In 1998 the European Union created a Recreational Craft Directive that established design standards for most recreational boats from 2.5 to 24 meters (8 to 79 feet). New and used boats sold in Europe, including boats built in the US – or anywhere else – for export to Europe, must be certified as complying with one of four design categories.

The following four design categories help to quantify a boat’s degree of seaworthiness, based on the wave height and wind speed the boat is designed to encounter and handle. The further offshore the vessel is expected to venture, the higher are the expectations for construction strength, stability, freeboard, reserve buoyancy, resistance to downflooding, deck drainage and other seaworthiness criteria.

  • Category A – Ocean: covers largely self-sufficient boats designed for extended voyages with winds of over Beaufort Force 8 (over 40 knots), and significant wave heights above 13 feet, but excluding abnormal conditions such as hurricanes.
  • Category B – Offshore:  includes boats operating offshore with winds to 40 knots and significant seas to 13 feet.
  • Category C – Inshore: is for boats operating in coastal waters and large bays and lakes with winds to Force 6, up to 27 knots, and significant seas 7 feet high.
  • Category D – Inland or sheltered coastal waters: is for boats in small lakes and rivers with winds to Force 4 and significant wave heights to 18 inches.

Since the number of people onboard can impact a boat’s seaworthiness, changing the number of people on the boat can also change its category, with more people aboard — and more weight and potentially less stability — putting a boat into the next lower category.

While the European standards are no guarantee that a boat will be suitable in all respects for the conditions in its designated category, they help to separate the purely inshore craft from those capable of operating safely in more demanding conditions.

All boats built by Beneteau are rated in one of these four CE categories.

For example, the Oceanis 60 has been given an A – Ocean – Rating if she has no more than 12 people aboard. But with 13 people aboard, her rating falls to B – Offshore.

Typically, powerboats carry lower ratings, generally starting with B or C ratings. For example the Beneteau Gran Turismo 49 is rated B – Offshore, winds to 40 knots and waves to 13 feet with 14 people aboard. With 16 aboard her classification is lowered to C – Inshore.

Another example is the Beneteau Gran Turismo 35. She has a B rating with 8 people aboard and a C rating with 10 aboard.

Boats sold in the U.S. do not have to be CE rated, but rather, must only meet a few US Coast Guard regulations which address required safety items such as PFDs and flares, carrying capacity for boats under 26’ and level flotation if swamped for boats 20’ and under.

America’s version of CE Standards and Recommendations have been promulgated by the American Boat and Yacht Council — but they are strictly voluntary. Most critically, there are no ABYC design categories to differentiate between boats of different capabilities, a crucial distinction CE ratings and American NMMA certification, which itself only requires about 70% of the ABYC recommended standards. While most quality U.S. builders follow the ABYC standards and many exceed those required by the NMMA, they are not mandatory as the CE standards are in Europe.

Beneteau meets all required standards for North America, including Coast Guard requirements and most of ABYC standards (as some design features may differ). To that end, Groupe Beneteau is actively taking part in the standardization and improvements of all safety regulations, both for ABYC and CE rules.