Beneteau to debut First 44 at Cannes
The French builder is developing the First 44 ‘racer-cruiser’, which offers standard and Performance versions, and provides a link between the new First 36 and the First Yacht 53.
Roberto Biscontini and Lorenzo Argento designed the First 44
Beneteau is producing the First 44 and plans to actively test the model before its world premiere at this year’s Cannes Yachting Festival (September 6-11), where the racer-cruiser could debut with the Oceanis Yacht 60. Based on a 43ft 2in hull with a beam of almost 14ft, the First 44 is offered in standard and Performance versions with an overall length of 46ft 5in and 48ft 1in respectively.
The First 44 features naval architecture by long-time America’s Cup designer Roberto Biscontini plus deck and interior design by Lorenzo Argento, the Italian pairing who also worked on the First Yacht 53, Oceanis Yacht 54 and upcoming Oceanis Yacht 60.
Deck layout for the standard First 44
The standard First 44 has a convivial cockpit with wide side-decks converging toward a cockpit table. Four winches, a fixed centreline block for the mainsheet and a mast set further aft are designed to maximise the potential of a modern sail plan with a slender mainsail and generous foresails. Twin 300-litre ballast tanks, activated electrically from the helms, help the boat reach its potential with reduced crew.
The Performance version was developed with fully crewed regattas in mind and offers a different deck plan and options for keels and masts (aluminium or carbon).
The First 44 Performance is designed for fully crewed racing
Equipment and systems are geared towards racing and features include foam non-skid surfaces to replace teak on the cockpit sole, six well-placed winches and a conventional mainsail traveller. The rigging and sail set-up include an almost 5ft bowsprit, hydraulic backstay, powerful in-hauler system and a performance keel/mast combination.
Engineering for the First 44 was entrusted to the Mer Forte firm, resulting in a ‘full infusion’ yacht in which the distribution of weight is a key factor. The First 44 Performance is 1,100 pounds lighter than the First 44 and its deck layout is a collaboration involving Biscontini, Argento, Hugues Destremau (North Sails), Michel Sacaze (Harken), William Thomas (Sparcraft) and Beneteau.
The Performance version is 1,100 pounds lighter
Biscontini, who first worked on America’s Cup designs in the late 1980s, said: “The objective with the entire First 44 team was to refine the concept of ‘performance cruiser’, which isn’t an easy undertaking because the architecture of these boats rests on many contradictory requirements.
“We tried to find the correct balance between cruising comfort, performance and safety, and are quite satisfied with the result. The First 44 shares the style and the elegance of the First Yacht 53 and is similar in the organisation of space and volumes, yet certain elements and characteristics of her design take her a step further in her quest for performance.”
Aft view of the interior by Lorenzo Argento
The interior features the mast at the end of a six-seater transversal table to port, while opposite is a sofa and navigation station. The en-suite master cabin is in the bow, while aft is the galley to port and two guest cabins sharing a starboard bathroom. The decor includes white lacquered surfaces, moulded woods, indirect lighting and a selection of luxurious upholstery.
Argento, who also worked on the new First 36, said: “I wish to sincerely congratulate Roberto for successfully creating the hull-mast-rigging combination, which gives us an extremely pleasant and well performing yacht on the water.
“At our level, we tried to reproduce this fluidity and spirit through the deck design and interior arrangements, by maximising the use of volumes and minimising the impact of any restrictions. For example, the position of the mast had a great influence on the way the interior is arranged, and we were able to draw up a practical, harmonious solution for the table-galley-sofa area.”
Design teams from Italy, France, Slovenia and New Zealand collaborated to create the new First 36, a high-performance, high-volume 36ft cruiser-racer.