Beneteau Sense 46
The Sense 46 from Beneteau Group combines a sharp sense of styling with an underwater profile that gives cruisers some speed and comfort
I met up with the Sense 46 in Palma de Mallorca, a veritable Mecca of the newest, the most expensive, fastest and the most desirable yachts in Europe. Before I stepped on-board, I stopped on the dock and had a good look at her first; something I noticed a lot of people did even when surrounded by so many bigger and clearly more expensive yachts.
There is no doubt about it; the Sense 46 is a highly pleasing yacht to look at. With the deep black hull and chrome vinyl wave that runs from bow to stern, through to the sleek cabin top and open transom, she is a head-turner.
Look around the average marina and you will see that most sailing boats fit within the 36 to 48 foot range. This is no coincidence – it is the length that gives enough space for a family, means easier and more affordable docking and costs remain relatively lower than when you cross into the 50-foot plus range. The Sense 46 fits into this highly functional category, but owners will feel like they own a much bigger yacht, thanks to the design.
According to Beneteau, she has been designed to “provide a sense of well-being second to none on a sailing monohull with which you can sail around the world.” She is also “simple and seaworthy at the same time”. Both of these statements sound like standard PR-speak that you’d hear from a range of different yacht builders. “Simple and Seaworthy” make me think Overbuilt and Bulky or Uncomfortable and Slow.
But Beneteau statements do actually seem to hold true for the Sense 46. The cockpit area is close to the sort of deck space you would see from a catamaran, especially when the doors are opened and the cabin becomes part of the layout. This translates into the sort of space you would want if you were sailing around the world or just doing long distances and want home comforts with you along the way.
They have kept the business of sailing separate from the business of comfort by leading all control lines to the rear of the cockpit, directly above the transom. From the twin-wheels, the helmsman can trim, hoist and tune to his (or her) heart’s content while everyone else can safely sunbathe, read or just relax on the sofas that surround the cockpit.
The comfort level is further enhanced thanks to the Sense 46’s form stability. With a nod of the head towards many round the world racing yachts, the Sense has a creased chine that runs along the aft section below the stretched beam that also maintains its width all the way to the transom. The long chine means that the Sense needs to be sailed with a slight heel to get the best out of her, but only about ten to 12 degrees.
During my test sail in the breeze of early summer in Spain, I sailed the boat flat as you would do on a non-chined hull, and then put her slightly on her ear to test the difference in speed and handling. It became immediately evident that the slight heel really gave an almost black and white contrast. The speed increased, the rudders dug in and she cut through the waves instead of going over them.
Due to the amazing beaminess of the Sense, the angle really made no difference to life on-board in terms of brewing a cup of tea, using the heads down below or moving around in the cockpit. As is fairly standard on deep-chined yachts, the Sense comes with twin rudders, which really give an amazing feel to steering and would certainly reduce fatigue over longer periods when you can’t use the auto-pilot; such as the shipping lanes that we encounter so much across Asian waters.
The Sense 46 is a very well balanced yacht to sail on all points. Upwind, the sail-plan is well suited for comfortable sailing, if not slightly underpowered for the lighter winds. It is, however, a different story as soon as you crack off the sails and slip into reaching or running mode. Thanks again to the wide and flat stern section, the Sense really accelerates with the gennaker up and more so if you were to use the optional spinnaker.
At whichever point of sail you are on, the Sense is very easy to manage single-handed with a combination of auto-pilot, electric winches and control lines running to the helm positions. If the wind picks up above 18 knots, it would become a handful though, particularly if you have to put a reef in or need to maneuver. During the test sail we didn’t put a reef in but we did put in a few tacks and gybes and an additional pair of hands came in very useful.
Going into the cabin area you don’t experience any change in light due to the openness of the layout and the ample windows and skylights that are a key design feature of the Sense line. Gone are the dark woods and small portholes in favour of light Alpi wood, white fabric headliners and brushed steel fittings.
Storage space is abundant and the island console in the kitchen gives plenty of workspace to prepare large dinners. On the outside of the island, there is a fold-out bench that give extra seating at the large dining table as well as a pop-up TV facing the sofa to help keep kids entertained and while away longer journeys.
The master bedroom is forward and is dominated by a diamond shaped double bed with en-suite heads and spacious shower cabinet. There is also a dressing table with TV and plenty of storage space including wardrobe and bookshelves. The guest bedroom also has a double bed that runs the width of the berth and also has a shower cabinet and sink. Guests would use the day head that is opposite the berth – an easy way of giving the guest bedroom more space without compromising comfort. It is not clear if Beneteau offers the guest bedroom in a bunkbed layout, which would be more suitable for families with kids or even the charter market.
It is interesting to note that many buyers of the Sense 46 have come across from the catamaran market or the powerboat market. Catamaran owners have been attracted by the large living area the Sense offers combined with the ease and economy of berthing a monohull, with Beneteau’s Dock and Go system.
Powerboat users are looking at the bottom line and seeing that they can now sail in extreme comfort without having to foot massive bills for fuel and engine maintenance. With the beam-and-chine combination of the Sense, powerboat owners will also feel less pitching in a seaway and an overall more comfortable experience.
And speaking of power, the Sense 46 has taken all the experience of Beneteau’s heritage to strike a balance in what power is needed in the 46 and comes with a 75hp Yanmar drivetrain connected to the Pod and Drive system. Under the water the pod has a three-blade propeller giving plenty of drive, either in a straight line or when rotating whilst docking and maneuvering. Down below the soundproofing is evident as you would be hard pushed to hear the engine running. Only when the thrusters are being used do you hear and feel anything but that is the simple trade-off between the incredible versatility of the Dock and Go system.
Using the system is like being the Captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek; through a simple joystick system by the helm you can control forward, reverse and lateral speed through the aforementioned Pod and Drive system. The demonstration in a busy marina showed how simple it was to dock stern-in between other boats or to go alongside a jetty in gusty winds. You can also make the whole 46 spin around its keel if you find yourself in a situation where you need to maneuver in an enclosed space.
Overall, the Sense 46 is about as finely rounded as you could hope to find if you want a sailing boat that offers the comforts of a weekend home with touches of Mediterranean luxury. It gives owners a turn of speed without having to compromise on aesthetics but it’s not a boat you will be entering into serious yacht races with, though it would be my first choice to do the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers!
With the fold-out swim platform, pop-up TVs and open space, kids will love being on-board and time will pass easily – especially as older ones will be able to help sail the boat. Trimming sails with the electric winches and sitting on the full-width seats that run behind the helming station will soon become a second home for them as they learn to navigate and helm the boat. Then sailing will really start making sense.
In Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia: www.simpsonmarine.com
In the Philippines: www.europayachts.asia
Technical Specifications – Beneteau Sense 46
LOA 14.12 metres
Hull Length 13.82 metres
Beam (max) 4.43 metres
Light displacement 12,303 kilogrammes
Shallow draught 1.75 metres
Deep draught 2.05 metres
Sail area 99.3 square metres
Engines 75 CV Sail Drive POD 90
Fuel capacity 400 litres
Dreash water 690 litres
Naval architect Berret Racoupeau Yacht Design
Interior design Nauta Design
CE Certification A6/B7/C12