Comparing sailboats is a bit like comparing apples and pears – no two boats are alike.
However, Beneteau and Catalina are both production boats with a long tradition of boat-building history. They both produce durable sailboats, easy to operate, comfortable, and great value for money.
While both brands have certain traits that are comparable, there are also differences you should know:
Beneteau & Catalina – A Brief History
Beneteau can trace its origins back to 1884 when its founder, Benjamin Beneteau, started building wooden sailing fishing boats.
However, it wasn’t until 1964, when a new generation of Beneteau’s took over, that they designed and manufactured their first recreational fiberglass sailboat.
Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength with its innovative designs. Today the company is synonymous with French boat building and produces a range of fiberglass sailboats from 14 to 60 feet.
Beneteau is one of the oldest and biggest boat builders in the world and is still majority-owned by the family.
By comparison, Catalina Yachts was founded by Frank Butler in 1969. The company started with nothing but a vision to build good family sailboats that were affordable.
Their first boat, the Catalina 22, proved to be a huge success, and they have gone on to design and build three different lines, the Sport series, the Cruiser series, and the very capable Ocean series ranging in size from 8 to 44 feet.
Today, Catalina Yachts is one of the USA’s only companies left building sailboats. The company is considered one of the world’s largest sailboat manufacturers, with over 80,000 boats manufactured.
5 Differences Between Beneteau & Catalina Yachts
While both companies can trace their origins in building fiberglass leisure yachts to the 1960s, there are notable differences between the two brands.
These include the following:
1. Modern Hull Design Vs. Traditional Lines
While Beneteau has fully embraced a modern approach to the styling and design of their boats, Catalina has taken a more traditional approach. That’s not to say the modern design styling is better than the other – every sailor will have their personal preference, plus there is plenty of room in the ocean for all kinds of boats.
Beneteau’s designs are light, modern, and very spacious. They are recognized in any marina for having sleek lines.
In addition, Beneteau constantly strives to improve their models and has updated even their old classic and first hugely popular model, the Beneteau Oceanis 350. The Oceanis range is in its 7th generation and is known for its modern, uncluttered, chic design.
Catalina’s designs and marketing are geared to a certain market segment, which is more traditional by nature. But they are doing so with a great deal of success.
Some people may think that their designs are uninspired or boring, but they are inspired by a market segment that has made them arguably one of the most successful boatbuilders in the US.
2. Hull Lay-Up & Construction
Both Beneteau and Catalina have a good reputation for building quality production boats that stand up to the test of time.
They are capable boat yards with a long history of manufacturing fiberglass boats. However, there are some slight differences between the companies regarding their hull lay-up and construction techniques.
Both companies use only the best materials available. However, Catalina lays up solid fiberglass hulls while Beneteau uses a balsa core for their hulls.
Beneteau uses three construction methods for building their boat hulls and decks: hand lay-up, resin infusion, and injection modeling. But all of them combine resin with a balsa core. This balsa core reduces costs by reducing the quantity of resin used in each hull while maintaining structural strength and integrity.
In addition, you end up with a lighter boat by combining a balsa core with resin.
The Catalina hull is a one-piece solid fiberglass hull laid up by hand. The outside layer of the fiberglass hull is then laminated with a Vinylester resin to protect the hull from water absorption and prevent blistering or osmosis.
The grid and deck are also all one-piece fiberglasses, making for a stronger hull and a heavier boat than the Beneteau.
3. Engine Propulsion
While the two brands we are discussing are primarily sailboats, they need engine propulsion to get you in and out of your dock or cruise along if there is no wind.
The main engines installed in Catalina sailboats are usually larger than those found in similar boats from other builders, including Beneteau. The engine will not have to “work as hard” to move the boat at cruising speeds.
They should have plenty of reserve power if you find yourself in bad conditions.
For example, the engine installed in a new Catalina 355 is a 29hp Yanmar diesel engine as standard. By comparison, the Beneteau Oceanis 34.1 comes standard with a 21hp Yanmar diesel engine, with the option to upgrade to a 29hp Yanmar, which will set you back extra!
4. Sail Plans, Deck Gear & Ease Of Handling?
Both Beneteau and Catalina are designed and built with safety and ease of sailing. However, Catalina often has the more conservative rig of the two brands, with lower mast heights and smaller sail plans than their Beneteau counterparts.
Both brands have more traditional stayed rigs, where the Beneteau’s shrouds terminate and are fixed to the deck, and the Catalina’s are on the cabin top.
Mainsail sheets and controls on the Beneteau and Catalina are forward of the companionway. Few cruisers want this hardware to interfere with passengers or guests on board.
However, both are equipped with a solid vang, which improves overall mainsail shape and performance.
Catalina wins the winch competition by installing four Lewmar self-tailing winches as standard equipment on their 355. In comparison, the Beneteau 34.1 comes with one self-tailing winch to port on the roof with the option to add more.
Overall, they are both built with ease of sailing, but as the Beneteau is lighter and has a more aggressive sail plan, you will probably manage to go faster in a Beneteau.
5. Sizes And Models Available
While both Beneteau and Catalina have comparable models, they also have very different size yachts and a variety of price tags. If you compare or choose between the two, you will be wise to familiarise yourself with what they offer.
Being the bigger manufacturer, Beneteau can boast of 5 lines available today.
These include the following:
- The First series – a range of yachts from 14 to 44 feet- can celebrate more than 40 years of iconic brand history. The First series is designed for sailors who enjoy club racing as much as cruising. These boats offer simplicity and performance combined with comfortable interiors and cockpits geared towards club racing, daysailing, and coastal cruising.
- The First SE series – the SE (Seascape Edition) range offers recreational sailors a bit more challenge by combining competitive one-design racing with adventure sailing. Fitted with a carbon rig, laminate sails, and other technological features, the First SE series promises to give sailors the ultimate sailing experience. The First SE series offers boats from 14 to 27 feet.
- The First Yacht 53 – maximizing over 40 years of experience in the boat-building industry, the First Yacht 53 is the latest addition to the First range. This luxury performance 53-foot sailing yacht is designed for sailors who demand speed in absolute comfort.
- The Oceanis range – includes yachts from 31 to 51 feet in length. The Oceanis range has become a leading brand in long-distance cruising and blue water boats. They are built with safety and stability without sacrificing style and comfort.
- The Oceanis Yacht line – is the epitome of style and comfort at sea. These two yachts, at 54 and 60 feet in length, represent elegance and sophistication without sacrificing performance, comfort, or the general practicalities of sailing.
Catalina, the smaller of these two giants in the sailing world, concentrates their skills and expertise on 3 lines available today.
These include the following:
- The Catalina Sport Series ranges from 12.5 to 27.5 feet long. The Sport series is fun to sail when you don’t want the complications of a bigger boat but still want to get on the water. They are easy to rig and exciting to sail, plus some of the bigger models even have enough accommodation to overnight or spend the weekend.
- The Catalina Cruiser Series – offers two models, the Catalina 315 and the Catalina 355. These two mid-size yachts are extremely capable and quick boats that do not sacrifice safety or comfort. They are perfect for day or extended sailing trips along the coast.
- The Catalina Ocean Series – from 38 to 44 feet- is designed for serious ocean-going cruising. Although this line features new and contemporary designs, they are still built to uphold the Catalina traditions of quality and functionality.
There is no right or wrong boat between the two brands. Beneteau and Catalina have fans and detractors if you check the various boating, sailing, and cruising forums.
If you are having trouble choosing between the two, it would be best to book a charter and spend some time on each boat.
That way, you can choose which layout and price tag work best.