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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I took a look at a beneteau 31 and a hunter 33 over the weekend. We're looking for something late model for Dallas area lake use, thus the production boats. Due to some crazy wind (I imagine the same front that caught our friends on Matagorda Bay) there was no actual sailing involved.

I've found very little in the way of reviews on the Beneteau 31, other than the speak-no-evil big magazine reviews. Does anyone own or have experience with one?

I know I'm comparing a 31 to a 33, but from an asking price perspective, they aren't that far apart.

Fit and finish was just fair on both, but probably good enough for our purposes.

From what I could tell sitting still, the Hunter was more liveable below decks (of course it's a bit bigger but I think there's more to it than that.), but the Bene seemed more "sailable". The Hunter had lots more storage below. I'm not sure you could store a standard sized dinner plate on the Bene. I really liked how the Hunter has all the through-hulls under a single panel in the cabin sole. It also had little things like extra 12V outlets in the cabins. I was surprise to find this particular instance had a fixed cooktop, microwave, but no regular oven.

OTOH, the Bene had _lots_ of cockpit storage, and lots of clever features from the companion way on out. The hull shape and more conventional rig would probably make for better sailing--although the beneteau's spreaders sweep back more than I have seen on any non B&R rig.
 

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This is largely a matter of personal preference as the differences are not that great. Also, don't knock the B&R rig as it has many advantages and only one drawback when sailing DDW which is neither efficient or safe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
This is largely a matter of personal preference as the differences are not that great. Also, don't knock the B&R rig as it has many advantages and only one drawback when sailing DDW which is neither efficient or safe.
I guess it's all guessing unless someone with experience with the Bene 31 chimes in, but do you think the Hunter, with it's smaller headsail, with point as well as the Bene? Will it handle light air (common on area lakes, although the last couple of days make it hard to believe) as well? I notice that the Hunter hull is wider towards the bottom--probably a good bit of what makes it so roomy. Will that make the motion underway more or less comfortable?

If the two really have comparable performance, then the better creature comforts of the Hunter may matter more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Oops, I just realized I posted this in general discussion, rather than the new boat section where I intended to put it. I'd appreciate it if a moderator would move it, if it is appropriate to do so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Oops, I just realized I posted this in general discussion, rather than the new boat section where I intended to put it. I'd appreciate it if a moderator would move it, if it is appropriate to do so.
And, of course, by "new boat", I meant "buying a boat".
 

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I guess it's all guessing unless someone with experience with the Bene 31 chimes in, but do you think the Hunter, with it's smaller headsail, with point as well as the Bene? Will it handle light air (common on area lakes, although the last couple of days make it hard to believe) as well? I notice that the Hunter hull is wider towards the bottom--probably a good bit of what makes it so roomy. Will that make the motion underway more or less comfortable?

If the two really have comparable performance, then the better creature comforts of the Hunter may matter more.

Regarding pointing, the main driving force on any boat comes from the mainsail which is typically larger on a B&R rigged boat which is one of it's advantages both in light air and in overall handling. You will find yourself sailing on just the main as the headsail serves only to aide when you want the slot to help.
There has been much written on the various comparisons of the traditionally rigged vs. B&R which you may want to research or just look at most of the high-end racing boats to see what these designers have concluded in going with B&R rigs.
Neither is ideal as either are a compromise but in your situation when you have no compelling need to go DDW for prolonged periods, the decision is largely one of convenience.
Neither hull shape will create any significantly disparate handling issues and the only noticeable difference may be some pounding with the relatively flat Bene hull.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Doing a few calculations, I find the Hunter, with the classic mast, has a pretty good SA/D ration (20.99) which surprisingly beats the Beneteau (18.99). The Hunter with the furling mast comes in at 18.2. Unfortunately, Beneteau does not publish sail area for the furling mast, but I assume it is lower.

Both dealers are pushing furling mains pretty hard. I have mixed emotions on them, but can see some real advantages for short-handed sailing. (My wife knows how to sail, but lacks the strength to raise a heavy main by herself.) Given that one of the big B&R rig advantages is to make it easier to carry fully roached mainsails, do you think it would be more impacted by mast-furling than a standard rig?
 

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One of the things I like about Hunter is the smart way they made use of locker spaces and ease for DIY installation of AC, cold-plate(fridge/freezer) and other electronics. The H33 comes with Owner's Manual that shows everything you need know about the boat and even the electrical diagram and plumbings etc....
 

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Having sailed the 2004 Hunter 33 for 3 years and now own a 2006 Hunter 36 I can speak for them. First of all I dont like the new 2008-2009 Hunters. They don't compare in fit and finish with the early models. They went El-Cheapo again (pre-Henderson days era pre 2000) to cut cost to keep the models at a certain price break-point. The wood finish is no longer teak, they went with a different lighting system, they use a concrete-iron keel and went with a lower quality running gear, blocks and traveller. So if you can find a nice 2003-2007 model I would get that one vs a new one.
Having said all that though, I like the way the Hunter sails. The sailplan is soo easy to sail, all lines lead to the helmsman, easy to balance out, points into the wind within 20 degrees. The Hunter doesn't like to go DDW like others have said. So, get a Asymmetrical sail for your inventory and that area is covered nicely. With an ATN sock I set and douse mine alone.
The cockpit in the Hunter 33 one can entertain up to 6 guest very comfortably and up to 10 guest spread throughout the boat. Not sure the Benne can do that. Also the fold-up helm wheel is another plus. Down below Hunter hands down wins here over the benne. More room, more storage space, more comfortable and for the me no puke Benne green.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
What changed with the deck hardware? The 33 I looked at had Lewmar 30 winches, harken blocks, and spinlock clutches. I _think_ it and the Beneteau 31 had exactly the same choices in hardware. The 33 did not have the arch installed, so I didn't get to look at the traveler.

Oddly, the Beneteau 31 seemed to have a larger cockpit, even though it's a smaller boat. At least, it was easier to move around, and that's comparing it to the Hunter that did not have the wheel installed. Glen Henderson commented (on sailboatowners.com) that the 33 had a reduced cockpit size to increase the space in the aft cabin. I am, though, a little disappointed that Beneteau dropped the rotating wheel from the 323.

I'm rather surprised not to see anyone weighing in on the side of the Bene. Are there no Beneteau supporters out there?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I meant to say that I agree that the Hunter wins hands-down south of the companion way. About the only thing I found below decks that I liked better on the Bene was the way the gas-strut supported companionway steps for engine access. I could send my wife below to check the oil on the bene and get no complaints, but I don't think she would be comfortable moving the heavy companionway steps on the Hunter.

It's really too bad the dealer didn't have an H31 for more of an apples-apples comparison. (Or maybe it's too bad that Bene doesn't have anything between the 31 and the considerably more expensive 34 anymore). OTOH, the 33 would force me to go to a larger slip in our marina at an incremental cost of $50-$75 a month.
 

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There are certainly Beneteau supporters here; I am one. I'm simply trying to be objective in responding to your questions regardless of personal preference or bias.

The hardware on the new Hunters is equivalent to any other prod boat in terms of quality.

None of these boats, B, H or their clones, have real teak anymore or even teak veneer making them all look artificial. That too can be a positive to some as these finishes require less or no maintenance so this again is a personal choice.

Some Hunters are now sporting iron keels which is a cost-cutting move but Beneteau has historically used iron so that too is a moot point when comparing them.

Boat selection is all about what you perceive is the better choice for you - there are no startling fundamental distinctions here.
 

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What changed with the deck hardware? The 33 I looked at had Lewmar 30 winches, harken blocks, and spinlock clutches. I _think_ it and the Beneteau 31 had exactly the same choices in hardware. The 33 did not have the arch installed, so I didn't get to look at the traveler.

The boats I saw at the 2008 Annapolis Boat show is where I saw the El Cheapo reduction in hardware. They are using a lower line Harken gear now and was confirmed by the sales reps I talked to about this. If the model boat you are looking has the upgraded hardware that is great to hear. What concerns me is the fact the arch was not installed. I thought the factory installed this. BTW I love the arch. Great invention. Some people hate the way it looks. But having the traveller sheets at the helm station is a major plus. Also it holds the Bimini to keep that hot Texas sun out of the cockpit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
What changed with the deck hardware? The 33 I looked at had Lewmar 30 winches, harken blocks, and spinlock clutches. I _think_ it and the Beneteau 31 had exactly the same choices in hardware. The 33 did not have the arch installed, so I didn't get to look at the traveler.

The boats I saw at the 2008 Annapolis Boat show is where I saw the El Cheapo reduction in hardware. They are using a lower line Harken gear now and was confirmed by the sales reps I talked to about this. If the model boat you are looking has the upgraded hardware that is great to hear. What concerns me is the fact the arch was not installed. I thought the factory installed this. BTW I love the arch. Great invention. Some people hate the way it looks. But having the traveller sheets at the helm station is a major plus. Also it holds the Bimini to keep that hot Texas sun out of the cockpit.
Actually, I think the size 30 winches were an upgrade from size 16 standard. That would be rather small for a boat this size, I think. The Bene has size 30 standard. I didn't pay attention to the size/line of the Harken stuff--I will look again when I take my wife out to see the boat later this week.

I assume (hope) they at least have hard points for the arch install. It seems like that could put a _lot_ of force on the deck attachment.
 

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Which keel and mast did you have on your H33?
I had/have a lead bolt-on keel (standard) and in-mast furling mainsail. Took awhile to learn how to trim the mainsail vs full batten mainsail. Lose about 1/2-1 knot of boat speed in light winds. This is due to no battens in the mainsail. When sailing upwind once the mainsheet is set, it is all traveller including tacking..Why I love the arch. Also end-sheeting on the boom vs mid-sheeting on other production boats.
If you have any questions email me at Melrna2001 at yahoo dot com
 

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I've only been on the Hunter at the Annapolis boat show, but there's a new Bene 31 on our dock.

I've sailed on the Bene 31 in some really strong (20-30kt) winds and I can tell you she really likes the hard stuff. Sailing done on an inland lake in TX. The owner installed a double ended mainsheet making it easy to singlehand. The boat has a 100% jib and a stack pack - again - easy to handle. Steering is a bit tight, but that should loosen up in time - just a very slight weather helm and it steered itself in 15 kts breeze. My only sailing complaint is the traveler seems a bit short.

Fit and quality - you have that info and I agree. I've also rafted up next to her on two different weekends and it seems to be just right (tankage/storage) for two couples or a family for a long weekend. The boat has AC installed, but no genset (post production). So there is room for AC. One small thing that I noticed - Bene did something simple that really opens up the kitchen - they moved the sink to the end of the island, facing port instead of forward.

My opinion : the Bene is a better looking boat under sail.

Disclaimer - The boat belongs to a friend of mine who is the Beneteau dealer for Austin - but I own an old Hunter. :) I've no vested interest.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I've only been on the Hunter at the Annapolis boat show, but there's a new Bene 31 on our dock.

I've sailed on the Bene 31 in some really strong (20-30kt) winds and I can tell you she really likes the hard stuff. Sailing done on an inland lake in TX. The owner installed a double ended mainsheet making it easy to singlehand. The boat has a 100% jib and a stack pack - again - easy to handle. Steering is a bit tight, but that should loosen up in time - just a very slight weather helm and it steered itself in 15 kts breeze. My only sailing complaint is the traveler seems a bit short.

Fit and quality - you have that info and I agree. I've also rafted up next to her on two different weekends and it seems to be just right (tankage/storage) for two couples or a family for a long weekend. The boat has AC installed, but no genset (post production). So there is room for AC. One small thing that I noticed - Bene did something simple that really opens up the kitchen - they moved the sink to the end of the island, facing port instead of forward.

My opinion : the Bene is a better looking boat under sail.

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Have you sailed it in light air? I'm on a north Texas lake myself. We get the occasional blow, but have more days of light air than heavy, particularly in late summer. The double ended mainsheet sounds interesting--if I go the Bene route I might be in touch about that.

The one I looked at had the AC installed under the forward-port settee. It didn't seem to impinge on space too much, although the ducts did take some space in the cabin lockers. It had no genset (which I would not expect on a boat that size), but the dealer pointed out that the life-boat storage area would be a great place to store a portable generator. Since we're never out of an easy swim to shore, I doubt we will carry a life-boat much ;-)

Does your friend store cups, dishes and cookware for the galley? Was he able to find space for things? We (a couple) will rarely spend more than a weekend on it, but it would be nice to be set up for entertaining.
 
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