I don''t pretend that I have an answer explaining why a Tartan is worth $200K (actually I thought that the actual difference for a similarly equipped Tartan 460 was just over $100K) more that a similar size Beneteau 473 but I can centainly explain some of the difference. I do want to say that I am actually a fan of the Beneteau 473. I think these are a tremedous amount of boat for the money and certainly represent a major step forward for Beneteau''s ''number series''. I would take one that had a normal mainsail (i.e. you could not get me to go offshore with a in mast furling
mainsail on a bet) offshore with no more trepidation than with most good quality cruisers.
BUT there are big differences between the Tartan and the Beneteau. To start with the Tartan uses an injected and vacuumed epoxy
resin intead of laid up polyester on the Beneteau. Epoxy
is substanially more expensive but results in an extremely tougher laminate. Epoxy
reduces the likelihood of blisters to less than zero and increases strenght, impact resistance and fatique resistance greatly over normal polyester resins used in the Beneteau.
Tartans bulkheads and frames are hand glassed into place while the boats are in the mold resulting is a very stiff structure and one that is likely to last a very long time. glassing while in the mold means less distortion and potentially stronger connection because the contact area is larger and defects can be observed and worked out. Beneteau uses what they call a space age adhesive that is supposedly stronger than the fiberglass it is adhered to and will delaminate the fiberglass before letting go of its adhesion. The problem here is the small contact area of the adhesive limits the area absorbing the loads to a smaller skin area and so is more likely to be a problem over time. This opaque adhesive cannot be tested observed for holidays and poor coverage during layup like a glassed in component. Similarly Beneteau glues in its liner/ internal framing system. Again this has less stength and resiliency in an impact as well as being extremely difficult to repair
in an extreme incident.
Beneteaus decks are glued on with the glue serving as the primary bond and any bolting is solely for assembly alignment. Again this has become a very normal industry approach to installing a deck and with modern adhesives it does produce a strong joint. Tartan uses a bolted and adhered deck joint with frequent bolts and aluminum backing plates. This results in a potentially more impact resiliant joint and one that is easier to repair
and less likely to leak over time.
Tartan''s hull uses a high density closed cell foam coring which is vacuum bagged into place. That means an extremely strong and extremely durable way to build a lighter weight boat. Beneteau only cores their decks and they use balsa core which is much cheaper and more likely to succumb to deck rot. Tartan also used balsa core decks but they core and fill each fastening point with epoxy
. Beneteau does not.
Then there are little things. I haven''t specifically done this on the 473 and the Tartan 4600 but if you open the cabin sole access port and look at the plywood that is used, the Beneteau has noticably thinner top veneers than the Tartan (I have not done this in a couple years but last time I looked this was the case.) That thicker top veneer means that you can refinish the deck on a Tartan for many years to come but are less likely to be able to maintain the Beneteau deck at some point and are more likely to have to replace a deck panel at some point due to the simple damage that occurs putting the deck piece in or taking it out.
Tartan 4600 use cast lead keels. Beneteau 473''s use cast iron. Cast lead offers the ability to absorb shocks of hard groundings without transmitting as much of the shocks into the structure and so are less likely to damage internal structure in a hard grounding. All other things being equal, the higher density of lead means greater ballast stability. That means a more comfortable motion and the ability to carry more sail. That means reefing later and also might mean the difference in being able to claw off a lee shore.
There are a whole lot of little details as well. When you look at the 473 casework, the doors are plywood with an applied trim. Its a little clunky to my eye and the plywood edges will break down over time. The Tartan cabinets use a plywood door as well but at least the last time I looked they had flush hardwood edges which protect the plywood edge and permit the door to be shaved if it swells over time. Beneteau uses interior hardware that looks virtually identical to the hardware on Tartan but from experience I can tell you that in the past, and I assume its still the case, the Beneteau versions had potmetal and ferrous components and the Tartan versions were non-ferrous. Even the details of the Tartan interior seems to be a little more complete.
Please don''t get me wrong here, I am not saying that the 473 is a bad boat. I really like the 473. I have had the chance to watch one sailing on a very gusty day and was quite impressed. Earlier this winter I had gone out to try to get a sense of how my boat would behave on a day predicted to winds into the mid-20 knot range. As it turned out the normal winds were in the high teens but there were very sudden gusts into the mid- to high 20''s. In cold air this feels like a lot more wind than the wind speeds would suggest. It was really very challenging sailing. In the whole afternoon of sailing I saw maybe 5 other boats underway and one was a Beneteau 473. Except for making gobs of leeway, the 473 was sailing quite well, looked balanced and under control, and was moving quite well through the short chop that had kicked up. At one point, when the two boats were quite close, we both were hit with a strong gust (probably in the high 20''s or low 30''s) and I was very impressed with the 473''s ability to take the hit and not round up out of control.
So, with all of that said, I am not sure that a Tartan 3600 is worth $200K (or even $100 K) more than the Beneteau 473. It really depends on how you intend to use your boat, how picky you are about little details, and how much you are willing to (or can afford to) spend for a better constructed boat. No matter how much or how little you have to spend there will almost always be a better built boat or a not as well built than the one you ultimately buy. We each set our own budget and our standards and hopefully that will be all the boat that we will need to be happy and comfortable.