BENETEAU ANTARES 8.80 MOTOR CRUISER
Beneteau has entered the 30-foot powerboat scene with a new range of cruisers, the Antares. John Ford reports.
A couple of decades ago a thirty-footer was considered a big boat and there were many popular craft across a number of brands. Think Trade-a-Boat’s giveaway project boat Ralfy, a 1976 Mariner Pacer 760, which in its time was a de rigueur family cruiser and an object of much desire. As time has passed the average size of boats has increased dramatically and the 30ft class has evolved into a field almost completely dominated by so-called sportsboats from the USA. And while some see occasional service as fishing boats, they mostly spend their time cruising harbours searching for summer fun.
That’s not the destiny of this new Antares 8.80 from Beneteau. It’s seeking wider destinations courtesy of its European seagoing heritage and its new owner’s desire to get among some serious offshore fishing — a fitting tribute to the brand’s beginnings.
Beneteau is a huge company based in the Vendee region of France, with a proud history stretching back to when it built timber fishing boats in the 1890s. While the brand is well-known in Australia for its sailing yachts, its range of powerboats was introduced in 1977 and JW Marine in Sydney (and Fremantle) has professionally represented that branch of the company in Australia for the last decade from its dealership on Jones Bay Wharf at the edge of Sydney’s CBD.
Although our expectations of an average-sized boat have expanded over the years, there is still a place for a good all-rounder in the 30ft market, especially as we become used to tightening the belt in these never-ending times of financial austerity. And the Antares 8.80 shines as a beacon of sensible boating. Its entry price of around $145,000 and features make it an easy-drive option for first time boaties and a capable step-down for those who want something smaller and more economical.
Having outboards on the back the Antares 8.80 is somewhat unusual in the Beneteau power line-up, their use is solely due to advances in technology that have given these motors better economy and less weight. Customers stepping up from trailerboats will be familiar with the engines and those new to boating may not be intimidated as they could be by the workings of a hidden inboard. The 8.80 is the largest of four new Antares models in the outboard range that decreases in size, in steps of a metre, down to the 5.80.
The Antares comes well equipped for cruising or weekends away, with a saloon that opens out to the cockpit for a feeling of space and easy interaction between skipper and crew. Windows surrounding almost all the saloon and large hatches in the roof give a light-filled and airy space with excellent vision to all quarters.
Beneteau’s design incorporates its patented Air Step hull that sucks air through stainless steel tubes built into each side of the hull to aerate the water flowing underneath. Beneteau claim this creates better flow across the hull, improving the drive and up to 15 per cent in fuel economy.
The smooth lines of the hull are formed in polyester foam sandwich, with a balsa-core deck and a full inner liner. The finish is high-quality and the lines have a distinctly European flavor, with a strong family resemblance to the larger models in the Beneteau fleet.
With less than 10m to play with, some compromises have been made to fit everything in — so cockpit space has given way to living room inside. Having said that there is still a 1.6 x 2.55m area for relaxing and more importantly for fishing. A removable lounge finished in beige vinyl runs across the transom, the centre base section folding forward to allow the engines to be raised. Hatches in the floor reveal a monster locker that soaks-up fishing tackle and water toys, and on the test boat there is even space for a 42lt Waeco bait fridge. The engines on inboard Antares models take up space here, so the outboards create the added bonus of extra storage. The narrow profile of the in-line, four-cylinder Yamaha 150s allow installation of two engines, but the cost can be pared back by fitting a single 250hp motor.
Two rodholders on the sidedecks and five more on the permanently-fitted bait table hint to the boat’s intended purpose in upholding the Beneteau heritage as a fishing boat, but the dual swimplatforms, stainless steel ladder and hot-water shower reveal a more leisurely side that will appeal to the family when fishing is done.
Steps up to the sidedecks are supported by sturdy handholds, while high stainless steel siderails assist access to the bow, where a stainless steel bow fitting houses a stainless steel plough anchor driven by an electric windlass operated from the helm or at the bow.
A three-panel sliding door to the cabin opens up the cockpit for a very spacious feel. Inside, there is a galley to starboard and a U-shaped dinette with seating for four along the port side. Throughout the interior, mahogany timber accents break-up the white fibreglass lining and blend well with the beige upholstery.
The galley has a timber cover that lifts on struts to reveal a two-burner gas cooktop and a stainless steel sink with pressurised hot and cold water. Underneath is a second 42lt Waeco fridge and there are handy drawers and cupboards for cookware and provisions.
To the front of the saloon three steps lead down to the double cabins and the head to starboard at the base of the steps. The moulded glass liner has a shower and Jabsco flushing toilet connected to an 80lt holding tank. There’s an opening port and a ceiling light as well as a fibreglass sink and storage cupboards. Although it’s fairly confined, the inclusion of a head will greatly enhance the boat’s cruising ability and family appeal.
The forward cabin has a double bed set at an angle across the bow and long, narrow ports afford panoramic views either side. Hatches in the roof allow good ventilation in warmer weather, their flyscreens and blinds restricting insects and early morning light. There is storage below the bed and along the port side as well as a single seat. A simple privacy curtain separates this cabin from the walkway to the aft cabin, which is essentially a cosy double berth across the boat with sitting room only. For extra accommodation the diner converts to a double taking total sleeping space to six.
Set out in front of the skipper is a dash big enough for the 12in Lowrance screen and the comprehensive Yamaha instruments. Controls are well situated on the side pod, as are the dash-mounted switches for the Lenco trim tabs, the anchor winch and bowthruster. A comfortable bolster seat at the helm allows the skipper to sit or stand at the wheel and a sliding Perspex window ensures a steady flow of fresh air.
Before heading out to sea, we took advantage of the calm waters of the harbour to check out the boat’s speed and handling. An all-up weight approaching four tons is a fair mass to get moving but with two strapping 150hp Yamahas bolted on the transom, once on the plane, the Antares 8.80 can cover the miles quickly and in style. It’s happiest cruising in the 4000 to 4500rpm range, where the hull is up on its running planks, gliding effortlessly through the water at 21 to 25kts. Under 3800rpm it wants to drop back off the plane, but once in stride it just wants to keep going and is keen to get up to the maximum speed of 33kts in the right conditions.
The ride is smooth, with no banging as it lopes along through waves rather than over them. The Antares responds well to the wheel, steering predictably into turns and leaning in gradually without undue roll. Even into the sharpest corners visibility all-round is unrestricted through the high windows and windscreen. Trim tabs were fitted but I found they were unnecessary with the twin outboard setup that made it easy to keep things on an even keel. At low speeds the Max Power bowthruster will make novice skippers look good when manoeuvering into dock.
With the boat’s offshore fishing roll in mind, we pointed the nose out through the heads into a fairly benign 1m sea and a short chop stirred up by a 12kts breeze from the southwest. The Antares 8.80 remained smooth and stable as we headed towards the horizon for a few miles at a steady 22kts. Sitting up behind the helm in the sheltered confines of the big open cabin the Antares as a fishing machine started to make sense. It’s certainly a different approach to the way rusted-on fishermen might take, but a bit of comfort and a few onboard luxuries don’t hurt. The boat should make the trip pleasant to the fishing grounds and a steady platform when you get there.
That’s not to overstate the 8.80’s real personality though. It’s not a dedicated fishing boat, being equally at home as a pocket cruiser, family weekender and sporty dayboat. It will surprise with its roominess and versatile well-designed layout that can handle the demands of a young family or the more laidback quiet lifestyle of retirees.
[ TRADE-A-BOAT SAYS… ]
It’s not a dedicated fishing boat, but one in which you can go fishing and be equally at home as a pocket cruiser, family weekender and sporty dayboat. It will surprise with its roominess and versatile, well-designed layout that can handle the demands of a young family or the more laidback quiet lifestyle of retirees.
Good handling and soft ride
Well-equipped for family cruising
Stylish design and quality finish
Great all-round vision
Head might be a bit confined for some
PRICE AS TESTED
Twin outboards, trim tabs, saloon carpet, Lowrance sounder-GPS, bowthruster, water heater, and forward sunpad
Twin 150hp outboards
1700 (troll) 6.5kts
3800 (plane) 17kts
5500 (WOT) 33kts
*Sea-trial data supplied by the author.
LENGTH 8.78m (overall); 7.98m (hull)
PEOPLE (DAY) 10
MAKE/MODEL 2 x Yamaha F150
TYPE In-line EFI four-cylinder four-stroke outboard
RATED HP 150 (each)
DISPLACEMENT 2670cc (each)
WEIGHT 218kg (each)
GEAR RATIO 2.00:1
REC. HP 300
REC. MAX HP 300
PROPELLER Four-blade counter rotating 14.5 x 15in
Suite 90, Jones Bay Wharf,
26-32 Pirrama Road,
Pyrmont, NSW, 2009
Phone: (02) 9518 6977
Originally published in Trade-A-Boat 434, January 2013.
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