Beneteau First 235 History  updated: 6-30-07
Neil Quigley and I have been working on assembling some sort of record of the manufacturing and history of the Beneteau First 235 through the years. Sadly, Beneteau does not have a full set of records available for this unique and intriguing boat. Obviously, this page is a work in progress; we will be revising/editing as more info becomes available. There are reportedly photos of the First 235 on the production line at the Marion, SC plant. For now, see below on the Beneteau First 235 Database including some background on First 235 production as well as Manufacturing History, Hull Numbers, Reading Hull # info, Liberty Edition, and Modifications.

The Beneteau First 235 Database is the upshot of over two months of research. I hope that we can continue to add data to this ongoing project; we think it will be an important resource for all owners. Furthermore, unlike some other on-line F235 boat data lists, it has been designed to promote increased interaction among F235 owners via the new F235 forum, all without compromising the email privacy of owners.

In addition to the boats for which hull numbers are known and entered into the new database, approximately 70 other US-made F235s and another 20 European F235s are kept on an unpublished list due to incomplete hull ID info. As soon as we learn hull ID numbers for these boats, they will be added to the F235 database. We hope that owners whose boats are not already in the database will contribute their hull number and boat name information so their boats can be added.

In the course of creating a new F235 database from scratch, some interesting information became known concerning the F235 past, both generally and for specific boats. Some of this information is secondhand, however, so its veracity cannot always be established absolutely. Unfortunately, the current incarnation of the F235 Database is weighted heavily in favor of the US-made boats. This is something we hope to rectify as more European owners contribute their boat info.

It would be very helpful to find an F235 owner in the UK and another in mainland Europe who would take on the job of assembling as much F235 data as possible about European F235s, including the history of their manufacture in Europe.

Manufacturing History

BeneteauUSA on-line records indicate that 451 hulls were made at their Marion, South Carolina factory. An owner in Europe reported that approximately 410 F235s were built in France (To add to the confusion, the Finot site reports 680 made from 86-91). Some US-made boats were apparently shipped to and sold in Europe toward the end of the US production run, and at least one F235 went the other way: the new owner of French-made hull, EUR 152 (Brian Tymkow), lives in Alberta, Canada. Brian bought his boat in California and had to verify its hull ID number so he could import it into Canada. He found that it had a European-style hull number in the usual place (see below), but it also has a derivative (BEY00...) of the usual US-style (BEY1A...) hull number at the top right of the transom! BeneteauUSA confirmed to Brian that they imported this hull from France, but were unsure of the circumstances.

Hull Numbers

According to an email from the F235 designer, Jean-Marie Finot, all boats are permanently labeled with a unique identifying number that indicates details of manufacturer, build date, model year, and unique hull number within the entire production run. This number is embedded in the gel coat in the area indicated in the photograph. It's also visible on a small plaque in the cockpit on the starboard side seat wall. See visual detail at right.

All hull identification (ID) numbers on US-made boats have the format, BEY1AnnnXbyy (e.g., BEY1A252G889): all begin with BEY1A, followed by 3 numbers (nnn, that define the actual hull number), then one uppercase letter (X, the build month: A=January, B=February, L=December,...), then the last number of the build year (b), then the last two numbers of the boat's model year (yy).

A Hull ID number exists in the same place on European-made F235s, but the number's format is more complicated. A typical European ID number might be: 0144085-11230-0124 - the last three digits are believed to be the boat's hull number within the European manufacturing run. A contact at BeneteauUSA tells us that European boats would also have something similar to the BEY number to detail the build date and model year of each hull. Interestingly, two European F235 owners report that only the '0144085' number is on the hull in the usual ID location and that they cannot find a 'BEY' style number anywhere. However, it appears that the build date and model year information are provided on a small plaque mounted in the cockpits of European-made F235s (similar to the US boats).

elationship between hull number, construction date, and model year

It is not clear yet exactly what the specification differences were between each model year. However, it is clear that the style and the color scheme of the cabin-top decals changed over the years. Some late model boats were equipped with a portable toilet instead of a marine head, and they had fabric privacy screens around the navigation station instead of solid wood panels. Some of the earliest models also had a depression in the top of the transom that is believed to have been designed to hold a steering oar, should the motor fail. Some boats made in Europe have a saloon table with a drop-leaf side panel, but this feature seems to be very rare in US-made boats.

Construction of the first US boats was in mid-1986 (hull 004 was built in May, 1986), and the latest US construction date we've found so far is a 1993 model year boat built in August of 1992 (hull 435). We know also of one 1993 model year boat in Europe too (hull EUR 367). Construction of a new 'model year' generally began in the preceding year, often as much as 6 months before the end of that year. In fact, there are some boats belonging to a particular model year that were actually built before the last of the preceding model year boats were all finished!

Roughly speaking, BEY hull numbers #001 to about #110 were the 1987 model. Hulls from ~110 to ~250 were 1988 models, and 1989 models are mostly hulls ~250- to ~340. US-made boats numbered as model years 1990 and 1991 are both represented among hulls numbered between ~340 and ~410. Model year 1992 and 1993 boats have hull numbers in the 400s. It would be great if someone in Europe could find out where European boats were made, and how to determine the manufacture year and model year information from their ID.

Inevitably, with so many F235s built, some have been lost. Gator was destroyed in a hurricane in Florida, and Lucipara III was lost in a fire in Holland. Her owner, Jan Noordenbos, searched far and wide and eventually found another F235 in Austria, and named her Lucipara IV.

What is a 'Liberty Edition' F235?

See full size - F235 Liberty Edition #12 Some F235s built in the US were sold as 'Liberty Edition' boats. These carry a unique graphic on each side depicting a sailboat under spinnaker, a sail cover with same graphic, and have a plaque affixed to the forward bulkhead in the cabin indicating the boat as one of the Liberty Edition series with unique edition number. While it appears that many or all of these boats were sold with a specially designed mainsail cover, it seems that no other special features are unique to the Liberty Edition First 235.

Approximately 40 'Liberty Edition' hulls were built. To date (January, 2007), we now have the location of Liberty Edition Hull #001, owned by Nadine Goes. From all indications, this hull was built in July of 1988, possibly as a prototype for the Liberty Edition boats. The actual First 235 hull number for Liberty 001 is #257, far earlier than the previous first "known" non-Liberty boat at hull #276. We do know that Hull #287 is Liberty Edition #10, and that Hull #276 is not a Liberty Edition boat. We also know that Hull #315 is Liberty #38, but #318 is not. Therefore, it seems that the Liberty Edition started with perhaps a prototype at #257, then continuing at Hull #277, perhaps sequentially from this point on till as far as Hull #315. This puts the build date in the July-October of '88 time frame. 

The Liberty Edition may have been a promotional model for the boat show circuit, perhaps in 89. One owner discussed this with a purported Beneteau employee of that time who believes the Liberty Edition boats sailed around the "Statue of Liberty" perhaps in a promotional regatta with hired skippers; however, some report that the First 285 was used.  The photo of Airhead (Hull #289, Liberty Series #12) shows the side special decal and boom cover common among Liberty Series F235s. See Larry Johnson's interior plaque for Liberty Edition #038 at right.


F235 owners seem to be a pretty creative bunch. Many owners have found interesting ways to improve their boats to suit their particular needs and preferences. F235s are sailed by families, single-handed sailors, dedicated cruisers and voyagers, and serious racers. The design is ready for all of these modes, but often benefits from a little fine tuning by the owner. A web page has now been dedicated to articles and pictures submitted by owners concerning their special modifications. However, two major modifications might surprise some owners.

Ryan Finn, now an avid Mini sailor who placed 1st in the 2007 Newport 1-2, got his single-handing start in New Orleans on his First 235, Réve (hull#79-Fin), modified for single-handed offshore sailing. Ryan bolted a sturdy aluminum frame to the transom to carry his self-steering vane and skeg. He also mounted rigid solar panels in each aft deck corner. He sailed Réve from New Orleans around the tip of Florida to Savannah, GA. Ryan has fond memories of the First 235 and credits it as integral in his development.

In late 2004, Réve began a new life in Vancouver, Canada, where her new owner, Ian McPherson, has restored her to duty as a family cruiser/racer renamed Witch of Endor.

We are aware of two boats (Pegasus in California, and Dream Maker in Massachusetts) which have replaced the standard keel with a custom-made longer fin keel: Pegasus has a version 1 of the Leif Bailey keel and Dream Maker has keel of another design that is purportedly 4 foot deep (whether this includes all the draft is still up from question).

Regarding keel design, the fin keel is probably the most common option originally installed; they were made in Europe and in the US. However, a significant portion of European boats were equipped with lifting keels, popular in shallow anchorages. The 'thin water' problem was solved by the installation of a wing keel on a big number of US-made boats, the exact amount which is still unknown.

While most owners look on their F235s as comfortable, well-built, fast daysailers, others look further offshore. The previous owner of Prana, Thomas Burnett, documented a 10-month voyage he and his Alaskan Husky made from Texas via the ICW, through the Keys, and across to the Bahamas (An interesting aside here, the Prana is the only boat I know of that converted from a FIN to a WK. Thomas had run aground in the Bahamas and sprung a bad leak, cutting his trip short. He ended up trading keels with Neil Sorensen's Hot Tuna in a Fort Lauderdale boat yard. They wanted the fin so he got their WK. He sold it soon after - kh). The previous owners of Magic Frog (#102) recently took their F235 from Florida to the Bahamas and back. The owner of at least one F235 had the far horizon in his mind's eye when naming his boat - Trekka (#274) was named after Guzzwell's very famous 20'6" globe-circling sloop. There must be many other stories of voyaging F235s - please email them to the F235 forum administrator for inclusion here.

Finally, scanning the list of boats in the attached database, many will be struck by the interesting range of boat name types and styles. A discussion thread exists on the F235 owners forum under which owners have explained the derivation of their boat's names. Hopefully other owners will add their naming stories to that discussion thread.

Neil Quigley
Traveller - Hull #252
Knoxville, TN, USA
Via F235 Forum
Kelly Holsten
abstrait - Hull #327
Wrightsville Beach, NC, USA
Via F235 Forum

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See full view See full size view of First 235 Abstrait & Kelly Holsten leaving Masonboro Inlet at Wrightsville Beach, NC F235 Folie a Deux under reef conditions Thomas Burnett's PRANA anchored in the Bahamas