Beneteau Oceanis 411
Decades of chartering know-how have been synthesised in the Beneteau Oceanis 411's crisp lines, great performance and pragmatic design, Lawrence Schaffler says it's a true step-aboard-and-sail yacht.
The large, very visible water tank gauge at the navigation station says it all. Even if you have a cleanliness fetish and are chronically absent-minded, there is no excuse for running out of water mid-shower in the Beneteau Oceanis 411. This latest addition to Sunsail New Zealand's charter fleet is designed to minimise fuss and help charterers - any charterers - enjoy their holiday.
The gauge is only one of the thoughtful features Beneteau has added to make charterers feel in control. There's also the meticulous labelling (in English and French) to pinpoint items and their purpose.
It's everywhere - even the skin fittings are identified. So are all the colour-coded sheets - and every one (except for the topping lift) leads back to cockpit. Throw in the autopilot (adjusted at the helm station) and you're in charter heaven - easy, hands-free, gin and tonic sailing.
A stern-cockpit sloop, the Beneteau Oceanis 411 has generous accommodation and plenty of headroom: only those on the lofty side of 1.9m will have to stoop. It sleeps eight - six in three double cabins and, when lowered, the saloon table transforms the U-shaped settee into a double bed.
Parties of six are ideal. There are two bathrooms (an ensuite for the forepeak, master cabin) and one aft (shared by the port and starboard cabins which run under the cockpit). Interior decor is classic Beneteau - a blend of cherry paneling and trimming, white ceilings and surfaces, with navy upholstery and matching curtains.
The forepeak is worth fighting for, even if you're not the skipper. It's particularly spacious and airy, with a double berth on the starboard side.
Opposite, on port, is a two-seater settee (to receive guests or lecture misbehaving crew). Ample storage is provided by a large wardrobe and two, wide drawers below the berth (much more practical than having to lift mattresses to access storage).
But the forepeak's real prize is the ensuite bathroom. It's huge. It contains a basin, shower and head, and a lid that flips down to cover the toilet during showers. The basin tap is a combo unit that pulls out on an extension hose for showers.
It means you can boogie (with or without your partner), do your teeth and shower all at the same time. If there's lots of activity on the foredeck during your boogie routine, you can preserve your dignity by drawing the neat, hatch screen (a feature on all deck hatches).
There's a natural sense of impending conviviality in the cooking, eating and entertaining area of the vessel. The galley runs the length of the saloon (port) and has plenty of space for preparing snacks, food, pouring drinks and serving.
The U-shaped saloon settee and its table are only an arm's length away. An independent island seat (for two) is part of the arrangement. Six adults (or eight intimate friends) fit around the table with comfort.
The galley features a double sink, swivel tap and a two-burner, gimbaled cooker (bake and grill). Flush-fitting fridge lid and cutting boards sit snugly into the sinks to enhance the working space.
Curved cherry trimming is everywhere - so hips and other vulnerable body parts tend to stay intact. Hatches provide plenty of natural light over the galley and a bulkhead-mounted fan keeps the chef cool.
Keeping the boat clean is a breeze. Floors are melamine panels (traditional styled timber with yellow inlays). There are no nooks and crannies, and even the insides of cupboards and lockers have rounded corners for easy cleaning.
Immediately aft of the galley on the port side is the second bathroom - a smaller version of the one in the forepeak. Both heads have holding tanks.
The port and starboard stern cabins are mirror images of one another. They feature a double bunk under the cockpit (it doesn't taper, so there's plenty of legroom) and wardrobe storage.
House batteries (port) and engine battery (starboard) sit under the bunks. Access to the 56hp Yanmar engine is through panels in the side bulkheads of the two stern cabins, as well as through the hinged companionway stairs.
Items requiring regular checking (oil, header tank and fan belts) can be inspected quickly and easily.
Opposite the aft bathroom, on starboard, is the navigation station. In addition to the standard VHF radio and distribution board, it features a Garmin GPS and a digital CD/radio player. There are two speakers in the saloon and two more in the cockpit.
Beam reaching in a brisk breeze with Wagner and his Valkyries in full cry does wonders for the soul.
The 411 is designed for easy sailing with all sheets routed back to the cockpit. Baskets on either side of the companionway keep all sheets stowed neatly and safely. Two self-tailing Lewmar 30 winches (on either side of companionway) take care of the main halyard, mainsheet, jib furler, boom vang, traveller and reefing lines. The primary winches are self-tailing Lewmar 48s.
Four cockpit lockers provide more than adequate stowage for fenders, mooring ropes, outboard fuel and a spare anchor. The cockpit table folds out on both sides and in the center is an ice-well for keeping drinks cold (and safely stowed).
Helm station instruments include standard items such as engine hours, rpm counter and fuel tank gauge, as well the Raytheon SP-6000 Plus autopilot and the Raytheon tridata (depth, speed and log).
There isn't an anemometer and the wind direction indicator (on top of the mast) is difficult to see past the Doyle Bimini. A window in the Bimini would be useful. The grab-rail at the trailing edge of the Doyle spray dodger is handy for steadying yourself in a lumpy sea.
The wide cockpit seats eight easily. The vote for its best feature goes to the helmsman's seat - lifted from its stud supports, it's lowered to reveal a convenient walk-through on to the diving platform (very useful for stern-on moorings in a marina).
There's more teak on the diving platform. It holds a locker for snorkeling gear and a stainless steel boarding ladder that swings down from the push-pit. The platform is very roomy and boarding from the jetty or dinghy is easy. A small recess in the transom hides an extractable, hot water shower.
Anchoring the boat is a pleasure, with the CQR anchor (equipped with 60m of 10mm chain) perfectly balanced in its chocks: only the tiniest hint of encouragement is required to coax it over the bow roller. The Lofrans windlass is neatly recessed under the deck hatch.
Lazyjacks simplify raising and dropping the Elvstrom mainsail, and a Profurl takes care of the jib. Reefing (two reef points) the main uses the single-sheet system which tensions tack and clew simultaneously. Free of winches, the mast is aerodynamically pure and kinder to lurching bodies seeking instant support.
The best part of the 411 is sailing it. It draws 1.7m and is perfectly balanced. Close-hauled, it holds course faithfully and very few helm adjustments are required.
It's agile, accelerates quickly and the helm's feather-light. She doesn't point as high as some of the greyhounds slicing up the Hauraki Gulf, but hey, this is a cruising boat. Besides, she turns more heads.
The overwhelming impression of the 411 is one of simplicity. There's a sense that Beneteau has analysed charterers' feedback over the past 20 years and synthesized the results into this boat.
It's a popular result. In 1988, Cruising World magazine voted the Beneteau Oceanis 411 Boat of the Year in the full-size cruising category. And Sunsail New Zealand is building on the reputation - a second 41 is on its way.
The pair are destined to become fleet favourites and are available for charter investment within the New Zealand and Tongan fleets.
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