Stories from the sea


March, 2019

Let yourself be carried away by of the waves: the story of Beneteau, characterised by innovation and dreams.

A combination of romantic passion and innovation: Beneteau boats are a jewel of the sailing world in the deep blue of the sea, a legend for fans and everyone who appreciates beauty. A history that dates back a hundred years and at the beginning seemed like a tale with no happy ending.

Born in St-Gilles in a large, but rather destitute family, Benjamin Beneteau was adopted at the age of 6 years old by his uncle, a long distance sailor, whose stories sparked Benjamin’s dreams. A ship’s boy at the tend age of 12 years old on board the yawl named Elisa, he dreams of building boats in the yard of his best friend’s father. At the end of 1879, he starts his military service in Rochefort, where his dream of becoming a naval architect comes true. And in 1884, he opened his own yard in Croix-de-Vie, obviously under his own name: Beneteau. Back then, all boats were sailing boats and their requirements, linked to fishing, meant that they had to be carefully designed to improve their performances, with regard to the speed with which they returned to port.

Since then, the company has continuously evolved and, as in the case of Nobili, the fact that it is a family business is still essential. A succession of descendants who have cleverly managed to withstand the many crises in the industry by interpreting the needs of the market and anticipating the responses through constant dedication and innovation. A kind of innovation that is often incidental, the result of decisive encounters but also of pro-active efforts made due to the desire to find solutions to difficult situations. Initially Beneteau stepped into its pioneering role by creating new fishing practices that gradually helped to structure the innovations which make the company the benchmark it is today for the sailing and motor boat industry. 1909 marked a turning point for the company, the year in which it launched the first motorised fishing boat, offering an exclusive advantage: a speedy return to port. From this point on, the company went from strength to strength, undergoing industrialisation in 1972.

Today, its technical characteristics overlap with the digital dimension, such as in the case of Ship Control, a web interface managed by a tablet that simplifies the access to many of the boat’s functions. Simple, safe, complete and fun to use, a true on-board computer built-in to the boat to assist navigation and facilitate life on board: a sort of naval automation system. However, the developments made by Beneteau are also geared towards finding improved solutions for wellness and relaxation, such as in the case of the submersible swim platform, the ultimate expression of the connection between life on board and the sea. The platform, located at the back of the boat, lowers into the water, immersing itself to create a different area, useful for relaxing but also for launching tenders and jet-skis into the water. The ultimate innovation in motorisation technology is the adoption of the IPS Volvo system which has the propellers facing the bow of the boat, mounted on the very front of the propulsion unit. Unlike traditional propellers, the IPS variety are counter-rotating, with a towing effect. In other words they pull the boat rather than pushing it. The many benefits of this feature notably include lower consumptions and so lower CO2 emissions. All activated by a joystick located in the driving station, which makes it extremely easy to manoeuvre.

As we have mentioned, the visionary spirit of Beneteau is never still: today the most significant changes derive from its view of the concept of the boat, always from the perspective of a sharing economy. In 2018, the Beneteau Boat Club opened, an important event as it enabled people to sail to their heart’s content without purchasing the boat. The most recent innovation offered by the Club was presented last December and offers the opportunity to fully plan a holiday via one universal platform, from the boat to the flight, transfers and even hotels and restaurants.

The Beneteau boats are fruit of a well-structured integrated system of access to information and they are crafted in environments where workmanship is the prime value and passion for beauty is the name of the game, such as the cabinet-making workshop, where tables, doors and furniture are made. For Beneteau, every new project is a challenge, and since its very first partnership, formed in 1975 with a name outside the yard, it continues to surround itself with the top naval architects and designer. A world that never stands still, where research geared to improving the sailing experience is modelled on the customer’s requirements and where perseverance has allowed the company to achieve the best results, such as in the early 1900s, when despite the violent opposition of the population, Beneteau continued developing the use of the engine for fishing boats, without cowering from the rage of the women employed in the sardine canning industry who, as their heir Mme Roux tells us, would wait for him at the port, throw stones at him and accuse him of frightening the fish with the noise. And he would prove them wrong, by bringing home large quantities of sardines. Technology makes the difference. This philosophy unites Beneteau and Nobili: from their family-run management to the focus on the environment. A history of 130 years, built on decisions and imagination: being pioneers, leading boat owners towards new ways of sailing and experiencing the sea.