Luxury performance-cruising isn’t entirely new. You can go fast and still be comfortable. You can even race if you make the right tradeoffs—or so says Beneteau, which recently launched its First Yacht 53, in the process also reinventing the company’s “First” brand.
Design & Construction
Beneteau took the creation of this new boat seriously, staging a design competition between a number of different companies before choosing Roberto Biscontini as its naval architect and Lorenzo Argento for styling. Biscontini’s America’s Cup experience resulted in a balanced hull form, with a carefully positioned center of buoyancy, minimalist lines, a plumb bow, vertical transom, low coachroof, open stern and max beam carried well aft in the interest of sail-carrying ability off-the-wind.
Forward, the boat is equipped with a fixed composite sprit. Aft, there are twin rudders to ensure the boat stays under control at all angles of heel—a vital consideration aboard any boat with a beamy back end. Chainplates are positioned outboard, and the hull is cored with balsa. Displacement is just 34,000lb light ship. Infused construction, reduced tankage, light furniture and Dyneema lifelines all serve as further testament to Beneteau’s weight-saving efforts.
The hull includes fiberglass stringers fixed to an aluminum substructure to maximize the boat’s overall rigidity and help tame keel and rig loads. Three choices of keel are available: a shoal-draft version drawing 6ft 3in; a standard fin drawing 8ft 2in; and a deep-draft performance keel drawing 9ft 10in. The latter was affixed to our test boat, hull #3, the first example of the new 53-footer to arrive in the United States.