Beneteau Oceanis 55
The new Oceanis 55 offers a lot of choice to buyers in a yacht that can even be set up for single-handed sailing, while giving only light heel in decent breezes
Fifty-five feet is the length of boat that often falls between mid-sized and a large yacht. It opens up a world of long range cruising that a yacht ten feet shorter might not offer, but without the throwaway space of one ten feet bigger.
The 55 is the second longest in the Oceanis range, behind the 58, and it immediately reveals its bloodline through consistent design touches that flow through the Oceanis line. The designers at Berret Racoupeau may not be the most well-known, but their partnership with Beneteau dates back 30 years and they have been responsible for the whole Oceanis range as well as some from Beneteau’s Sense line. Their performance credentials come from several racing yacht designs in the highly competitive field of Open designs, including Vendee Globe finishers.
I could write an exhaustive list of what makes the Oceanis 55 such a great yacht but first impressions come first. The Oceanis 55 punches above its length in the looks department. Features such as the waterline port holes, white spars, wooden decking and sleek coachroof with sweeping windows give it an exclusive look.
The Oceanis is a Japanese garden in the midst of a bustling city; stepping on board is instantly relaxing. It is very stable and, thanks to a transom that opens up to almost the full width of the wide rear-end, is highly accessible to the less sure-footed land-lubber coming aboard for cocktails and canapés.
Sailors will appreciate the two carbon wheels and four polished winches that surround the vast seating area in the cockpit that dominates the rear half of the hull. But for a sailing yacht, there is actually very little to intrude on the cockpit social area and get in the way of socializing, eating and enjoying the sound of wind in the sails.
Beneteau has drawn on years of experience to design a cockpit that compromises on neither sailing performance nor crew comfort. Lines run below the deck to either the port or starboard winches and jammers, while the mainsheet runs to the traveller, which is mounted high up on the targa-wing. If you were to take a bird’s eye view of the cockpit, you would see that everything runs to the port and starboard helm positions, mirrored on both sides.
The secondary winches, directly in front of the helm, control the mainsheet as well as halyards and lines such as the downhaul and outhaul. The jib sheets are run off the primary winches that are inboard from the helm position. Naturally these winches are electric and operated by the press of a large button – no muscles required! I can see a competent sailor being able to sail the Oceanis single-handed, but it is definitely a yacht that can be sailed very short-handed very easily. With electric headsail furlers to the lazy-jacks, there is little reason for anyone to leave the cockpit.
Slipping down below is like walking into a contemporary SoHo apartment. With a beam of almost five metres, and headroom of almost two metres, the interior designers were given plenty of space to come up with a floorplan that comfortably accommodates up to five couples. Generous use of Alpi mahogany, skylights and soft furnishings conveys even more space.
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to layouts for the Oceanis 55. There are five layout plans for the interior that range from three to five sleeping cabins and two to four heads. That means the boat can sleep up to ten people in private cabins. The settee can also be made into a double bed to sleep two more. With the choice of layouts the Oceanis can be used by a family for weekend cruising, charter work, luxury racing or long-distance voyaging.
The avant-garde interiors, by Nauta Design, are cozy and inviting, and also highly innovative, making maximum use of space for storage and comfortable living. The L-shaped sofas easily seat eight people around the centre table and the open-end serves as a comfortable seat for the nav-station. Even in the five-cabin configuration, the only compromise to the saloon space is a slight reduction in the sofa size.
The galley features a two-burner gimbaled top and a large oven, so large meals can easily be prepared. Combined with a 130-litre front-loading fridge, guests and sailors can enjoy good meals even on the longest journeys.
I was lucky enough to take the Oceanis 55 out in the most perfect conditions – 15 knots of warm Mediterranean breeze under a bright Balearic sun. There were four of us onboard so it gave me the perfect opportunity to see just how she performed, and how easy she was to sail short-handed, in average wind and wave conditions. Under a full head of sail, the Oceanis started to heel at around ten knots but even the least perceptive people will not have missed the very obvious chine in the rear quarter of the hull. Because of this she sat at about a 10 to 12 degree heel and rode the waves very comfortably. One of the guests onboard was laying on the leeward side and she not only stayed dry but managed not to spill her drink – no more scientific analysis needed!
The Oceanis also sports a twin-rudder set up which really made steering very solid and responsive. That said, in the gusts of up to 20 knots, they did lose their bite and start the boat rounding-up. Beneteau recommend putting in the first reef at around the 20+ knot point, so we were on the edge and we could have depowered slightly were we not trying to find the limits. At this stage, our sunbather did get slightly wet but the drink was yet to spill!
The helming position is way at the back of the boat, giving plenty of seating space, and going from wheel to wheel is unhindered. My only real complaint was the instrument cluster. Although it did everything in full-colour touch-screen HD, it was just too close and was difficult to read in the midday sun. It also meant that no-one ahead of the helm can see what is going on. A couple of basic heads up displays on the targa–wing, even if it was just boatspeed, windspeed and heading, would be a viable alternative.
Under the waterline, there is also a lot going on to give the Oceanis even more boxes to tick. The standard engine is a 75HP Yanmar, which drives the boat at up to nine knots using a pod-drive, or sail-drive as it is also commonly known. The 55 benefits from bow thrusters that make docking much easier, especially considering the windage created by the high freeboard and spars. A definite extra that needs to be mentioned is Beneteau’s Dock & Go system, which gives you control of the boat through a joystick that synchs the bow thrusters and pod-drive to maneuver the Oceanis in any direction. The Dock & Go system is one of over 60 options to choose from, including spinnaker and code zero sails.
Benteau offers a choice of three keels: very shallow draught of 1.45 metres at 5,298 kilogrammes; shallow draught of 1.8 metres at 4,960 kilogrammes; and deep draught of 2.21 metres and 4,239 kilogrammes. All three are made from cast iron and seem relatively light. This is because much of the Oceanis’ form stability comes from the flattish aft section and overall width combined with the chines. As a result, the 55 shows a clean set of heels when she points downwind – especially with a following sea.
Overall, I think the Oceanis 55 offers a very broad spectrum of positives and will appeal to an equally broad spectrum of buyers. With the three-berth configuration it would be a very spacious and comfortable choice for families or couples. With five berths, you have the perfect choice for chartering across Asia. And did I mention that it has a swim platform that lowers down from the transom to water level? Perfect for diving into clear blue seas at some fantastic anchorage.
In Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia: www.simpsonmarine.com
In the Philippines: www.europayachts.asia
Technical Specifications – Beneteau Oceanis 55
LOA: 16.78 metres
Hull length: 15.99 metres
LWL: 15.16 metres
Beam: 4.96 metres
Deep draught: 2.2 metres
Deep ballast weight: 4,230 kilogrammes
Shallow draught (min): 1.8 metres
Very shallow draught: 1.45 metres
Shallow ballast weight: 4,855kg
Light displacement: 16.54 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 400 litres
Freshwater capacity: 694 litres
Engine: 75hp standard
Naval Architect: Berret Racoupeau Yacht Design
Interior Design: Nauta Yacht Design