Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Platu 25

As built by Beneteau as their Beneteau 25.

Establishment in the EU countries and USA as the Beneteau 25 Platu

Beneteau had previously produced the first widely spread production (SMOD- single manufacturere One Design) sports boat in the EU- the First Class 8m. Actually av highly entertaining boat to sail on which has previously attracted a high level of sailors in arranged series, and indeed was part of the french national training programme for yacht racing.

However while at a Messe in Germany, I believe, Mssr Beneteau business development came upon the thai- new zealand conceived Farr designed , McDell Built, Platu 25. Platu being a fast mackrell of the tropical west pacific, and the boat developed as a budget OOD for the kings cup in Phuket amongst other racing in Thailand. By customer request farr design number #316 was born for that market, and for some reason or other brought to europe. At time of writing still produced here by Beneteau but known as the Platu 25 now

The reasons to drop off production of the FC 8m and go for the smaller (.... and slower! ), Platu are unknown to me, so leave a comment if my presumption is wrong. I presume they wanted a smaller 7m boat which took less crew and was maybe cheaper to build and easier to market being a Farr hull. The aim was probably to compete in the EU sports boat market and establish a strong OD class, probably to complement and feed into their at that time, Mumm 30 production and Figaro.

Outside the writer's native British Isles, on continental Europe they have largely achieved a good number of boats particulariuly in germany, holland, Italy and the Iberian states.

In the UK the market was somewhat cluttered with new fangled sports boats from major marks, smaller yards and pure one offs and home build ply core like the "swordfish". However both the 707 and the cork 1720 were being actively developed as OOD fleets, to the regrettable loss of international OD potential for british sailors. Both of these large fleets have their stregnths and weaknesses. The achilles heel for the cork being crew number, and for both these boats the costs of Marinas in the UK, coupled to less leisure time and higher house prices, has lead to the explosion of the trailer-sailor SB3 from Laser (Castro desinged mini Cork 1720).

In scandinavia the platu faltered in the attempts by dealers and maker to introduce the boat back in the 90s. This may have been in large due to badly presented examples being loaned to an international match racing event on Oslo Fjord. The boat got a bad reputation for deck gear failure with a lot of top Scandinavian sailors at this event, and the more expensive and demanding Melges took a place with some enthusiastic supportes. However in Finland there is now an emerging fleet of the Platu and also several examples in the other countries being bought and transported there. The writer expects this to spread into sweden, some owners being ethnic or expat Swedes, and perhaps more examples in denmark due to the profile for the worlds 2007 in Nuestadt, Germany.

That the Platu still retains a poised potential in establishing local fleets or competitive HC racing, is clear in many countries with most of the big OD fleets actually being built in the 70s and 8os, becoming worn out and hence obsolete as one designs. ( reparation or new build costs becoming restrictive for most owners, and hence the whole thing reverts to that evil predominatn in handicap, cheque book racing! Take the Sonata and Goacher, or the Albin express and the top helms there as examples). More on this in the latter sections below, but suffice to say a ready to rig exc 6hp and sails of 22,000 € plus delivery is pretty darn good at time of writing.

Design and Construction
It is basically a scale model hull of various Farr designs of the early 90s- the mumm 30, the corel 45, the Farr 40 and the Whitbread 60 OD. Indeed the brochure from beneteau refers to the keel as "Whitbread 60 design" However exotic materials are spared from most of the production and the cost of even lead in the bulb is removed by casting is steel! There is a hidden and important bit of carbon fibre construction - around the rudder bearing assembly which no doubt contributes to tight steering and safety. Mast and boom are in aluminium and deck gear is limited to two winches, cleats and jammers.

The hull is very similar is proportions to the mumm 30 and the predecessing IMS 31 and Mumm 36. In fact you can lay drawings on top of each other as tifs or gifs and see that there are only minor alterations, the Mumm 30 have the larger sail area however.

The bow is a fine entry with a rake and flare, which is both aesthically very pleasing and also allows for a good deal of reserve bouyancy in the diamond area well above the water line. Criticisms of this bow are that it just removes water line legnth, but for general sailing in all types of waves in a 25fter, and safety of crew on the foredeck it is a good design measure to not have a narrow section 'plumb bow'.

Following the hull "abaft" the beam water line is hidden from the crews' view, by the wide and flared deck/top sides. In fact the beam on water is very narrow until the last part of the reserve bouyancy, the deck sides, do their job! The narrow pear, or fish like profile is only really apparent from aerial photos, but the stern/transom is notably quite narrow.

A nice illustration of how the flare looks in motion is on youtube -Beneteau 25 ( Platu 25 ) sailing on Lake Windermere He is sailing with a little bit too much heel BTW; Hike biaaatches!

There is little 'dead rise' although the rocker (dead rise aft of keel to transom) is nicely rounded while retaining good planing characterisitics. Performance up wind is notably relatively super fast for a 6 m water line becuase the exit for the quarter wave is very smooth and the whole wetted area of beam on water quite narrow.

The top sides are not much lower than a mumm 30 and the water line flares rather beautifully up to the deck level, which are turned for crew comfort ( if not safety!- there is little to get a foot to and the life lines are quite low).

The cockpit is nicely laid out and large for the LOA of the boat. The trimming position is a bit cramped but a foot can be stuck on the lee stanchion nicely to give a bit more of a pro job if not cross winching to be truly pro'!

One thing of note is that the outboard actually operates in a starboard side well and locker set up with a plug for the hole in the hull which must be secured! Most racers hike the outboard down below aroudn the keel in light winds or under the steps frame in more breeze.

Below topsides, the cabin is spartan but spacey, you can sit in more comfort than a 707 and stand in the gangway for a relaxing view of events. Not many people know that the Platu 25 has two full legnt berths in light foam which are fine for sleeping on. I reckon you could do a quarter berth and odd cross berth set up with some chocks in balsa or the like and sleep at least four cadavres down there!

The battery can be place around the mast. A motorbike battery is a good idea, with a solar panel on a long lead to be left up topsides after racing.

Deck Gear
Many of the lines and deck gear looks a bit under specified, but it all seems to work admirably if the new owner takes some time to swap out the weak points of the kicker, jammers etc.

The traveller, main sheet block, winches and purchases on the outhaul etc are just fine for all weathers I have sailed in. The only 'pain in the butt' feature is the main halyard being lead down to the hogg, which procludes round the can slackening of the main halyard. The cunningam on my boat was underpowered in compensating for this, so was beefed up, in order to achieve an upwind luff tension with an off wind slacken out ability, but it is a compromise and I wish the main haly. went to deck level.

A really nice touch which adds interest and involvement for the experienced crew, is the inclusion of both a jib cunningham (downhaul) and jib barber haulers. This makes fine depowering and the reverse possible from the rail, given the owner has been savez enough to cross-lead the barbers.

The traveller/ block is fore of the helm and this allows the helm to do a lot of the trimming for short handed racing or to get the maintrimmer over the rail or aft of him. The main is nicely geared and can be 'foot and thigh' cleated ie friction on your own body.

Boat Set Up

The rig absolutely requires attention before sailing if conditions are varied more than say 5 knots between days or actual races. The forestay has a pin and hole system which is complemented by the Cap Shroud tension and the rear stay tension. In light fluctuating winds, a slack setting is chosen for both of these with the rear stay being used to tighten the foretay and rig. The D1s are adjusted accordingly to induce the right bend and lateral support whereas the d2s are of course less practical to adjust between races and should be set on a loos gauge to the manufacturers / sail makers llbs or kg setting which suit your seasonal conditions i.e. stiffer for more wind. Both the caps and the forestay are tightened for higher winds with d1s being taken in to mainly take lateral bend out or excessive prebend.

So as a guide, for light winds up to 6 knots you want a slack setting so as to power along in any gusts and with your own apparent wind. Flat sails are slow whatever so we don't care with a hard, flat rig for light winds because tide or thermals can be more decisive. For more wind take on another hole or two on the forestay, some turns on both caps and D1s, and be more aggressive with the use of back stay and jib cunnigham. You can have a kind of compromise setting with a slightly slacker forestay in say 7-12 knts, which will cover you in 1knt - 10 knts breeze, but remember you will feel up to 17 knots apparent wind "over the decks ". For higher winds, everything is bang hard on and if your spring and autumn series are in bigger winds, adjust the upper D2s accordingly.

Sail Control and erm, Sailing !

Upwind, the boat sails with a very narrow slot, jib being a 105% on the foot. The jib will be trimmed like a dinghy, and not like a cruiser-racer with a fixed track and a genoa dictating far more 'outward' sheeting angles for the foresail. The upwind balance of the boat is critical with the sail set between the two sails and the slot / twist must be maintained in good balance to keep flow attached over the exhaust lee- slipstream of the jib-main feed- otherwise the boat will power up and depower too much producing jerky progress. To explain further, the very short cord keel and small water line/beam area mean the boat requires more attention to the sheeting of main and jib in harmony than say a 33ft keel boat of older design.

So this is all to say that the Platu 25 sails more like a dinghy, requiring 'dynamic stability' i.e. you use the right amount of power and balance for the wind conditions. The two controls for this are twist of both sails and size of slot, both being increased as the wind does up wind. These are luckily enough, fine tunable under way with crew hiked out by using the mainsheet/traveller and the jib cunningham for twist and the barber haulers for slot adjustment, making for a very enjoyable upwind sail for the two or three crew out on the rail. The boat will actually show the very rare 'lee helm' with an under sheeted jib upwind, and an uneasy weather helm for the same mistake on the main ( or slot being too tight for conditions, powering up the main too much)

In light winds the boat should have 'keel speed' before it is pointed ie. about 2.2knts boat speed I believe. The quarter wave should remain attached and like a tasar, through winds and boat speed of 0.5 to 7 knts a quarter wake disappearing well aft means you can point higher.

In medium winds of 7 to 12 knts, the main trimmer can hike out as well and come in for rough sets or mark roundings. The boat should be crossed winch in addition to this which adds greatly, see performance sailing under.

In stronger winds the trimmer returns to position and trims hard with the main well twisted and flattened on all controls bar the outhaul, which should leave some depth in the lower quarter of the sail to help the boat power through waves. The boat is sailed low and fast at 44 to 50 degrees and not feathered- the correct size of jib and twist should be maintained. Speeds upwind of 9knts with reasonable VMG are acheivable which means if one side is favoured then you get there PDF!

It is said that reefing is not good for the main, so on big wind days, it is a choice of the owner to sail and this is only actually over about 26knts. At above 22knts true, there is a tendency to broach on the windward mark bear away or out of poor gibes and is difficult to control on a reach.

Ssiling seems to be sweetest with little if any weather helm and with the bow trimmed down slightly. About 3 or 4 inches of bow should be cutting the waves at most sheltered waters. Like a mumm 36, weight is trimmed progressively back over up hill and off wind as the wind and waves grow in stregnth, and you can actually stick the main trimmer or one crew aft of the helmsman on very "lumpy" upwind or medium fast off wind reaches. This is one very rewarding aspect of crewing the boat- you really feel your actual body mass makes a difference !!

Off wind the boat excels, and as mentioned above, weight needs to be trimmed aft with up to three crew members behind the helm. The boat can be popped on to the plane by sheeting in on a gust and 100kg plus of crew weight running back to the stern area! Contrary to comment on the web about the boat being a WindWard LeeWard only machine, it is fairly easy to reach, given you are a dinghy sailor, and will carry a well controlled kite hard onto the forestay. Indeed it will plane at this point of sail and higher on 'white sails'. In fact the boat will sail relatively controlled on white sails but the initial bear away can produce problems for broaching


Getting the boat moving is not an issue, but actually slowing down can be! Backing sails works well to both reverse the boat out of a situation or to go into emergency hove to, which can dammage the jib though it has to be noted.

The boat will power up and get to target speed quickly, given that the crew hike out according to the conditions asap! Cross winching is advised as soon as conditions require the three fore crew out which makes starts, hardeing up and coming out of tacks much quicker and actually less stressful. The cost of working out how to cross winch and who does what and when is worth the weight being on the right side!

As mentioned the main trimmer sits in until about 7 to 9knts breeze when fully crewed and then hops over allowing the helm to fine trim or dump ( which will be needed less often due to the now hiking gorrilla!)

As mentioned, the bear away hoist is all imporant in winds over 9knts and many places can be lost in an OD fleet. Set-Gybes are possibe and this is one reason I may find out if bow launches are do-able and street legal. The boat has a tendency to broach and it may be best to dump off the flow from the main and fling the boat into a DDW positiion if there are problems or you are not very experienced. Otherwise the jib should be trimmed through the bear away and the main released on the sheet only with the car up at least a quarter of the way. The helm can effect a moderat winds main sheet slip out.

The spinnaker is a bit of a pain to 'gangway' launch ie a bag suspended above the cabin. The kite can be trapped at the head of the foresail, on the life lines, the stanchions or the spreaders. A wire and roller between the D1s and the mast can be fitted to guide the kite out into the best height, although I would be tempted in future to opt for bow luaunching or side launching or even chuck luancing. Before the weather mark, the clew and head should be lead outside the jib at the jibs clew area where there is a little bit of space, especially if the barber haulers are on.

The trick seems to be, as in any slick operation, to get the head of the kite out while approaching the weather mark, but hold it's height so as it is low of the spreaders otherwise it will be aft of the spreader and catch under hoisting. Not far enough up and outboard, and it can easily follow up the slot and catch on the jib battens or the top of the triangle.

Sneaking the guy is really a personal choice, but for going onto a reach in lightish winds it is a must for performance. It is really easy to snag the tack and foot of the kite on the jib-lifeline area so as said, the kite should be quite far out from the boat and I reckon with the hoist and bear away being over 75% done before the tack is made to the pole.

Oh, and you can't shoot very much before the boat just stops and drifts so hold the pole until you are 100% sure. The guy can stay in the jaws anyway.

Drop, harden up:
This can be done at the last second in light airs, with a windward drop being effected by a pro-like crew. Just watch out for this large, deep spinnie catching on anything as it comes into the cabin gangway bag, maybe just drop it to the deck in light.

In planing conditions your really want to come off the plane before you harden up otherwise the boat can just trip up over the bow wave it is riding, and wipe out. So that is to say you want to slow, and pick up both the bow wave and quarter wave along the hull before the mark. If DDW you can drop early to depower hugely and maybe even pole out the jib 'goosewinging' to maintain balance until you are very near the mark. In a big wave form you can drop early, centre the main and then use the wave a bit more on the beam than the quarter to esablis more hull in water and reduce speed. The boat will dance around a bit, but if you know how it responds to the rise and fall and on the peak of a wave then you can ride it out and even harden up late if the waves dictate this as a safer option than risking a broach or drive-down onto the mark itself- worse, boats ahead.

Gybing should be done under kite to maintain balance and in stronger winds the kite is made and flying on the new side, ddw, before the main is gybed.

Relative Character, Performance and Enjoyment

Compared to cruiser racers, you are likely to be mixing it on the water with 28 to 36 footers. You will go up wind at 6knts earlier than they do and achieve speed for hardeing up higher at a lower wind speed because the weoight, hull and keel allow for it!

Straight said, you will run rings around all the cruiser racers if you get clean off the line or a clean lane up wind and stay there off wind in light airs.

However once the wind is over about 9knts you need to be really slick in your racing abilities to keep up because these larger boats now start to "chonk" at 6.6knts and igh VMG. Despite the Platu, and the other Farr babies of this boom period, being a little faster than it's LWL calculation and faster again than the best VPPs tell you, a combination of bad wind and lower top speed means that you must rely on a great start in your own wind, good choice of side and tacks up wind, super slick manoevres, heavy crew out all the time, and keeping in clear wind. It is wise to either start late behind a big boy at the RHS, boat end, and tack out onto the nice clean RHS or go mid line and rely on a safe transit to come off in your own wind and play the chess moves you need to.

In a hot HC fleet of say IRC 0.930- .980 or even up to 1.000, (or in Lys with a 1.20 to 1.30 , worse 1.35,) then as with OOD, you need to be counting the boat legnths to build those seconds you need to win. And we won on Rebell often by only seconds on corrected. This means top speed on the start, super fast in and out of tacks, picking a duck over a tack, knowing the dogs to roll over and being shit hot at marks with tactics and rule know how.

Although you cannot afford to take flyers upwind you can achieve best clean wind and a good position on the tife or back eddies. Keeping the boat moving is easier, but it won't hold its way so well into those bloody awkward inshore or hole-bound windward marks like say a sigma 38 going 200m on it's owm momentum. Off wind, or with fetches developing on a big beat or distance course, you can take flyers although I find staying with the most wind, most tide and most clean air applies to the Beneteau platu 25 as much as any other boat.

Offwind now, in the light, the boat will run rings around everyone in the cruiser racers, either on distance courses or round the cans by having better acceleration, higher boat speed and better deep VMG, also doing faster gybes with a flying kite. It is worth keeping clear of bigger, slower boats at the bear away hoist because you stand the risk of running them down! Also, always nice, attach on a lift and gybe as the fatty heads up to "take you out" and you duck his stern and head off nearer the mark than his 1 minute escapade.

When the wind is up a bit, as mentioned you will struggle, espeically against IRC goodies like the X332 and corby's. Also off wind pre-planing on W-L courses the boat will not be any quicker in the 6.5-8 knts boat speed area and higher angles are just a kid on with an even wind, even tide and well set course.

However when the wind is up a bit you can now go low and fast up-hill, doing around 7 knts at about 44-46 degrees and actually tracking very well with little leeway and a good course through the wave train or chop if it is inshore a bit. Then Off wind if you can get around 7.8 knts BS, the boat can be worked onto the plane across chop or surfed on the bigger waves for longer. When I say worked, you can go high a little and follow a gust / wave combination onto the plane and bear away on a WL or jsut hang on in their on a reach. Now you will suddenly get 9knts on the clock and a feeling of rushing over the water as the boat losses it's LWL speed limit / speed bump. So in effect you will be mixing it with the very best IRC boats of 25 to 33 ft and actually any 40 footers who you happen to be around.

Compared to Other Sports Boats.

I have the fortune to have sailed the boats closest rivals and against the J80. The rivals being it's predecessor the First Class 8m, and as far as the UK goes, the ubiquitous and tremedous little hunter 707.

The 707 is a terrific little boat which obviously has been developed to be a stable planing platform and a strict one design from outset. The hull has large chined areas aft which are slow upwind and in light airs for LWL, whereas present a concrete like platform when doing double figures off wind! The hunter should need one less crew, but is often sailed with 5 anyway, I don't recall the crew kg limit.

Due to it's modest white sail area and short pole / frac' kite, and fortuity at the conception of SBR, the 707 can excel in SBR racing because it is often slowest boat while still being fast off wind. Also OD racing tends to bring out the best in any sailor so when moving from local fleet on solent or forth to BLSS or Cork Week SBR, the boat's very sturdy, unexciting up wind nature lends itself to secure position off the start and good tactics up wind, whislt more twitchy craft suffer from head in the box syndrome, concentrating on boat set up rather than position.

Given a local OD fleet with wednesday nights in OD too, then the 707, or most any other sports boat or mid twenties racer, beats owning a lonely beneteau 25.

As commented in the very first paragraph the predecessor is not necessarily it's lesser. The FC8m goes very well up wind with a full crew against the 33ft crowd and is a little less twitchy than the 25 off wind. It is capable of big susttained planing and also sleeps 4 of its' crew.

Now compared to the other boats on offer - the Melges, j80 and Cork 1720. Latter dealt with, you sail with six, it doesn't sleep anyone and it is a dog on HC. Also fleets are in a trend downwards in favour of IRC racing or the SB3 needing only two pals for a helm / owner to find. Also outside the british isles, forget it, no one has 1720s and they would need messing about with handicap applications and temporary indicitative perf' related HCs in year one. So the Cork has had it's day as a premier fleet, but will probably come back in numbers when the majority of used boats hit dinghy prices of under GBP 10,000.

The J80 is deceptive because on top it is all sports boat with a huge cockpit, a bowsrpit and a nice white rudder on the transom. However the hull shape is pretty muc run of the mill Johnsons with a lot of dead rise for an 8m boat. True it sleeps maybe 4, but all that sail area and extra LWL doesn't add up in IRC or SBR to beating the bene. On Lys here, it is a bit touch and go but the opposition we had we could beat them if we didn't make mistakes. We could go higher upwind and lower off wind for the same boat speed.

The Melges, or to be correct, the Melges 24, is a more powerful beast than the B25, although has many similarities in hull and white sails. But the big roach on the melges and the huge kite mean that it is a faster, twitchier boat which demands far more of crew and helm. As far as a usual learning curve and crew ability the melges is off the scale. Also it is far dearer a boat.

Decision to Buy a Beneteau 25 / platu 25

1) you want a higher performance day boat y/n ?
2 you want to sail with only two or three crew who are either your core from a bigger boat, or a team you can trust and develop, or a pool of dinghy or SBR sailors?

3) You are coming from medium performance keel boats or symm kite dinghies. If you are coming from HPS dinghies or fast big keel boats then the platu may be a bit slow for you.

4) you have a local fleet of B25s or alternatively, you have a mixed SBR start line at an event you like to do ( BLSS; Scottish, Cowes, Keil, Kings Week Oslo etc etc)and there are some bencmark bene 25 platus there.

5) You may have a couple of crew on a shoestring who want to sleep aboard or you may want to yourself from time to time.

6) Short handing should be an option and competitive at that.

7) you are interested in building up to compete in a big fleet in europe and trailer sailing of easy jetting to a fleet where you keep your boat for a season.

8) you want a reasonable entry cost and predictable running costs with a trailer to garden boat, whilst still enjoying performance and quality in boat and sails. You may be a couple of ex dingy sailors looking to share the boat in a two man syndicate, one being key helm or one doing x the other y.

9) last not least- you want a boat which presents enough challenge to demand a steep learning curve yet a start point on this curve which does not leave you frustrated or actually in danger !( think melges 24!) You want the taste of high performance farr one designs without the budget. You want a boat which is satisfying for the whole team.

If in the positive to the above, espeically if you have other Beneteau 25, platu 25s around your area or better yet, a fleet like in Holland, barcelona, Keil, Portugal o0r easy jet potential for these then hey presto, it beats many other SBRs and has also a good potential to suddenly take off in an area, like in Finnland. This is because the boats are a lot younger than some fleets, a builder be that Bene or not will be continued in Europe or at least delivered here.

OD fleets do indeed suddenly take off and explode because people agree on racing in OD over necessarily which boat that will be. Many OD club or regional or even national fleets are ageing- take all the older hunter boats, the albin boats, the banner 28s, the sigma variants, the FC 8ms, the J 24/27/29/30 and realise that most of the fleet are now soft, worn out and uncompetitive no matter if Dennis Connor and Russel Coutts step on board them. Also times change and the new generation are used to more exposure to speed and spills through all other areas of sport pushing out the boundaries- skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, kite boarding, paragliding and all the motorbikes and performance cars you can shake a stick at. Not the least that assymetrics have revolutionised dinghy sailing and pushed boats like the 505 to adopt bigger sail plans! THis is a key feeding area and plane at all pints down to crawl around in an old day boat fleet is not appealing to the newly affluent 40 somethings retiring from dinghies and looking to step on board at the marina or boost their egos by having a little on water militia to command. Put simply they want something faster than a soling or a star, a sonata and with less hassle, crew and costs than the likes of an aged sigma 33.

1 comment:

  1. Thx! Very nice article!

    I will buy a platu 25.
    My only concern is short handed sailing. As I will use it for a sailing school, and often just solo sailing.

    Little slow, as you write, for an ex 470 sailor that best likes a hyeres regatta.
    And my last sport boat to sail is an overpowered carbon beast Thomson 8sc.
    But will be excellent for a 1-3 day sailing with my wife and a son between the croatian island.

    Thx one more time for your article.