BOAT TEST: BENETEAU FLYER GRAN TURISMO 44
Italian inspired and French built, Beneteau’s Flyer Gran Turismo 44 sportscruiser has both the performance and the looks, reports Kevin Green.
Launched at the last Cannes boat show, the new Italian-flavoured Flyer Gran Turismo 44, and flagship GT49, both from Beneteau, extend this two-year-old range that started with the 34 and 38. The attractions of these sportscruisers are easy to see, combining spacious accommodation with a nimble planing hull that will speed you away nicely from the madding crowd, yet offer opulence at anchor.
Having driven the GT49 and the GT44, they both have plenty of merits, but as a boating couple the 44 would by the preference for my wife and me. Apart from the money considerations, the 44 offers two comfortable double berths and adequate space below decks in a manageably sized hull that is capable of plenty offshore miles; preferably when fitted with larger fuel tanks.
Good engineering and clever design from the collaborators of Maserati and Ferrari ensure that style and substance combine on the GT 44, a reflection of Italian Andreani's pen, which means owners can really enjoy La Dolce Vita, and not just on the Amalfi Coast.
Berthed stern-to at the ancient port city of La Ciotat in the heart of the French Mediterranean coast the Gran Turismo 44 looks very much at home. Raked lines to disguise the high topsides, a teardrop wheelhouse and open-plan stern deck with wide swimplatform catch the eye. Stepping aboard via the electric passerelle onto the hard-wearing slatted decks is easy, as is opening the small gate to reach the bridge deck. Here, the layout has a wraparound dinette/lounge area portside, the hardtop extending over it for weather protection. The wooden table is large, expandable and adjustable, lowering to become a sunpad.
Up front passengers enjoy the ride from a double seat, with handrail for support, alongside the skipper. The helm console is angled to allow clear view of all analogue gauges, including larger twin rev counters at the top just below the compass. Navigation smarts are from Raymarine with widescreen e120 plotter and autopilot, and the engine management gauges included Volvo Penta's EVC (Electronic Vessel Control) system that allow you to click into several modes such as, low-speed, single-lever and cruise control. Down on the right is the IPS joystick and twin engine controls. A useful addition is the rudder-angle indicator. Handily, the opening side window lets the skipper peer out when coming alongside.
Just behind the helm is the wetbar with grill, this compact unit also includes sink and on our review boat the optional refrigerator and icemaker. Other notable features include lockers in some of the bulkheads and rounded edges.
Topside the layout is pretty good too, walkable sidedecks and high rails supporting crew moving to the bow. The setup forward is functional, a swivel bow fitting for the Delta anchor linked to a 1000W Lewmar vertical windlass and remote handset. Another plus is the deep chain locker, so plenty of room for a spare rode.
Lighting and power controls are conveniently fixed at the stairwell exit that provides handy access from both areas of the Beneteau Flyer GT44. Sliding back the top hatch and door cover reveals the portside stairs that lead below and arrive at the galley, the dining area to starboard. Natural light is provided by a portside skylight situated forward on the helm bulkhead and maintains illumination even when the large foredeck sunpad is deployed.
The galley features a two-burner ceramic hob, a small microwave and a 218lt fridge-freezer. The food preparation space on white benchtops is only a couple of steps from the dinette that also converts to a bed. Four overhead cupboards and ample bookshelves add to the usefulness of this area, along with the opening porthole, while headroom is excellent. The view from the fabric couch is uninterrupted across the narrow corridor to the flatscreen television nestled in the side of the galley unit. The joinery does have that CNC-machined appearance to an extent, but nevertheless maintains a deep lustre. Nice touches include the tall fridge-freezer's wooden door and leather clad grabrail on the stairwell.
The two-cabin accommodation puts the owner's suite midships, and this has the advantage of being the most stable area at sea as well as utilising the full beam of the 3.93m hull - the only downside being proximity to the engineroom. The owner should enjoy the apartment-style space and comfortable island bed with double mattresses. For relaxing, a chaise lounge nestles by the port window, and opening portholes along with elongated windows provide natural light. One slight gripe is the varied headroom that may cause occasional head-to-bulkhead moments. To starboard are lockers and a small bench, but perhaps a vanity table could have been incorporated here instead. Elsewhere, the en suite bathroom has dual access making it a useful dayhead.
In the forepeak the guest double berth is similarly well appointed, although about 2m² smaller it manages an island double bed with surrounding shelves and twin wardrobes. Outside light is abundant from the portlights and opening overhead hatches, while LED spotlights will keep readers' happy. Adjoining the cabin is the bathroom; it's similar to the owner's with a shower cubicle, moulded sink and electric head.
Looking around below decks, the area is entirely liveable and not in the least stuffy should you need to close the topside off in inclement weather. Just switch on your favourite Jimmy Buffet album in the Pioneer sound system and it's party time thanks to Bose speakers throughout the boat.
In terms of construction the hull and deck are conventionally built with sandwich balsa cored GRP, which also helps insulation. What's not so conventional is the clever layout. Computer aided design nowadays means that modern hulls are efficiently utilised, with services and all spaces used, and the GT44 excels here; kicking off with the electrically operated dinghy garage that cleverly adjoins the full-beam swimplatform. It is cavernous for a 44, has rollers for easy deployment of a 2.4m rubber ducky and enough volume for the outboard to remain attached.
Underneath is a large, sealed hatch covering the engineroom. There looks to be just enough space around the twin 370hp Volvo Penta D6 diesels for basic maintenance and thanks to the combination of sunpad on top and internal foam, is nicely soundproofed. The engineroom layout has the two 400lt fuel tanks in front of each diesel, with space for the 6kVa generator. The Onan genset is an option worth having to run the 220V air-conditioning and additional white goods when not on shorepower. Other tankage is spread throughout the forward part of the hull to ensure level trim.
Stored power comprises a bank of eight 12V batteries (four engine batteries rated at 50amp/h plus four 140amp/h service ones). Output power includes a 12V/24V inverter and there's also a 24V 60amp/h battery charger.
The external hull has a unique underside thanks to Beneteau's patented Air Step design that sucks air down the topsides and under the waterline to reduce friction. So it's not just a stepped hull but actually promotes airflow that should translate into more efficient planing (and less time spent at the fuel dock!). What I did notice on the bumpy conditions during our test was a definite dampened feel to the boat's motion, always a good thing when mal de mer is a possibility among the guests.
With the remnants of a typically fierce mistral wind blowing across the dock, the IPS joystick system was a welcome tool to combat the windage on the Beneteau Flyer GT44 and allow us to clear the quay. Pressing the button by the joystick locks the helm, centralises the drives, then leaves you to simply push the joystick in your desired direction of travel - and it's fairly intuitive. To turn, simply twist the joystick. Of course there's a lot of clever electronics behind all this, but this fly-by-wire system means the joystick can be positioned anywhere, which is handy for left-handed skippers.
Accelerating away from the busy harbour, it was a smooth rise onto the plane, heading for a clear horizon and some space to open up the GT44. Our top speed with six adults aboard was 32.4kts, which we reached after 25 seconds, the revs showing 3400 where noise levels were acceptable. At this speed the GT 44 consumed 150lt/h. Throttling back to a comfortable cruise of 27.1kts dramatically dropped consumption to 102.4lt/h, which should give a range of about 195nm.
Banking the GT44 into a series of tight S-turns took little off the top speed, albeit on calm seas, while the hull tracked without bouncing. Busy marine traffic on the French coast required peering in every direction before manoeuvres and this wasn't helped by the window overhangs and structural bulkheads that somewhat limited surrounding views. At one stage even a military seaplane buzzed low overhead on its way to a landing nearby, so just as well the electric hardtop slid open quickly with a click of the console button. Views ahead also improved once a couple of clicks on the trim tab restored my forward horizon and despite the strong sun, window glare wasn't apparent. For the helmsperson the swivel bucket seat and bolster are comfortable, and allowed me to see astern without straining.
Slow-speed manoeuvring also went without dramas, using only fore and aft lever movements on the throttles to spin the boat round in her own length. Practicing docking with the IPS was also effortless and had the big hull moving sideways through the water as bowthruster and propellers worked in unison.
Overall, I'd say the Beneteau Flyer Gran Turismo 44 earns its GT moniker, managing speed with style, in a spacious and seakindly hull.
Specifications: Beneteau Gran Turismo Flyer 44
PRICE AS TESTED
Electronics, air-con, teak cockpit, cockpit covers, tender, and leather
TYPE: Deep-vee monohull w/ Air Step modified stern section
LENGTH OVERALL: 13.50m (44ft3in)
DRAFT: 0.87m to 1.04m
FUEL: 2 x 400 lt
WATER: 400 lt
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Volvo Penta D6
TYPE: Sterndrive diesel
RATED HP: 370 (each)
WEIGHT: 770kg (each; dry)
Jones Bay Wharf,
19-21 Lower Deck, Suite 90,
26-32 Pirrama Road,
Pyrmont, NSW, 2009
Phone: (02) 9518 6977
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 429, July-Aug 2012. Photos by Kevin Green; Beneteau.
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