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Below are two First 235 reviews found in the French magazine NEPTUNE in the late 80s.  The first article is from a two page spread with pics with an interesting sailing comparison against a five true Mini-Transat boats - Some interesting results.  The second blurb is a comparison with two other similar boats, one of which is COCO, the Finot Mini-transat production model.  F235 sailor Boudewijn Neijens, who translated the 10 page French review as well, performed the excellent translation. 
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Neptune's Beneteau First 235 Reviews

Small but Welcoming

Three bedroom, kitchen, bathroom – all this in 6.50 meters: the First 23 is the latest of Beneteau, is certainly a small boat, but with long fangs! Comfortable and aggressive, this is a mini that delivers the max…

With its 6.50 meters length and its vertical bow, the latest Finot design reminds us of the Minis that cross the Atlantic every second year. We therefore tried the F23 side by side with its racing cousins. It might have a slightly higher cabin trunk and freeboards, but the F235 is not the least aggressive looking of the lot. The mast is one of the shortest, which is to be expected. But the major difference lies in the beam: since the F23 is trailerable, it’s significantly narrower than its counterparts.

The interior volume of the F23 amazes bystanders. Imagine looking at a garage shed and finding a true Scottish manor inside! The container seems to be much smaller than the content. First observation: it is actually possible to obtain a reasonable cabin height without making the vessel look like a fish boat. To achieve this result there are no floorboards, except to cover the keel bolts. But the bottom is actually relatively flat and the single floor frame is swiftly forgotten.

To the left of the access ladder one finds a true L-shaped galley, with gimballed two-unit stove, sink, icebox and a few cabinets. The water pump is fed from a 50-litre bladder tank in the forepeak. The tank is filled through a plughole on the foredeck.

To the right we find the true design gem: a head converting to nav station. The idea is not new but very well executed, with sliding panels allowing for complete privacy. This also enables the skipper to work at night at the chart table without disturbing sleeping crewmembers. A small electrical panel manages the main functions: navigation lights, instruments, interior lighting – all fed from a battery situated under the chart table. The battery will need to be reloaded in the harbour.

The front of the cabin contains a table that can be lowered to make place for a double berth. Storage is foreseen under the benches. But the F23, like any proper yacht, also has owner’s quarters – in this case a double berth under the cockpit and lit by a round porthole in the transom. A shelf runs along one side and a small storage locker can accommodate a small bag. A simple curtain would transform this area into a cosy nest.

So this First is not without comfort. What remains to be seen is its sailing speed. We organised an impromptu race against a Coco and four other prototype Transat sailboats. Each boat had five crew for a race to Penfret and back.

On the F23 the engine is mounted on the transom and the anchor is stowed in its locker on the foredeck. This layout induces a fair bit of pitch but this is a cruiser after all. We did take a few extra sails with us, coming from a Muscadet. The original demo sails were not all that exciting.

As soon as we leave the bay we hit the waves and winds between 20 and 25 knots. We fly the spinnaker and put the first reef on the mainsail. The prototypes shoot ahead and we have to let them go: the F23 will not plane - with five crew in the cockpit plus the engine and its gas tank we drag in the water and cannot hope to compete. The tiller is a bit too long and can hinder movements in the cockpit. The tiller extension on the other hand is too short and should be replaced with a telescopic model. Later, close-hauled the race is on again. The F23 points as well as the prototypes and is only ½ knot slower, despite that facts that our mainsail has a long footrope and looks like a swollen bag. We try hard to give the mainsail a better shape. Luckily the 9/10ths Z-spars mast configuration allows for easy bending. The backstay block is a bit flimsy but does the job. The telescopic boom vang is also adjusted with a block. A cleverly positioned stop on the boom enables operation without a topping lift. Altogether the F23 presents a good compromise: it can easily be adjusted without having to deal with the complications of additional runners and multiple spreaders. Our mast was raised the day before and loosened up during the race, allowing the mast to swing significantly. We also felt the genoa car tracks were a bit on the short side. But the small F23 did demonstrate it’s an excellent sailboat close hauled, with good sailing rigidity.

Not only did the F23 show good sailing performances, it can also live up to most cruising aspirations. A crew of three or four will find all the necessary comfort for relatively long passages. The equipment allows for a good degree of autonomy and its small size requires little muscular effort and allows it to sail pretty much anywhere. Finally, we should not forget the old saying: small boat, small problems. Starting with the financial ones…

What we liked: comfort on board; performance.
We didn’t like: demo sails; deck hardware on the light side.

Liveable 6.50 Meters
December 1989

A small cruiser that is both aggressive close hauled and comfortable at anchor, Beneteau managed to combine the performances of a hull designed by Finot with the comfort of a well-finished production sailboat. The inside volume makes you forget its overall size. Clever design options such as the combined head/nav station and the double berth under the cockpit make life easy on board. The F235 is available with a fixed or retractable keel and is trailerable. The vertical bow reminds us of the mini-Transats, and indeed its performance close-hauled is about equal to these race boats. But planing will be more difficult, due to the extra bulk and weight put on to provide more comfort on board.

We liked: comfort; performance.
We didn’t like: deck hardware and sails to be revised


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