Caroline Strainig checks out the latest offering from the French Jeanneau stable of production boats, the Sun Odyssey 379.
Looking at the immaculate new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 379 and casting around for a suitable headline for this article it didn’t take long for inspiration to strike. “What about calling the story back to the future?” I said. “She has a hard-chine section aft. Jeanneau has taken a design element from years past and reinvented it.”
The hard chine in question warrants headline status because it is one of the stand-out features of Jeanneau’s new “9” range, which includes the award-winning 409 and 439. The chine and a drop-down boarding platform instead of multiple steps cut into the transom have allowed them to increase beam aft and make the stern almost flush, resulting in a larger cockpit and more volume aft below. French designer Phillip Briand came up with the concept for the 409 and 439 and Marc Lombard has continued it with the 379. The hard chine also gives the yacht more form stability by carrying the waterline beam further outboard, particularly when heeled to the chine.
The 379 had its world launch at the Sydney International Boat Show last July and the reception from Australian sailors has been warm; eight had already been sold as of the end of November.
Rendezvousing for a sail with Ron Jacobs of NSW Jeanneau agent Performance Boating in Pittwater, I was reminded again of why the French-built Jeanneaus are so popular here. They are stylish, classy-looking yachts and the Sun Odyssey 379 and its siblings have a refreshingly-different look because of some innovative curved windows and that new hard chine. Anyone looking at the 379 would be pleased; it’s about as far from a floating caravan as you can get, despite the fact the 379 would have as much interior volume as a 40-footer built 10 years ago.
Stepping on deck, I immediately noticed how the boat has been set up for short-handed sailing, which is how most boats should be because the majority are owned by couples, which means for a fair bit of the time there is only one person doing the work.
Headsail sheets and the German double-ended mainsheet system are led aft to Harken 40.2 ST winches just in front of each wheel, which allows the helmsperson to access both headsail and mainsail sheets easily as they tack. You do have to jam off the mainsheet sometimes to free up a winch for the headsail sheet when using the overlapping headsail, but it’s a small price to pay for the convenient access, and if you plan to race you can always add a second set of winches on the coaming.
The traveller is on the cabin top adjacent to clutches of jammers for sail controls and a Harken 35.2 ST winch, with the only exception the headsail halyard, which is cleated at the mast. Even the two reefing lines come back to the cockpit and are in-line so there is not need to go for’ard to reef.
Twin wheels make for excellent all-round visibility and are still easy to move around despite this being only a 37-footer. The Simrad NSS8 chartplotter is located on a rotatable ScanStrut pod on the aft end of the drop-leaf cockpit table, so also easily seen from either helm. The test boat had multifunction Simrad IS20 instruments in front of each helm.
A voluminous cockpit locker to port has a dedicated washboard section and room for a rubber inflatable dinghy. Aft of this is a deep lazarette locker while opposite is a double gas-bottle locker and in between in the cockpit sole a useful liferaft/fender locker. The drop-down boarding platform makes a great space to have a shower or nudge the dinghy just under or alongside for easy boarding.
For’ard is a 1000W Quick anchor winch, roomy anchor locker, double bow rollers with pulpit and whatever anchor and chain you decide to add (Delta is the one on the options list).
Teak on the cockpit seats, transom step and fold-down swim platform is standard and an option elsewhere. Toerails are made of a no-maintenance teak look-alike composite. As someone else on our outing commented: “Yippee! What a great idea. No more oiling and streaks down the side from real teak!”
The aluminium mast has twin swept-back spreaders, a multi-purchase boomvang, boom bag and lazyjacks. An Australian-made bimini and dodger can be purchased if required — a “must” for the Australian sun.
Sail-wise, the standard inventory includes a premium Dacron main and 132-percent genoa on a furler. Tick the extras box and you can get a self-tacking jib or — in what is reportedly a first from the volume production builders — a furling code zero with a tack fitting on the bow-roller. “A very clever idea for off-the-wind performance on demand without leaving the cockpit,” Ron Jacobs of Performance Boating said.
I thought the standard sail area (70 sqm) would be conservative, but more than adequate for no-hassle cruising and the test boat performed well under sail in light winds (see “Under sail” section). Some modern boats are designed with light-wind areas in mind first and foremost and you have to reef early to compensate.
Jeanneau offers a Performance Package which does not increase sail area or mast height but includes things such as full battens for the main, an adjustable backstay and a range of upgraded sailcloth options and hi-tech standing
and running rigging materials.
The 379 is available in a two or three-cabin version. The test boat was the two-cabin version and aft to starboard was a twin-berth cabin well ventilated with good light, and aft to port instead of a second cabin a large storage area already dubbed by some owners “the shed”.
Just for’ard of the aft cabins to port is a divided head and shower with manual pump toilet (80L rotomoulded holding tank) and to starboard a smallish nav table with an electrical panel adjacent and room for whatever instruments you desire adjacent.
The L-shaped galley to port has a twin-burner Eno stove with oven, good stowage and a large top-opening 185L fridge/freezer with a great basket stowage system to make it easier to find that special item that always seems to be “buried”.
For’ard again is a U-shaped settee to starboard, fixed table and opposite a settee berth. Options here include a luxury saloon table which allows you to turn this area into a double berth when needed.
Pride of place in the for’ard cabin goes to a good-sized V-berth, which is fitted with gas struts on the aft end so you can access the space underneath without having to wrestle the mattress.
Both the aft and for’ard cabins are quite spacious and well ventilated, so it would be a toss-up which one you’d use as your main cabin.
Access to the 29hp Yanmar saildrive is excellent. A fixed three-blade prop is standard, but I’d definitely go for the optional folding prop to add that extra knot of speed under sail. As standard you get a 70AH start battery and a 70AH house battery. The test boat had an additional two batteries as part of the Premier Package of optional extras.
Timberwork is a varnished horizontally grained teak veneer with solid wood trim. Upholstery is available in a myriad of colours and a textured or easy-wipe finish.
Natural light abounds through the many fixed and opening ports, with LED lights ensuring minimal power consumption at night. Airplane-style blinds had been fitted to some windows and one-touch screens-cum-flyscreens to hatches.
Headroom is a generous 1.84m in the entrance to the forward cabin, 1.9m in the entrance to the aft and 1.9m in the saloon itself. Water and fuel are located under the aft berths/”shed” and an optional second 130L water tank can be added under the for’ard berth.
Stowage lockers have been built into every conceivable nook and cranny.
The standard keel is 1.95m with large bulb for added stability and single-rudder configuration, but there is also a shallow-draught 1.5m version with twin rudders and a lift-keel version that draw’s 1.1m and has a swing-down fin, bringing draught to 2.25m. All keels are cast-iron, which really doesn’t matter unless you are a full-on racer, where lead would be preferable because it takes up less wetted surface for the same weight. The test boat was the deep-keel version.
Jeanneau uses a closed moulding manufacturing process called the Prisma Process for their decks, which saves up to 30 percent in weight, making the yachts stiffer than would appear from the ballast ratio. Basically every kilogram saved in the deck is equivalent to adding that weight to the keel. The company is a pioneer in yacht production environmental standards and this technology means that there is little airborne volatile organic compounds in the production process.
Winds were light on our Pittwater outing but the 379 was a delight to sail, and it was hard to turn around and head back because we simply didn’t want to stop sailing. The boat tracked beautifully and was so well balanced that you could leave her to steer herself for a minute or so once in the groove.
Speeds jotted down in my notebook included 6.5 knots SOG pointing 32 degrees in 12 knots apparent and 5.8-6.0 knots SOG on a broad reach in nine knots apparent.
Motoring we achieved eight knots SOG at 3500 rpm and 6.1 knots at just over 2000 rpm with minimal noise below.
This is another value-for-money, good-looking boat from Jeanneau that should find a ready market in Australia, both with couples who want to cruise and those who want to do some club-racing as well. For many years production boats were beginning to look “same, same” and it’s great to see something breaking the mould a little.
EXTRAS AVAILABLE IN VALUE-FOR-MONEY PACKAGES
Various packages are available which group popular options into value-for-money packages such as the Performance Plus Package, Performance Self-tacking Package, and Premier Package.
The test boat was the first 379 and had almost every conceivable package and extra fitted to demonstrate all of the options available. This included air-conditioning, LED nav lights, extra battery, battery charger, screen shades, second anchor roller, Simrad Sonic Hub entertainment system (which allows plugins of all digital media), cockpit table, rigid boomvang, Simrad electronics (including plotter and autopilot), rigging for assy, furling code 0, teak cockpit floor, Quick 1000W windlass and a luxury saloon table that converts into a berth.
GERMAN MAINSHEET AKA ADMIRAL'S CUP MAINSHEET
The German mainsheet system is popular on many racing yachts and means that the mainsheet is brought back on either side of the yacht so that it can easily be trimmed to windward. On the Jeanneau 9 series the mainsheet is led aft from adjacent to the mast below a deck hood so that it is out of the way of crew and led to the aft primary winches for easy accessby the helmsperson steering from the windward helm, particularly useful when sailing short-handed in enclosed waters such as Sydney harbour where winds are so often gusty.
Light displacement 6700kg
Standard keel 1.95m
Fuel capacity 130L
Water capacity 200L
Cabins . . .Two or three
Motor Yanmar 29hp saildrive
CE Category A8/B10/C12
Designers Marc Lombard
Total standard sail area 70 sqm
Price: Sailaway from $227,590.
Contact: Visit www.jeanneauaustralia.com for a list of Australian state agents. Test boat supplied by Performance Boating Sales, ph (02) 9979 9755, email firstname.lastname@example.org, website www.performanceboating.com.au