Boat Review: Beneteau Oceanis 55

The morning we took the new Oceanis 55 for a test sail off Miami Beach, the wind was gusting to over 20 knots from the east and seas outside Government Cut were short and steep. The gang aboard for the test sail had joined the 55 at Miamarina in Miami and we had then motored the two miles to the cut and the ocean.

Under power the big sloop, which was fitted with a 75-h.p. diesel and a sail drive with a fixed three-bladed prop, ambled along nicely at cruising revs making 8 knots without breaking a sweat. At full revs, the 55 is capable of running at 9 plus knots while burning about a gallon and a half an hour. The 55 can be equipped with Beneteau’s Dock & Go system that allows you to maneuver into and out of incredibly tight marinas and docking situations. Or you can opt for the simpler bow thruster solution.

The new Berret Racoupeau design, with styling by Nauta Design, is a big boat in every aspect, not the least being the cockpit. With twin wheels, a broad transom that opens onto the swim platform, long bench seats and a large centerline table (with a fridge built into it), the cockpit accommodates up to 10 people comfortably.

From the helms, you have good visibility forward down the wide sidedecks and comfortable places to sit while steering. The helms are equipped with full sailing and chart plotting instruments so you can maintain your navigation no matter which side of the boat you are steering from.

BREEZY SAILING

We raised the huge, full battened mainsail as we passed through the cut and then rolled out two thirds of the genoa once we were in clear water. Sailing hard on the wind, the 55 stood up to the breeze nicely and powered up and over the waves with confidence. Modern boats, with flat underbodies, often pound when sailing upwind in a choppy sea but the 55 did not seem to pound as we hurdled the waves and instead settled comfortably as each wave rolled under her.

With a 16 foot beam, the 55 is a beamy design and with the hard chines aft the hull provides a very high degree of form stability which translates into the ability to sail very upright. Even with over 28 knots of apparent wind as we sailed close hauled into the breeze, the boat did not want to sail at more than 15 degrees of heel. In fact, she was faster and more weatherly as we decreased heel by easing and depowering the mainsail.

The boat we sailed was hull number three and had been equipped for Florida and Bahamas cruising so it had the shoal keel option and drew only 5 feet, 11 inches. That begged the question of how much leeway the boat would make sailing upwind in a breeze. Taking a bearing on the boat’s wake (not very scientific), we figured that at 8 knots she was making almost no leeway at all.

After making a few tacks that took us through just over 90 degrees tack- to-tack, we fell off the wind, rolled out the full genoa and screeched back toward Government Cut. With a nearly 50-foot waterline the 55 has a theoretical hull speed of 9.5 knots but we were seeing 10s and 11s on the GPS.

The boat steers easily and surely. Upwind, we had finger touch control and off the wind the boat steered like she was on rails, leaping easily over the waves and carving a straight course. With such a broad transom, the boat can corkscrew a bit in larger following seas, yet both hand steering and using the autopilot we found that the 55 is utterly manageable.

The new Oceanis 55, with a very modern hull and powerful rig, is a lot of fun to sail and is both fast and very sea kindly. You certainly could sail the boat anywhere and will do so in comfort and style.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The 55’s interior volume is huge so the accommodation plans can really provide the space, light and comfort that make this new boat an incredible floating home.

The saloon has a large U-shaped galley to port with ample storage and counter space for a family living aboard who cooks most of their meals afloat. This is also a good sea-going galley since it has plenty of places to brace a hip while working with both hands.

There is a huge dinette to starboard that will seat up to eight around the table for meals. At the after end of the dinette, a seat back folds forward to create a new seat at the aft-facing chart table. There are good vertical areas here for mounting radios and nav instruments. And, the table itself is wide enough to accommodate a ChartKit.

The boat has several different interior options. The 55 we sailed had the three-cabin, three-head configuration with a large centerline double bunk in the master stateroom forward and two quarter cabins aft, with each cabin having its own en suite head and shower.

But the 55 can have up to five sleeping cabins with two forward, two aft and a fifth built in where the aft starboard head would otherwise be. The forepeak, also, can be set up for a professional crew with a single bunk and a head.

The new 55 has eight large, square ports in the topside that provide a huge amount of light to the interior and offer excellent views when you are lying in bed or seated in the saloon. The forward cabin and saloon both have two opening deck hatches for light and ventilation while the after cabins have ports that open into the cockpit.

Beneteau finishes the 55 with mahogany colored Alpi wood veneers that give the interior a warm and elegant glow. The furniture is modern, somewhat angular and looks very modern in the best Euro traditions. With light colored fabrics, white overhead panels and detailing, the overall styling created by Nauta is of simple elegance and comfort.

Three couples would fit very easily into the 55 for weeks of cruising at a time or the boat would be perfect for a large family that enjoys sailing and playing together.

BWS THOUGHTS

It is hard not to like a boat that sails comfortably upwind in 28 knots apparent wind without getting you wet or knocking out a filling. It is even harder not to like a boat that reaches off in a breeze in steady double digit speeds. The Oceanis 55 is a fine sailboat, first and foremost.

But it is also an elegant floating home that will make you proud to invite your friends aboard for an afternoon of sailing or a weeklong cruise. The galley is made for entertaining and the cockpit is perfect for lounging in the sun.

The Oceanis 55 is a thoroughly modern design that maximizes the hull’s large beam and volume to enhance its sailing characteristics and to create a living and entertaining environment that is hard to match. s.com

Oceanis 55

LOA                   55’1”
LWL                   49’9”
Beam                 16’3”
Draft (deep)       7’3”
Draft (shoal) 5’11”
Displ.                36,807 lbs.
Ballast               11,932 lbs.
Sail area            1,430 sq. ft.
Mast height       78’5”
Water                183 gals.
Fuel                  106 gals.
Engine              75-h.p.

Beneteau America, Inc.
105 Eastern Avenue, Suite 201
Annapolis, MD 21403
(410) 990-0270
www.beneteauusa.com

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