Accounting for 70 per cent of Beneteau's production the Oceanis range is crucial to Beneteau's success, so it's not surprising the latest craft bristles with new design. The mainsheet arch, shallow companionways and the enlarged cockpit with separate steering area are features shared with the company's newest cruising range - the Sense. Down below the single-level interior also generally follows the Sense standard. These commonalities are not surprising when you consider the Sense models and the Oceanis 48 (although not the smaller 41 and 45) also share a designer, Berret Racoupeau.
The Racoupeau office works on Beneteau's 40 to 58-foot range; boats conceived for coastal cruising as well as offshore passagemaking. The fifth generation of the marque continues this heritage, albeit with around 10 per cent better performance and a larger internal volume gained from the increased beam.
Having sailed the two smaller yachts there was a definite sense of déjà vu aboard the Oceanis 48. Its relatively large cockpit, the twin wheels and the mast located farther aft to allow for a more even spread of the jib and mainsail, in many ways shares similarities with the flagship 58, another Berret Racoupeau design I'd sailed.
Looking around the 48's cockpit the most striking feature is the new mainsail arch. This GRP structure runs the mainsheet on blocks and allows the sheeting to be farther down the boom for greater control. The other big plus is that it supports a sturdy sprayhood, which can become a cockpit tent. Sensible design has always been a characteristic of the Oceanis range and the fifth generation is no different thanks to a deep iroko-clad cockpit. The foldup table is strongly built and is a good bracing position when heeled, while also housing the Simrad plotter.
The twin helm binnacles are integrated into the cockpit aft bulkheads and include a prominent compass on each, with plenty of space for crew to pass to the electric fold-down transom-cum-swimplatform. This latter feature won Beneteau an award and I can see why as it adds some three feet to the deck space and cleverly deploys the ladder when down.
Electronics are by Simrad, a centralised NSS 12 plotter on the table end and readouts on either helm, while the deck gear is by Harken, the primary H60.2ST close to the helmsman's hand. Halyard controls on our review boat were handled by an electric H46.2ST on the cabin top and an adjoining manual one. The cockpit layout felt functional and should work for both cruising and regattas.
Moving forward, the timber decks give good grip underfoot, the outboard shrouds clearing the way to the wide foredeck, an ideal sunbathing area at anchor. The anchoring system itself uses a vertical 1500W windlass with capstan - the latter an essential addition on a large cruising boat - while dual bowrollers allow a second set of rode to be used. Other good features on the deck include midship cleats, hardwood toerails and a large sail locker.
The Oceanis 48 offers a wide range of cabin options. In fact an owner can have anywhere between two and five cabins and even a bunk in place of the fourth toilet. The owner's suite is forward in all layouts - not the most comfortable berth at sea but ideal for privacy when moored stern-to in port.
Other features borrowed from the Sense range include the shallow-angled steps leading to a single-level floor-plan below decks. Not to my liking, however, are the saloon-style doors on the main hatch, which undoubtedly makes entry easy - both for crew and saltwater.
Natural light is plentiful in the saloon thanks to large overhead hatches, the cockpit-facing windows illuminating the rear cabins and providing extra light to the portside galley. The L-shaped galley has a three-burner LPG stove and adequate overhead locker space, a top-opening 85lt icebox and front-opening fridge/freezer taking care of perishable food. An island-style bench adjoins the companionway and provides a home for the twin sinks.
In front of the galley is the lounge and navigation area. Similar in layout to the 45 it may not suit traditional navigators as the aft chart area has limited bulkhead space for electronics and as such is not ideal on a large blue-water yacht like this. However, on the plus side the area has plenty of versatility. Opposite, the dinette is conventionally laid out and with the additional bench seat becomes a useful family space.
Moving forward, the owner's suite is voluminous with open-plan-style en suite. The clear Perspex shower room may lack privacy for some but the sink area is large and what the separate electric toilet lacks in natural light has been made up for with excellent locker space. Generally the master cabin is well lit thanks to large rectangular portlights ensuring it is airy and offers sea views. The island bed has plenty of headroom, abundant surrounding shelf space and wardrobes. Ducts for the optional Crusair air-conditioning are another good comfort feature, while LED spotlights illuminate the queen-sized bed finishing off a fairly comfortable owner's suite.
In the aft section the twin cabins are symmetrical and gather natural light from the cockpit-facing hatches, although the head space is impinged upon slightly by the deep cockpit. Usefully, both cabins allow access to the 75hp Yanmar diesel.
Interestingly, the POD 120 Dock & Go gearbox takes up less space than a traditional transmission. The Yanmar sits high on its GRP engine mounts and allows all the basic service points to be reached - oil, filters, water and gearbox. The starting battery is a 110amp/h model, while two 140amp/h house batteries run the services and are charged via the Yanmar's 80amp/h alternator. For running air-con and other white goods at sea the optional 6kVa Onan genset can be installed.
The Sparcraft rig was noticeably taller than the Z Spars ones fitted on the 45, while a simpler single-roller-furling genoa was fitted on the larger yacht instead of a staysail setup as on the 45. The Sparcraft alloy mast is supported with twin outboard wire shrouds and double backstays (with screw adjustment). One preproduction niggle shared with the 45 is the tall boom height; beyond eye level for most sailors, so difficult to douse the mainsail even with the mast steps. For production models this has been lowered by 20cm, Beneteau told me afterwards.
The hull is built using solid polyester layup with similar inner moulding bonded for rigidity, while the deck is injection moulded GRP/balsa sandwich. I noticed deep bilges; a welcome feature for dealing with heavy water ingress as well as keeping the wine at an ambient temperature. Outside, a chine maximises the beam as well as minimising wetted area when heeled, and beam is carried aft to ensure enough volume for carrying the sailplan farther back. The keel is a cast iron fin with bulbed foot and a large spade rudder is connected to the twin helms.
A mistral had gone through a day before leaving an oily swell with strong breeze that lessened to moderate during our afternoon sail - typical conditions for the French Mediterranean coast and a good test for the large cruiser. Another good test was our crew of eight, all of whom spread out comfortably in the cockpit leaving plenty of room for me to roam behind the twin helms.
Hoisting the slab-reefed mainsail was easy thanks to the optional electric Harken 46 halyard winch, the factory-fitted Code Zero unfurling similarly without dramas. The slatted-wood gunwales provide the helmsman with a comfortable perch to see clearly forward while one hand easily manages the wheel. The binnacle is well laid out with throttle, pod joystick, Simrad instrumentation and a compass all to hand. Trimming the primaries wasn't a stretch either thanks to the Harken 60s nearby to both stations.
Beamy hulls often don't benefit from excessive heel - the nearly three-to-one beam-to-length ratio is similar to the Open 60 raceboats - so in the gusty 17 to 20kts we had one tuck in the mainsail, managing to push the 13.3-tonne hull along at 7.2kts hard on the wind. Not as sparkling upwind as the 45, I scribbled in my notepad, but a smoother ride thanks to the extra LOA. Slightly off the wind felt more natural for the 48 and most cruising sailors would opt for that setting. Running with a big cruising chute flying would also appeal as this is a boat suited for blue-water and tropical climes.
The boat proved surprisingly nimble under sail, its short keel allowing easy tacking. My next urge was to switch on the Simrad autopilot before retiring forward to the shelter of the deep cockpit. However, with her smaller sister the 45 nipping at my heels I had to press on and coax the heavier hull upwind.
Hoving-to beside the old stone port of La Ciotat I invited one of our female guests to use the Dock & Go joystick. Her initial reticence turned to glee as she pushed the joystick over, the big hull obediently following the request. Pulling the joystick back the Oceanis 48 tracked astern and with a twist the speed increased to its rev limit. Underwater the pod drives had spun around 180 degrees, powered by an electric motor linked to ZF's SmartCommand system using the NMEA2000 connectivity protocol. Oblivious to all these smarts my novice skipper handled this 48-footer with aplomb, which says a lot for the user-friendliness of the technology and indeed this Oceanis 48.
The 48 continues the Oceanis philosophy of user-friendly sailing in an oceangoing package. It's a hull that's driven effortlessly in most conditions, with plenty of comfort on offer below decks. Like its smaller brethren, the Oceanis 48 should appeal to a wide variety of cruising sailors.
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