In search of a healthy Sense
Reviews and test drives

In search of a healthy Sense

Yachts Sense 55 and Oceanis 45 on itBoat tests


Traditionally, for eight years now, Beneteau, the largest yachtbuilding company in the world, has been involved in these tests. Beneteau, Jeanneau and CNB) conducts yachting tests in the south of France in early spring, and it has been a tradition for your humble servant to take part in them for five years.

This time I flew the tests for the main novelty of the year - Sense 55, the largest yacht in the Sense range. Sense, as you know, means «meaning in English» - that's how I wanted to know if this boat makes sense? However, everything started unexpectedly - the lovely Charlotte from the Beneteau press group scared me by e-mail: the storm is 8 points, the tests are postponed, the forecast is unfavorable. But fortunately, the clouds over the town of La Ciotat managed to disperse a little during the journey. So as soon as I got out of the taxi, I rushed to the pier: «Sense 55! Is she ready for testing now?» And with music in my ears the answer sounded: «Yes!»

Yves Mandin (Beneteau Service Manager) started the engine and here we went out to sea with our colleagues from Yachting World and Navegare. The breeze was good smooth wind 20-22 knots, sometimes there were gusts 26-28 (meaning true wind), we carried a full grotto and, praying, because the wind was still quite fresh, turned the code zero (see Note 1).

We walked into a full tank shtag with a TWA of about 140°. The feeling on board was... The yacht was not just running - no, she was flying, she was on the waves, almost always surfing. Lag indicators (GPS, to be more precise) never dropped below 10 knots, and sometimes they exceeded 15 knots. Before that, I had only managed to show such speeds on board a sailing vessel twice in person: the first time was in the Gulf of Finland during a promotional sailing trip. Mean Machine class VO 70, and the other one is all in the same Marseille on the Beneteau test. I managed to accelerate the Oceanis 54 to a speed of 15.4 knots, but at gusts up to 50 knots, the yacht was literally gyrating on water.

But now ... A huge comfortable cruiser smoothly, without shocks and shocks, carried on the waves at a speed about one-third higher than theoretically possible for it (for Sense 55, this value is about 9.5 knots - see Note 2). Yes, she is indeed good with the bypasses: the boat is very wide and its maximum width is strongly pulled aft, as is done on modern high seas racing yachts. To increase her stability, the trapezoidal stern bypasses are complemented by a cheekbone - her scrapping, when she rolls into the water, dramatically increases the restoring torque and therefore the stability of the boat.

This is what the feed wave behind the stern of Sense 55 looks like. Looks more like a boat, doesn't it?

It can be seen that the Design Bureau has done a very big job, implementing one of the requirements of the design brief - the boat must be fast.

When I had the chance to take the wheel, I was very tense waiting for the yacht to go out in the wind on the gusts (the aforementioned Oceanis 54 of the same Berret/Racoupeau Design Bureau in this respect was simply ugly), but the boat was surprisingly calm. The non-silent eagerness to go to the wind was easily paralleled by the rudder (in these conditions, the boat requires fast but short movements - steering «in a fighter»style, unlike the sluggish and smeared reactions of many classmates), and the Sense 55 easily maintained a straight line of motion. I cannot say, however, that an inexperienced helmsman will be comfortable on a yacht in these conditions. The tension that one feels when driving a large yacht with full sails in this wind and at this speed can only be experienced. And it's not even a matter of physical activity - it's actually not much. It's about psychological stress.

However, my delight was somewhat diminished after we went back on course. Labelling under the standard genome is clearly not Sense's strong suit. Although the sharp bows allow the yacht to go very smoothly against the wave, the steepness of the manoeuvring is still low (let's say less than you would expect when looking at a great ride in the following winds) and the roll is strong enough despite the large width. The boat is obviously oriented on passing courses, but it is not worth trying to walk it steeper than 45°.

To sum it up, the Sense 55 is a surprisingly fast and comfortable boat, designed, however, for a fairly experienced skipper. Small flaws in the arrangement of the things to be done, I think, will be eliminated in the near future. The only thing I really don't like about it is the navigator's backwards position as he moves. However, very few people work with the map in the salon now.

Yacht of the Year

After I finished with Sense, I moved to the Oceanis 45, which this year was awarded the title of «Yacht of the Year». This is, of course, a completely different plan - for example, with an absolutely classic sub-deck layout. I immediately am amused by one detail: to the right of a similar gangway on the bulkhead there is a mirror, under which there is a shelf and a small locker. The most natural entrance hall is probably an idea borrowed from the Delphia 47. The interior itself is absolutely typical of the work of Nauta Design and Beneteau in recent years. In my opinion, there is little individuality, it is stereotypical and not memorable. But what's good is its «airiness» - but you have to pay for this effect with a reduced amount of wood inside.

And another feature of the interior of the Oceanis 45 I did not like - the switchboard is not just removed from the navigator's seat, but generally transferred to another board. It's a strange and incomprehensible solution. Maybe it's more convenient for boat builders... But what made me happy was the red illumination in the flexible desk lights. At night, it's very handy so you don't blind the helmsman.

In terms of appearance and circumference, the bureau... Finot/ConqThe designers of the Oceanis 45 were very radical in developing a new generation of these yachts. They have been given a larger width, extremely wide aft, than the latest racing yachts from Juan Kouyoumdjiana. The notorious (already mentioned) cheekbone in the stern is also borrowed from there, but it is very poorly expressed (see Note 3).

From the rounded lines of the previous generation Beneteau has moved to sharp, dynamic forms with breaks and flat panels. The firm is clearly on the path of crystallising the style and «integrating» the looks of all its boats: Oceanis now looks a lot like Sense, as if «mowing» for a more prestigious and expensive boat. And they both looked very much like the new Amel to me. New French style? Possibly.

The wind, alas, has not given us the opportunity to drive Oceanis in the same conditions as Sense. It's probably for the best: on a tailwind course, the Oceanis with a single steering wheel in the DP would have been driven clearly worse than Sense, which has two tailwinds. However, it was possible to note this - the boat perfectly holds the straight line, even if you drop the rudder on the wave. It is clear that nowadays no one goes out to sea without autopilot, but such feature of the Oceanis 45 dramatically reduces the load on autopilot, reducing both its wear and tear and energy consumption.

The boat was quite confident in its full course, while the maneuvering was even slightly cooler than Sense (however, in other wind conditions). The reactive action on the rudder was pleasing. Although it is not so great (its excess is obviously an unnecessary thing for a pleasure yacht), it allows to control the boat clearly and with pleasure. The location of the main school winches is very convenient for the rudder - it is not difficult to adjust the boat. A geek-hook on an arch like Sense's is probably a sensible idea for a pleasure yacht. The racer will not like the fact that you can't precisely control the position of the mainsail, but the convenience of a pleasure yacht is more important.

But the main thing about this yacht is still different.

An electrically-driven aft bathing platform - that's class!

You won't even find such a thing on larger and more expensive higher class yachts. What is the beauty of this idea?

The platform fixed at the transom inevitably eats up the cockpit space, which is always missing - especially on small yachts. Doesn't it have to be laid out by hand like on the Dufour 405? Gentlemen, we are in the 21st century! But Benet has a great solution! I think it will seduce more than one person to buy the Oceanis 45.

Summary: a very balanced boat with an excellent price/quality ratio and a harmonious combination of performance, capacity and comfort. Even people who do not have enough experience will not find it so difficult to get used to driving this boat.

P.S. What made me very happy about these tests was the quality. Previous experiences with Beneteau have always been accompanied by the discovery of a huge number of assembly flaws. I won't claim that all the boats have sharply become Oysters and Swans, but this time I have no reason to make a claim.

Note 1

Since ancient times it has been customary to distinguish front (bow) sails by number. The largest of them is the Genoese jib (genoa) number 1, then in order of reduction are number 2, number 3, then jib number 1, etc. However, over time, with the improvement of sailing programs and, most importantly, with the increase in speed characteristics of the yachts, it has become possible and even necessary to make a larger than the Genoa number 1 bow sail, inferior to the spinnaker or gennaker. It was called the «code zero-» otherwise «the number zero», it has no other name. Technically, it is a very full bow sail, the cut takes the middle position between the full genoa and flat gennaker - however, here every master tries as best as he can. Sails are very effective on courses from full backshtag to galfwind or full beydewind (depending on the cut).

Note 2

Any sailing yacht moving in displacement mode (these are all cruising boats) has some limit speed of displacement movement, which in normal conditions she cannot exceed - will prevent the growth of wave resistance. In knots, this speed equals approximately 1.3 roots square of the length of the yacht by CVL in feet. In foreign literature, this value is usually referred to as hull speed. If the yacht is going at a higher speed, it means that she is moving in surfing mode, sliding on the slope of the wave, as a person who is riding it on a board. An important feature is that to move in this mode a yacht must not only be light enough, but have a wide stern with flat stern bypasses that allow the boat to «lean» on the water.

Note 3

Formally, the cheekbone, expanding the body, should contribute to the stability (or rather, the restoring moment) on the rolls. In fact, on pleasure yachts that rarely go to the limits, her appearance is more of a tribute to marketing. However, not quite - in any case, the cheekbone works like a stiffening rib, increasing the longitudinal moment of inertia of the section (roughly speaking, stiffness in the longitudinal direction), besides with its use the useful volume of sub-deck premises in the stern part is slightly increased. Today the cheekbone is an integral part of the design of modern racing yachts on the open sea. This is the first time she has appeared on a TR 52 class yacht designed by «Mr. K». Then the idea was taken up by other designers.

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