by James Dumergue

If you enjoy the round the cans and twilight races or you simply love more performance than a standard cruising yacht offers, Beneteau’s First range is a very desirable option. Many people buy them purely for racing but there is so much duality to these yachts, that going distances faster and in comfort has a broad appeal to the cruising market. The First 35 Carbon Edition is a little pocket rocket that is favourably IRC rated and also rates very highly with couples and families for mile-eating coastal cruising.
Designed by Bruce Farr, one of the most sought after and accomplished yacht designers in the world, the First 35 comes from a good pedigree. Farr has been responsible for more Sydney to Hobart winning designs than any other designer and with almost 40 designs winning world championships he brings a lot of experience to the table.
The form stability achieved in the hull design has been carried over from the First 40, a yacht renowned for providing stability without sacrificing performance. The improved deep-draft fin keel is now entirely lead which minimises the size of the bulb and greatly reduces the drag over the cast iron keel.
Externally the Carbon Edition has performance carbon features and carbon accents that purposefully blend sleek styling and subtle sophistication in both the aesthetic and go-fast departments. The 17.2m (56′ 7″) all carbon mast by Hall Spars, with swept back spreaders and rod rigging, looks impressive. The carbon accents around the port lights, the open transom and the model size depicted like racing numbers either side of the bow all help define the performance look of this package.
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Beneteau 8SAILS
Quantum sail makers in Queensland have provided the GPL carbon working sails with a furling AP jib. The jib is a true dual purpose sail with angled battens enabling them to be furled, a second batten pocket allows them to be inserted horizontally to afford more support and a flatter exit to the head sail shape. The self-furler, which is mounted close to the deck low creates an bigger sail area and improved performance. If you want to forgo the furler for full race mode sail wardrobe a deck plate for directly attaching your head sails has been fitted.
Providing an edge over the standard edition First 35 the Carbon Edition includes a retractable carbon fibre bowsprit. Deploying it is as easy as hauling a line from the cockpit, it allows the asymmetrical spinnaker to get further away from the blanketing effect of the mainsail. The extra distance gained not only improves performance but also allows the sail maker to dramatically increase the girth of the sail making a much larger spinnaker possible. It also makes jibing easier because the sail is less likely to run foul of the head stay. With the additional length of the bowsprit the sail can probably be jibed inside the tack downhaul and in front of the head stay.
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Beneteau 1COCKPIT
The carbon wheel is responsive and ingeniously designed, rather than have a monstrous wheel with little access through the cockpit, this model has solved the cruiser racer wheel design with one central wheel that can follow you when sailing and move out of the way when you are loading or at anchor. A simple foot operated pedal releases the lock allowing the canting pedestal wheel to be positioned on the centre line or to port or starboard depending on your tack. Directly below the standing position is a hatch that can be removed for access to the emergency steering. Aft of this is another locker for a life raft or stowage for more gear. The removable transom beam works well for the dual nature of this yacht, trimmed in teak, the cockpit combing and seats forward of the helm add a nice touch to the otherwise sailing orientated area. Sail control looks easy and all sheets and halyards run back to the cockpit with the exception of the boom topping lift. The Harken winches are positioned with room for two people to comfortably work the 40.2 STA winches on the coach roof and the 46.2 STA winches on the combing.
DOWN BELOW
Light streams in through the overhead hatch, six port holes and from the companionway. The feel is fresh, functional and airy thanks to the Nauta design, light Alpi Teak and the generous proportions. To port of the companionway is the L-shaped galley, which is practical for cruising. It is also well equipped for onboard living with a gimballed two-burner stove top with oven below and the 100-litre ice box has been upgraded to a 12 volt refrigerator with small internal freezer compartment. There is also a foot-operated salt water supply to help conserve fresh water.
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Beneteau 20The navigation station is positioned to starboard with a forward facing chart table that has a nifty lid. Lift it up to vertical and it drops down into a slot allowing you two-handed access to the storage below. The Raymarine Chartplotter is in good sight and reach from the retractable navigator stool that swings nicely outboard and under the bench when not in use. It allows for good access aft to the head and shower, which is amply sized and very usable for weekends and longer periods aboard.
The symmetrical saloon has ample headroom of 1.8m (73”) and equally ample seating that could also be used as berths. Above are storage lockers for cruising and well positioned rails for hand holds, the saloon table has good passing space either side and only requires one hand to fold up and click into place each side of the table when required. Catching my attention, the keel stepped carbon mast just forward of the saloon table is quite the centre piece to admire and reminds you that this is a special version from Beneteau.
Forward of the saloon is the V-berth double cabin boasting dual entry doors that are makes it convenient for moving sails into the cabin. They also enhance the spaciousness of the saloon when left open. The cabin is naturally well lit from the overhead deck hatch and sleek port lights. The overhead hatch is big enough of to move sails up onto the foredeck easily. The V berth is broad at the head end with the typical narrowing for a vessel of this size at the feet end. It is comfortable for two and features the internal casing of the retractable bowsprit.
Behind the galley on the starboard side is the owner’s cabin with a good-sized berth. Whilst the headroom is not limited inside the cabin door, the position of the cabin below the cockpit floor reduces the headroom above the berth but the aft positioning and width of the bed look like good ingredients for sound nights sleep.
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Beneteau 15ON THE WATER
I tested the boat with Lee Randall from Spirit Marine, the Beneteau dealers in Queensland, who will be sailing the boat in the Beneteau Cup and expects the yacht to perform strongly. On paper, he has every reason to be optimistic. Unfortunately it is not something I am going to be able to verify. We have picked a day when the wind is barley filling the sails, it’s stunning for photo’s but impossible to gauge the performance.  I am just going to have to assume the Farr-designed First 35 Carbon Edition will live up to it’s pedigree.
Down below all the elements are there for cruising comfort, up top it’s easy to add a few elements that enhance the liveability when you’re not sailing. The owner of this yacht is adding a full dodger (bimini) and a removable table for the cockpit that will tuck away in the aft cockpit locker when sailing. He plans to use a boom tent for shade when needed and make the most of the yacht as a performance cruiser.  The deep utility/sail locker to starboard can house sails for racing or items of cruising convenience like an outboard motor and water sports equipment.

OVERVIEW
Beneteau’s First 35 Carbon Edition is an attempt to find the right racer/cruiser balance and it appears they have done a great job. It is a yacht that enables you to sail as a worthy rival at the twilights with a crew of two or get a bit more serious and add the asymmetrical spinnaker and a crew of four for competitive racing. It’s an agile set up with out the twitchiness of a full on racing yacht.
Penned by a renowned designer and built by a company that has mastered the art of manufacturing it looks sleek and feels personalised. If you like performance and comfort in a semi custom looking package then this should be a yacht to consider, perfect for holidays afloat, around the cans racing or heading up to race week.
Beneteau 2POSITIVES
Elegant performance features and accents
Functional duality
Comfort with performance

NEGATIVES
Lack of wind during review

NUMBERS THAT MATTER
Price (as tested) $351,000 excluding sails.
Overall Length: 10.85m
Beam: 3.64m
Air Draught: 17.26m
Draught: (standard version) 2.30m
Ballast: 1768kg
Freshwater: 200 litres
Fuel: 75 litres
Engine power: 29hp
Sleeps: 4+2 (Four in cabins and two in the saloon)