Trawler yachts had invariably been the preserve of small semi-custom yards, until the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 gatecrashed the scene in 2004...
For as long as we can remember here at MBY, trawler yachts have been trapped in a vicious circle.
Compared with the archetypal zoomy planing flybridge boat, the demand for this type is limited, so they only sell in small numbers.
They’re no cheaper to develop and, with no economies of scale, they’re more expensive to build, so the yards need to charge elevated prices to generate a respectable return on the smaller numbers sold.
Now a mainstream builder is trying to break the circle. And the company that have chosen to have a punt are Beneteau, one of the biggest boatbuilders in the world.
Before you get too excited and start thinking that what they have produced is a Grand Banks 42 at Beneteau Ombrine prices, be aware that this is not what they have set out to achieve.
What they have done though, is give buyers a unique opportunity to pick up a voluminous, 26-knot, 44ft 5in-long (13.61m) trawler-style cruiser for around £200,000 plus VAT.
As you wander round the Swift Trawler 42, it’s clear that Beneteau are not attempting to rival Grand Banks’s esteemed quality, though they don’t deny you the intrinsic features that make the trawler type so appealing.
The twin side doors and deep windows mean there’s plenty of light and ventilation in and around the saloon.
The doors, along with deep bulwarks, an open pulpit, plenty of handrails and probably the most secure flybridge ladder I’ve used, make it very easy to move quickly and safely around the boat.
Trawler types are generally viewed as serious cruising boats, so they raise expectations in two other areas: stowage and the engineroom. The Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 does not disappoint.
Stowage throughout the boat is fine, but particularly impressive in the compartmentalised lazarette and the second guest cabin, despite the huge bed gobbling up over 7ft (2.2m) of cabin space.
The engineroom is also a joy, with a generous 2ft (600mm) between the engines.
The position of the tanks – running across the boat near the centre of gravity – leaves you plenty of space to move across the front and around the outboard sides of the 370hp Yanmar diesels (the biggest option) for servicing.
All the service items are accessible, and Beneteau’s moulded structural grid provides a very slick finish in a place that nobody wants to visit.
Beneteau have not simply mimicked the trawler norms: they have added a few twists of their own.
Most trawler boats are full walkaround forms, whereas the Beneteau Swift Trawler42’s 30in-deep (760mm) bulwarks disappear forward of the side doors.
But although the ultimate in foredeck security may have been traded for more internal volume, Beneteau have still provided 4in-deep (100mm) toerails and sturdy guardrails – it is safer here than on most conventional 42ft (13m) flybridge boats.
French designers Joubert/Nivelt have dished up a big flybridge that extends well aft and out to cover the side decks and the aft cockpit.
Not only does this give the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 a lovely big-boat feel, it provides enough space on the flybridge for an inflated 11 ft (3.2m) tender.
There are two other great touches.
Just forward of the cockpit you find unusual side deck doors that can be used to completely close off the aft cockpit.
With the covers fastened to the long overhanging flybridge and the side deck doors shut, the aft cockpit becomes a completely enclosed haven, free of the wind and rain that might otherwise blow in down the side decks.
The touch of genius though, has to be the hingeing bulwark side gate in the perfect spot adjacent to the starboard side door, where it transforms the process of boarding: for anyone who has problems boarding, there will be no more leaps to the pontoon or searches for obscure boxes around the marina.
I’ve begged Bencteau to mirror this wonderful door on the port side – surely they don’t expect owners to moor starboard-side-to every time?
Driving the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42
The Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 is – surprisingly – loads of fun to drive.
Its light and amazingly responsive steering is the key.
And this is despite the directional stability provided by the keel, which allowed me to easily steer and control the boat while pottering slowly along on just one engine with only a slight deflection of the wheel.
Dickies, the agents who provided our test boat, felt that the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42’s six turns lock-to-lock were too many, but it is so light and easy to manoeuvre with only a little helm applied that for once the extravagant number of turns felt fine.
Whatever it was asked to do, the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 felt fine and had no obvious vices. One expected vice was noticeably absent.
I had been anticipating excessive rolling at low speeds, the inevitable consequence of a trawler’s relatively tall, high-windage form and its higher-than-average centre of gravity, courtesy of all the very weighty glassfibre that goes to make up a flybridge as expansive as the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42’s.
Like all powerboats, at rest it rolled around under the influence of passing wakes.
But as soon as a little speed was applied, its planing form developed dynamic lift and stability, and in the relatively calm conditions we had, our boat seemed no more affected by passing waves than any other.
This bodes well for its handling downwind or in big quartering seas – the typical steerus horribilis of the trawler.
Sadly, we had nothing like this to verify the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42’s capabilities beyond our own wake, so its heavy-weather handling must remain a mystery.
Other things add to the fun of driving the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42.
The visibility from both helm positions is excellent, and although the boat’s speed strangely benefited from a dose of trim tab between 13 and 20 knots (2,200 and 3,1O0rpm), trimming wasn’t essential to maintain the good view out.
Beneteau have promised to replace the useless seat blighting the lower helm with the excellent ones from their Ombrine 13.80.
Hold them to this, because then you will be free of the poor helm ergonomics that so often afflict trawler yachts.
Apart from the lack of a chart table, the offending seat is the only blot on Beneteau’s otherwise simple but effective helm positions.
With the largest 370hp Yanmar diesels over-revving by 100rpm, four crew, and tanks full of fuel and water, our boat reached 26.4 knots, so expect to see similar speeds with 50% fuel and water, and roughly a tonne of stores on board instead.
You can save around £21,000 by fitting the smaller 200hp Yan mars, but you’ll lose six or seven knots.
Don’t let Joubert/Nivelt’s upright stem fool you: if you look at our photographs it’s clear that hidden beneath the dark blue topsides is a proper planing hull, albeit one with a long shallow keel.
But despite its planing form, the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 is not a fast boat.
For instance, a Storebro 410 Commander fitted with 310hp Volvo D6s reached 28. 7 knots, and even the far heavier semidisplacement Hardy 42 (again loaded with 100% fuel and water) achieved exactly the same 26.4-knot top speed as the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 with only marginally more powerful 420hp Yanmars.
This obviously has a direct impact on fuel consumption – don’t expect the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 to be as cheap to cruise as some.
The joys of the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42’s trawler decks extend beyond the obvious safety aspects.
Because it’s such a doddle to move around quickly, the boat is easier to handle and moor short-handed.
If the conditions are tricky, the starboard side door and bulwark side gate provide the perfect place for the helmsman to step ashore smartly with a spring line to secure the boat.
The aft-deck handrails provide scope for you to hang bunches of fenders around the vulnerable transom area, and Beneteau have thoughtfully fitted stainless D-rings between the side gate and the aft buttresses so that fenders can still be tied on.
For those inclined to spend time on the flybridge, there’s an optional bimini.
Happily, it makes the flybridge feel more secure with its sturdy stainless-steel frame providing extra handholds and adding to the already safe feeling engendered by the deep flybridge sides, which are never Jess than 29in (740mm) tall.
The dash has spaces both sides for odds and ends, and the flybridge screen does a good job of deflecting the wind.
If your BMI (body-mass index) needs trimming, you may find the cushions too thin – 2in (50mm) seems very mean.
Around the deck, there is absolutely no sense that Beneteau’s bean-counters have been running around trying to save pennies, despite the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42’s price.
Bencteau have fitted three pairs of huge cleats that would not look out of place on a Grand Banks, with corresponding wear strips protecting the precious mahogany capping rails.
And you will struggle to find their sturdy 35mm guardrails on many boats under 60ft.
The deck hatches are double skinned with rubber seals round their perimeters, and they are held open with powerful gas struts, and secured shut with lockable (but annoyingly fiddly) stainless catches.
For sure, it does not have the in-depth class of a Grand Banks, but add teak-laid decks and a few mahogany cappings to the flybridge to complement those down below, and the perceived quality divide would narrow even further.
It’s the same story down in the engineroom, where there is a tidy, competent installation with plenty of space to move around and no obvious signs of penny-pinching.
As you stroll around inside the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42, it’s almost a relief to finally find some reason for its bargain-basement price.
I really like the chic French feel inside Beneteau’s boats, but there is no doubt that the internal fit-out is the result of a ruthlessly productionised boatbuilding process.
There is nothing wrong with Bencteau’s fit-out, just don’t expect it to have the same feeling of solidity as a Tarquin Trader, or the elevated class of a Grand Banks.
This is a boat that is built using the same principles as their £60,000 Ombrine 800.
Not withstanding the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42’s build process, a lot of the detailing is fine – the result of clever design rather than throwing money in search of a solution.
For instance, there are deep, useful fiddles running around most of the countertops, but the catches that hold the doors shut are cheap plastic, not expensive brass or metal.
The doors mostly have ventilation slots cut in, but they are invariably surface mounted, not flush, so they are easier (and therefore cheaper) to assemble.
In the forward cabin, there is a safety feature I have not seen on any boat at any price.
A pop-up rail over the berth that provides a firm footing for those exiting the fore-hatch in a hurry surely you’ve seen that old classic, Confessions of a Boat Cleaner?
Although they provide plenty of stowage and big berths, the cabins will feel plain to some.
That’s not the case in the saloon, which Beneteau say is in Line for some treatment.
As well as changing the helm seat and upgrading to a walnut dash, Beneteau will be fitting the impressive hi-lo table from their Ombrine 13.80 with its classier sliding leaves.
They also plan to modify the long bench settee.
In theory it should work fine with help from the two loose director’s chairs.
Unfortunately, it simply doesn’t feel right, so Beneteau intend to add returns to the ends so it becomes a far more sociable U-shaped affair.
I think this will transform the saloon, which currently has shades of railway carriage about it.
Easily the most contentious area of the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 is the galley.
It’s a disjointed affair that sees the twin sinks split from the fridge and the bulk of tl1e stowage running down the port side of the saloon.
It may work for you; after all, there are plenty of domestic kitchens with units scattered all over the room.
Still, to use the hob or the microwave, the cook has to stand or crouch by the side door, and if you run out of laminate countertop, you are forced to use the delicate timber surface above the port-side lockers.
There is no simple solution. However, if Beneteau were to acknowledge that the port-side unit really is part of the galley by facing the countertop with Corian or similar, and modify the three large and very useful countertop lockers (from front to top opening), the cook’s effective worktop would increase from minuscule to magnificent.
Beneteau’s heads is funkyville itself.
The shower compartment sports a cool looking inset basin, while the angled mirror-fest inside the toilet section ensures you have excellent views of your best side.
And your merely average side. And unfortunately your worst side too.
There’s also loads of useful stowage, 6ft 4in (1.93m) headroom, and two opening ports.
An interconnecting door links the two compartments, and there are separate doors from the master cabin and the passageway, so there’s an opportunity for early-morning ablutions to run at double speed, modesty permitting.
Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 verdict
You have to admire Beneteau for their bravery in coming fresh to a market that is ruled by a wholly different type of builder, and having the nerve to put their own particular spin on it.
Had Beneteau simply mimicked the accepted norms, then whittled down the price to their usual competitive levels by utilising their high-volume production techniques, or even by penny-pinching, it would have been a worthwhile achievement.
But what makes their first attempt so much more impressive is that the Swift Trawler 42 is a very fine boat, irrespective of price.
Sure, the finish inside can’t hold a candle to the likes of Grand Banks. And if you plan to often cook on board, you definitely need to ponder the disjointed galley layout.
However, if you are happy with Beneteau’s simple, clean-cut finish, you won’t find much to complain about, apart from the fuel consumption.
In fact, the opposite is true – on top of all the usual benefits of the trawler type, there’s good cabin and deck stowage, the flybridge tender space, and an accessible engineroom installation.
I think Beneteau have also been extremely canny in the way they have spent their money.
Their production techniques have clearly generated huge savings, but they have not cut costs where it really matters, and the clever design and detailing around the deck was impressive; none of the more expensive trawler builders can shame the Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 in this department.
Beneteau can justifiably claim that, in coming up with a voluminous, 44ft 8in-long (13.61m) trawler for £200,000 plus VAT and a few essential extras, they have created a new market niche.
There’s an interesting side issue too. Trawlers are generally viewed as serious cruising boats when compared to the 30-knot planing flybridge boat, which is more likely to be treated as a weekend cottage.
But the roomy Beneteau Swift Trawler 42 fulfils this function better than the majority of mainstream boats.
For me, the real surprise was finding a trawler that was so much fun to drive. This isn’t a cheap trawler with lots missing, but a great boat that is extraordinarily good value for money.
First published in the September 2004 issue of MBY.
- Value for money
- Heaps of fun to drive
- Space for inflated tender
- Engineroom installation
- Excellent view out
- Cabin stowage
- Impressive deck detailing
- Easy movement around boat
- Lazarette stowage
- Light and ventilation
- Galley countertop
- Speed/fuel consumption
- High windage form
Price from: £215,648 inc UK VAT (twin 200hp)
Price from: £236,436 inc UK VAT (twin 370hp)
Price as tested: £269,776 inc UK VAT (twin 370hp)
Overall length: 44ft Bin (13.61m)
Hull length: 40ft 0in (12.17m)
Beam: 13ft 8in (4.17m)
Displacement: 10 tonnes light, 11.9 tonnes loaded; (loaded= light+ 100% fuel & water)
Draught: 3ft 5in (1.05m)
Air draught: 23ft 0in (7.00m) mast raised
Air draught: 13ft 1 in (4.00m) mast lowered
Fuel capacity: 330 imp gal (1,500 litres)
Water capacity: 147 imp gal (670 litres)
RCD category: 8 (for 12 people) also C for 14 & D for 16
Slow cruising: 13.4 knots, 300 miles@ 2,200rpm
Fast cruising: 23.1 knots, 217 miles@ 3,100rpm
Flat out: 26.4 knots, 178 miles@3,400rpm
Designer: Joubert Nivelt, 2003