TESTED: BENETEAU BARRACUDA 7

By: JOHN WILLIS, Photography by: ALISON KUITER


We don’t often see a romantic side to our senior boat tester, John “Bear” Willis, but the Beneteau Barracuda 7 gave the blustering old sea dog the panache of a poet …

It's no secret that I love traditional boats. There is a majesty to a trawler that challenges the might of the ocean. It's a timeless strength developed by the lives of seafarers since the dawn of humanity.

Yet the more modern European style lies in stark contrast with such traditions. You know the look when you see it: often minimalistic, but always highly fashionable with elegance, panache and stunning contrasts.

Put these two competing ideas together and you have the new Barracuda 7 from France's huge boat-building stable, Beneteau.

Our first glimpse of this refreshing addition to the Australian trailerboat market was at February's Melbourne Summer Boat Show, where it took my heart as the boat of the show. It's new, it's different, it's refreshing, it's modern, it's traditional and it's beautiful. That's pretty much the best combination I can think of.

GRAND TRADITION

To quote directly from the company: "For more than 120 years, the succeeding Beneteau generations rivalled each other in know-how. Their single passion has always been to perpetuate the tradition, to offer stylishly elegant boats; always with a quality of finish beyond reproach."

This industry giant certainly practises what it preaches. The Barracuda 7 is a beamy fibreglass masterpiece with a proper walkaround cabin. She reaches her beam well forward in a trawler-style bow, with big high sides and a sweeping modern sheerline. You would likely expect such a vessel to be an inboard and probably with a shaft drive, but no - it's got an outboard. That was a surprise.

The boat goes right off the scale in terms of innovation. Its huge tulip-shaped bow has very deep freeboard, as well as functional seating and storage that will appeal to cruisers and fishos alike. A low, split bow rail defines the curvature of the gunwale, finally giving way to a functional bow with a 700W anchor winch, deep anchor locker, stainless bowsprit and heavy ground tackle. There is even a small icebox to keep the bait, or the wine, nice and chilled.

The companionway around each side of the cabin is reminiscent of much larger vessels, with the deep sides providing terrific security. You feel perfectly safe walking around this boat even in the worst seas, as we discovered when a north wind gusted to a severe 35kts during our test. You can tell when the wind strength reaches that magical figure as the sea is turned to foam from the tops blowing off the caps of every wave. It's certainly a challenge for any craft, and the Beneteau mastered it all with just a hint of Gallic haughtiness.



IN THE WHEELHOUSE

Can you call a cabin a wheelhouse in a 7m boat? You sure can. Some will love it, others might not get it, but I found the functional wheelhouse to be a melting pot of old-world charm and modern ergonomics, practicality and style.

There's room for three people to huddle at the helm in the security of the enclosed cabin. It's a little squeezy, sure, but welcome when that howling gale erupts. Just close the sliding windward side door and you are comfortably shielded from the harsh elements.

The first thing you'll notice entering the wheelhouse is the panoramic 360° vision through big safety-glass windscreens. There are no blind spots, and the upright nature of the wheelhouse, with its vertical glass surrounds, affords loads of internal space and headroom. We had driver- and passenger-side wipers on independent switches with freshwater washers for clear vision. However, I did notice a moment of vision distortion from the curved glass corner while docking.

There is also a sliding glass "café servery" window to keep you in contact with the outside world. Well, the cockpit, anyway. This servery proved great for passing drinks to the rather thirsty, windswept occupants who were braving the hot, dry wind and stinging spray that was raging outside.



A REFINED PALETTE

The 'Cuda has a bucket-style helm seat with lift-up bolster, as well as a double-cushioned seat for passengers in the same minimalistic, yet premium quality, PVC "Diamante Storm" upholstery we find throughout the boat. The workmanship and materials reflect the European refinement of the entire package.

There is a chart rack behind the passenger seat with a sink underneath, as well as a front-opening 42L fridge with cabinets on both sides. The port-side cabinet has good storage and the smaller starboard-side locker contains the electrical switchgear.

The double-skinned fibreglass roof features a large sunroof with a sliding blind and insect screen. On top there is ample room with easy access for water toys, rocket launchers or even a life raft. Inside, timber laminate trims the overhead space, with perfect mounting positions for communications and entertainment systems.

The dashboard is simple yet stylish and functional, and everything's at a very workable height. I especially liked the recesses that allow you to keep your mobile phone and other odds and ends safely at hand.

The lower cabin entry is in front of the passenger and features a swing-down top hatch that doubles as a chart table. The interior of the cabin is a relatively small space, but this is not the QEII. It's not a full vee-berth because of the fully enclosed toilet compartment, which is divided by yet another doorway. The toilet itself is small but efficient and Beneteau provides either fully plumbed options or a mounted Porta Potti.

The berth has an infill and would be big enough for me to sleep in comfortably, but I would have to be really friendly if I were to share it. In short, the Barracuda 7 is designed as a day boat. You could easily overnight if you wanted to, but there isn't a lot of nap room for two.

I really liked the rear self-draining cockpit. In its present form it reflects the lineage of European recreational fishing boats rather than the hardcore fishing focus of US and Aussie machines. It's workable and, best of all, adaptable. As such, compromises have been made such as the transom layout.

It's terrific when used as a cruising convertible, with a three-quarter rear lounge that faces another drop-down lounge on the rear of the wheelhouse and a drop-down walkway through the starboard side. Lifting the lid on this walkway reveals a livebait tank with aerator, but the plumbing system might not work successfully on larger slimies or yakkas that need constant recirculation.

Yet again, this a good base that could be modified by a more serious fisho if that's your bent, and it will double as an extra icebox for those who don't want to bother with all the smelly fish stuff.

Beneteau has approached the outboard well with another new idea. Since the seat base is moulded right across the transom, the lounge backrest impedes the tilt arc of the outboard, resulting in a unique tilting backrest that folds forward into the cockpit. Not a bad idea, but like most new things it takes a little getting used to and it's only needed when full tilt is required for trailering or storage. A four-spot stainless vertical rod rack currently sits atop, but I'd ditch it in favour of a removable baitboard and snapper racks (it's a Victorian thing). I'd then install a proper rocket launcher on the spacious roof.

Access to the water is via a small moulded step on the port side with a fold-down stainless ladder for convenience.



ON THE WATER

Can the French design a solid, soft-riding yet stable seagoing vessel? The answer, happily, is yes.

During our test the conditions in Victoria's Port Phillip Bay were trying, to say the least, with plenty of wind and severe chop. It was comforting to have such a high bow when running down wind and the full beam lifted the nose very well.

We travelled downwind at a comfortable and fuel efficient 22.4kts (41.5kmh) at 4600rpm. Our extremely quiet ride was the result of four factors: the hull design and efficiency; the quality construction, including balsa core; the fully enclosed wheelhouse; and the smooth Suzuki 200hp four-stroke engine.

The hull has hard chines running forward to the full bow and it understandably came down a little hard on occasion, throwing plenty of water off the sides, but it travelled with the confidence of a seaworthy craft - and we weren't holding back.

The Barracuda has a surprisingly shallow 12° deadrise, which supplies quite a solid ride with minimal banging or crashing. We pushed the boat pretty hard and came up roses. There were no trim tabs fitted, nor were they needed, even in a side-on or quartering sea.

On our way back up to the Yarra we pushed into a solid 20kt headwind with a cabin full of photographers and me sitting on the fold-up seat behind the cabin. The fact I travelled the full distance sitting down while we did about 25kts (46kmh) into the head sea speaks volumes for the boat's capabilities. She certainly loves the lower and mid-range, but doesn't mind spreading her wings and flying across the swell.

The big Suzuki 200hp four-stroke is a smart engine selection for the Barracuda 7. It performs with plenty of torque right through the rev range - exactly what's needed for this style of boat. It lifts onto the plane quickly and with a minimum of noise or fuss and holds planing speeds well with the torque. Open her up to a top speed of around 30kts (55.5kmh) at 5500rpm (not WOT, but the best we could get in the blustery conditions) and you will meet your mates at the Continental Shelf not far behind some of our more commercial-style offshore weapons.



THE WRAP

Would I own one? Yes I would. This package is a bargain at the special promotion price of $103,700 (as tested). Of course, you will have to add a trailer to the package and that could be an extra $15,000 for a gal rig with breakaways or maybe upwards of $16,500 for lighter aluminium alternatives.

You also have to remember the boat's 2.68m beam means wide-load towing requirements. Racking or mooring are also alternatives.

I loved the European styling combined with the traditional trawler influence. I was also a huge fan of the walkaround wheelhouse and full-width bow. I could easily make the cockpit and transom layout work for me with some custom rod holders and cutting boards, but above all I felt really secure with the big high sides and stability.

For me, it's great to find this real point of difference in the trailerboat market. It may not be for everyone, but I feel sure the Beneteau Barracuda 7 will find many more admirers to join me.



PERFORMANCE

20.5kts (38kmh) @ 4150rpm - will travel at this speed all day

22.4kts (41.5kmh) @ 4600RPM - quiet and comfortable

27kts (50kmh) @ 5000rpm - engine feels really good with a nice note

30kts (55.5kmh) @ 5500rpm - no need to ever go harder

32.5kts (60.1kmh) @ 5700rpm - WOT (probably get a little better in calm)

 

SPECIFICATINS: BENETEAU BARRACUDA 7

 

HOW MUCH?

Price as tested: $103,700 (introductory special)

Options fitted: Suzuki 200hp four-stroke; in-shore safety equipment; mooring / anchoring kit; folding cockpit bench seat; rod holders; livebait tank; electric deck wash; night lights on floor deck; forward cabin cushions; multi-function display C97 GPS / fishfinder.Boat is equipped with Elegance 2013 trim level which includes sliding wheelhouse hatch with blackout blind, interior curtains, second windscreen wiper and washer, anchor bow fitting, 700W electric windlass, 42L refrigerator, water system and cockpit shower hose.

Priced from: $112,000



GENERAL

Type: Walkaround wheelhouse planing hull

Material: Fibreglass

Length: 7.39m

Beam: 2.64m

Weight: 1877kg (dry)

Deadrise: 12°



CAPACITIES

People: 8

Rec. HP: 150-200

Max. HP: 206

Fuel: 200L

Water: 100L



ENGINE

Make/model: Suzuki DF200

Type: DOHC 24-valve multi-point sequential electronic fuel injected V6

Weight: 268kg

Displacement: 3614cc

Gear ratio: 2.29:1

Propeller: Suzuki 15.75x19in



MANUFACTURED BY

Beneteau

www.beneteau.com.au



SUPPLIED BY

JW Marine

Shop A, 831 Bourke Street

Docklands

Victoria 3008

Tel: (03) 3629 8884

Web: www.jwmarine.com.au

Originally published in TrailerBoat #293, April 2013.

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