So you don't want a clipper bow or two headsails and you would rather turn your collar up and slick your hair down than wear a wool watch cap? Then perhaps the newest Beneteau First model is the boat for you. The Hull and rig were designed by Jean Berret and the interior design is by Philippe Starck.

The Beneteau 38s5 under sail.

The Beneteau 38s5 under sail.

The first Beneteau interiors that were designed by Starck were greeted with comments about radically modern style. I find these interiors novel and modern but strangely comfortable with their blend of aluminum details and curved, dark mahogany panels. In some ways, these interiors seem more traditional than do the "apple crate" all teak interiors that bombarded us in the last decade.

Let's start with the sail plan and focus on the profile. Refine that focus down to the plethora of window shapes and sizes. If you have followed European powerboat design trends over the years, you are aware that some of the electricity generated by these designs comes from combining windows of differing shapes.

The First 38s5 has vertical rectangle, round, square, horizontal rectangle (in two sizes) and a strange teardrop shaped thing adjacent to the mast that does not show on all the drawings but is very clear in the photo I have. The square and rectangle windows are the hatch type, mounted proud and very prominent on the house side. The tall rectangle window aft rolls over the house top about 12 inches. The overall effect is interesting and contrasts with the sleek, rounded lines of the house. The general deck style borrows from the Pininfarina-designed First 45f5 with the cockpit coamings rolling down onto the transom.

We don't have an underwater profile of this Berret-designed hull, but I don't think it would hold any surprises. The D/L of this design is 211. The brochure says the boat has an "excellent prismatic coefficient." Note the snubbed bow. This gives the 38-foot-3-inch boat a long DWL and a businesslike look.

The rig is a fractional sloop with swept-back spreaders and discontinuous rod rigging. Control lines are led aft under fairing panels for a clean deck. The details of this glass tooling are beautiful and very well thought out and refined to an extent that is only possible with exhaustive mock-up and prototype testing. Of course, when you are building these days, that approach is easy to justify. The SA/D ratio is 18.4.

The 38s5 is available with two interior layouts. One features a single owner's stateroom aft with attached head and shower. The second interior features mirror image mini-staterooms aft with double berths and one forward head. Using marble, stainless, aluminum and attractive dark mahogany, Starck has given us an interior that seems to combine high-tech and traditional elements into a harmonious whole. Apart from decor items, the layouts themselves are quite conventional.

The 38s5 is available with 6-foot-6-inch draft keel or 5-foot-2-inch wing keel. There is tankage for 32 gallons of fuel and 90 gallons of water. The interior is available in either teak or mahogany.

Style plays as important a role in the First Beneteau 38s5 as it does in the Gozzard 31, although the two styles are obviously miles apart and might represent polar ends of the range. The performance potential of the First makes it the more appealing boat to me. As for the style, maybe my new Portuguese water dog would look just as good sitting on the bow of this sleek vessel. I'll slick her hair back.

Boat Specifications
Draft6'6" or 5'2"
Displacement14520 lbs.
Ballast4840 lbs.
Sail Area685 sq. ft.
AuxiliaryVolvo 2003 Turbo
Fuel32 gals.
Water90 gals.


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.