I know that it has been out for a couple of years, but the Beneteau Figaro 3 has just arrived in Asia with the first one here purchased by a Tiawanese. The boat routed through Hong Kong which gave an opportunity for people in the area to try it out.
In particular Chen Jing Hao (Horace) from Dongfeng Race Team who a few weeks ago came second in class in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland with Ben Schwartz on a Figaro 2, this boat’s predecessor.
At first glance she dos look a little strange with her foils sticking out of her hull, a hull that is all but bare below bar a couple of pipe cots with everything else being completely rudimentary or purely functional. One this this boat clearly is NOT is a family cruiser.
One thing she does appear to be however is light and therefore fast. A slight puff and she accelerated effortlessly from the chasing RIB while also showing one of the main benefits of the foils on each side of her hull. That being a remarkably small leeway angle and while she will always be limited by waterline length in displacement mode her VMG is likely improved by minimising this sideways loss while going to windward.
Having spent quite a bit of time chasing her in the RIB I was glad to get on board and see just how she handled.
First impression was that the twin rudders didn’t load up the helm as expected. She is tiller steered with a Spinlock telescopic extension and it was easy to find a comfortable position to steer her with all major controls to hand. The transom mounted traveler is fed back to just under the helm with the mainsheet which features coarse and fine adjustments right in front of this position.
The runner winch is right beside the helm with the ‘primaries’ just forward of that meaning everything is close at hand. Of course she is designed to be sailed single or short handed so she comes with not one, but two, autohelms to ensure reliability. In the 8-12 knots of breeze we had line loadings were comparatively light and the North 3Di sails set on a full carbon rig fitted to the boat drove her along effortlessly.
This rig is supported by rod rigging, swept back spreaders and runners, the latter, I was informed being more for sail trim than keeping the rig in the boat although I am sure, in a blow, their function is rather more than just that.
Helm response was instant with good levels of feedback without being too heavy and soon she was in her groove upwind with only finger and thumb required on the tiller. She did appear to heel early but of course that allows the leeward foil to dig in and do its work and it appeared quite strange to be trucking along while achieving so little leeway.
Bringing her off the wind and popping the asymmetric kite and she took off, effortlessly hitting double figures as we reached back towards the marina at Aberdeen
The small coachroof on 30 foot overall left wide sidedecks and a foredeck you could hold a dance on and appeared to be a very secure place to launch and recover the asymmetric from, which Horace handled with ease.
Arriving at the marina showed perhaps one of the biggest challenges of a boat ike this. Even with the foils fully retracted they stick out well beyond the hull and to protect them from any sort of a surface movement fenders need to be big and round and either side of the appendages, however nothing is perfect and I am sure an owner would soon figure out a workable solution.
Perhaps not the cheapest 30 footer and certainly aimed at a niche, whether inside or outside of the Solitaire du Figaro family but she is no bog-standard cruiser. In fact she is built at a separate Beneteau facility that is responsible for this model alone. Fun to sail, and pretty easy to sail though perhaps not to her 100% potential. The main challenge is bringing her alongside – no just stepping off the sidedecks onto a pontoon with this lady but nothing is perfect – close though.