by John Curnow
In Part I, we got to look at some of the details about the European Sailboat of the Year, the new Beneteau Oceanis 45. Now, in Part II, we get to meet her owner and find out if this new vessel was the match for his family’s requirements.
That chine very visible as Champagne glides along Pittwater. - Oceanis 45
Champagne, the vessel, is owned by Chris Barlow and his previously non-sailing wife, Ren. Chris is very gracious, humorous, helpful and genuinely interested in his sailing. He’s also smart, for he very wisely gave Ren the naming rights to their new craft. He’s been a member at his local yacht club for five years and found that now was the time to get themselves a new craft, as the kids have all got to the right age. ‘We’d been looking at a couple of older 43’s and then we saw this one.
'A wonderful experience in its entirety. I’ve always wanted to own a Beneteau and honestly, never thought the experience of buying one and getting to know it would be such a joy! Really, it has been so good, that I just want to go ahead and buy another one. If only you could get that experience with other significant acquisitions in your life, like the car or house. It’s been everything you expect and more. In terms of investment and expectation is it an over and above experience’, said a thoroughly delighted Chris.
‘We had a look at this very vessel in February and then worked the out the deal from there. It really suits our family, as we have four kids, aged from five years to 18. As you can imagine, we needed a bit of size to accommodate them all and we comfortably fit in, with the larger aft cabins being good for all the gang. The day head is plenty large enough and with 570 litres on board, we can even arrange showers’, said Chris of the amenities.
‘Champagne performs a lot better than its Oceanis predecessors and accelerates a lot quicker too, which makes it a great all round package’, commented Chris. During our test sail it was a flukey day, offering 60-degree shifts and velocity changes anywhere from 2 to 12 knots.
‘It seems like Beneteau took the Oceanis 58 and then kept most of the areas proportionally the same with the new 45. The cockpit is an integral component of any vessel such as this, and the table is the right size and the seating not all together that much smaller. It’s a clear and simple operation of the rear door and it is really good for kids with access and swimming, as well as very handy for MOB, which we have proven time and time again during our drills. As you are coming around, it can be coming down, so that when you get there, you’re all set to go and retrieve them, without the need for a halyard.’
‘Our first coastal trip was terrific. We had all sorts of weather and up to 30 knots of breeze, which we managed to turn into 14 knots of boat speed, with 3.5m seas about as large as it got’, said Chris of the first leg of their journey towards Hamilton Island. The distinctive targa bar has certainly helped the sheeting angle for the main and with the canting blocks, there is no need for traveller. However, some grab handles for getting past may be good and they could also double up as steps to get on top to access the boom and boom bag. This would be very handy, indeed.
‘I do most of the sailing myself when it’s the family out on a Sunday afternoon. Others get involved, but often I do the tacks with the autohelm taking care of the rudder the rudder and me doing the sheets. It is really great and easy from that perspective. We have surprised a few souls when the crew’s on board and we’re doing some racing around the sticks, but she does need a bit of squirt to be happiest, otherwise the smaller craft are getting away. Anywhere up from 10 knots and we get going, however’, said a proud Chris.
‘I sailed dinghies with Dad when I was young, then had a Columbia 27 for years, which was good for getting to know the local waters and all the necessary items. We then had a hiatus from sailing, whilst the kids all came along. For the last two years we’ve been looking to get into something of our own and with the way the dollar was at the time, this vessel was very attractive.
'The new Oceanis style craft sail very differently to the old ones and with this new Oceanis 45, we felt we were making no compromises. It may have 25% more expensive than an Oceanis 43, but it was all value from our point of view. You know, Ren was quick to go for this craft, whereas I think I would have had to a bit of sales job to get the 43 over the line. Certainly this craft has made it really easy to get the family back in to boating and they love being involved.
'From my wife’s point of view, this particular vessel was the way to go and she chose the name as a way of making her mark. She will be making her first trip in open water when she joins us to take the boat on our next leg,' Chris explained.
'Now when is it ever not time for some Champagne Sailing, you could ask? Yes it does happen. Sometimes you have to go far, or endure some heinous conditions, but it is there. Well, with the Oceanis 45, you wont have to either look too far or put yourself through an onerous process.
'Now a lot of the lazarette space is not immediately visible for the terrific new transom door/ swim platform that traverses nearly the whole stern. It works well from the push button controls on the port helm and an optional remote would be cool for when you get back to the boat after being at lunch.
'Equally, the standard Simrad displays are good enough for the task too. If you really want, you can plug and play the new B&G colour head units, but that’s up to you. The chartplotter not only swivels, but also displays a delightful myriad of information from all the necessary goodies to what’s up on your iPod and that is awesome news.'