When the Beneteau Oceanis 58 was announced, it was cloak and dagger enough to border on comical. All we were given was a link to a website showing twinkling stars and describing a 'voyage to the edge of infinity'.....
Lost in translation
Something was being lost in translation, but I at least felt it must be something special.
When we did finally get some graphics through, however, I was left feeling a bit disappointed: it looked like a conventional Beneteau Oceanis, with a big spoiler-and look, they’ve forgotten to put a dinghy garage on, surely a mistake.
Oh, how wrong first impressions can be! In fact, those two design features form the pivotal part of functionality aboard this boat.
And function is key. As this boat is designed for owners, everything centres on their being able to circulate easily, with the interior boasting many home luxuries.
Who wears skirts?
So having been initially sceptical about the aft ‘skirt’, I’m now convinced that it offers a unique solution to the after end of a cruising boat.
Not only does it provide practical tender stowage and an easy boarding method, but in estate agent terms, it creates a superb ‘sun terrace’ aft, while providing aft-facing water views for the cabins.
The only real downside is losing the locker space of a garage, but there remain two lockers under the deck large enough to take a deflated 2.8m inflatable, a huge dedicated liferaft locker on one side and a double/large single gas locker on the other – plus stowage under the helm seats and the sail locker forward.
Three main options are designed for the tender stowage.
Small stainless arms fold out of the swim ladder locker to form a slide to haul the dinghy aboard either athwartships (2.8m inflatable) or lengthways if only going a short distance.
The second method is to opt for a large aft arch, which has davits for the tender and carries large solar panels and two wind generators for sustainable energy solutions.
Alternatively, there’s an extendable hydraulic gangway with davits to lift the dinghy (still in design).
The companionway is another central feature, both in design and functionality.
The ‘washboard’ raises and lowers electronically, controllable on a wireless fob – a bling addition, but one Beneteau went to lengths to prove was a practical, durable feature not a gimmick.
The top slides conventionally and the whole of the supporting companionway is in tinted Plexiglass for added interior illumination.
Sailing the Beneteau Oceanis 58: Hold on tight!
True to Oceanis form, it’s all about options – and there’s a whole heap of them in the sail department, including canvas (ours had the optional Mylar Taffeta) and downwind options (symmetrical kite, A-sail, Code 0) plus manual and electric furling genoa and two staysail versions.
But perhaps the development has all gone into creature comfort, as sailing pleasure is wanting.
There were two main issues that marred our sail: too much load on the helm – yes, a hydraulic autopilot ram is attached, but steering needn’t be a constant workout – and the complete lack of bracing for the helmsman.
Unfortunately, this hampered upwind work as the helmsman needed to cling onto a rail with one hand at all times.
If gravity won, it would be an unnerving fall to leeward!
The seats are flat all around, so are neither comfortable, nor contribute any bracing support at heel.
The crew are better off, with good bracing positions thanks to a long table with grabrails and a host of comfortable places to relax, but the coamings are a little angular.
That said, in 16-23 knots we were averaging a solid 8 knots upwind at 30° A.
Her full body dealt dismissively with the sharp swell and it was turning to go with it on a broad reach where she hit more impressive figures of 10-11 knots.
Likewise close reaching for the cardinal bouys outside the entrance to Les Sables saw her maintain 9.5+ knots.
As standard there’s just one dual-speed electric winch to tackle the halyards and mainsheet, but with a 92m2 genoa, it’s a battle on the primaries to get her to tack through 85°.
So while this is a versatile sail set-up-three-reef mainsail in lazy jacks and 120 per cent genoa – opting for electric primaries would make life easier.
Once the elusive groove was found, she carried good boatspeed.
She’s a little wet on deck, but I’ve no doubt at that stage most cruising folk would be comfortably tucked under that regal spray hood with its superb forward vision.
The helmsman can reach the mainsheet winch at a push and has full control of the primaries.
The arch carrying the sheet does serve to raise the boom 2.5m off the cockpit sole, hence a tall rig, however the main has been given a reasonably deep second and third reef.
The smoothness of the 14ohp VW engine is immediately apparent, with none of the throbbing and shaking Beneteau clients may be used to.
Inside the Beneteau Oceanis 58: Step into the ballroom
The shallow staircase leads sedately into a very spacious, light, bright and comfortable home.
It may be Hanse shiny and it’s a world away from a traditional layout, but as with the Jeanneau 57 there’s no denying the innovation.
While grab bars still need to be added – we felt their loss while sailing – it’s not too open to traverse, the corners are all well rounded, there’s abundant light (all LEDs), plus a plethora of comfortable seating options, most with good views.
Decor is in the new mahogany Alpi set off against white headlining and furnishings – in our case in optional leather.
We sailed the three-cabin option with two double ensuite aft cabins: the starboard side is a large VIP version (or owner’s cabin in four-cabin layout), with a berth that splits into two doubles and vanity table, while the portside has day-heads access.
There are plenty of home luxuries/novelties, including options for electric opening blinds, and a slide-up flatscreen TV, plus double the amount of charging outlets than on previous Oceanis models.
Plus touches like leather magazine pouches breaking up the monotonous Alpi.
This time Beneteau integrated all the optional equipment at a design stage to try to ensure there’s enough room for the optional extra tanks, fridges, stowage etc.
With the maximum tank options, she carries over 1,000lt of both fuel and water.
Perhaps I’m getting picky, but I couldn’t understand why Beneteau didn’t incorporate more overhead hatches in the saloon – or at least increase their size. The Jeanneau 57 wins there.
But it’s the ultra-shallow staircase aboard the Beneteau Oceanis 58 that will win the most admiration – the deep, wide steps are set at a civilised 45°, which makes entry into the interior gentile and effortless.
This project has not been without its share of problems, as this was the second prototype of the model and still had some sloppy finishing. The first owner’s boat has yet to be delivered.
But in terms of ease of living aboard, try walking onto the Beneteau Oceanis 58 from aft, through the large cockpit, breeze down the world’s easiest companionway and into the near single-level interior and you’ll see what I mean – it would certainly convert a few motorboaters, especially with the effect of the aft cabin windows.
First published in the January 2010 issue of YW.