Re: Lets choose SmackDaddy's new boat...
I would not quite say that the '80's era Firsts were not as well-built as the '90's era Firsts since each had some 'betters' and 'not as good's about them.
What I would say is that the early to mid- 1980's Firsts were full of idiosyncratic details, many of them did not work all that well. I raced on a couple First 345's and on several 42's.
They were notorious for details which did not make an easy transition from European standards to US standards. They were very hard boats to service, with plumbing and electrical almost totally inaccessible for repair or replacement. I know that the First 42's seem to be held in very high regard these days, and yet one of the two, that I raced on tended to flex very noticably, would jamb its head door and creak terribly when being driven hard up wind.
In the 1990's, the Firsts seemed to employ a more complete and better engineered molded in force grid and seemed to take a big leap forward in build quality and Americanization of their details.
My friend's First 38s7 that I sailed a little, seemed much stiffer and better constructed than the 42 and 35 that I had sailed in earlier years, and the 40.7 seemed like monumentally better boat structurally. Even so, I heard from the owner of a 40.7 that he damaged the forward transverse frames beating at speed into a tall chop, and launching off of waves off Hatteras.
I replaced a head and some of the electrical system on the late 1990's era 38s7 and everything was relatively easier to access. Finish levels were much nicer as well.
As a broad generality the 1980-1990's Beneteau Firsts were more sophisticated designs than the Hunters. The racing versions of the Beneteaus were also slightly better equipped. The problem was that both companies optioned the living daylights out of their boats so you might sail a lead deep draft keel, tall rig version, set up with proper winches and think "Wow, what a great boat!" and then get on some iron keel-short rig version which left you thinking "What the heck were they thinking?". Its in the gap between the base level and the fully loaded versions that you can get the negative verdicts from the court of public opinion.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay