Beneteau had a wonderful display at the Seattle Sail Expo. It was, in fact, a portion of their European display and included enough bells and whistles to be a real showpiece. Each boat was lit from underneath and entered by an elevated catwalk. This was the way a show should be, i.e. a show. There was even an indoor pond with wind generators and dinghies you could test. To make folks from Seattle feel at home, they had imported an espresso cart.

The Beneteau Oceanis 400.

The Beneteau Oceanis 400.

I was scheduled to review a different boat, but this particular Beneteau was so impressive that I changed my mind. Designed by Jean-Marie Finot, the Oceanis 400 is Beneteau's performance cruiser, and it follows the success of the Oceanis 40 and 510. The 400 is a handsome boat with beautifully-executed deck tooling.

If you are interested in keels, you would have loved the Sail Expo. With all of the boats out of the water, you were free to roam around and view every conceivable keel shape. One thing was quite clear. Bulbs are "in." There were fins with wings, fins with bulbs, fins with bulbs with wings and everything in between. There were no fins with wings with bulbs on the wings nor fins with wings with wings with bulbs on the wings. There were wings off the back of bulbs, wings off the front of fins, round bulbs, squashed elliptical bulbs, beaver-tailed bulbs and inverted mushroom bulbs. Somebody has got to be guessing. There were definitely some snake oil salesmen there, but you can bait them and they are great for adding comedy relief. That's the reality of it.

Note in this Beneteau how far aft the beam is pushed. I'll apply my handy new ratio and check it out. If I fair out the radius at the deck we get a max beam to beam at transom radius (BM/BT) of 1.23. This is not quite as wide as the Tripp 26 but close. In the case of the Oceanis, you can assume that the goal of the beam aft is different. I would think that this designer is trying to optimize the volume aft so that he can expand the accommodations aft. Stacking up double quarter-berth staterooms requires beam and volume.

In profile, the canoe body has a deep chest forward and minimal rocker. The keel is located well forward and is a fin with bulb with wing type. The D/L ratio is 168. To put that in perspective, I can remember when the Valiant 40, with a D/L ratio of 260, was considered too light to be a true offshore cruising boat. There are two keels available. The deeper winged bulbed fin draws 5 feet 6 inches, and the shoal-bulbed (no wings) fin draws 4 feet, 8 inches. Are you confused yet?

There are two layouts available. Neither is what I would call traditional. Version one puts the galley aft and pushes the navigational center amidships adjacent to the U-shaped settee. Version two adds a second double quarter-berth and pushes the galley amidships with a center island seat for the settee. The interior is impressively detailed.

The rig shows swept-back spreaders and single lowers combined with a furling mast. Note the position of the mast relative to the keel. This indicates to me that the keel is quite far forward. The SA/D ratio is 16.88. While this appears low by the standards being set by modern IMS boats, it is still sufficient to power the boat well.

Beneteau has mastered deck tooling. Their molded decks appear to be the product of extensive design and prototype research. The side decks are minimal. Note the way the cabintrunk actually grows in beam as you go aft, so that the widest part of the trunk/coaming is right at the aft end. Note the location of the primary winches. They have been moved off the coaming and pushed forward to the edges of the cabintrunk. Genoa tracks are also off the side decks and located on the cabin trunk. There is a huge cockpit with room for a big dining table. To ease the access to the swim platform a portion of the coaming aft on centerline hinges down. This piece also fills in the recess for the boarding ladder to make a flush swim platform. Simple but clever touches that add considerably to the cost of deck tooling and also add to the fun of using the boat.

I think Beneteau has worked very hard at making this a cruising boat with every possible base covered. Some of the thinking may be slightly beyond conventional, but I think it will prove itself in use.

Boat Specifications
DraftBulb/Wind 5'6" Shoal/Bulb 4'8"
Displacement16000 lbs.
Ballast5600 lbs.
Sail Area670 sq. ft.
SA/D ratio16.88
D/L ratio168
AuxiliaryPerkins 50 Prima
Fuel41 gals.
Water140 gals.


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