Beneteau First 235 Review - Page 2
Bateaux Nr 346, March 1987

On the water we were impressed by the performance of this sailboat, which was more than keen get going without any particular requirements on the crew. The F235 will happily pick up speed. Its size and weight are such that the crew's weight still plays an important role in balancing and trimming the boat, but the mere fact of sitting outside the cockpit on the windward side-decks will make the boat as rigid as a "normal" cruiser (i.e. with less sail surface). The well-designed coaming compensates the relative narrowness of the beam, and the lifelines are well positioned although the helmsman would certainly prefer more comfortable lines in his back.

The F235 acts a bit like a large sailing dinghy, but with one significant difference: a good tolerance to heeling. It does not require staying upright to be fast or pleasant to steer. It can easily support a 25º heel with the rudder remaining easy to control. One can therefore happily use the full power delivered by the sail configuration. The backstay block configuration allows for an easy adjustment of the mast bend and the rigid boom vang controls the mainsail flatness with precision.

Sensitivity to balance

Due to its short stern, the F235 tends to drag in the water unless the crew pays careful attention to the trim when sailing close hauled. This is especially true with the outboard engine in place. One can remedy this by filling the water tank in the bow, but this of course affects the overall weight distribution. When sailing downwind the crew can spread out in the cockpit without affecting the balance too much. Each bench in the cockpit will accommodate 3 crewmembers quite comfortably.

As with many sailboats of this size, it is not recommended to have a crewmember on the foredeck, as this will singularly complicate the job of the helmsman, especially by heavier winds. When sailing downwind with a spinnaker this could even lead to a broach, with the hull swinging around the wedge formed by the bow ploughing into a wave. But all this does not diminish the quality of the hull that progresses with ease considering its size. It never seems to slow down in waves.

Switching the genoa for a #1 jib reduces the sail surface by 8m2, transforming the F235 into a gentle cruiser. The large mainsail still ensures the necessary liveliness and the helmsman will still have a good feel for his boat. With the first reef in place you will require winds of at least 25 knots before the helmsman needs to move to the side decks. Handles on the edges of the benches facilitate movements around the cockpit. The side decks on either side of the cabin trunk are quite narrow but workable. The foredeck on the other hand is really small and might complicate work and boarding manoeuvres at the pulpit.

The deck hardware shows Beneteau's experience and is well designed and laid out. The vertical bow does require a bit of extra caution when dropping or retrieving the anchor. On a boat as trim sensitive as the F235 the location of the survival raft can make a big difference. Rather than placing it in the cockpit locker we decided to place it under the cabin ladder for a better balance.

We would have expected a better stowage system for the nicely varnished washboards, but Beneteau has not yet followed the example of Jeanneau in this regard. But we did appreciate the accurate frame of the companionway and the indents isolating the lower washboard of water collecting on the lower edge. We did notice that after some rain the front corners of the cockpit foot well collected some water - the slope of the cockpit floor should be a bit steeper.       next page


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