First 36, First 44 and Oceanis 60: three sizes, two types and one thing in common: designers Roberto Biscontini and Lorenzo Argento
by Niccolò Volpati
Let’s start from the bottom, in the sense of the last one that touched the water, namely the Oceanis 60. It has always been Bénéteau’s cruising range and has always stood out for the large volumes it could offer, whatever the size of the model. That was the goal of the Oceanis and innovation went in that direction. If memory serves me correctly, the first time I saw a berth positioned horizontally to make the most of the space available in the single aft cabin was on a ten-metre Oceanis more than twenty years ago.
The tender garage is indispensable on a cruising boat of this size.
The trend of volumes at any cost had perhaps reached its peak with the Oceanis 62 and what I saw on the dock in Cannes seems to me to be a course correction. Volumes are always there, but not at any cost. A cruising boat must also sail and be able to guarantee good performance under sail. That’s why, I believe, Bénéteau has put its faith in two designers who have fast boats on their CVs. Very fast. They are Roberto Biscontini and Lorenzo Argento, who designed the First 53 a few years ago and are now renewing their collaboration on all these new models: the Oceanis 60, First 44 and First 36.
The galley area has been placed close to the forward cabin and divided on the two sides so that more space is available. The volumes also allow for a chart table.
The perception you get when you step aboard the Oceanis 60 is always that of a comfortable boat. You have it on deck, in the cockpit and also in the interior spaces, both in the dinette and in the cabins. The layout of the deck equipment, the beam, which is large but still contained, the height of the deckhouse and the sail plan all give the idea of a boat, obviously for cruising, but still capable of sailing even if the wind is less than twenty knots.
First 44, cruiser racer or racer cruiser? By changing the order of the factors, the result does not change.
I experienced the same sensation aboard the First 44, albeit from opposite assumptions. Here, it seems to me that the designers’ work concentrated on increasing the comfort level of a boat that is certainly not lacking in performance.
Firsts are cruiser racers and so to achieve the coveted balance between speed and comfort you have to increase liveability on board. And here too, the feeling is that the Biscontini/Argento duo have hit the mark. And then, at Cannes, there was Bénéteau’s third novelty for the coming season, a boat that has already touched the water in recent months. It is the First 36, different in some respects from other Firsts. It is built in Slovenia by Seascape, the yard acquired by Bénéteau in recent years. Seascape’s production has always been aimed at making very fast boats, but of limited dimensions.
First 36, cruising surfing the waves, a pleasure that not many boats can offer.
The First 36 takes a step forward in size, without losing the speed characteristics that now characterise all the ‘small’ Firsts originating from Seascape. The hull has been designed to glide upwind and to guarantee excellent upwind performance. The deck equipment is fairly simple but still designed for those who like to sail fast.
The beam crosses the entire cockpit in the aft area so as not to hinder the helmsman and tailer. Jib adjustment is in 3D and not with traditional trolleys. In short, everything you need to get the most out of it, even when the wind is not excessive. Despite this, the deck, and above all the interior, have been designed to guarantee a good level of comfort when cruising. The volumes of this 36 are reminiscent of those of the First 40.7 of several years ago. With four or six people, you can expect to stay on board for several weeks without any particular discomfort. And how great is it to cruise on a boat that when you are sailing on the slack allows you to glide over the waves?
In the opening rendering, wide, but not bulging. The lines of the Oceanis 60 show that it is a boat that can sail well, even in medium/light winds.
(Bénéteau sail range, three is just the perfect number – Barchemagazine.com – September 2022)