is a much-admired quality, and Beneteau's luxurious 44.7 racer-cruiser
has the pedigree of a champion.
over 35kt of winter westerly whistling across the deck, a full 63.4sqm
high-tech cuben-fibre mainsail valued at $18,000 flying aloft, and
a drum-tight #3 D4 carbon headsail with streaming telltales for'ard.
A wake gurgles astern. Most certainly, we are racing.
it hits, a vigorous puff, and the two yachts mere metres away round
up. Instead, we bear away with the big gust, accelerate to 12.2kt
and round the mark first.
to Beneteau's dashing new 44.7 - the most eagerly awaited racer-cruiser
from the French stable this year. Since the Paris Boat Show in December,
Beneteau has sold about 40. At the time of writing, nine were heading
on the back of feedback from (Australian) Beneteau owners, the 44.7
is built to race. Take it to Grand Prix level, sail offshore in
IRC and IMS divisions, or order teak decks and electric winches
for a fast tropical-passage boat. Either way, the 44.7 will reward
with swiftness, steadfastness and excitement under sail.
Former Beneteau owner and new racing convert David Mason decided
to get serious and campaign a real racer-cruiser at the elite level.
Aside from opening the wallet, how does one go about mounting such
first step was to put a deposit on the new 44.7 - sight unseen,
I should add. Mason's yacht Prime Time is the first 44.7 in the
world. One of the most fleet-footed off-the-shelf production race
yachts money can buy, it also has plenty of creature comforts and,
one expects, good resale value.
fledging yacht-racing campaign was founded on the Beneteau 44.7
due, as much as anything, to the boat's impressive pedigree. Needless
to say, Farr Yacht Design penned the new 44.7.
smaller sistership, the Farr-designed Beneteau 40.7, is in fact
the most successful production racer-cruiser in the world. It has
won or placed highly in virtually every major yacht race in Australia
including the last Sydney to Hobart, where it took out both IMS
and IRC divisions.
one better, the 44.7 was reportedly designed by Farr with Australia's
love of the 40.7 in mind. And Beneteau hasn't tinkered with the
original design. It is the most true-to-Farr Beneteau ever.
of being a fat, high-volume boat like the 40.7, the 44.7 is long
and lithe with a modest beam-to-length ratio more like the 36.7.
But whichever way you look at it, the boat is just plain fast.
While Prime Time has been optimised for Grand Prix racing, I walked
through another 44.7 on the marina with teak decks and electric
winches. With the 44.7, you can have both your fast cruiser-racer
and your fast racer-cruiser.
do as Mason has and make a Grand Prix racer that converts back to
a cruiser in a matter of hours. A second set of sails and lazy jacks
takes Prime Time from Category 1 racer to summer cruiser.
or cruise, the yacht sails with all its plumbing in place including
two showers with hot and cold water. There is a raw-water footpump
in the galley for when you decide to travel with less than the 400lt
of water. Sensibly, at least half of that water is in amidships
many owners will buy a nice set of, say, Kevlar racing sails and
go club racing, Mason decided to employ a yachting consultant to
take the boat to the next level.
Whittey - a current world Yngling sailing champion, yachting judge,
bluewater yachtsman, coach and optimiser - needs no introduction
in yachting circles. Well connected, he is helping turn some of
Mason's crew into highly competitive team players. Whittey intends
to pack a few heavies aboard for the big races, too.
Prime Time is already feeding info back to Farr on the boat's performance,
and yacht designer David Lyons is being consulted about maximising
the 44.7's IRC rating. They're aiming for a rating around that of
a Sydney 38. As it is, the 44.7 is faster than the 47.7. In fact,
in the Winter Series it gave its big sister a nine-minute start.
The Beneteau 44.7 hull has some rake in the bow and very fine forward
sections that knife smoothly to windward. Solid GRP is used with
vinylester resin to guard against osmosis. Structural bulkheads
are marine ply and sealed to the hull. Every 44.7 is built to within
a 40kg tolerance, which is impressive in production-yacht terms.
is a full-length grid system - from which the boat derives its stiffness
- and mounting points for chainplates, shrouds, rudder tie rods
and so on. There are deep-draft and shoal-draft lead keels. The
former has a bulb; the latter, on Prime Time, is a bulbless fin
light displacement mode, the Beneteau 44.7 shifts 9129kg, of which
about 3500kg is ballast. The minimum IMS stability index for the
Sydney-to-Hobart race is 115, but the 44.7 is expected to come in
well over 120 (Farr hopes for a figure of 124). Around the cans
in the blow, the yacht felt stiff. I can say that much. It heels
only so far before accelerating again.
tapered aluminium Sparcraft 9/10th stick is keel stepped and supported
by twin swept-back spreaders and Dyform cable stays. The backstay
had been modified, but more on this later. The boat comes standard
with Dyneema running rigging that was changed to a custom array
of sheets and halyards. You can also option the boat with a triple-spreader
mast with rod rigging.
all lines lead back to the racing-style cockpit from where trimmers
can tweak headsails, kites and mains within earshot of the skipper.
There are Lewmar spinnaker blocks, adjustable genoa cars, Spinlock
jammers and self-tailing halyard winches on the coachhouse.
sloop's sail area is about 125sqm, with a 42sqm foretriangle. Aside
from flying the 105-per-cent #3 D4 headsail on a Tuff Luff forestay
and full main, we also popped a masthead 0.75oz symmetrical kite
on a reach across the harbour. The carbon pole and spinnaker gear
is supplied with the standard-issue Club Racing Package 1.
yacht was to be fitted with an asymmetrical or perhaps a Code O
in the not-too-distant future. There wasn't a hurry-up for this
chute, though, as most of the courses at Hamilton Island Race Week
are of windward-leeward design.
To optimise boat speed, Whittey goes to extraordinary lengths to
keep the weight out of the ends of his boats. Rather than having
a crewman adjust the backstay at the transom, he added long handles
to a hydraulic control forward of the wheel.
other words, the mainsheet trimmer perched in the cockpit can operate
the backstay. Some fittings were changed on the mast base, sheaves
and suchlike to better cope with the expected increased loads and
rake angles on the rig.
44.7's balsa-cored sandwich decks have reinforced mounting areas
for the winches, tracks and other deck gear. The deck itself is
screwed and glued to the hull. There is that somewhat annoying teak
toerail to contend with when you are perched on the high side, but
otherwise the decks and cockpit are accommodating.
cockpit and wide decks easily swallow six people during racing.
Storage comes by way of deep stern lockers and two lateral lockers,
a twin gas-bottle locker and dedicated liferaft storage spot.
56in anodised alloy wheel affords a good view forward. The yacht
had been fitted with optional primary three-speed (not self-tailing)
Lewmar 60s for smart tacking and trimming around the cans.
the biggest splurge was yet to come: sails. The mainsail was made
from the latest high-tech material called cuben fibre from the Ullman
loft. In its bag, the 63.4sqm main weighs about 30kg or 30 per cent
less than a standard Kevlar racing sail. That sail alone cost almost
a quarter of the $80,000 Grand Prix sail wardrobe.
by piece, Whittey is working out what he can remove next. At the
dock, I catch him eyeing off the owner's head. Ah, well... such
are the sacrifices one makes for speed.
Mason is relieved, so to speak, that he can return his 44.7 racing
yacht to cruising mode in just a matter of hours. This is indeed
heartening news considering there is a wonderful, warm beech interior
down below, three double cabins, two bathrooms, a saloon in need
of only a flat-screen television, storage for a dozen-and-a-half
bottles of wine, and an entertainer's galley.
hiding below is the Volvo D2 55hp diesel engine with Saildrive.
It's smooth, quiet and well insulated. Access panels let you get
to all sides of the motor, but you can't go past the lift-up companionway
steps to perform day-to-day maintenance. The motor is linked to
200lt of fuel and it spins a folding prop as standard.
Some 2.2m of headroom and the quality of the moulded liner strike
me the moment I come below. Things like deep fiddle rails, timber
handrails where you reach for them and leather on the companionway
handrails don't go unnoticed.
leatherette is used to upholster the lounge; teak-and-holly covers
the sole; and the joinery is that aforementioned gorgeous beech
wood. The white moulded headliner, with neat timber trim, and abundance
of portlights (with blinds) create a warm and contemporary ambience.
aft cabin features a large double bed, a hanging locker, and lots
of storage. The nifty Euro-styled chrome reading lights have adjustable
reflectors to create task or indirect lighting.
galley to starboard has twin sinks covered by a cutting board, seawater
foot pump, a big 110lt top-loading cruising-type fridge, two-burner
gimballed gas stove and oven/grill, overhead grabrail, bottle storage,
garbage bin and in-floor crumb carrier. And lots of cupboards for
the unbreakable crockery. A microwave is an option.
day head immediately to port as you come inside has its wet locker
filled with a holding tank. The timber towel rails are classy on
the moulded washbasin and vanity. There is a shower and hook for
hands-free ?tubs', and a manual loo.
serious offshore racing the nav station might get a side brace.
It's a big fore-and-aft recess forward of the moulded head with
12V/240V switch panel, CD player, GPS, VHF and chart storage. The
seat has a moulded timber base.
U-shaped lounge around the high-gloss beech-wood dinette can easily
seat six people, with room for more in cruising mode if you threw
a couple of chairs aboard. The wide saloon has plenty of floor space
to carry the sailbags.
the 47.7, the 44.7 takes care of its owner. There is a separate
cabin for'ard with a suite-like layout; a door to the saloon provides
privacy. There is an offset double bed, hanging locker, room to
stash personals, and an en suite with shower and manual loo forward.
hatch leads beyond the en suite in the bow to a storage area. Whittey
kept this area empty to keep the weight out of the ends. Even the
anchor is lashed in a hold belowdecks in the saloon.
things are in store for the Beneteau 44.7. After a scintillating
sail, we cross the finish line with wet sails and the first gun
for Prime Time.
they say, the fullness of time will reveal all. And if history is
anything to go by, the 44.7 and its owner are headed for the winner's
dais. Perhaps, as he dreams, down in Hobart some day.
slippery inshore and out
Good-sized cockpit designed for the crew
Driver-friendly helm with good views for'ard
timber interior is vulnerable to scrapes and scratches when in racing
Wet locker lost to holding tank
Nav station will need a brace for use at sea
PRICE AS TESTED About $625,000 with upgraded three-speed winches,
Ullman Grand Prix IRC racing wardrobe including cuben-fibre main
and D4 headsails, electronics, custom running rigging, plus labour
Complete boat with Ullman racing sail kit, asymmetric spinnaker,
upgraded primary winches, Raymarine electronics, custom running
rigging, faired keel and rudder, and more
PRICED FROM $478,000
Material: GRP hull with vinylester resin and balsa sandwich deck
Hull length: 13.37m
Waterline length: 11.50m
Draft: 2.65m (standard deep-draft lead keel)
Displacement: 9129kg (dry)
Ballast: Deep-draft keel about 3500kg
Berths: Six to eight
Make/model: Volvo D2 55
Type: Two-cylinder diesel inboard
Rated hp: 55hp
Prop: Self-feathering three blader
Max. genoa: 145 per cent 63.13sqm
SUPPLIED BY Beneteau Vicsail, d'Albora Marinas, New Beach Road,
Rushcutters Bay, NSW 2077, tel (02) 9327 2088 or visit www.vicsail.com