated with the most aggressively designed racing boats.
It is not by accident that when we raised the gennaker to try planning on a beam reach we immediately got practically to ten knots with no problem at all, and the feeling is that it handles very easily at this point of sail as well.
And what about below decks? There is certainly not a lot of headroom, but there is no lack of overall space, and it is well organised. I liked it, as I did much of the furnishing, such as the table and all the “wardrobe bags” that hang along the wall, so they can be taken away: that is a very good solution to lighten the boat for racing, and to manage luggage when there are a lot of people doing a cruise.
On that point, it sleeps as many as six, and there is room amidships for a marine head, which can be isolated using the intelligently-designed magnetically-closing doors, that cut off the entire bow part from the rest of the boat. And here too, at the base of the mast, the compartment to port that is designed to store the gennaker when you are racing, can become a small kitchen with a gas stove.
Bénéteau First 27
Project: Manuard YD • (Naval Architecture) • Gigodesign (Interior and exterior design)
Hull: Length 7.99m • Maximum beam 2.54m • Maximum draught 2.0m • Draught with short keel 0.9 m • Displacement 1,400 kg • Ballast 610 kg • Main sail surface 28 mq • Jib surface 21 mq • Asymmetrical spinnaker surface 80 mq
Main propulsion: Tohastu 9.8 CV • 2 cylinders • swept volume 209 cc • Bore & Stroke 54mm x 44mm • Weight 37 kg.
Electric propulsion: Torqeedo Cruise 4.0 • 2,240 Watts 48 Volt • Weight 19,4 kg.
EC Certification: B4/C6
First 27 price: starting from 64,000 Euros, Exclusive VAT.
2 rue du Grand Large
CS 82531 Givrand
F -85805 Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie Cedex
T +33 2 51 60 50 43
(Bénéteau First 27, First Love – Barchemagazine.com – Maggio 2019)