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Beneteau First 31.7: Small But Mighty

Fast boats can come in small packages and nothing better illustrates this than the Beneteau First 31.7, little sister to the famed 40.7. Now just about 15 years old, the compact design still maintains a reputation as a demon on club racing courses and as a solid family cruiser on weekend outings.

beneteau first 31.7
The Beneteau First 31.7 is a fast boat with plenty of interior volume.

The 31.7 and its siblings were designed by the French Groupe Finot. The 31.7 has a single-skinned hull, a balsa-cored deck and an integral GRP structural grid with a deep L-shaped keel. The hull was an evolution from the 1990s as it morphed from the initial First 310 design. It features a high freeboard, a broad transom and a self-bailing cockpit.

On Deck

The cockpit is wide and short but there’s room for three crew ahead of the helmsman, who must have room to swing the tiller. The traveller bisects the cockpit from coaming to coaming which creates a bit of an obstacle, but it does provide end-boom sheeting. There are twin Lewmar winches on the cabintop to handle halyards, and reefing lines that lead aft via three jammers. Sheet winches are self-tailing Lewmars and under the starboard seat is a huge lazarette. These boats did not come with a wheel at the helm as an option.

There’s easy water access from the small swim platform integrated into the transom. Walking around on the cabintop could be hazardous with wet feet, however, since the surfaces are curved and slippery.

The nearly masthead, keel-stepped Sparcraft rig came standard with 140% overlapping genoa for a working sail area of around 500 square feet. The 31.7’s keel and rudder were made deeper (with a heavier bulb) and the rig a little taller than her predecessor’s. She was powered mostly by a 21 hp Yanmar diesel, although Volvos can be found in some of the early models. The design was built roughly from 1999 to 2005.


Due to its beam, the 31.7 has plenty of interior volume. The layout was standard with two cabins and one head. The master is in the V-berth forward, which has just under six feet of standing headroom except when the filler cushion is used to extend the berth. Ventilation is via a large overhead hatch and stowage is in lockers on both sides.

The main cabin has a drop-leaf table on centerline with integrated bottle stowage, flanked by twin straight settees. Four can easily dine in comfort. The galley is to port with a 12-volt refrigerator, a single sink, and a two-burner propane stove/oven combination. There’s decent room for provisions given the vessel’s overall size. Just aft is the door to the second private cabin, with standing headroom by the hanging locker and a double berth. Opposite is a shower/head combination with a small bin for wet gear. What’s really nice on a boat of this size is the forward-facing nav station, a feature which was still considered mandatory on boats a decade ago.

The finish was rather high-end for a boat that was often beaten up in Wednesday night beer can races. White molding and cherry wood veneer was standard and came together nicely to make a comfortable and stylish cabin.


Beneteau divides their line into Oceanis (cruising) and First (racing) models, and the First 31.7 sails quite well for a boat with this much accommodation and furniture. In fact, she out-sails many boats of her length that are much lighter. Upwind in a brisk breeze, the boat will heel until it sits on its broad aft section and then accelerates. She tracks well and doesn’t round up or stagger in gusts.

For cruising, there are pluses and minuses. It’s hard for people with short legs to find a place to brace themselves when heeling since there’s no cockpit table, and the opposing bench seat is a long way away. The tiller also takes up much more room than a wheel, which makes it tough for a cruising family to spread out in the cockpit on a leisurely day sail. The tankage is also light, with eight gallons of fuel and 42 gallons of water.

On the other hand, the boat is comfortable and has everything a couple with a child or two would need for a long weekend in a remote anchorage. With the help of the slightly curved settees in the saloon it will even sleep six, at least for those who don’t demand a lot of personal space.

See Beneteau First 31.7 Listings.

Written by Zuzana Prochazka

Written by: Zuzana Prochazka

Zuzana Prochazka is a writer and photographer who freelances for a dozen boating magazines and websites. A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana has cruised, chartered and skippered flotillas in many parts of the world and serves as a presenter on charter destinations and topics. She is the Chair of the New Product Awards committee, judging innovative boats and gear at NMMA and NMEA shows, and currently serves as immediate past president of Boating Writers International. She contributes to and, and also blogs regularly on her boat review site,