Bénéteau Oceanis 51.1: space, performance and comfort. The Oceanis range has been updated, starting from the hull and the waterlines, so as to meet the needs of modern owners
by Niccolò Volpati, photo by Guido Barbagelata and Gilles Martin-Raget
The 51.1 is the seventh generation of the Oceanis range. Their forerunner was the 350, which was launched in the mid-1980s. Boats have changed a lot since then. But the aim has always been the same: to produce the best possible boat for cruising. Boats have changed because the way we use them has changed. The first times that I ever went on board a sail boat with a cabin, it felt as if you were flying if you did five knots under sail.
Nowadays I probably wouldn’t get out the genoa if I only knew I would only be sailing at five knots. Speed is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. But how can you be fast without neglecting comfort and space?
Berret Racoupeau has redesigned the hull of this new Oceanis. And it’s done so by keeping the bottom fairly narrow so as not to affect performance and to make sure that it cuts through the water well.
From the waterline upwards, the volumes increase. The gunwale line, which starts at the bow and goes as far as the stern, is also a sign of it. That isn’t the only choice that has been made to maximise speed.
The Bénéteau Oceanis 51.1 is available in many versions. The more “racing” one has an deep draught of as much as 280 cm, and displaces just over 3,000 kg.
The sail plan is also different. The standard, extremely comfortable one, has a furling mainsail and a self-tacking jib. There isn’t a lot of sail. By choosing the 105% genoa you get 13 m2 extra sail, and the same goes for the mainsail. The traditional option is 10 m2 bigger than the furling one.
The model that we tried out at Port Ginesta near Barcelona had these characteristics, and additionally a carbon fibre mast that the yard always offers as an option. There wasn’t an excessive amount of wind in the Catalan waters, and nor was there too little. They were ideal cruising conditions, with wind between 8 and 14 knots. The 51.1 handled well, both with the main sails, and with the Code 0.
We were always above six knots, and at times touched eight. That was a good enough level of performance for people who like to cruise. The boat makes you want to raise the main sail and unfurl the foresail. It makes you want to sail, not least because it is very easy to steer. All the rigging can be handled from the cockpit and with the electric winch, and even hoisting the main sail is child’s play.
The helm is well balanced: sensitive and never too firm. The acceleration is gradual. The boat isn’t nervous, and neither does it react like a racer. It increases speed when the wind increases, but without sudden bursts. This is another characteristic which contributes to feeling comfortable while sailing. Indeed you never get the feeling that you are losing control. During the test, the bow waves produced by cargo ships, taken ¾ on the stern, didn’t trouble us.
I never got the feeling that I was in danger of gybing without wanting to. The steering takes the force of the waves well, and the boat holds its course even when the waves are rough. What I liked on the deck are the size of all the lockers, the self-inflating raft located inside the cockpit table and the solution for the tender. There isn’t a garage, in part because that would have taken away a lot of space both from the cockpit lockers, and also from the stern cabins.
The solution adopted by Bénéteau is to have two telescopic cranes which fold away. You can’t even see them when they aren’t in use, while if you want to hang the tender from the stern, you just have to get them out.
The Bénéteau Oceanis 51.1 interiors, which like the superstructure were designed by Nauta, benefit from the volumes available because of the new hull.
All areas are surprisingly liveable, with impressive amounts of natural light and grab rails located in a lot of strategic positions. From the railings to go up the stairs from the cockpit, to those on the ceiling that bisect the dinette. There are grab bars to hold on to everywhere.
As expected, there are many interior layouts to choose from. One can opt for the most owner-friendly version, with three cabins and two bathrooms, or the one with three cabins and three bathrooms, four cabins and four bathrooms or, finally, a layout with five cabins and three bathrooms. The one we tried was the most owner-friendly version, with a large cabin in the bow and two twin rooms astern.
The owner cabin in the bow is very large, with plenty of space for storage, a double berth which is as much as 160 cm wide and the bathroom divided into two: a WC area on one side, and a shower cubicle on the other. The chart table, immediately next to the owner’s cabin, is also excellent. It is a real workstation. All of it is carefully designed and finished.
Bénéteau Oceanis 51.1
Project: Berret Racoupeau Yacht Design (naval architecture) and Nauta Design (interiors and superstructure)
Hull: LOA 15.95m • Length 14.98m • Waterline length 14.52m • Maximum beam 4.80m • Deep draught 2.30m • Shallow draught 1.85m • “Performance” version draught 2.80m • Deep ballast weight 3,396 kg • Shallow ballast weight 3,604 kg • “Performance” version weight 3,198 kg • Light mass displacement 13,930 kg • Fuel tank volume 200 l • Water tank volume 440 l • Furling mailsail 45.8 m2 • Mainsail 55.8 m2 • Selftacking jib 48.1 m2 • Genoa (105%) 61 m2 • Code 0 140 m2 • Spinnaker 180 m2
Main Propulsion: Yanmar 4JH110 • Outlet mechanical power 80.9 kW (110 cv) • Maximum rotational speed 3300/min • Swept volume 1995 l • Dry weght 224 kg • In-line propulsion • Three foldable blades propeller
EC Certification: Cat. A 13 people • Cat. B 14 people • Cat. C 16 people
Price: 530,750 €, (Exclusive VAT)- As Tested
Zone Industrielle des Mares
F-85270 Saint Hilaire de Riez, Francia
Tel +33 2 51 55 83 05
(Bénéteau Oceanis 51.1 Aprile 2018)