Beneteau Oceanis 321
Deck and Rig the InteriorBy Captain Thom Burns
The Beneteau 321 is a cruiser with spirit. I sailed Alibi Yacht's new boat with Roger Eide in light to medium conditions. Like all Finot designs, it has a long waterline and plumb bow. It feels comfortable in the cockpit and below decks. It sails quite well.
Beneteau defines its models along performance and cruising lines. The Oceanis models lean more toward cruising while the First models lean toward performance cruising and racing.
I've sailed and/or chartered several Beneteau's (310, 32, 35 39 and 43). They have all been comfortable, quicker boats with European style which appeals to me.
It often sounds like a cliché, but boats of the 90's are different. Generally speaking, they are lighter, faster and easier to sail. They are roomier, airier, brighter inside and have superior ergonomic considerations (how people actually sit, reach, pull, etc.). Advances in reefing systems, headsails and furlers, aft led controls, and clean decks and cockpit layouts have significantly changed these products. They are far more than just new fiberglass.
Deck and Rig
The boat's clear deck plan lends itself to efficient, economy of movement and ease of handling. The masthead sloop rig with roller furling and a full-battened main with lazy jacks is very easy to handle with one or two people. It's a relaxing way to coastal cruise. Beneteau also offers an in mast roller furling system.
All lines are led aft on the coachroof through turning blocks under a cowling. This approach does several things. It cleans up the deck so that no one slips on rolling lines while securing or reefing the main. It also adds comfortable deck space while cleaning up the deck and organizing the lines nicely. The addition of line bag organizers in the cockpit completes the task. The days of a messy cockpit should be gone.
From my perspective, the large cockpit lockers on the port side add to the efficiency of the 321. Too many designers add a few cubic feet of aft cabin at the expense of reasonable cockpit storage. Beneteau, to their credit, has foregone this temptation.
The full toe-rail is also a big plus with me. It allows easy attachment of blocks, preventers when going downwind, and a much better place to attach fenders. How many times have you seen lifelines and stanchions damaged by errant fenders?
From the helm, everything's within arm's reach. The backstay adjusting tackle, mainsheet block and sheets make for easy adjustments. The helm, of the Oceanis 321 turns on a dime, tacks and jibes easily, and powers-up quickly and effortlessly. We were equipped with a 110 roller furling genoa which is a little smaller than I would choose but quite adequate. Both the sail and the roller furling system performed flawlessly.
The double lifelines are a big plus, as is the step-off stern and aft swim ladder. A transom door leading to the bathing platform allows for a more comfortable med moor and simplifies dinghy access.
The first thing I noticed when going below was how wide the companionway itself is. The extra couple of inches makes a difference. I like French designs, especially down below. The interior is spacious for a 32 footer and looks even more so. With 6'3" headroom, it feels big. Twelve sources of natural light illuminate the varnished cherry woodwork. Beneteau has light and dark versions on their woodwork. I prefer the lighter one.
All of the side portholes open. The salon table is well designed and accommodates six plus a couple of little ones. The galley is attractive and functional, with a gimballed 3-burner stove with oven, pressurized water and double stainless steel sinks. The cabinetry and ingenuity in space utilization is tops.
The chart table is on the port side just forward of the galley facing aft. with storage space outboard. This is a pretty good way to go in 32 ft.
The aft cabin is spacious without taking all the deep storage space from the cockpit. It also has a large double berth at 7'3" by 4'11". The forward cabin is comfortable and equally private. The berth is large at 5'11" by 6'11". Overall there seems to be a fair amount of storage throughout the boat. It should be adequate for most vacation trips.
The head is aft and to starboard. It is easily accessible to the companionway. It has 6'1" headroom, pressurized hot and cold water, a hand held shower and interior molding. It also has a wet locker. The unitary construction, typical of modern boats, helps ease the area's maintenance.
The Beneteau Oceanis 321 is "basically for family cruising." It has good volume for creature comforts and a manufacturer who adds classy, European touches to the boat. Many Caribbean charterers will already be familiar with the Moorings version of this style. Some people will have fun sailing it in club races. Many others will probably place it in charter where it will be an attractive boat. It will make a fine family or two-couple cruiser. It's shoal draft will particularly endear its owners who gunkhole around. It has the feel and cubic volume of many older 35 footers. Its creature comforts and functionality are impressive while maintaining a nicely balanced, modern nautical look and feel. Best of all, it sails well and handles well under power.
Thom publishes Northern Breezes and Sailing Breezes. For more info: Beneteau USA or Beneteau France
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