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Versatile family cruisers from Europe are filling a gap most local builders are ignoring. The latest model from French giant Beneteau adds style.

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  • Soft ride and safe, sporty handling
  • Good performance and economy from Mercury Verado
  • Innovative modular furniture


  • A water heater would be good

REVIEW: BENETEAU ANTARES 8 OB priced from $118,500 (with 150hp Mercury four-stroke)

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Since we tested the Beneteau Barracuda 8 recently, I was surprised to see another eight-metre Beneteau come up for review so soon. And far from being a variation on the ’Cuda’s hull, the Antares 8 here is an entirely different kettle of fish; a separate design with a more cruisy personality.

Where the Barracuda is fishing oriented, the Antares seems more restaurant-bound, thanks to its smooth looks and influence. A 40-year evolution, the Antares models are designed for short-range coastal cruising and weekends away. Joining a family of cruisers between 5.8m and 14.5m, the outboard version is a recent design, taking advantage of the efficiency and power to be found in the latest four-stroke engines.

In looks, the two boats are worlds apart. The Barracuda is more brutal, in keeping with its fishing bent, while the Antares airs a softer style, both in the rounded bow and more traditionally raked cabin, missing out on the Barracuda’s deeper and stepped hull. The underpinnings sport beefy chines, though they are less accentuated and include two instead of three running strakes.

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An upswept streamlined cabin, Portofino rear and stylised swooping graphics over white gelcoat along the sides highlight a modern European design. Hull and deck use a balsa-cored injection-moulded polyester construction, and at a hull weight of 1985kg they haven’t spared the fibreglass. High sides and a substantial hardtop add to the impression of a solidly built vessel.

Swim platforms surround a narrow engine well designed for a single installation up to 200hp, so the locally fitted Mercury Verado 200 was at maximum rating. A recessed folding ladder and gate to starboard give easy entry to the self-draining cockpit, and the entry step covers a livebait tank that could double as an Esky in cruising mode.

The rear seat slides forward so you can lift the engine clear of the water when moored, and a deck shower and wash-down are perfect for keeping boat and crew alike looking fresh.

In this latest redesign of the Antares model, Beneteau has introduced some innovative features to best use the space, creating furniture that’s adjustable for a variety of seating and lounging options. The cockpit can be set with seating along the transom, port and against the cabin as relaxing space or – with the addition of a timber table – converted to a dining area. Remove the table and fibreglass panels, and cushions turn the port side of the cockpit into a sun lounge.

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With the cushions removed you’re left with an easily cleaned deck for fishing; if you want to get more serious with the rods, the port and cabin seat bases are removable, creating a usable space with access all around the sides and right into the starboard corner.

Deep hatches under those bases reveal loads of room for storage, while a central lazarette can stow fenders and lines as well as giving access to the pick-up in the roto-moulded 220L fuel tank.

Side access to the bow is helped by a step from the cockpit, along with handholds in the moulded cabin roof and the high side-rail. Cushions covering a double sunbed over the forward cabin create more space to relax and take in the view.

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A sliding glass door and two steps lead down to the wheelhouse, where there’s more more multi-function furniture that converts from dinette into a comfortable bunk for two; alternatively, the front dinette seat can be reversed to make a forward-facing mate’s chair. Beige cushions and a brown oak laminate floor, plus the timber table and accents break up the white mouldings, giving a neat and clean impression. With opening windows along the sides and an opening hatch in the 2m ceiling, it’s airy and spacious, and has sliding curtains for privacy.

Storage abounds – bookshelves and little nooks on the side, large bins under the seats and more space deep under the wheelhouse sole.

The starboard portion of the interior houses a basic galley with a single-burner gas stove and moulded sink set into a bench, with a cupboard and Waeco fridge below. To make more space on the bench, the helm chair swings forward on a hinged base, leaving room to boil the billy on the go if conditions allow.

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From an opening beside the helm, you step down into the forward cabin and a 2m east-west double berth. As with everything on board, the cabin can be converted – in this case to an indoor dinette – by removing the inner bed cushions and lifting the base to form a table. High side windows and an overhead hatch channel natural light, and with 2m headroom before the bunk and 1.4m over the bed, the sleeping space feels quite roomy for a boat of this size.

Forward of the helm is an enclosed head with good standing room, a sink, storage shelf, holding tank and an opening port.

A sharply raked single-piece windscreen and the large cabin windows allow all-around vision from the helm where a removable timber platform adjusts the headroom for drivers up to 1.9m tall.

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Instruments and controls are set into a black non-glare dash that’s rather high but angled back for comfortable vision. A Lowrance HDS7 Gen3 touchscreen links with the Verado for engine diagnostics, and is backed up by the Smartcraft display. Controls for the Quick bow thruster, wipers and electric anchor are within easy reach, and all switches are tagged with easily identifiable symbols.

The new Antares hull was developed to perform with a powerful outboard such as the Mercury Verado 200, which has a reputation as one of the gutsier midrange engines. Keeping in mind we had around 2500kg to move, when I planted the throttle the acceleration was impressive. Handling is sporty and balanced, with better performance in rougher water than a lot of its European contemporaries. The ride over some nasty harbour chop was soft and quiet, the boat feeling safe and surefooted right through to its 34kt and 5300rpm top speed. I might expect to see a few more knots as the engine beds in but that’s still a decent turn of speed for a well-equipped mini-cruiser.


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The Antares 8 OB starts at A$118,500 with a 150 Mercury four-stroke, and to me that’s good value for a well-sorted cruiser with overnighting capability. Options such as the Lowrance unit, Fusion sound system, marine toilet and Beneteau comfort pack took the price out to $154,900 on our test boat.



$118,500 (with 150hp Mercury four-stroke)


Engine upgrade, Comfort Pack, sun awning, 240V electrical system with 40-amp charger, total scan transducer





TYPE Monohull cabin cruiser

LENGTH 8.23m (LOA)

BEAM 2.79m

WEIGHT 2269kg (with engine)






Chapman Marine Group

Suite 2, Sydney Boathouse,

2 Waterways Court, Rozelle, NSW 2039

Phone +61 2 9818 2000


Check out the full review in issue #496 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration. 


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