But Bene and Hunter have done EXACTLY the same thing - and worse in my opinion. THe hardware and cabinety of the new benes is poor.
I don't agree with this at all. I think the cabinetry on the new Benes actually is quite nice. We thought it was a bit more nicely finished than the Catalinas. The floor is fantastic, the joinery is plumb, and the berths are actual matresses. But frankly, if anything, Hunter probably has the nicest interior. Heresy I know, but that's my honest opinion.
On the hardware, I don't think Bene's are inferior at all. I do think the winches are smaller than the Catalina/Hunter counterparts, but that's where it ends. It's all brand named hardware, machinery, pumps and electronics. It may be Lewmar instead of Harken (depending on the boat) and things like that, but the boat's filled with Wichard, Edson, Force 10, Raymarine, Xantrex, Yanmar, and similar. Catalinas don't have any better, and I don't think you can say the hardware or equipment is inferior on the Platinumteaus.
I think that's just wrong.
These things go in cycles, and I think depending on which point in time you look, one or more of the Big Three move ahead or lag behind the others. I hate to say it CD, but this is Catalina's turn to lag behind the other two. It still may lead Hunter in perception in some areas because Hunter is such a controversial brand, but having recently gone through the process of comparing these boats (among others), my clear perception and opinion is that Catalina lags the others in styling, construction and finish. I think Catalinas are perfectly fine boats, but they've been outflanked for the moment. I didn't see much in terms of innovation or advancement. It seemed as though you could have been looking at the same line 8 years ago. In short order it may be exactly the opposite when Catalina beats the other two to the punch on some new development, but that's not today.
Just my humble (but unfailingly correct) opinion.