Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Re: 34'Bene vs Columbia 9.6 meter...who's gonna win ??
While you have not said, which model 34 foot Beneteau your friends have I would assume they are sailing Beneteau 345's rather than much newer Beneteau Oceanis 34's. I have actually raced on both of these, but probably a decade apart.
In a general sense, under PHRF a Beneteau 345 rates over a minute a mile faster than the 9.6, and 345's have a pretty easy time sailing to their ratings. By the same token, the 9.6's have never had an easy time sailing to thier ratings. On the upwind legs, flying a working jib on a 345 without crew weight on the rail would be the right sail up for 10-12 knots of wind. A 9.6 with a full sized genoa would have too much sail up and so would probably be heeled more, and the 9.6 does not tollerate large heel angles without losing speed. With that in mind, in 10-12 knots of wind, the Beneteaus should be much faster upwind. They can point higher, have a better ability to stand up to their sail plan, and have better speed through the water.
Where the 9.6 with a full genoa may do a little better is on deep reaches and runs. The 345's depended on big headsails (or chutes) deep reaching or running, and they may not have enough horsepower with a working jib. If the 345 skippers know their stuff, they will probably not try to run dead down wind, but would heat up a little to fill their sails and generate more apparent wind. That tactic won't work as well for the 9.6's. If they do heat up just a little, they will probably clean your clock downwind and reaching as well.
Your only hope of beating them boat for boat is if they are not very good sailors and you are a very good sailor.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay