Below is the 10 page article that is found on the Finot site in French. IT has some good comments and an excellent technical section. Unfortunately, one had to be well-versed in French to garner anything, that is, until fellow F235 sailor Boudewijn Neijens did the painful duty. Many thanks for translation, Boudewijn.

Beneteau First 235 Review
Bateaux Nr 346, March 1987

By trying to offer pocket cruisers that are too comfy, builders have often neglected the sailing qualities of these boats. Not so with Beneteau, whose First 235 designed by Groupe Finot is far from having its wings clipped, yet remains comfortable as well.

Pocket cruisers have not resisted well to the economic downturn, despite a much lower purchase price than cruisers in the 8 to 9 meter range. One of the main reasons seems to be an abundant second-hand market for smaller cruisers, which for years dominated the market. The moorage and maintenance costs are also proportionally higher for these smaller sailboats. Customers are also asking for more and more comfort, whereas smaller cruisers require an ascetic life.

Finally, competition between the various builders is fierce and margins on smaller boats are low, which discourages builders of investing in new models. Despite all this Beneteau has recently released the First 24, the Class7 and the First 235, all three trailerable, innovative and truly fun to sail.

The First 235 is therefore not your average cruiser. The architect managed to combine performance and liveability. Rather than opting for a bulky hull, the architect focussed on speed with an extremely long water line, which leads to a near-vertical bow that actually looks quite good, contrary to all expectations. This configuration is now quite common on catamarans, and is also present on the Mini-Transat boats - which are actually as long as the F235. The thin bow and the 7/8th rigging give the boat an aggressive and dynamic look. The designer has also managed to diminish the visual impact of the deck fittings and the cabin trunk.

Easy does it

As with any boat of this size, the F235 is extremely easy to manoeuvre: a simple kick will push it off the dock, and a few swings with the tiller will set the boat in motion. The outboard engine is normally attached to the transom, but we decided to test the boat without using the engine at all. We sailed up and down the narrow St-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie channel without any trouble, despite barges blocking part of the channel. The F235 tacks instantly, starts with the smallest breeze and can be controlled with perfect accuracy thanks the quick reactions of the rudder.

The jib gives the boat plenty of power to sail close-hauled, but could benefit of a window since the visibility is quite restricted. The baby-stay makes quick successions of tacking manoeuvres a bit challenging. Thanks to its higher clew, the working (#1) jib ensures better visibility and handling. But for our outing the genoa and its 17m2 acted as a perfect turbo.

We tested the fixed keel version, with a semi-elliptic keel that seemed very efficient even at lower speeds. We never noted the typical sideways slip that you encounter when restarting close-hauled with narrower and deeper keels - as you would find on the retractable keel models. The rudder also contributes to the steering pleasure: as with the Class 7, it's a polyester blade sliding in an elegant and practical aluminium cage. The two nylon bolts blocking the rudder prevent any annoying slack, a rare quality on retractable rudders. The rudder axis angle is a good compromise between balance and sensitivity. All different keel versions are equipped with the same rudder.        next page


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