Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Beneteau 411 vs. Island Packet 380
These are very different boats in almost every way. Beneteaus work well as basic coastal cruisers. They have reasonably roomy interiors, lots of ventilation. They are nicely finished down below. Their designs are often quite ''Euro modern'' which is an aquired taste find rather unappealing.
Beneteau typically used world class designers to design their hulls and rigs rather than in-house staff designers. In the case of the 411 the designers are Groupe Finot. Group Finot is best known in this country for designing long distance single-handed race boats. I am not a huge fan of their design philosophy as it tends to produce less well rounded designs than some of the other raceboat designers that I prefer, guys like Bruce Farr, Wiley and Bill Tripp or cruising boat designers like Bob Perry.
Finot''s designs are contraversial in that their wide beam gives them more overturned stability than is ideal for offshore work.
In general, Beneteaus are not known for overly robust construction. I really hate the in mast furling that 411 Beneteaus come with almost by necessity. I think that in mast furling will be one of those fads, like roller reefing booms of the 1960''s that we will look back on and ask, "What the heck were we thinking?" I also don''t like the narrow side decks, or the huge table in the cockpit on the 411.
Compared to the Island Packet, the Beneteau should be considerably faster and easier to handle. The Beneteau 411 is 1500 lbs lighter on a longer waterline than the 380. The 411 has considerably more sail area. This should result in better light air performance and a more easily driven hull allowing you to get by with less sail area in a breeze. The wide beam and longer length on the Beneteau should give a more comfortable ride in a short chop but the wide beam will mean a faster motion than the Island packet.
I have always thought that Island Packets are way over priced and way over sold; very often (but not always) to people who are entering the sport. (I base that comment on conversations that I have had with past and present Island Packet owners at
boat shows. I am always amazed how many say that an IP was their first boat.)
Island Packets have never made any sense at all for the way most of us use our boats on the U.S. Atlantic coast. They are not
good as light to moderate air sailers (the predominant summer condition on the mid U.S. Atlantic Coast) and they don''t seem to
be great heavy weather boats either. The 380 really lacks a lot of the key components that I would look for in an offshore cruiser
(seaberths for instance). For that matter, I have never been all that impressed with the build quality of the Island Packets (but
some people are) although some of their details are quite nice.
To me, it comes down to your goals for buying a sailboat (and people buy sailboats for a lot of reasons most of which are
equally valid with each other). If you are just buying a boat to live on and you really do not care how well the boat sails or how
much time you will spend motoring, then the Island Packet might work for you.
But if you are buying a sailboat because you really want to sail well and want to be able to voyage from place to place driven on the force of the wind, then there are much better sailing boats out there for the same dollars.
IP are designed around the idea (directly or indirectly) that there is merit to craming a lot of room and weight into a short hull.
Based on my 37 years of sailing experience there is no excuse and no real advantage to that approach to yacht design other
than perhaps a concern with slip fees.
Island Packets seem to offer a lot room in a short package and what real good is that? None that I know of.
When dealing with wind and wave, a finer hulls actually do better. Nothing succeeds like length (read both the Fastnet and
Sidney Hobart disaster reports). Stubby is wet and feel greater impacts from each wave.
As I have said many times, weight in and of itself does nothing good for a boat. It does not make it strong, or stable, or
comfortable in a seaway. It does not give a boat the ability to survive a big storm or an unexpected visit to the beach.
Heavier boats, that are not carefully modeled, (and in my opinion the IP''s are not all that well modeled) require more sail area to drive their greater drag through the water. In my experience, this means more physical strength is required to sail them and as a result, if you try to sail them well, they wear you out sooner.
Then there is motion at sea. There are two factors that lead to uncomfortable motion, roll angle and roll speed. Navy studies
suggest that both have equal impact on the comfort of people onboard boats. IP makes a strong point about its slow roll rate
but from observation, they seem to roll through much wider roll angles than other boats around them. I have sailed up behind
them on windier days (you rarely see them sailing in normal conditions) and they are making lots of leeway and seemed to be
heeled more acutely than other boats around them. Looking at rudder angles and at the owner''s faces, they seem to be fighting
for control when a true offshore boat should not be.
I know that there are a fair number of IP''s out there cruising and that there are IP owners who like their boat. (Most people do
like their boats.) I also know that a lot of these boats are sold to people with big dreams, some who never really learn to sail, or become prematurely convinced that sailing is a lot more difficult than it really is. To these people (and I have met quite a few of
them) their Island Packet was a graveyard of dreams. As I have said before, from my observations, in the long run, I think you would be better off buying a Trawler if you are going to sail in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic coast, than an IP since you will probably spend less time motoring.