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Beneteau Oceanis 45 - It’s a big wrap! (Part II)

by John Curnow on 4 Jul 2012
That chine very visible as Champagne glides along Pittwater. - Oceanis 45 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 how this new vessel was the perfect match for his family’s requirements.

Champagne, the vessel, is owned by Chris and Ren Barlow. 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 Sandringham Yacht Club in Melbourne 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 David Beck of Sundance brought this one in to Melbourne. The team there have been simply incredible, as has Shane Crookshanks from Vicsail Pittwater, for that matter. I show up, throw him the keys, he looks after it all, fixes stuff and it is really great. 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! I just have to think there’s a problem and someone is on board getting it fixed. 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, Pittwater was in full flight, 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.’

‘The trip up here 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 of Mentone Beach when I was young, then had a Columbia 27 at St Kilda for years, which was good for getting to know the Bay 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 outside the Heads when she joins us to take the boat from Moreton Bay all the way to Hamilton Island, via stopovers at places like Fraser and Great Keppel Islands’, 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. The Barlow’s have just posted a new PB for Champagne, cracking 15.2 knots as they ducked for a bit of cover behind Moreton Island. This is wonderful news, for it is Ren’s first time outside and not at all bad when you consider Champagne is a cruising vessel and that it was achieved with those sails and the main even had a slab in it, which also bares further mention, as it is one line system.

In the starboard cockpit locker, I found a set of dumbbells and naturally, just had to ask. ‘I will do my best to answer that’, said Chris. ‘My sailing buddy, Charlie and I both still play football and we like to keep fit away from the game as much as we can. We swim a couple I times a week, cycle and of course there's training. Charlie was worried that with the boat trip North, we would be missing a number of training sessions and wondered how we would keep fit en route. I put the dumbbells in for this reason and to wind him up a little. We pump iron on the longer legs to kill time and think we're keeping ourselves fit. We are very competitive, we’re now just off Cape Byron and my arms are feeling very heavy, which is why I’m taking the helm and make Charlie grind away on the jib sheet - wily old fox he is. At least we are doing something, although Charlie is convinced we could have got the spin bike in the cockpit somehow…’ You know, Charlie may well be right. About the space for the bike, that is.


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.


I got to sample the new, Beneteau Oceanis 45 courtesy of her terrific owner and Shane Crookshanks of Vicsail Pittwater, as she had a quick break to replenish stocks before continuing the voyage North towards Hamilton Island. Many will be going there, but I think this one will make a terrific statement in her own right, in what is always the largest component of the large fleet up there – the Beneteaus. P.S. I am also reliably informed that the famed Beneteau lunch is back on the menu in 2012.

For more information or to book a test sail, email info(at)vicsail.com or go and investigate the vessel in person at Rushcutters Bay.







Website www.vicsail.com

Link to Part 1 - http://www.sail-world.com/Australia/Beneteau-Oceanis-45----Its-a-big-wrap!/99027

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