the water we were impressed by the performance of this sailboat,
which was more than keen get going without any particular requirements
on the crew. The F235 will happily pick up speed. Its size and
weight are such that the crew's weight still plays an important
role in balancing and trimming the boat, but the mere fact of
sitting outside the cockpit on the windward side-decks will make
the boat as rigid as a "normal" cruiser (i.e. with less
sail surface). The well-designed coaming compensates the relative
narrowness of the beam, and the lifelines are well positioned
although the helmsman would certainly prefer more comfortable
lines in his back.
The F235 acts a bit like a large sailing
dinghy, but with one significant difference: a good tolerance
to heeling. It does not require staying upright to be fast or
pleasant to steer. It can easily support a 25º heel with
the rudder remaining easy to control. One can therefore happily
use the full power delivered by the sail configuration. The backstay
block configuration allows for an easy adjustment of the mast
bend and the rigid boom vang controls the mainsail flatness with
Sensitivity to balance
Due to its short stern, the F235 tends to
drag in the water unless the crew pays careful attention to the
trim when sailing close hauled. This is especially true with the
outboard engine in place. One can remedy this by filling the water
tank in the bow, but this of course affects the overall weight
distribution. When sailing downwind the crew can spread out in
the cockpit without affecting the balance too much. Each bench
in the cockpit will accommodate 3 crewmembers quite comfortably.
As with many sailboats of this size, it
is not recommended to have a crewmember on the foredeck, as this
will singularly complicate the job of the helmsman, especially
by heavier winds. When sailing downwind with a spinnaker this
could even lead to a broach, with the hull swinging around the
wedge formed by the bow ploughing into a wave. But all this does
not diminish the quality of the hull that progresses with ease
considering its size. It never seems to slow down in waves.
Switching the genoa for a #1 jib reduces
the sail surface by 8m2, transforming the F235 into a gentle cruiser.
The large mainsail still ensures the necessary liveliness and
the helmsman will still have a good feel for his boat. With the
first reef in place you will require winds of at least 25 knots
before the helmsman needs to move to the side decks. Handles on
the edges of the benches facilitate movements around the cockpit.
The side decks on either side of the cabin trunk are quite narrow
but workable. The foredeck on the other hand is really small and
might complicate work and boarding manoeuvres at the pulpit.
The deck hardware shows Beneteau's experience
and is well designed and laid out. The vertical bow does require
a bit of extra caution when dropping or retrieving the anchor.
On a boat as trim sensitive as the F235 the location of the survival
raft can make a big difference. Rather than placing it in the
cockpit locker we decided to place it under the cabin ladder for
a better balance.
We would have expected a better stowage
system for the nicely varnished washboards, but Beneteau has not
yet followed the example of Jeanneau in this regard. But we did
appreciate the accurate frame of the companionway and the indents
isolating the lower washboard of water collecting on the lower
edge. We did notice that after some rain the front corners of
the cockpit foot well collected some water - the slope of the
cockpit floor should be a bit steeper. next