Sea Trials

Once aboard and with our gear stowed, we set off from the dock and headed for the drawbridge that would give us access to Government Cut and the ocean. We had to wait a few minutes for the bridge to open, so we took the opportunity to put the boat through its paces under power.

The 50 has a 1 io horsepower Yanmar engine that drives a Max-Prop feathering propeller. It is also equipped with a bow thruster. The engine controls and dials are at knee level at the starboard wheel, so that's where you steer from, (letting in and out of the dock at Sea Isle, Wayne used the bow thruster to swing the boat into the wind and make the sharp turn from the marina to the channel. The maneuver worked flawlessly; it would have taken some real backing and filling to make the exit without the thruster. Modern, light boats of this size with high bows certainly benefit from the power of a bow thruster.

In the channel, we revved the engine to 3200 RPMs, full throttle, and didn't have to wait long to get her up to her designed hull speed of 8.9 knots. The hull is well-balanced fore and aft, so it did not squat unduly at

Ail halyards and control lines for the mainsail lead aft to winches on the cabin top under the dodger, left; the 50 steered easily in the rising conditions and the view from both helms is excellent, right full speed. From full speed, we threw the engine into reverse and brought the boat to a full stop in three boat lengths. Obviously, the MaxProp was doing its job and the big engine had ample power to stop the boat's momentum.

While we were waiting for the drawbridge, we stopped the 50 and slowly backed her up the channel. The boat steers nicely in reverse and did not show much propwalk or a tendency to veer violently when the rudder was turned slightly from side to side. Backing into a slip should be fairly easy, particularly with the bow thrustcr controlling the front end of the boat.

We steamed through the open drawbridge and then motorsailed out Government Cut to the ocean. The wind was a steady 15 knots as we cleared the jetty and buildings. The seas were still quite flat, but a chop was beginning to rise. The 50 we sailed had a roller furling Selden Mast and a Profurl roller furling unit on the genoa. The mainsail had vertical battens, so it had a bit more roach than a norma! in-mast sail. The mainsail sheets to a fixed point in the middle of the arch, and the mainsheet runs forward to a block and then aft to an electric winch on the cabin lop. The whole rig has been set up for easy sail handling from the cockpit.

Once in deep water, we hardened up to close-hauled and trimmed to the telltales. With 15 to 18 knots true and 22 knots apparent over the deck, the 50 was slightly overpowered with the full main, but chewed upwind nicely and did not put her rail underwater once.

To reduce weather helm and regain balance on the helm, we reefed the main by a third. The 50 settled down at about 12 degrees of heel and charged ahead even faster than she had with the full sail. The helm felt steady, and even though there was a building chop, the boat fell nicely into an upwind groove. Trimming the genoa with the two large Harken electric winches was easy—we could get used to this. The only thing we might add to the rig would be a traveler on the top of the arch for the mainsheet so we could depower or power up the mainsail as conditions warrant.

Off the wind, the 50 really gath ered her skirts and started to fly. We reached offshore for a while and then jibed back toward the Cut. The wind was still building and the seas getting up, so we rollicked along at a steady 9 knots and occasionally saw 10s on the GPS. The 50 has an adjustable chartplotter pod on the aft end of the cockpit table that is visible from both wheels, so we had all of the nav and performance data right in front of us.

With the wind now well over 20 and gusting higher, we rolled up about a third of the genoa and shot the genoa car forward to maintain a good trim angle. Still, the 50 surged ahead at a good speed, and we saw 11 knots 011 the GPS as we surfed down the front of a wave. In the brisk breeze and quartering sea, the 50 steered positively and tracked well.

Back inside the Cut, the wind came around on the nose, so we

Beneteau USA's president Wayne Burdick works at the chart table, top; the 50's seagoing galley Is well laid out for preparing meals both at anchor and underway fired up the Yanniar and rolled in the sails for a quick motor back to the marina. We had sailed for about two hours and had seen how the 50 behaved on all angles of sail and in a good breeze. We never had spray in the cockpit and never put the rail under. The boat handled well and behaved like a pro when reeled and trimmed properly, I would not have worried about facing breezes of 30 knots or more. The 50 didn't creak as it heeled and did not pound in the head seas. And off the wind, she really flew. Designers Berret Kacou pcau have once again got their lines, weights and non-dimensional ratios just right.

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