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The Imported almost as an after thought, the Antares 9.80 is a 32-foot
pocket yacht with all the amenities of a larger cruising boat thoughtfully
arranged in a well performing hull powered by twin 210-hp Volvo
diesels. Just as I have packed a lot of details in that one sentence,
so has Beneteau packed a lot of features in this boat.
American boaters know Beneteau as a French builder of a popular
line of cruising sloops. Some might know that there’s a U.S. component
of the company based in South Carolina, where most of the sailboats
are now built. Most would be surprised to learn that Beneteau is
best known in Europe for their powerboats, and in fact, are the
fourth largest powerboat manufacturer there.
The helm on the flybridge is centered for
good visibility forward. (below) The galley station is compact
but completely functional.
building boats exactly 120 years ago,” explains Garth Hitchens,
owner of Annapolis Yacht Sales. “Those boats were sailing trawlers
built for commercial fishing. In 1908, they started putting motors
in those boats. They only began building sailboats in 1968.”
About five years ago, Hitchens and other U.S. dealers began lobbying
Beneteau to create a product for that growing segment of the sailboat
market that was, as he likes to describe it, “transgressing into
trawlers.” The result was the Swift Trawler 42, which made its debut
at the fall boat shows. It was designed specifically for the U.S.
market and designed to be built at the South Carolina plant.
“When Beneteau realized that they probably had to set up a separate
sales network for the trawler, they decided to include the Antares
line. The 9.8 is the smallest, and there’s the 10.80 and the 13.80.
That gives the dealer four boats to sell.”
Though he’s a sailor himself–he crossed the Atlantic from his native
South Africa 18 years ago—the Antares appeals to Hitchens. “The
boat was designed around running through the water properly,” he
says. “They didn’t sacrifice the performance to get more interior
volume. The boat’s seaworthy, fast, and there are wide side decks.
And you’ve got three hundred sixty degrees of visibility inside,
so you can drive from the lower station; you don’t have to be on
the flybridge to drive the boat. A boat this size with twin diesel
engines and this kind of performance at this price is remarkable.”
Base price is just under $200,000.
“It’s a smaller boat, but there’s a dinette good for four people,
a functional galley with an icebox, a proper sink, and a two-burner
propane stove—everything you’d want in a boat this size,” Hitchens
says. The cabinetry and paneling is a mahogany veneer with a cherry
finish, very classy looking.
The helm seat flips up for standing operation. The dash has two
pods, a near one with enough space for a Raymarine C80 chartplotter,
and the farther dash has all the analog gauges. Unfortunately, the
compass is mounted on top of the near pod, so it blocks the pilot’s
view of some of the gauges. There ought to be a simple solution
for that. If you’ve got GPS, who needs a compass, right? There’s
a space above the helm for a flat screen TV that would be easily
viewed from the dinette.
Practically the entire saloon sole lifts up in panels to reveal
the engine compartment. The new Volvo D-4’s are equipped with synchronizers
and full electronic diagnostics. The engines are fairly close together,
allowing room on either side for added equipment, like a generator.
One panel in the sole just aft of the helm seat allows you to check
fluid levels without too much trouble. Another at the top of the
companionway reveals a separate compartment for the three batteries.
A separate compartment accessible from the head contains the water
heater and all the bilge pumps. There’s plenty of room in there
for an air-conditioning unit and there’s space to run ducts to the
saloon as well as to the forward cabin.
Take three steps down through the companionway and the head is to
port, the guest cabin to starboard and the owner’s cabin forward.
The layout is a splendid use of space; there’s plenty of headroom
throughout. There’s elbow room in the head as well. The faucet at
the sink pulls out to serve as a hand held shower.
The forward cabin has a double island berth on center with deep
drawers and storage underneath. A hanging locker provides a modicum
of storage. The guest cabin has cozy over/under berths.
The outside living space is just as well planned as the interior
space. In the cockpit, the transom moves forward creating a swim
platform about 18 inches wide, or moves aft to give about that much
extra room for seating in the cockpit. The transom locks into place
with spring-loaded bolts.
The side decks are an adequate width to allow easy access to the
bow even for this bulky boater. The stainless bow rails and the
non skid deck surface provide good security for a crewmember docking
or anchoring. The stainless bow pulpit is serviced by a Lofrans
windlass and a very deep locker.
You get to the flybridge by climbing the attractive ladder with
its wide wooden steps up through a hatch. An L-shaped settee secures
the starboard side. The helm is centered and a copilot’s chair is
to port. A Bimini protects the area. The dash is fairly low, so
you probably want to drive sitting down on the flybridge. The aluminum
Uflex wheel is adjustable. The visibility is fine forward and you
can see the aft quarter through the hatch.
The weather was fairly snotty the evening we checked the boat out.
The wind was blowing out of the west and building 3-to-4-foot waves
on the east side of the Chesapeake. Still, the Antares proved sprightly,
running a full 27.3 knots downwind. The hull handles the waves quite
well. We got doused by some spray up on the flybridge occasionally
until we trimmed the tabs way down and raised the bow. The boat
tracked well on all points, and it wasn’t at all squirrelly with
the bow up no matter which way we took the waves. This was quite
impressive. As we entered the mouth of the Severn, things settled
down a bit and I tried turns at full speed that were tight, snug
and with little banking. We were still on plane at just above 14
knots. Overall an impressive ride. The Volvos were powerful and
responsive and surprisingly quiet.
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