by John Curnow
2012 European sailboat of the year in the family cruiser category, eh?
The new Beneteau Oceanis 45
It's a big wrap for the Beneteau Oceanis 45, but it's also a fair one. As a company, Beneteau have been happy to evolve the product and continue to meet their loyal customers demands. With this new Oceanis 45 however, the evolution is certainly more pronounced than before, possibly more akin to what Chris Bangle did with BMW’s styling not all that long ago. Maybe not such a paradigm shift, but certainly a clear demarcation.
Think of the new Oceanis 45 as a hybrid of the Beneteau First series and their Sense craft. The idea is blissfully simple and yet, no doubt quite hard to achieve. The objective is to give the Oceanis something like the on-water performance of her Beneteau First sisters and the cockpit space of the very open-planned Senses.
For that reason alone, one could easily say mission accomplished and little wonder then that the vessel indeed got her big wrap. She was penned by Fino-Conq, just like her Oceanis 41 sister. Now when you consider that Beneteau also had the Oceanis 48 on the go at the same time with Berret Racoupeau and that all three look similar, then the Beneteau team are to be congratulated for having the wherewithal to keep it all under control. The interiors were all by Nauta and continue the now very identifiable, open, dark timber, leather finished and slick approach.
So the Oceanis 45 is a case of the sum of her whole, rather than the constituent parts, yet it is these very items that bear mention. She’s beamy at 4.49m and possesses a fairly adroit, nearly plumb bow, which allows for the 13.5m LWL from her 13.85m LOA. The steel L bulb and foil go down 2.15m and together with her form stability, she can handle the squirts with aplomb.
Pittwater was the ideal location to test, I must add. The Oceanis 45 has a solid chine from her first stanchion all the way to her transom and is considerably less portly now at around 9.5 metric tonnes. She’s got her mast around 1.2m further aft than before and the companionway ladder is raked at 45 degrees, rather than 60 as previously, which deserves mention, for one lady summed it up when she commented that she can now easily go below facing forward. These are just some of things that you notice, however.
I had done a review of the impressive Oceanis 58 not all that long ago and loved the simply things, like that particular boat’s use of space and gas struts on locker hatches, so it was no surprise to see the targa bar with the main sheet blocks and large glass portholes around the companionway lighting the main saloon so marvellously.
Great space for many souls, so you'll never feel cramped. - Oceanis 45
What I was not ready for was the fact that the new Oceanis 45 did not feel like a small vessel in comparison. Indeed, around the cockpit you would felt like you had just about the same amount of room. True, the for’ard sail locker cannot double up as a crew cabin, there are no gas struts on hatches, there are not two heads servicing each of the aft cabins, just the one, but the white bulkheads and careful consideration of space mean the aft cabins are more than serviceable and you can stand inside to change with no issues.
Underway and with the transom door now closed, you still get to see the expansive cockpit. - Oceanis 45
FYI - You can order her as the three head version, but you do loose the modular nav desk in the process and I imagine that would make the main saloon seem less modern and more compact, as a result. The owner’s stateroom is grand, as always, and our test craft was able to accommodate the owner’s stand up paddleboard with no impingement in to the cabin’s access.
Modular nav station and galley occupy the port side of the main saloon. - Oceanis 45
The galley looked to be wonderful for the preparation of all those snacks and meals that you are bound to do with a vessel such as the Oceanis 45. Ample head height storage should be good for pantry access and there are plenty of hidey-holes in various places, like around the nav desk, which is modular and can re-configure to suit purpose. What there are not, and this is a function of her slicker shape (ie. less rocker), are the ubiquitous holds between saloon floor and deck sole. You will get some water bladders in there for long distance work, but apart from the batteries, it is pretty much game over.
Speaking of batteries, any vessel like this is going to need power. Around 25Ah it would seem. To me, the use of solar panels on the last section of the bimini is a good idea, but that will impinge on your visibility of the mainsail and hawk. Our vessel did not have a genset, but there was an inverter off the main propulsion unit, a 54Hp Yanmar. Just quickly, that Diesel was easily able to cruise the Oceanis 45 at 7’s and at full noise (which wasn’t really harsh at all), was miraculously quick and looking like genuine 9’s. In fact, you almost felt like The Stig was going to appear soon. The inclusion of an optional bowthruster meant you never had to consider yourself cautiously, anywhere near the pen.
So then, to those sails. Well, they are the factory-spec and certainly adequate enough. The entry on the headsail is too shallow, however, and you feel like you are always looking to work her up, which may not be to your ultimate advantage, as the speed falls off dramatically once you’ve gone too far. Being fuller, earlier, would reduce this. As Shane Crookshanks from Vicsail Pittwater commented, ‘A tri-radial cut would help enormously.’
The mainsail is a tad innocuous to say the least and could do with a little more roach, but alas we are cruising, not racing, so perhaps I need to tone down the rhetoric there. As mentioned, viewing the sails under all that overhead canvas is challenging and larger vision panels, with Velcro sunshades, ala catamaran style, in the last section would be handy. I found steering from leeward works well and as you’re cruising, hopefully no one is going to mind too much. Failing that, your back to windward rail really offers the best all round solution to the problem and is genuinely comfortable.
For the moment, Goosewinging the 50m2 headsail and 50m2 mainsail is the only option downhill. - Oceanis 45
For the moment, this relatively new vessel (she was Hull #11 from the factory) has just the two sails, both of 50m2 and a kite pole for goosewinging the heady when travelling downhill. An asymmetric kite is next on the owner’s list and will be of some 156m2, or thereabouts. It will fly from the new pad eye arrangement that is now integral in the anchor fairlead and rollers. Now as with most of this sort of sail today, it will work high in the light and really low in the blow. The benefit is that like an Open 60 or similar, you can have it permanently attached and running on its own furler, similarly, the same also applies to the staysail, should you really be covering some distance with your cruising.
Options and packs are available, as is de rigueur these days, so have them explained and work out what you require. The elegance pack gives you the one electric winch on the cabin top and the leather covered grab rails in the saloon. I don’t think you would want powered winches for primaries, for with the virtually non-overlapping headsail, now that the mast is further aft, you really only have to grab around 1.5 to 2m of headsail sheet as you go through and then do a final trim. As for a kite, you would hope you’re not getting that enthusiastic that you needed to worry, and if you are, you may need to consider that you purchased the wrong type of Beneteau or that it is time to upgrade the crew.
There is plenty of storage both in the cockpit lockers and aft. Too much perhaps, as the lip of the transom was in the drink rather than above it, but I am reliably informed that will change as Champagne heads further North and the liquid supplies get used. Note that if it is not breakable, then the very deep, for’ard sail locker will help reduce this problem.
So there it is. A running account of what it’s like to sail the new Beneteau Oceanis 45. We’ll return with Part II and see how the European Sailboat of the Year has excelled with her owner’s expectations.
Shane Crookshanks from Vicsail Pittwater shows how is easy it is to helm and trim. - Oceanis 45
A very modern, steep rake bow allows for the long waterline and increased performance. - Oceanis 45
Shane Crookshanks from Vicsail Pittwater stands in the approximate position of where the mast was in older Oceanis craft.. - Oceanis 45