The test First 40 is one of six boats destined for Qingdao, China. The boats are part of a consignment of ten to be delivered to Qingdao, according to Loik Morgant, technical and services manager for Cape-10, the agent for Beneteau in northern China. Four of the boats were delivered earlier this year, with delivery crews from Qingdao, Xiamen and Shenzhen. “The delivery crews used the opportunity not only to learn sailing but also handling the boats at sea,” Morgant said. “We had good winds last time which allowed us to do the trip in under eight days, although when we hit speeds of just under 16 knots under main and jib alone the crews probably got a bit more than they bargained for.”
Loik Morgant, who arrived in China in 2005 as part of a French team that trained Chinese sailors for the Olympic Games and a possible shot at the America's Cup, said he expected good winds for the delivery trip that would test the boats and crews. The six boats were delivered to Hong Kong to be commissioned at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club before there journey up the China coast via Shenzhen and Xiamen.
Although in the process of establishing its racing pedigree, the First 40 appears to be taking up where Beneteau’s hugely successful First 40.7 left off, i.e. winning serious races all around the world while also appealing to a broad cross section of performance sailors. The First 40.7 first hit the water 12 years ago and Beneteau sold more than 800 around the world. Beneteau hopes that 40.7 owners, most of whom are happy with 40-footers, will upgrade to a First 40. And the performance of two First 40s in the most recent gruelling Rolex Sydney Hobart race, which tests crew and boat like no other, should keep them happy. Following the success a 40.7 in the 2003 race, the two First 40s were first and second overall in this year's race.
During the test sail, when winds became light the boat was easy to handle and suggested it would be easy sailing in the cruising mode. The First 40 blends Farr's truly fast hull with Nauta's very stylish interior. Although the light oak-finished cabin looks good and is practical and comfortable for some serious cruising, it is probably not likely that the boat will be bought for its interior. However, with the generally light and variable winds in Asia's coastal waters, the light interior and performance sailing (and the 3.3 tonnes displacement) would mean smooth cruising. But let's face it, the reason for buying a Beneteau First 40 is because you want to sail fast all the time, and there’s nothing wrong with that.