The Beneteau First 35 evolved logically from its predecessor, the First 36.7, and as you might’ve guessed, it’s cut from the same cloth as the First 40. All three boats are designed and built to provide superior performance, comfortable accommodations, and to be raced (either handicapped or as a one-design). Like the 40, the 35 is part of the next generation of Beneteau’s performance-oriented First line, and I put it through its paces in ideal test conditions: flat water and 14 knots of breeze.
When I took the helm, the large wheel returned silky-smooth feedback, the seating was comfortable, visibility was excellent, and the boat tracked like a train. The boat carried speed through the tacks nicely and accelerated like a raceboat. Trimming the 108-percent blade jib was a snap. We tacked through 75 degrees and boat speed hovered in the 6.5- to 7-knot range. I wasn’t really surprised by this kind of performance, since our test boat was equipped with the optional carbon-fiber mast (the standard rig is aluminum), North 3DL sails, and a deep bulb keel. The cool thing I found during our test sail was that the boat strikes the delicate balance of providing much-better-than-your-average-cruising-boat performance without being as twitchy as a full-bore raceboat. Then we set the symmetric spinnaker. Yes, it’s a raceboat sail, and it took a bit more coordination and line pulling to get flying than if we’d simply tacked a cruising spinnaker in a sock onto the bow, but it wasn’t that hard to set, and we took off like a rocket. Our wake sizzled from the stern as we headed for home on a broad reach. Boat speed jumped to the 8-knot range, and the helm was just as responsive as it was on the upwind legs. My only complaint was that the mouth of the harbor came up pretty quick. I could’ve happily cruised for a couple of more hours or, better yet, a whole weekend before returning to the marina.
We carried the sails as long as we could before firing up the engine well inside the harbor. The easily driven hull motored at about 7 knots, and engine noise was noticeable without being intrusive. Maneuvering under power was predictable, and backing into our tight slip was easy.
It’s appropriate that we went sailing before I had a chance to check out the accommodations. It was by no means spartan down below, but the fact is, there’s only so much interior volume to play with in a 35-foot, performance-oriented hull. That said, it has all the elements-forward-facing nav station, small galley and head, good-size saloon, and two private cabins-that you’ll want on a coastal cruise.
The light-colored varnished woodwork is both warm and modern. Two large opening hatches and several opening ports provide good light and ventilation. The saloon seats are comfortable and long enough to be good sea berths. There’s room for six around the settee table. It’s also cleverly hinged so it can easily pivot up for dinner and down to be out of the way on race day. Both cabins have small hanging lockers, and like many boats in this size range, the berth in the forward cabin is a bit tight at the feet but has better headroom than the aft berth, which is bigger but situated under the cockpit.
The First 35 is a worthy addition to Beneteau’s First range that has big sisters in the 50- and 45-foot size, as well. It’s simultaneously forgiving and rewarding to sail, the interior is both stylish and functional, and it does what it’s designed to do; it’s well suited to both cruising and racing.
Beneteau first 35
LOA 35′ 7″ (10.85 m.)
LWL 35′ 0″ (10.67 m.)
Beam 12′ 0″ (3.66 m.)
Draft (deep/shoal) 7′ 3″/5′ 11″ (2.21/1.80 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 670 sq. ft. ( 62.25 sq. m)
Ballast (dp./shoal) 3,682/4,431 lb. (1,670/2,010 kg.)
Displacement 12,125 lb. (5,500 kg.)
Ballast/D (deep) .37
D/L (std.) 126
SA/D (100%) 20.3
Water 53 gal. (201 l.)
Fuel 20 gal. (76 l.)
Holding 20 gal. (76 l.)
Mast Height 56′ 7″ (17.26 m.)
Engine 29-hp. Yanmar
Designer Farr Yacht Design
Sailaway Price $225,000