The Beneteau Oceanis Clipper 361 was designed by Berret Racoupeau in 2001 as a successor to the popular Oceanis 352, with new features including a different cockpit and deck design, separate galley and head, forward facing nav station and generous salon. This family sized cruising yacht combines ease of handling with a well laid out interior and the quality of finish one would expect of a Beneteau Oceanis. She is a popular choice of yacht for charter sailing and her balance and responsiveness under sail and smooth motoring have won her many friends amongst blue water enthusiasts.
Whilst many yacht manufacturers claim their yachts are ‘easy to handle’, Beneteau has every right to make that claim about the Oceanis 361. This is a yacht than can be easily handled by two people in moderate to bad weather, and she feels balanced and responsive under sail, whatever the conditions. She is undoubtedly built for blue water cruising rather than fast sailing, and in light winds her speed can leave something to be desired, due to her furling design and shallow draft. However overall her performance is good and the Beneteau 361 is an excellent example of what a 36 foot cruiser can do when sailing or motoring.
The Oceanis 361 has been well laid out for casual and relatively effortless sailing, hence her popularity with those looking for a blue water or coastal charter yacht. Visibility from the helm station is good and the self-tailing genoa wiches, bracing places for feet and console-mounted throttle controls are located within easy reach of the helm. The sail controls of the Oceanis 361 are basic but sufficient for cruising, and the anchoring set up (an electric windlass is optional) works well. The single winch design for all but the two headsail sheets is efficient, although it can take a little getting used to for sequencing. The pronounced prop walk again takes some getting used to and can be a challenge in stronger winds, but overall the Oceanis 361 performs well under sail.
The foldaway cockpit table and walk through transom make for easy boarding of the Oceanis 361. When motoring, the 27hp Yanmar seems adequate for her size, and she is generally easy to manoeuvre. For maintenance, the boat’s wiring and hoses are clearly labelled and the swing-up companionway steps offer easy engine access. The 20-gallon fuel tank and 275 amp hour battery bank are arguably on the small side for true blue water sailing, but overall the Oceanis 361 is well designed and laid out for easy sailing and maintenance at sea.
The Oceanis 361 admittedly has a few design oversights, which have since been corrected in later models. The lack of cabin top hand-holds forward of the mast can be irritating, the side decks are on the narrow side, and as with many family cruisers this size, the mainsheet is located out of reach on the cabin, which calls for assistance from another crew. There have been some reports of minor materials and workmanship issues, such as poor sealing, corrosion to interior switches, and sub-standard gel coatings in areas such as the step through seating.
Below deck the Beneteau Oceanis 361 really comes into her own and both the standard two and optional three cabin layouts work well. There is plenty of room for four and the passage around the boat is easy thanks to the galley being situated away from the main cabin thoroughfare. The separate galley (either U or L shaped, depending on the interior version you choose) is undoubtedly the boat’s showpiece and it offers generous stowage, both dry and refrigerated, good counter spaces and a luxurious cherry-stained mahogany finish. There is good natural lighting and ventilation throughout the yacht and the large salon makes the Oceanis 361 an excellent choice for entertaining. The table seats 4 to 6 with relative ease and the forward-facing nav table effectively offers an extra seat in this already spacious area. The head enclosure is also of a very generous size and has a separate walk-in shower with a slatted teak seat. The double forward berth is a little compact but can sleep two adults and the aft cabin has plenty of space and reasonable hanging storage, although wave slap can be an issue for lighter sleepers. The hot and cold pressurised water and the optional microwave are useful in berth, and overall the feeling below decks is spacious and airy.
The Beneteau Oceanis 361 makes an good choice of family cruiser for those seeking easy, comfortable blue water and coastal cruising and sailing. Her stable performance in all conditions and generous entertaining spaces make her an excellent charter choice. If you’re looking for more space for your family and friends and an upgrade from your usual 25 or 30-footer, the Beneteau 361 is definitely worthy of consideration.