Alex Smith heads for Barcelona to investigate the latest flagship of Beneteau’s multi-purpose line, the Barracuda 9
Back in 2003, when the original Beneteau Barracuda 7 was launched, it felt very much like a blueprint for modern high-value boating. It certainly wasn’t the cheapest boat in its field and neither was it the most dynamic to drive, but by refusing to commit to any single strain of recreation, it brought a taste of everything to the mix.
You could cruise on it, wakeboard behind it, dine on it, fish from it, sunbathe on it and helm it single-handed with the utmost ease. For those who enjoy a bit of everything, it was almost the perfect boat – and 15 years on, the launch of the line’s new flagship suggests that those same guiding principles still lie at the heart of the Barracuda experience.
The freedom of movement on the Barracuda 9 is outstanding. The pilothouse can be accessed through sliding doors on both sides, as well as through an aft sliding door that helps link the cockpit seating with the internal dining area.
The swim platforms can be accessed via steps on both sides of the transom, and the inclusion of an additional side boarding gate gives you a direct route to the pontoon from the broad starboard walkway. But arguably the cleverest element of movement around the boat involves the cabins…
While there is a standard access point to the main cabin to port of the helm station, Beneteau has also cut a large ply hatch into the pilothouse floor to enable those in the guest berth to get in and out without having to disturb those in the forward space.
Not only does that give your guests a private exit should they fancy an early breakfast, but it also means they can enjoy far more natural light and fresh air than they would otherwise achieve. And if you tend to cruise as a solitary couple rather than a group, the hatch remains a very useful tool, enabling you to dump any bulky gear below without cluttering up your sleeping space or having to wrestle it down the forward steps.
There are some equally rewarding features elsewhere. For instance, the beamy cockpit employs three folding benches and a sliding seat box, which can be moved to the back end of the pilothouse, enabling you to generate everything from a fully open fishing deck to an eight-man dining station – and because the pilothouse uses a pair of side doors, it causes no major headaches when the sliding bench blocks your access to the internal shelter.
It’s also good to see that the aft end of the cockpit uses a hinged lid on a pair of rams to make proper use of the otherwise redundant space above the engine well. Not only does that generate a useful work surface, but it also helps minimise the ingress of noise and fumes from those twin engines.
When you get underway, the lofty topsides, generosity of features and outboard twin rig, mean the helming experience of this four-berth multi-tool is more akin to that of a cruiser than a fast open day boat. Even so, we’re still on the plane in under five seconds, hitting 30 knots in ten seconds and topping out at nearly 42 knots.
Handling is a touch lumpy but the ride is both soft enough and dry enough to avoid detracting from the comfort at the helm and the superb all-round view through those vertical pilothouse windows. Like the original Barracuda 7, it’s by no means an outstanding driving machine but it’s certainly a competent one – and with so much else on offer, that’s good enough.
Any fishing-friendly pilothouse cruiser with a large open cockpit, internal shelter, overnighting berths and walkaround side decks is likely to bring a healthy dose of flexibility to the table – but the latest Barracuda flagship represents proof that Beneteau still works as hard as any builder to bring all that potential to fruition.
It offers sleeping for four; a separate heads compartment; an eight-man external dining station; bright, lofty internal space for six; uninhibited access all-round and vast reserves of storage. It can be everything from a fishing boat to a family cruiser – and while neither the finish nor the drive is particularly sparkling, its ability as a do-it-all family companion, allied to its sensible price, make it a very worthy flag bearer for Beneteau’s most versatile product line.
Top speed: 41.7 knots
Cruising speed: 22.4 knots
Range: 121.1 miles
LOA: 29ft 3in (8.91m)
Beam: 9ft 9in (2.96m)
Engines: Twin 200–250hp Suzuki outboards
Displacement (lightship): 4.4 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 400 litres
Water capacity: 100 litres
RCD category: B for 6people, C for 10
Price from: £124,486 (inc. VAT)