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Beneteau has rung the changes loudly on the new Beneteau Oceanis 55, but there’s definitely some sibling rivalry going on with the Sense range, reports Kevin Green.

The Beneteau Oceanis 55: style, versatility and function rolled into one.

Many of us aspire to be like our older brothers and sisters but establishing our own identity should always be important; and so it is with Beneteau’s latest offering to its popular Oceanis range (that comprises a crucial 70 per cent of company sales). Sporting hard chines, twin rudders and a more open deck plan, big-brother syndrome is evident aboard the Oceanis 55, however, scratch the surface and there’s plenty of separate DNA.

Starting in the more enclosed cockpit with unusually-placed Harken deck gear, GRP mainsail arch plus composite twin wheels and an electric swimplatform; there’s plenty to like. Despite the wide beam carried aft, the cockpit isn’t overly empty thanks to the large table and enclosed binnacles that have primary Harken 60 winches inboard, while all halyards run neatly in jammers to twin Harken 46s on the gunwales. Power controls are handily placed on the starboard binnacle including the optional Dock&Go joystick, but confusingly the thruster buttons sit on the far side of the housing. Instrumentation was overdone with no less than four Simrad NSS8 plotters; two on each binnacle on this demo boat.

Cockpit seating is wide and angled bulkheads on the coachroof enhance the comfort levels allowing crew to recline, while sunpads under the sprayhood offer yet more lounging space. Plenty of locker storage exists too and a dedicated lazarette for the liferaft is located under the stern section. The GRP arch frames a sturdy and large sprayhood, something blue-water sailors will welcome. But if it was extended about 30cm farther back it would enclose the hatch and front section of the cockpit as well. My only complaint in this area is the saloon-style doors on the main hatch, which ideally should be replaced with a more seaworthy sliding hatch on a ratchet, as per the Oceanis 58.


The test boat was a three-cabin owner’s version but up to five cabins are available. For the inspection, Trade-a-Boat was escorted by Nauta Design’s Massimo Gino, who talked us through the radical changes below: the first Oceanis with large hull windows, white bulkheads and cabinetry that has been elevated to the gunwales, freeing up space around the settee level.

The saloon is vast and 6ft6in high, so I’d welcome some handholds running along the ceiling’s centreline for moving about at sea. The starboard dinette has a movable settee and cleverly the main table is height adjustable, though not to become a bunk.

"We feel this yacht is much less conventional than previous Oceanis models," explained Massimo who has spent seven years designing on the marque.

He points out the subtleties, such as the dual-level mahogany-veneered cabinetry around the galley, are designed to make the area less imposing. The U-shaped galley encloses the cook safely at sea and work surface space is adequate, while above, cabinetry storage is good. Cooking facilities are fairly conventional, although the two-burner Emo stove/oven should probably be a three/four-burner on a boat of this standard. The sinks are composite Kerrock material with a petite Electrolux dishwasher underneath, while fridge space is 130lt and supplemented by an icebox. Opposite, the aft-facing navigation table will handle a full-sized chart and there’s abundant bulkhead space for instruments.

Other breaks with convention can be found in the owner’s cabin in the bow, including discreet forward-facing windows, French-style separate toilet and plexiglass shower area that also enlarges the main cabin space around the queen bed. A basin beside the shower is complemented by a second in the toilet which, along with moulded worktops, creates a comprehensive ablutions suite; and there’s even enough room for a sizeable vanity/desk with mirror. Natural light is good thanks to large flush hatches and rectangular portlights. For night-time and reading are plenty of strategically placed LEDs as well.

For guests the stern cabins are fairly conventional but come with plenty of cupboards and headroom. A cockpit-facing window along with a portlight avoids that dreaded claustrophobic aft-cabin feel and the adjoining spacious bathroom comes with a manual head. There’s also a hatch in the guest cabin to the 75hp Yanmar saildrive engine and along with the lifting companionway there’s good access to the main service points of the filters, oil and impeller. An 80amp/h alternator charges the four 140amp/h service batteries plus the 110amp/h starting battery, but these are located rather deep in the bilge and could possibly be susceptible to bilge water.


It is an easy climb topside, thanks to the handrails and 45-degree angled steps, revealing a fairly conventional deck layout. Moving forward along the wide, teak decks is easily done thanks to outboard shrouds and cabin-top handrails, giving the crew plenty of confidence as they prepare to anchor. Beneteau has chosen a deck-mounted Lewmar 1500W vertical windlass with capstan that runs through a single roller on the stylish, polished stainless steel bowsprit, but a second roller is an option and advisable for cruising. Sturdy teak toerails are commendable as are the oversize cleats all-round including midships.

The bowsprit on the test boat came with a Selden Code Zero roller furler on the outside with Facnor genoa furler inside. This worked well on the test sail, thanks to enough space between the luff tubes. The Sparcraft mast is farther aft than previous Oceanis designs and has several affects: increasing the J or foretriangle and moving the centre of effort nearer the keel. The slab-reefed mainsail can be optioned to in-mast reefing, a good idea with this size of cruising boat, and there are mouldings for a self-tacking track plus staysail tang.

At first glance Berret Racoupeau’s hull lines look similar to his work on the Sense 55 but there are subtle differences including the keel and deck. The changes from other Oceanis models include a deeper forefoot that increases internal volume, allowing more space in the owner’s cabin which is also helped by the mast compression post being farther aft in the saloon. Hull construction is infused sandwich with polyester over a balsa wood core, while a structural single-skin moulding is bonded to the hull; similarly the deck is sandwich infused. The cast iron keel is available in shallow or deep draft and the twin spade rudders are connected by cable to the wheels.


On the waters off Palma, the light breeze compelled us using the Code Zero headsail, which unfurled easily and is a good option for this big hull in light airs. As we headed east along the rugged Majorcan coast the hiss from the bow wave signalled the gathering sea breeze as the 16.7-ton hull lifted her skirts to propel us to 6.9kts in the 10.4-knot wind. The only sound spoiling my reverie was the grind of the fixed three-blade prop, something I’d replace with a folding one for an extra half knot before any long-distance sailing.

Trimming both sails is easy on the Oceanis 55. Using the outboard electric winches for mainsheet trimming and halyards took little effort from my perch on the gunwale; while headsail sheets ran to the inside winches via a double deck block. As the wind rose the hard-chined hull dug in and the wide beam gave the extra form stability that minimised heeling.

Helm feedback was rather lacking, perhaps hampered by the cable connections, but wheel pressure was light – as the twin rudders share the load – which bodes well for autopilot usage. Gybing was the easiest way of turning with the large Code Zero flying and was a two-person job (or use the auto gybe feature on the Simrad autopilot) and went without hitch as my host for the day, Oceanis product manager Thomas Gaillard guided the Hydra-Net Mylar sail around the forestay.

Settled on our new point of sail I aimed the 55 at Majorca’s famous landmark, the majestic Palma cathedral for our run home. Luffing-up outside the old stone quay I unlocked the jammer, collapsing the main into the lazyjacks then gunned the motor, noting 9.5kts as revs peaked at 3300rpm.

Returning to the busy quay the Dock&Go joystick was clicked into action. The large fixed-blade prop pushed us sideways with only the occasional dab on the bowthruster buttons. Twisting the joystick increased power as the tall topsides caught the wind but kept the hull parallel to its approaching berth. The extra $20K to $30K for this system is not to be taken lightly but the rewards are evident. Dock&Go gives precise control in limited space and keeps the drama level down for shorthanded sailors at the end of a day’s sail; always a good thing for most of us sailing couples.


Manoeuvring large yachts is becoming easier thanks to pod drives that swivel as you turn a joystick and Beneteau-Yanmar make some of the best of these. At sea the substantial Harken winches and electric versions on halyards ensure powerful controls on the Oceanis 55. Sail handling of the large slab-reefed mainsail is a challenge with mast climbing and agility required, so the in-mast furling option should be considered. Performance in medium winds felt good if not startling while flying a Code Zero, even a large asymmetric gives the Oceanis 55 good passagemaking capabilities off the wind and the optional staysail adds versatility.


  • Functional deck layout with sheltered cockpit
  • Versatile and sufficiently powerful sail-plan
  • Stylish interior
  • Classy owner’s suite


  • Companionway saloon-style doors
  • Lack of handholds in saloon


Beneteau has responded strongly to competitors such as Hanse with a radical redesign that nicely combines substance with style, and importantly for the legions of loyal Oceanis buyers stays true to the marque. Inside, the standard of fixture and fittings has improved with tasteful mahogany veneers mixing with solid wood to create an ultramodern yacht.





MATERIAL GRP (infused)

TYPE Keelboat

LENGTH 16.78m (overall); 15.16m (waterline)

BEAM 4.96m

DRAFT 2.2m; 1.8m (shallow)

WEIGHT 21,090kg; 4390kg (ballast)



FUEL 400lt

WATER 694lt


MAKE Yanmar



SAIL AREA 133m² (total); 67m² (mainsail); 66m² (genoa); 200m² (asymmetric spinnaker)


Visit www.beneteau.com.au


Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #440, May/June 2013.


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