Winner: Beneteau Oceanis 46.1
But the Oceanis 46.1 has raised the bar significantly in the highly competitive melting pot of midsize family cruisers, in terms of both looks and performance. If this is not the best Oceanis ever, I’m quite sure it will still become the most popular to date.
Beneteau, Finot Conq and Nauta took all the best bits of the 45 and the new Berret Racoupeau-designed 51.1 and somehow made them better.
The key to the design is in the full-length chine, which creates a narrow wetted surface area, yet at the same time increases the amount of internal volume for the beam, particularly in the sumptuous forward cabin.
Keeping the beam narrow below the waterline means the boat is much more slippery than the large volume would suggest. I sailed two different versions in both light to medium airs and in very strong winds and the Oceanis 46.1 proved really engaging to helm in all conditions.
Verdict: This is one intelligent, voluminous modern family cruiser that sails as well as its bang-on-trend design suggests it will.