Yacht Class n°19 (dec 2019/jan-feb 2020)
The largest – and more luxurious – sailboat of the mythical First series, the Yacht 53 boasts elegant lines and a high-performance hull for great sailing sensations. Comfort on board has not been forgotten with a modern and innovative saloon layout. Designed for cruising, she is not afraid of regattas.
Written by Christophe Varène – Photos : G. Barbagelata et G. Martin-Raget
Catalan turbulences are sometimes a good thing, particularly when, for example, they cause a small settled breeze off Port Ginesta, a few miles south of Barcelona. Especially since with First Yacht 53, Beneteau shows its ambition to develop a range of sailboats primarily designed for cruising, yet with high performance. To achieve this, the French yard relied on the expertise of the Italian architect Roberto Biscontini, who has built up a solid experience on several America’s Cup campaigns. Major work has been done on the control of weight distribution and harmonisation of buoyancy and sail centres. The result is a vertical and voluminous bow hull shape, a maximum beam further aft and, for our test boat, a carbon Performance mast (1.00 m higher) as well as an elongated keel (3.00 m instead of 2.50 m) with lead bulb. The wind blowing at around ten knots was keen to provide ideal conditions for a test of truth. Neatly folded on the canoe boom (one of the three configurations available with the traditional and the furling boom), the mainsail was soon hoisted, as all the lines lead back the four cockpit winches, in front of the two steering stations. A few seconds later, the genoa was unrolled causing the boat to become lively, gliding between 8.5 and 9 knots. As a result of major considerations on the boat’s balance, the double rudders provide the helm tremendous smoothness and precision, even when the First Yacht 53 lists, which was quickly the case. Depending on wind conditions or preferences, the helmsman can stand behind the helm fitted with a foot chock or sit astride on the small bench separating the cockpit from the passageway. The most seasoned sailors will stand ahead the helm, winches within reach, to make some fine tunings. When opening the angle of the wind to the sail, the furling Code 0 replaced the genoa, yet the sailboat remained docile and fast, which was also true with the asymmetric spinnaker. Unfortunately, after exceeding the symbolic threshold of 10 knots, it was time to head back to the port. With a 110 hp Yanmar engine (80 hp as standard), the First Yacht 53 is making between 7.5 (at 1 800 rpm) and 8.5 knots (at 2 200 rpm) of speed. For the mooring, the retractable stern and bow thrusters allow controlled movement, including lateral movement.
A saloon forward the helm stations
The various headsails manoeuvres – lowering the spinnaker is a mere formality with the sock – offered the opportunity to assess the easy flow deck plan. It features flush deck hatches and a simple rigging, and only one step – aft – from the cockpit to the bow. The latter houses a large sail locker to stowe away the sail wardrobe including the Code 0 and gennaker. This large volume can also be used as an optional crew cabin. Aft, a large swim platform opens onto a garage for a tender of nearly 2.50 m. On the pleasure side, the cockpit offers a beautiful relaxation area, forward the helm stations, with two large opposite settees, separated by two foldable tables. This layout slightly affects its conviviality, but facilitates movement towards the interiors. From the first step on the wide companionway, with well-dimensioned steps and secure railings, the space and brightness catch the attention. Styled by Lorenzo Argento, the interior fittings successfully combine simplicity, modernity and seaworthiness. But this feeling of volume is due to strong choices, starting with the absence of a navigation station – a storage area near the table has many computer or tablet sockets and a connection for a VHF – and the transverse layout of the port salon. This configuration is the result of a long reflection on the new ways of sailing, which is more and more performed with a small crew and looking for “like-at-home” comfort. This actually explains the saloon layout with a perpendicular table in the direction of ship’s heading, which requires less space than the traditional longitudinal layout with a settee in the middle of the saloon. It should be noted, however, that the table has an integrated extension to accommodate six guests. But what about at sea, with a little list? More than one outing is necessary to figure this out. But clearly the Fist Yacht 53 thus offers a real lounge on starboard with a deep sofa and a coffee table.
Two or three bathrooms?
Only two layouts are available, both with three double cabins, but with two or three bathrooms. Our sailboat only had one (with sink, toilet and shower cabin) shared by the two aft cabins, which allowed to fit a large galley on portside. The lacquered white bulkheads and Corian worktops contrasts with the beautiful carpentry, with very convenient molded fiddles, which, along with the ceiling handrails, often missing in current production, show the commitment to design seaworthy boats. The central piece of furniture conceals plenty of stowage, while offering a support to the cook while at sea. Well-equipped as standard with a sink, a cooker with two burners and an oven on gimbal, a fridge with integrated freezer, the galley can also get additional equipment such as a microwave or a dishwasher. The forward master cabin, with the headroom of about two metres, is set up around a large central bed, with multiple storage spaces, wardrobes and drawers. She is fitted on starboard with a head, a washbasin and WC, and a large independent shower cabin on portside. The two aft guest cabins, located on either side of the companionway, also have large berths and storage units. Two layouts are available: either a single bathroom shared by these two cabins or one bathroom per cabin, at the expense of the galley size. Everywhere, the sober and uncluttered lines are pleasantly accentuated, at the end of the day by the indirect lighting concealed in the ceiling or furniture legs.
Very elegant on water with her contemporary and sporty silhouette, the First Yacht 53 is thus as comfortable as she is practical for life on board, both at sea or at peaceful anchorages.