Since the launch of Bruce Farr’s design in 1999, nearly 700 Beneteau First 40.7s have been built. But what is responsible for the enduring appeal of this cruiser racer?
Their prevalence at regattas shows how much the design has caught the imagination as a performance boat at a good price.
Nowadays there’s another reason for its success-with so many boats on the water, owners get frequent opportunities to race head to head. To assess her appeal, we went for a spin on Southampton Water.
In around 16 knots of wind, gusting to 23 knots, the Beneteau First 40.7 was well powered up under full main and No 3 head sail.
We could have used some more weight on the rail than our crew of five, but in moderate spells, the boat balanced well, notching up around 6.5 knots close-hauled, tacking through 80° and adding half a knot on bearing away.
One reason for the Beneteau First 40.7’s success is its versatility as a cruiser-racer.
Cockpit lockers can be removed for racing, providing either a huge area for crew to work forward of the traveller, or ample space for fenders and lines.
Beneteau has also eschewed an open racing transom in favour of quarter lockers bridged by a curved seat – making ideal liferaft stowage in between.
The traveller is just forward of the helm and an above-deck mainsheet system leads to the aft winches.
Sitting out is easy on the Beneteau First 40.7, whether on the high or low side, and the chunky steering pyramid provides an excellent bracing position.
The helm itself is positive and there’s plenty of grunt in the big wheel to handle the yacht as she powers up even though we were slightly overpowered in the gusts, the rudder never lost grip.
Kevlar steering cables avoid stretch and keep the helm free of slack.
The Beneteau First 40.7 isn’t quite as stiff as the X-Yachts X-41, but aluminium spars and Dyform rigging still give a balanced response to varying wind conditions.
The six-winch cockpit layout works well for crewed and short-handed sailing.
Lines are led aft to the coach roof and there is plenty of space for the mainsail trimmer forward of the helm – the only tricky control for the crew to access is the hydraulic backstay.
Under power the boat showed excellent and positive handling characteristics, tracking well astern, turning in 1.25 boat lengths and cruising at about seven knots, with an extra knot in reserve when necessary.
Modern touches aboard the Beneteau First 40.7
Like X-Yachts, Beneteau go for two straight saloon settees, a triangular berth forward and identical twin aft cabins.
But there’s more timber on the Beneteau First 40.7 than the X-Yachts X-41 and curved edges on the saloon table, nav station and galley create a softer look, offset by modern touches such as the matt aluminium grabrails, which also house roller shades – a clever bit of design that avoids curtains on race day.
The forward cabin offers the usual below-berth stowage, although the small deck hatch means spinnaker drops into the cabin are tricky.
The heads to starboard has adequate headroom to shower in comfort.
Stowage onboard the Beneteau First 40.7 is adequate rather than generous. A hanging locker in each cabin and good highlevel lockers in the saloon above the settees – and although space below the settees is dedicated to tankage, there are handy spaces behind the seat backs.
Essential wine stowage is in the centre of the table and the galley has plenty of space above the stove, below the sink and in an adjacent cutlery drawer.
The nav station is well set up for racing, with a big, forward-facing chart table and enough space for most gadget addicts.
The pedestal provides a drawer and a locker for stowage plus a handy set of cubby holes behind the navigator’s seat.
The large double berths aft are simple, with stowage beneath the berths and in hanging lockers.
Engine access is through hatches either side of the engine and via the companionway.
The Beneteau First 40.7 has proved a winning formula on the racecourse. And there is little else on the market that offers similar performance and precision at this price. For this reason, the yacht has become a favourite with charter agents. The owner of our test boat, Robert Blackwell, bought her to start a skippered charter business.
First published in the June 2007 issue of YW.
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