Three bedroom, kitchen, bathroom
– all this in 6.50 meters: the First 23 is the latest of
Beneteau, is certainly a small boat, but with long fangs! Comfortable
and aggressive, this is a mini that delivers the max…
With its 6.50 meters length and its vertical
bow, the latest Finot design reminds us of the Minis that cross
the Atlantic every second year. We therefore tried the F23 side
by side with its racing cousins. It might have a slightly higher
cabin trunk and freeboards, but the F235 is not the least aggressive
looking of the lot. The mast is one of the shortest, which is
to be expected. But the major difference lies in the beam: since
the F23 is trailerable, it’s significantly narrower than
interior volume of the F23 amazes bystanders. Imagine looking
at a garage shed and finding a true Scottish manor inside! The
container seems to be much smaller than the content. First observation:
it is actually possible to obtain a reasonable cabin height without
making the vessel look like a fish boat. To achieve this result
there are no floorboards, except to cover the keel bolts. But
the bottom is actually relatively flat and the single floor frame
is swiftly forgotten.
To the left of the access ladder one finds
a true L-shaped galley, with gimballed two-unit stove, sink, icebox
and a few cabinets. The water pump is fed from a 50-litre bladder
tank in the forepeak. The tank is filled through a plughole on
To the right we find the true design gem:
a head converting to nav station. The idea is not new but very
well executed, with sliding panels allowing for complete privacy.
This also enables the skipper to work at night at the chart table
without disturbing sleeping crewmembers. A small electrical panel
manages the main functions: navigation lights, instruments, interior
lighting – all fed from a battery situated under the chart
table. The battery will need to be reloaded in the harbour.
The front of the cabin contains a table
that can be lowered to make place for a double berth. Storage
is foreseen under the benches. But the F23, like any proper yacht,
also has owner’s quarters – in this case a double
berth under the cockpit and lit by a round porthole in the transom.
A shelf runs along one side and a small storage locker can accommodate
a small bag. A simple curtain would transform this area into a
So this First is not without comfort. What
remains to be seen is its sailing speed. We organised an impromptu
race against a Coco and four other prototype Transat sailboats.
Each boat had five crew for a race to Penfret and back.
On the F23 the engine is mounted on the
transom and the anchor is stowed in its locker on the foredeck.
This layout induces a fair bit of pitch but this is a cruiser
after all. We did take a few extra sails with us, coming from
a Muscadet. The original demo sails were not all that exciting.
soon as we leave the bay we hit the waves and winds between 20
and 25 knots. We fly the spinnaker and put the first reef on the
mainsail. The prototypes shoot ahead and we have to let them go:
the F23 will not plane - with five crew in the cockpit plus the
engine and its gas tank we drag in the water and cannot hope to
compete. The tiller is a bit too long and can hinder movements
in the cockpit. The tiller extension on the other hand is too
short and should be replaced with a telescopic model. Later, close-hauled
the race is on again. The F23 points as well as the prototypes
and is only ½ knot slower, despite that facts that our
mainsail has a long footrope and looks like a swollen bag. We
try hard to give the mainsail a better shape. Luckily the 9/10ths
Z-spars mast configuration allows for easy bending. The backstay
block is a bit flimsy but does the job. The telescopic boom vang
is also adjusted with a block. A cleverly positioned stop on the
boom enables operation without a topping lift. Altogether the
F23 presents a good compromise: it can easily be adjusted without
having to deal with the complications of additional runners and
multiple spreaders. Our mast was raised the day before and loosened
up during the race, allowing the mast to swing significantly.
We also felt the genoa car tracks were a bit on the short side.
But the small F23 did demonstrate it’s an excellent sailboat
close hauled, with good sailing rigidity.
Not only did the F23 show good sailing
performances, it can also live up to most cruising aspirations.
A crew of three or four will find all the necessary comfort for
relatively long passages. The equipment allows for a good degree
of autonomy and its small size requires little muscular effort
and allows it to sail pretty much anywhere. Finally, we should
not forget the old saying: small boat, small problems. Starting
with the financial ones…
What we liked: comfort on
We didn’t like: demo sails; deck hardware on the
Liveable 6.50 Meters
small cruiser that is both aggressive close hauled and comfortable
at anchor, Beneteau managed to combine the performances of a hull
designed by Finot with the comfort of a well-finished production
sailboat. The inside volume makes you forget its overall size.
Clever design options such as the combined head/nav station and
the double berth under the cockpit make life easy on board. The
F235 is available with a fixed or retractable keel and is trailerable.
The vertical bow reminds us of the mini-Transats, and indeed its
performance close-hauled is about equal to these race boats. But
planing will be more difficult, due to the extra bulk and weight
put on to provide more comfort on board.
We didn’t like: deck hardware and sails to be
Return to First
235 Reviews Index