Introduced ten years ago, Beneteau’s Swift Trawler (ST) range has always been a very striking concept (they were even used for the Olympic Games - with the Beneteau ST 52 hosting VIPs like HRH the Princess Royal, see The Boats That are set to Power the Olympic Games). Designed to offer a recreational reinvention of the traditional trawler, the idea has always been to maximise the boat’s ability to satisfy the key requirements of life on board during extended cruises - and after a very successful decade during which we have seen four fleet models from 34 to 52 feet in length, Beneteau has expanded the ST range with a new 50-foot craft, the Beneteau ST 50.
On board the Beneteau ST 50
The Beneteau ST 50 is the result of a renewed collaboration between the Beneteau design office, architect Michel Joubert and designer Pierre Frutschi - and yet from an aesthetic perspective, the new boat comes across as rather a vast, slab-sided thing. I suppose you could say there is an honest and purposeful simplicity to the shape and the combination of the grey hull and the frenetic porthole distribution does lend it a minor degree of flair, but whichever angle you pick, it still tends to look rather steep and static.
Step inside, however, and the benefits of those hefty externals make themselves evident in the form of lofty headroom and plenty of versatility in application. The attractively tiered saloon begins with some wide-aperture aft sliding patio doors and a big lounge area before stepping up to a well-sized, U-shaped starboard galley, where a particularly ingenious ‘Dumb Waiter’ facility is to be found. This is basically a vertical shaft inside one of the cupboards that enables you to fill a tray with food so those on the fly deck can lift it up through a hatch without having to negotiate the stairs. It’s not a complex function but it’s a very neat and welcome aid for those in pursuit of uninterrupted open-air decadence.
Down below on the Beneteau ST 50, things are equally spacious and effectively arranged. On this test model, there is a full-beam aft cabin with a separate loo, sink and shower, plus a very handy desk to port and automatic LED strip lights in the cupboards. There is also a forward double cabin in the gently tapering bow, plus a two-man bunkroom to port and a second heads compartment to starboard. If this layout doesn’t quite suit your needs, however, you can change the six-berth arrangement for a five-berth set-up with two double cabins, an office and an extra bed - ideal if you need to work while you cruise. Materials down here are a bit dark and light ingress through those portholes is not all it could be, but it’s a sturdy, workmanlike and practical layout that will achieve precisely that user-friendly cruising experience on which the Swift Trawler range has traditionally prided itself.
Up top, the Beneteau ST 50's big fly deck takes advantage of the steep topsides to offer a relatively broad platform. It’s a comfortable spot for driving with excellent visibility of the boat’s external parameters and the same splendidly intuitive joystick control as the main helm. The seating is also plentiful and the big foldout table is a high-quality piece of work but the aft space is pretty much empty and might be better employed as a secondary dining area or dedicated sunbathing space.
One for the sailors
The design, styling and fit-out of the Beneteau ST 50 seem to be based around the preferences and expectations of the sailing fraternity. When I ask about this, it transpires that around 75 per cent of Swift Trawler buyers come from the sailing world, so this element of the new boat makes a lot of sense. The neatly fitted external wood trim is classically attractive and the big wheel at the helm could easily have been stolen directly from a sailing yacht. The safe, seaman-friendly bow and the clean internal detailing also carry a very distinct yachting flavour - and it’s one robustly supported by Beneteau’s press material, which features images of a well-heeled retired couple with white hair and smart cotton slacks, enjoying their leisure time aboard the Beneteau ST 50 in a very sedate and mature fashion. What we have here then is an overtly modest but stolidly capable conveyance for the gentleman mariner who has no need to shout about his achievements or to rush to his destination. And unsurprisingly, the dynamic performance of this craft reinforces that…
This may be a bulky, heavyweight cruiser but the twin IPS 600 435 diesel engines do a very fine job. Not only do they generate some usefully immediate poke but they do so in a manner which is impressively quiet, refined and vibration-free at cruising speeds. The comfortable, well-arranged helm is also designed with the long-distance cruiser in mind. In addition to excellent visibility through those steep screens, you get a luxurious, adjustable helm seat, a small fridge at the top of the stairwell and a lovely convertible bed and two-man seating section with table on the port side.
As regards the cruising dynamics, an easy run at a gentle seven or eight knots brings a very serviceable cruising range on the current 2,400-litre tank in excess of 1,000 nautical miles. However, the drop-off in efficiency beyond 1,500 rpm is very pronounced, cutting the range by around 70 per cent by the time you increase the speed to ten or 11 knots - and the range remains at around 300 nautical miles right up to the top end of around 22 knots. The planned increase in fuel capacity to 2,700 litres on future production craft is therefore a very positive and worthwhile step.
It is a little optimistic to call this trawler ‘swift’ and it’s equally difficult to describe it as stylish. The big fly deck is also rather underutilised and the below deck spaces are a little dark. But as a steadfast cruising companion for those who like their recreation steady, reliable and traditionally appointed, I have no doubt the Beneteau ST 50 will achieve the same levels of success already enjoyed for a decade by its predecessors.
Beneteau ST 50 specifications
Hull length: 13.33m.
Beam overall: 4.65m.
Hull beam: 4.65m.
Light Displacement: 16,000kg.
Air draft: 5.9 - 6.82m.
Maximum engine certification: 2 x 435 hp.
Fuel tank: 2,400 litres (will be 2,700 litres).
Water tank: 800 litres.
EC certification: B16/C20.