this is one of the finest boats in this size range and exciting
to sail. I actually don’t know many other boats that pack
so much into such a small package, mixing performance and usability
in a very compelling fashion.
How many 23 foot boats do you see with a galley, ice box, sink,
and 2 burner stove, directly across from a fully enclosable
marine head which doubles as a working nav station with slide
out table? How about a 23 ft boat with an aft sleeping area?
How about an interior that doesn’t demand you bend double
at the waist? Or somewhere a 6'3 person can stretch out without
jamming feet into a corner? How about the very same toe rail,
chocks, cleats, and other fittings as found on the Beneteau/Jeanneau
50? And how many boats can combine all this with performance
that embarrasses many with longer water lines? The boat impressed
me so much, I made this dedicated website and forum.
Right up front, I'll say the Beneteau
First 235 is a blast to sail and fast to boot, rewarding
attention to detail with proper sail trim & rig tuning via
the Z Spars, light, fractional rig (9/10ths). Some of the reviews
in various mags (see Reviews)
compare the First 235 to a big racing dinghy. It has pretty
impressive acceleration and with a clean bottom and proper trim,
does well in light air (the less weight aboard, the better).
The boat surely looks fast with plumb bow and wide stern, mirroring
the Mini-Transats which define its heritage. The First 235 was
designed by Finot who took the hull form from his '84
Mini. This boat looks quite modern and distinctive and in many
ways was ahead of its time. You are not talking traditional
lines; she really stands out on the water and under sail due
to the plumb bow, narrow entry, and wide stern.
some flattering angles, the First 235 looks like the Mini-Transat
that defines its heritage. The plumb bow and wide stern
are very distinctive...
In the US, it came with two iron
keels, the wing at 2’9 and the fin at 3’8 (EU has
the fin and swing on worm gear - There was no wing option).
The fin F235 does point higher than the wing but either sails
very well and I wouldn't pass on a good deal with the fin or
wing. The fin might be the first choice if racing the traditional
cigar course but the "Hydrokeel" inspired wing comes
into its own from a close reach down. Several First 235 have
had different custom lead fin keels done, one by Leif Beiley
of Bravura Yachts, this on Pegasus, sailing off California.
Beiley also designed a second 4'7 905lb lead fin with more weight
down low in the bulb and higher aspect ratio and cord length
(Construction pending from Mars). The earliest lead fin keel
done for a US F235 was made by Mars and can be seen on this
The boat is not loaded with ballast
per say, nor particularly stiff, but with proper attention to
sail trim, reefing, sail selection, tuning (back stay pressure),
and weight placement, she can handle much of anything. Her nice
beam and hull shape does a great deal here. Get your weight
on the rail (driver, too) when things pick up (and dig one
of the best views). She will round up a bit if overpowered
but play of the traveler combined with more backstay can help
to control - Up into the 20s, and a reef is prudent. On the
other hand, she feels very stable and drives forward nicely
in air... but if you've been on something like the Ranger 23,
she does not track on rails with the rail down, tending more
to round up in a gust if too much main and past 30 degrees.
Does well upwind in swell and one can stay quite dry compared
to others of this ilk. Her plumb, narrow entry bow does wonders
and was ahead of its time in '86 for a production boat this
size. The F235 has a good stock reefing system that can be customized
for greater ease.
I sail off Wrightsville Beach,
NC which means 98% ocean sailing and think the boat does well
in these conditions, which are usually in the teens to the 20s
(Again, once in the high teens to 20s, you have to be on your
toes). Depending on your tastes, higher winds mean moving to
a smaller headsail and reef thrown in (some will want to move
to reducing area sooner than others - I do believe that a reef
with mid-size head sail might be a good compromise). All the
lines are very accessible with the halyards lead aft. You can
run the outhaul, vang, and reefing lines back as well with minor
mods. Ditto with the Spinnaker controls (a few owners have added
a bowsprit to run Asymmetricals).
Sailing from the rail is a delight
and recommended as the coaming is VERY comfortable. With
lifeline cushions and a proper tiller extension (the stock unit
is worthless as it’s too short), it’s an excellent
vantage point and a great place to helm. I single-hand the boat
most of the time so a tiller tamer/auto pilot of some sort is
recommended when doing duties away from the helm. Still, it’s
one of the easiest boats I have ever single-handed. One of my
main criticisms is the rudder system which can become problematic
in following seas with swell and wind. A few mods can help.
The boat is very fun to race and
can do some damage, keeping up with larger craft. She has a
long waterline for her size due to the plumb bow and stern design.
Some good sails with proper tune & trim and she really moves.
The only problem here is you're not going to get any favors
from the rather low PHRF, actually putting you with some stiff
competition. It's a challenging boat to get the best from but
will reward skill and time spent on the water getting to know
the boat and how she does in your conditions.
The First 235 motors with ease
with great access to the outboard although at low speed, its
freeboard can occasionally cause problems in cross-wind conditions.
There is no need for any mounting gear as the F235 has a nifty
starboard cutout with wood mount rail in the transom. On a more
protected lake, a 4hp will do ok while saving weight. Put yourself
in some current and more wind, and you're looking at a minimum
of 5hp up to a 9.9 or so if you want to go some distance. Going
somewhere, a Four-Stroke would be needed for sanity, but you
don’t want to go too heavy as the motor is mounted on
the starboard side, the same side as the battery, head, holding
tank, and nav station area. While the galley does balance the
weight somewhat, all F235 tend to exhibit an ever so slight
list to the starboard. This is very minor, however. I reach
hull speed with my 5HP Tohatsu 2 stroke but with current and
chop, it can be a bit challenging at times, best with a motor
with a bit more thrust in these conditions. The 9.8 Tohatsu/Nissan
4 Stroke would be a good alternative due to its low weight compared
to other 4s. Best to get as long a shaft as possible. Below
20 need not apply and 25 is even better if in bigger chop/waves.
The First 235, while technically
a trailer-sailer, pushes the limits of what you want to handle;
in other words, I think trailering every outing is pushing it
with the F235. On the other hand, it's nice to be able to take
this boat somewhere interesting. The wing is easier to launch
from the trailer since it's almost a foot shorter. Having a
trailer with your F235 is only a positive and trailer boats
tend to sell easier.
To sum up, the little First 235
is a great boat and fun to race or weekend cruise. I have stayed
as long as 10 days with my wife but after three and you would
like to have some access to facilities. While it has a nifty
ice box and water storage and holding tank, a longer stay will
begin to test the storage. Creative packing is helpful.
Tour this ever-expanding site at
now with an active First
235 Forum membership of close to 1200 with over 57,000
posts. You'll find a large number of F235 pictures from every
angle, on the water and off. See specs, info, mods, and reviews,
some even translated from German and French. The forum
gets daily activity and owners are responsive to questions and
welcome interested parties.
Wrightsville Beach, NC
'89 Beneteau First 235
abstrait | Hull #327 | WK
To contact me regarding
anything First 235 related:
235 Site/Forum/Owner Directory Inquiries