Beneteau First 40
Veteran Hong Kong-based sailor and writer Paul Bayfield took the new Beneteau First 40 out for a test on Hong Kong's harbour during a blustery day, and finds it to be a worthy successor to the much-used, much lived 40.7
The summer sailing season in Hong Kong has been one of the best in years: good wind and sunny skies so clear you can almost see Macau. Unfortunately, the test sail of the Beneteau First 40 was between Black Rain storms, which tested the boat and crew against the striking backdrop of central Hong Kong buildings. The wind funnelling through those buildings also provided some challenging 25 knot gusts.
The testing conditions allowed the boat to be put through its upwind paces. The First 40 is stiff with a tall, high-aspect rig and non-overlapping headsails that helped drive the boat to impressive upwind speeds. The winch and main traveler loads in 15 to 20 knots of wind suggest a much bigger boat – more like a Beneteau First 44.7 or First 45.
Even though there was minimal crew, upwind the boat could make a good 6.5 to 7 knots, although without crew weight on the rail, the boat sailed at relatively wide angles. The light helm and rudder allowed a very precise and positive feel. The boat also had great acceleration out of the tacks. In the bigger gusts there was plenty of rudder traction, although the helmsman had to work a little harder at 25 knots. A few centimetres of work on the main traveller generally bought the boat under control.
The First 40, designed by the legendary Bruce Farr, even looks fast out of the water on the hardstand. From its plumb bow to subtle raked stern, the lines are essentially straight and thoroughly modern. The hull is also relatively flat in keeping with the boat's go-fast credentials. And yet, it still retains a classic racing look, with its recessed semi-hooded windows, low deck line, wide workable side-decks and sleek freeboard.