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Boat Review: Beneteau First Yacht 53

Published on February 20th, 2020

This isn’t your parent’s Beneteau as Mark Pillsbury of Cruising World reviews their new Beneteau First Yacht 53.

A freshening breeze, ­building from near calm to the midteens, brought perfect conditions for a morning sail on the new Beneteau First Yacht 53. With sails up, our speed over the ground effortlessly matched that of the light breeze, and when things got puffy out on Chesapeake Bay a bit later, well, we went soaring.

Standing atop an angled fold-up helmsmen perch at the starboard wheel, with the lee rail close to buried and the windward rudder completely out of the water, I had the otherworldly feeling of flying across the water, and it was absolutely a thrill. Think high-end sports car winding through the gears on a twisting mountain road, and, well, you get the idea: Power on and knuckles white, but it was a ride you’d not want to miss.

Beneteau introduced the First range in 1977, with racing sailors in mind. Most recently, the French builder refreshed the line with several smaller, sporty models it acquired when it bought Seascape Yachts. The 53, though, is a whole new concept entirely. Luxury ­performance is how it’s put in the marketing material, and, in all honesty, that’s a pretty apt description.

Walking the docks at the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, this past fall, the First 53’s plumb bow, slight reverse sheer, dark metallic hull, and broad deck and coach roof all covered in teak made it instantly stand out from the sea of white production cruisers. Even tied up, the boat looked ready to rip.

The First’s performance potential comes thanks to Biscontini Yacht Design and Roberto Biscontini, who earned his drawing creds over the course of two decades of America’s Cup campaigns. And the luxury? Well, Beneteau turned to Lorenzo Argento for deck and interior styling. Argento has been involved with a number of high-end projects, including Wally Yachts. Together, the pair created a vessel that’s easy to look at and riveting to sail. Full report.


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