Centurion 40S Wauquiez, the French boatbuilding firm, has existed on the fringes of the American sailing community for two decades, but throughout the majority of that time the company hasn't enjoyed the benefit of top-drawer representation with a nationwide dealer network. As a consequence, many of the company's boats sailing in the U.S. were purchased on the used market from owners who bought them in Europe. That changed when Beneteau acquired the company in 1997.
Known for strong construction and fast sailboats, Wauquiez presents a well-conceived cruiser-racer with comfort enough to match its performance.
The Wauquiez enterprise was founded in the 1960s when Henri Wauquiez decided to form a boatbuilding company that would produce copies of his own yacht, a Pye-designed Elizabethan 29. That decision put the company on the map in the French sailing community, and established its reputation for producing fast, solid cruising boats. Once established, Wauquiez introduced designs ranging in size from 28 to 47 feet, including the Chance 37 and Wauquiez Hood designed by Ted Hood, which was later produced in the US as the Ted Hood Little Harbor 38. Like many one-man operations, the company endured financial ups and downs typical of the boatbuilding industry of the 1980s, and was placed in receivership in 1982. It re-emerged in 1983 and produced 200 boats in the ensuing five years. With financial difficulties continuing, Wauquiez brought in a financial partner, Olivier Prouvost, who eventually took over the firm. Then, in 1997, Prouvost sold it to Beneteau.
The clean, unencumbered cabintop and teak decks on the Centurion 40s distinguish this boat from many others in the cruiser-racer field. Room sacrificed to the 62-inch wheel in the boat's ample cockpit, however, means that the seats aren't long enough for sleeping.
As with other acquisitions made by this new owner, the foundering builder now has access to Beneteau’s deep pockets, mass purchasing power, and state-of-the-art production techniques. Even during hard times, Wauquiez produced sailboats that have an excellent reputation as being durable blue-water sailors, the cost of which may have contributed to its downfall. Having the resources of Groupe Beneteau should enhance the company’s reputation and offset whatever negative press it had to endure as a result of previous financial shortcomings.
As with most of Beneteau’s subsidiaries, Wauquiez designates product lines by their intended use: the Centurion combines performance and comfort with traditionally shaped sloops. The Pilot Saloon line seeks to combine sailing performance with raised coachroof profiles designed to increase viewing area from below decks.
The Centurion 40S was designed by Jean Berret and Olivier Racoupeau Yacht Design, a well-known European firm with established credentials. When underway and viewed from abeam, the 40S presents a stylish, almost brutish, profile defined by a fine bow entry, downward sloping sheerline that leads to a healthy beam amidships, and one long, dark port on the cabinside that looks racy, especially when compared to rounder cabin sides interrupted by several ports. However, from her stern quarter her large cockpit gives the appearance of a daysailer. Her length measurements—41' 2" LOA and 36' 5" LWL—coupled with ample sail area figures and moderate displacement numbers, give her a SA/D of 21 and a D/L of 131; certainly an above-average performer.
The cockpit is a T–shaped space that is broader aft than at the companionway, but large enough to allow a performance crew of racers to move about, and the cruiser space to entertain guests.
Compared to production builders that locate mainsail controls atop the cabin, the Centurion 40S's mainsail controls—at knee height on a traveler forward of the binnacle—is a fairly gutsy move. With the mainsheet placed on a 6:1 block and tackle augmented by a 36:1 fine tuner, trimming the sail is an easy operation, even on a big boat in 20-plus-knot winds. The fine tune is anchored to the cockpit sole, so it can be removed when sailing in light air venues. Except for the need to step over the traveler to access the helm or exit via the stern, its location is of no consequence, especially when the ability to improve mainsail trim is factored into the equation.
The width of the cockpit aft of the wheel is 76", leaving room for three people to sit behind the 62" diameter wheel, the bottom of which travels through a trough in the cockpit sole. A neat design feature is that when the helm seat is elevated upward to allow access to a swim platform, it also reveals a storage area large enough to accommodate a life raft. It's an excellent location when a hurry-up launching is required, and does not compromise overall storage space.
Cockpit seats covered with teak are 15" deep, 18" wide, and 64" long so they will be comfortable on a daysail or for a full crew on an extended passage. Located over the aft stateroom, the starboard locker is only 18" deep, so essentially it's a large tray, adequate for storing deck gear. One negative is that accessing a propane tank located in that locker will require emptying the compartment.
In contrast, the port loker is spacious—46" deep, running from stern to mid-cockpit. Room in the space is adequate for storage of water and holding tanks, and provides access to water plumbing, battery charger and water pumps, where they are protected from the elements. Also, a six-footer can fit in this space.
An upgrade from the standard issue, our test boat’s primary winches were Andersen 52 2-speed, self-tailers, replacing factory spec Andersen 46s, and the secondaries were Anderson 46s instead of Anderson 40s. The oversized winches—a $1,600 addition to the price of the boat— eased trimming on our test sail. Andersen 46 winches are positioned on the coachroof, coupled with sets of Spinlock XTS rope clutches.
The genoa track is a Harken section running forward to the shrouds so it doesn't interfere with crew movement; however, the track may need extending if a small headsail is being used. The company has included adjustable leads as standard equipment, improving the ability to fine tune the headsail without leaving the cockpit.
Absent from many production boats are the Centurion’s low-profile molded fiberglass dorade boxes in the coachroof over the aft section of the main saloon. It's a well-conceived addition that improves ventilation above the stove and nav station since dorades may be tucked almost out of sight when underway.
Seven opening hatches on the deck, including those over staterooms and the head, and a 20-square-inch hatch located on the bow, provide ventilation. A bow hatch is generally a secondary source of ventilation when underway; nonetheless, a solar powered vent bedded in this hatch could provide fresh air when sailing in hot climes. For proper ventilation, we ordinarily prefer additional opening portlights for a cabin as large as this one (the Centurion 40S has but two very small ones), but the dorades are a fair substitute.
The anchor locker is a self-bailing cavity into which a Lewmar windlass has been installed; windlasses on deck may look nautical, but are invariably toe stubbers that snag loose sheets during a tack or jibe, and may chafe sails, as well as impairing the shape of the foot of headsails.
This boat has clearly been optimized for ease of use and has performance features that will make life simpler for the cruising sailor, especially those interested in gaining the extra knot of speed that good sail trim can produce.
The keel-stepped mast is a solutionfavored by most offshore sailors, except those who say dismasting such a rig can produce a large hole in the deck. For our part, we think that matter is resolved by personal preference on boats this size. The rig carries aero designed, swept aft double spreaders that support a fractional rig. The standing rigging is wire. To reduce deck clutter, halyards and running rigging exit at the base of the mast, turn through Harken blocks and run aft via a channel covered by a fiberglass hood. Backstay tension is adjusted hydraulically.
Passage Yachts of Point Richmond, CA, which provided our test boat, replaced the standard slotted mainsail groove with a track housing Antal cars that significantly ease hoisting and dousing the main. However, because of the size of the powerful mainsail and the weight of full battens, cruising sailors should place high on a list of required options a lazy-jack sail control system.
A neat wrinkle in the cockpit sole at the companionway is a 20" x 18" space covered by a hinged lid designed as a storage area for the bitter ends of halyards and lines, further reducing cockpit clutter (see photo below left).
We evaluated accommodations on the basis of four criteria: living, sleeping, eating, and the head. On balance, the layout is fairly typical of the genre. Head, nav station, and a settee are located to port; galley and settee to starboard; skipper's quarters are in the bow and crew quarters aft to starboard.
The interior is accessed via curved teak steps with non-skid protection that keeps feet connected to the boat while its heeled. Lighting is provided by halogen lamps integrated into the overhead and reading lights are at the head of berths. There's also low-amp, aircraft-style lighting on the sole that provides enough illumination to see well after dark.
The interior feels spacious. The headroom surpasses 6' 2", the saloon measures 124" on the centerline; the width outboard of the settees is a full 8". Also, the designers have nicely integrated the galley and nav station spaces in a way that enhances socializing, yet these two areas remain sufficiently separate that their occupants can pursue their respective tasks unfettered by the coming and going of others on board.
The interior surfaces are teak throughout, nicely finished with two coats of UV-resistant varnish, and a third of polyurethane. The liner is a cream-colored, Naughahyde-type material that has a nice appearance; its panels are connected by tongue and groove edges secured to the underside of the deck with screws. (It will be easy to access deck hardware if necessary.) Storage in the cockpit lockerfor a two-part companionway door means those sections won't be stored beneath berth cushions.
The engine compartment is accessed by elevating a housing aft of the companionway steps. Additional access is via port and starboard removable plastic panels that make it easy to check oil levels and change fuel and oil filters. Insulation is 1 ¼" thick. The batteries are located in a compartment below the steps on the centerline; a good place for the weight.
Don Cameron, Passage Yachts' service manager, noted one problem with the arrangement: "The entire step must be removed to service the engine, as compared to other Wauquiez models that provide a hinged cover that can be attached to the overhead with a lanyard. Making repairs at sea with the engine cover loose in the saloon may be a problem," he says.
Wauquiez appears to have borrowed from the design of Beneteau's plumbing systems, which are better organized with the use of manifolds. Hoses are double-clamped and the ends of hose clamps have rubber tips, preventing scratches produced by rough edges. Plus, all pumps on the boat are manufactured by Jabsco, so finding replacement parts should not involve a treasure hunt.
The 36-square-inch head has a teardrop shaped sink, storage behind mirrored doors, and separate shower stall enclosed by translucent glass doors; the stall has 6' 4" standing headroom. Ventilation is provided by an opening port in the cockpit well and a hatch overhead. Outboard of the shower stall is a hanging locker that allows the storage of wet foulies without having to drag them forward through the saloon.
The galley features a 60" long by 17" wide synthetic counter enhanced by plastic covers over double stainless sinks. The freezer is located outboard, forward of a two-burner gimballed Eno stove/oven. Two nice touches, we think, are that standard equipment includes a wooden stove cover with handles (allowing it to double as a serving tray); and, the refrigerator is installed in a cabinet enclosed by a wooden door. As a consequence, when repairs or replacement of the unit are required, it slides out of the cabinet.
A functional dining table measures 38" x 22" before a leaf folds inboard to double its space and allow portside diners to eat on a fixed surface. However, the base of the table is attached to a wooden platform supporting the leaf. The result: that section of the table intrudes into the center of the saloon and impedes movement fore and aft. It's a design feature we feel offers opportunity for improvement.
The C-shaped starboard settee measures 81" inches and is 46" wide; the port settee is 70" long and 28" wide, so it will seat three adults comfortably. Both are fitted with double density foam cushions. To confirm this boat's pedigree as a cruiser, lee cloths are built into port and starboard settees. Miscellaneous storage spaces include two cabinets and book shelves located outboard.
In the nav station, the chart table measures 36" x 23", plenty for using real-life charts, but a 3" deep storage area is shallow, at best. The bulkhead has adequate expanse for the addition of instruments and repeaters, and the electric panel is mounted on piano hinges, so it's easily accessible. Wires are nicely bundled and easily identified by referencing the owner’s manual.
We literally stumbled into the forward stateroom because this compartment's sole is about 2" lower than that in the main saloon. It increases headroom here to 6' 4", but will pose a challenge for those unfamiliar with the boat.
The space here is occupied by a vanity and seat and mirror to produce a sitting room, plus a dry locker to port and three storage compartments. The berth is a teardrop shape measuring 7' on the centerline and 5' 6" at the shoulder, adequate for most adults and cozy for two.
The berth in the aft cabin is a double; storage is in a hanging locker and shelves along the hull with ventilation provided by two hatches.
One issue we felt the builder should address involves the fingerholds in the main saloon located below the portlights. They're flimsy and should be augmented by solid wood rails located on the overhead; something we feel would be an easy and relatively inexpensive solution for enhancing safety underway.
Construction methods are consistent with those of most production builders: the hull is fiberglass cored with balsa, though the lamination includes a resin infusion process that measures resin/glass rations. Vinlyester resins are employed in the skin coat. Like most production boats, the hull is strengthened by a grid system with a one-piece floor and stringer structure that provides a base for furniture and connection point for chainplates. Floors are glassed to the hull to increase strength, as are bulkheads (though some are attached with glue). The deck also is a sandwich consisting of fiberglass and balsa. The hull to deck joint is secured with a combination of polyurethane adhesives and fasteners. The lead keel is attached with stainless fasteners bedded in fiberglass.
Plumbing includes two polyethylene fresh water tanks with a 103-gallon capacity; an 11-gallon hot water tank with engine heating; and a pressurized freshwater system with 12-volt pump and expansion tank. The capacity of the holding tank is 23 gallons.
The Centurion 40S with a Volvo 3040 (40 horsepower) engine is priced at $216,514, FOB the East Coast. Increasing the engine's capacity by 15 horsepower adds another $5,000 to the base price. Among the other options that would make for more pleasurable sailing are a full-battened mainsail with lazy jacks ($7,275), and ball-bearing cars to make hoisting and lowering that sail an easier task ($1,682).
We tested her on San Francisco Bay in 8- to 10-knot winds and 1- to 2-foot waves and rollers. Under power, the Saildrive (equipped with a three-blade, fixed propeller) powered the boat at 6.6 knots using only half throttle—the tachometer registered 2,200 rpm. At 3,000 rpm, speed increased to 7.1 knots while powering into the waves. Motoring, the wheel was very responsive; she'll spin on her keel and easily carve S-turns.
Sailing under a full mainsail and 105% jib, we didn't consider tucking in a reef, though the rail was often buried. Heeled at 15 degrees, she sailed to weather with a touch of weather helm at 4.8 knots over the ground. However, when we powered her up by tensioning the backstay and flattening the mainsail, boatspeed increased by a knot. Once heeled 15 degrees, she felt stiff, a result of the designers locating the center of gravity well below the waterline.
Footing off to a close reach in the same breeze we eased the traveler and jib, cranked on the vang, and watched the speed increase to 7.9 knots. On a broad reach in a steady 10-knot breeze, she sailed at 8 to 8.4 knots, her deep rudder keeping the hull on a steady course. In those conditions, the helm would have been lighter had we shortened headsail. Surprisingly, sailing at 110 to 120 degrees off the breeze, even with just the tiny headsail, she held her speed in the mid 7-knot range.
With a proper set of sails and an attentive crew, we estimate that this boat has the capability of logging 200-mile days at sea—good performance for a comfortable cruiser.
This boat is easy to maneuver under power, and responsive under sail. In the cockpit, we think the helmsman will appreciate foot braces molded into the cockpit sole. We also found that we could steer comfortably on the leeward side of the wheel, which made it possible to see the telltales on the headsail. The width of the cockpit footwell is right for bracing bodies when heeled. However, older sailors may want to consider the addition of electric halyard winches and definitely will want a mainsail control system when dousing. (We would not recommend a mainsail furler because of the deleterious effect on sail shape and performance inherent in most of those systems.)
Except for the design of the dining table, living quarters are spacious and comfortable, and there’s plenty of headroom. Owners sailing in humid areas may want to add solar vents to increase air movement belowdecks. And, we agree with Don Cameron's observation about the engine cover.
We were favorably impressed when we first tested a used Wauquiez several years ago (Practical Sailor 4/1/98). Like its predecessor, this boat may be a good choice for the cruiser whose intention it is to put many miles under her keel.