Every once in a while a client will ask me to design a boat and use an existing mode as a target . While that approach may not be as romantic as the old curmudgeon coming in early Saturday morning, dropping off a paper sack full of money and departing with the words "Make her 40-feet on the water and I'll leave the rest to you," it does pay the bills.

The Beneteau First 405.

The Beneteau First 405.

One day a client brought me the First 405 brochure and asked me to do something better but in the same general overall dimensions. No sweat.

Maybe a little sweat. The more I studied the 405 the more I became aware of how refined this layout was. I started my examination with the attitude that I would look for deficiencies and omissions.

The aft head is too small? Well, in fact, it is more-than-adequate and there is another more than adequate head up forward. The galley is tight? Wrong, it's huge and very well laid out. The quarter cabin is tiny? Wrong, the berth is 33 inches aft of the door and the berth is 6 feet, 10 inches long. You can go on, but it will be a waste of time.

This boat shows almost ideal dimensions in each area. I found I could push and pull a little but I couldn't make a significant improvement in the layout. I am not really in favor of coming down the companionway steps and running into the centerline island for the galley sinks-engine box. But this feature is what makes the big aft cabin possible.

The designer of this boat is Jean Berret. You would expect that with all that interior the appearance of the boat would suffer but this is a handsome boat with updated Nautor's Swan school styling. There is a nice, subtle spring to the sheerline. The ends are short but they look aesthetically balanced. The boat is moderately beamy and gives the general appearance of being a fast boat. The D/L ratio is 183 and I would guess that the designer has designed a hull that won't aggravate the IOR.

The rig is a little short for hot light-air performance. The SA/D is 16.59 and I would like to see that raised to 19. Of course with the shorter rig the boat would be docile and easy to sail.

If you take the time to really study the deck of the Beneteau, you will notice several things. The detailing is excellent. The general finish level of the tooling is excellent. Many standard items appear to have been rethought. This is best illustrated in the companionway hatch detail. The companionway hatch and the main cabin skylight hatch have been integrated into one unit.

The cockpit uses ramp style coamings. These are very comfortable if you choose to sit to weather when you are heeled over, but not very comfortable any other time.

Note that the companionway is notched into the cabintrunk aft in order to bring the ladder forward of the aft cabin. This gives a great place to sit if you are singlehanding and you want protection from the wind.

It doesn't really matter if you lean towards the Euro look or not. These boats deserve a lot of attention. They are strong and sail well. They are handsome and are carefully laid out.

Boat Specifications
Draft7'1" or 5'7"
Displacement18,518 lbs.
Ballast7694 lbs.
Sail Area726 sq. ft.


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