1500 Marina Bay Dr. Suite 1611
Watergate Yachting Center, Pier 23
Kemah, Texas 77565 USA
Phone (281) 334.1993
Fax (281) 334.4795

Sharing our passion, knowledge and experience to help you chart your course to the right yacht
Home Houston
Home Dallas
Home Austin


  Boat Test: Beneteau 44.7
Source: Trade A Boat Issue: 327 2004

Good Breeding

Class is a much-admired quality, and Beneteau's luxurious 44.7 racer-cruiser has the pedigree of a champion.

There's 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.

Then 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.

Welcome 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 Down Under.

Designed 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 a campaign?

His 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.

Mason's 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.

Its 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.

Going 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.

Instead 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.

Or 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.

Race 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 tanks.

While 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.

Neville 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.

Team 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.

Underfloor 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 drawing 2.65m.

In 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.

The 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.

Importantly, 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.

The 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.

The 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.

In 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

But 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.

Piece 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.

But 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.

Also 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.

Cream-coloured 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.

Each 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.

The 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.

The 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.

For 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.

The 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.

Like 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.

A 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.

Big 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.

As 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.


Farr-designed, slippery inshore and out
Good-sized cockpit designed for the crew
Driver-friendly helm with good views for'ard
None-too-shabby interior

Lovely timber interior is vulnerable to scrapes and scratches when in racing mode
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
Type: Monohull
Hull length: 13.37m
Waterline length: 11.50m
Beam: 3.98m
Draft: 2.65m (standard deep-draft lead keel)
Displacement: 9129kg (dry)
Ballast: Deep-draft keel about 3500kg

Berths: Six to eight
Fuel: 200lt
Water: 400lt

Make/model: Volvo D2 55
Type: Two-cylinder diesel inboard
Rated hp: 55hp
Drive: Saildrive
Prop: Self-feathering three blader

Sail Area
Main: 58.5sqm
Foretriangle: 42sqm
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


Interview with the owner
David Mason is an executive TV producer who juggles his new-found passion for yacht racing with the demands of workaday life. David Lockwood put five questions to him on the whys and wherefores of his new yacht-racing campaign based on the Beneteau 44.7 known as Prime Time.

DL: At what point did you decide to get serious and campaign a Grand Prix racing yacht?

DM: This is only my second boat. My last one, a seven-year-old Beneteau 42s7 was fast, but nowhere near as competitive as the 44.7.
I believe that from the moment an owner buys a boat they're immediately thinking of the next one. My first boat was really a learning boat for me, and I knew when I bought it that I was going to step up within a couple of years.
Which boat I was going to step up to I didn't know until May last year when John Cowpe from Beneteau Vicsail told me about the 44.7. On the basis of one phone conversation I'd put down a deposit.
I went to the Paris Boat Show last December to see the first hull out of the factory, and I was told mine was the very first order from anywhere in the world. The more I found out about it, the more excited I got. And the more excited I got, the more I knew I'd want to race it seriously.

DL: Why did you decide to campaign a Grand Prix yacht?

DM: Racing at the level we're aiming for frightens me. It's way outside my experience or comfort zone, and I knew I was going to learn lots and learn it fast. If I'm going to invest time and money in something, I want to do it properly. The boat's worthy of being raced up there with the best of them and I'd be piking out if I didn't have a crack at the big races.
My skills and experience are nowhere near that level - I hope I'll get there one day - so in the meantime I have to find the best people I can to help the boat go as fast as it can, and in the process I'll learn.
DL: How much do you estimate it will cost on top of your $500,000 outlay for the boat to run the campaign each year?
DM: Money for campaigning will go into keeping the sail wardrobe in good shape; maintenance, deliveries, team clothes, insurance, race fees, Cat 1 equipment, and so on. How much I'm going to spend on all that depends on how successful the boat is and how much sponsorship it can attract.


It could be anywhere from $30,000 a year to keep the boat berthed and maintained to over $100,000 to campaign it competitively. For the time being I've donated the sponsorship to Planet Ark (an environment organisation which I had an involvement in getting off the ground in Australia 15 years ago) but an additional commercial sponsor would allow us to campaign the boat as effectively as it deserves.

DL: Where do you intend to race?

DM: We're currently racing the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's Winter Series to tune the boat (and crew). In late July/early August the boat will be on display at the Sydney Boat Show so we'll miss the Southport Race. Our first IRC race will therefore be the Hahn Premium Hamilton Island Race Week. After that we're lined up to do the Hayman Island Regatta.
In spring we'll either do the CYCA Ocean Point Score Series plus one or two longer races to qualify us for the Hobart, or else we'll do the Blue Water Series (even though we'd have missed out on the Southport race).
But our big goal is Hobart. Michael Spies won last year's Hobart on IMS and IRC in a Beneteau 40.7. I'm hoping (some would say dreaming) that a fast boat and a fast crew can make up for my personal inexperience and that somehow we'll luck our way into a Hobart victory!
But I also intend to enjoy the boat as a great weekend cruiser during summer.

DL: What do you get out of yacht racing at this level?

DM: To be honest I'm yet to race at Grand Prix level. I do know, however, that I'm going to learn a massive amount about the boat and about yacht racing.
I'm new to the sport - just about everyone on my boat has considerably more experience than me - so I can't help but learn. And if we've got things right, with a fast boat and a good crew, then a bit of silverware wouldn't go amiss.

Learn how easy it is for you to buy or sell a boat with Sea Lake as an ally.
Fill out this Quick form.
The source for New and used Sailboats and Powerboats in Houston
© Copyright 2005 Sea Lake Yacht Sales
All Right Reserved
Reproduction or copying any part of this website is prohibited
Design by Digicad