The mid-30ft range is a competitive arena to do business in because this is a big volume market sector, so for the giants of Beneteau and Jeanneau, it's an important area, reports Kevin Green.
That's why Jeanneau has kept the pressure on its competitor by bringing out a series of new models during 2006 and 2007 and the brand new Sun Odyssey 36i featured in this review is the first one to reach Australia. It follows the earlier released, Sun Odyssey 39DS and a new Sun Odyssey 42i. These are just three new designs from a huge fleet of 25 models that the company released during the past 18 months. But Jeanneau has chosen to take a different tack from its competitor by offering a performance package for these boats rather than a dedicated range, as Beneteau has done with its First range.
With many of these boats going into large charter fleets, economies of scale mean that prices are competitive – with an entry level ‘sailaway’ price of $236,525 from local distributor Ron Jacobs at Performance Boating, the 36i is a compelling package. It replaces the earlier SO35 model and uses injection moulding technology – thus the 'i' in the model spec- which is a low emission deck-construction process, intended to be environmentally friendly as well as giving a high quality, lighter build.
The hulls are designed by solo racer Marc Lombard who championed the buoyant stern design for riding waves, thus all the new range carry their beam right aft, giving the boats maximum cabin and cockpit space right up to the pulpit. The stepped teak-clad stern makes for an excellent swim platform with a handy ladder and the hinged transom bench locker is big enough to house a small life raft.
Three cast-iron keel options are offered for the lightweight hull. As an entry level cruising boat, the standard model succeeds in being a no-frills yacht with simple systems – single line slab reefing, large overlapping genoa, allowing sailing by headsail only and an uncluttered rig with swept-back backstay.
For a 36 footer the cockpit is cavernous with the Harken primary winches on the combings right beside the helm and the single halyard winch on the port side cabin top, where the mainsheet also runs. For my average- sized hands, the mainsheet diameter felt too small but the setup could cope with a heavier sheet as the blocks looked to have enough room. The layout with the traveller on the roof, of course, suits most cruising sailors, especially for those day sailing with kids where moving parts in the cockpit are always hazardous. The single cabin top Harken winch can double up for mainsheet purchase but there is no starboard cabin top winch as standard. However, there is space alongside the Spinlock jammers for one. The Jeanneau philosophy of not paying for what you may not need is intended to keep costs down and this concept works, I think. This applies across all fittings with teak only used in the cockpit seats but the injection-moulded decks had good grip with well-defined tread for crew moving forward. All lines coming from the Selden mast ran across the cabin top, rather than being hidden in a gutter as is the fashion on many boats nowadays, but personally, I prefer to see lines – to check for chafe and to avoid jams in the hidden gutters. Again, a straight-forward arrangement, along with the lazy jacks and zip-up sailbag on the boom for easy sail handling. The factory- supplied Quantum sails are Dacron and the Facnor headsail roller reefing works well. For aspiring twilight racers, the optional performance pack comes with a taller rig, Tri Radial sails, Dyform rigging and Dyneema sheets and folding Slipstream propeller, along with the deeper keel option to stiffen the boat up. The review boat also had an adjustable backstay fitted as an extra. Given its light displacement and good acceleration, the pack could turn the boat into an able twilight cruiser-racer.
All deck fittings are substantial, including useful (optional) mid-ship cleats and a teak toe rail. The deep anchor well included a remote control for the electric windlass, with double bow rollers that were perhaps a bit close together for deploying double anchors. A Manson anchor and chain was fitted to the review boat but this would be an area of strong personal preference for your average cruising sailor.
Below decks, the dark-stained interior is spacious for a 36 footer with the three cabin layout managing to fit a lot in because of the beamy hull. The saloon seating covers both sides of the boat and, along with the large table, makes a good entertaining area. The dark-stained wood felt smooth to the touch and the veneered plywood floorboards gave easy access to the hull and skin fittings. Storage throughout was as well as could be expected for the size of boat with push-button cupboards and adequate galley lockers.
The leather-look man-made upholstery feels hardwearing yet comfortable to sit on. The only feature I was unsure of was the stand-alone glass sheet sprouting from the galley work top which may have the potential to be dislodged should someone fall against it in a seaway. And it is also a hard surface for someone to bang a head against when seated at the table. Moving forward, past the compression post that dominates the cabin, to the forward berth, this area is pretty standard. The space under the forward berth is used for tankage but a locker is available for gear. Afterall, we must remember this is only a 36 footer, even though it feels much larger below decks.
The L-shaped port galley had an upgraded (and expensive!) electronic two-burner stove fitted. The functional layout included a deep, double sink and a cavernous chest fridge (the same size as the 39i). Opposite the area the navigation station has a novel sliding top by lodging against the bulkhead of the toilet when not in use, allowing more sitting space. It works well, and again is simple but effective. As with most large volume builders, the cabling and electrics are good, with digital LCD readouts for liquids – very handy for a quick check of fuel and water. Instrumentation is basic but a bulkhead alongside the nav station could probably house a plotter and other electronics. The review boat was fitted with a Raymarine 54E VHF and had ST60+ Tridata instruments on the steering binnacle.
The port side head/toilet area with manual pump toilet has a separate shower area and behind it, in the traditional quarter berth spot is a large crawl-in storage area. On cruising boats, storage is always an issue so this is a good idea, though I'd probably cut a hatch from the cockpit locker floor above to give dual access. The area is well illuminated with natural light from the cockpit hatches (where lines could also be dropped through for ease of handling).
The starboard rear cabin benefits from the wide beam in being a good-sized double berth and the cockpit hatch gives plenty of light. Its forward bulkhead has side access to the Yanmar 29hp shaft-driven engine. The motor's front opening is easy, with the companionway steps unfolded. The engine's services are mostly accessible; with the impellor, fresh water tank and oil dipstick on view. Sound proofing is generous and a large extra fan is also fitted to keep temperatures down.
Pittwater is a good place to check out the sailing qualities of a boat because invariably conditions are very changeable. You have to react to wind shadows, there's varying pressure along the bumpy shorelines and the steep sides lend a catabatic affect to everything. But our first problem was finding any wind at all so I motored around as Ron tried to
With the breeze showing only 6kts True, the log read a fast 4kts through the water on a wind angle of 45 degrees. Going off the wind slightly in the rising breeze, the 36i felt more in her groove and this showed with a speed of 5.7kts being coaxed out of 8.5 kts of True wind. Impressive. On a 36 footer, sail handling can be quite easy compared with slightly larger boats – there's not that amount of muscle needed and sheets are smaller – so everything felt easily manageable as we tacked back and forth across the Pittwater. The wheel had a positive feel to it and was large enough to allow me, just, to sit out on the high side and steer. But remembering that this is a cruising boat, I would more than likely be sitting on the transom seat below a bimini or forward in the cockpit as the autopilot (an optional extra) did the job. (Also fitting a bigger wheel would hinder access to the swim platform steps on the stern.) On other points of sail, the 36i performed well and as the wind rose she benefited from being sailed more upright, to prevent the beamy hull from digging in. Gybing the tall rig was quick without being twitchy, as the 1.94m deep bulbed keel kept the boat tracking well out of the turn. The deep draft (2.1m) option would also benefit pointing and worth considering for long distance cruising. But it's always a compromise, because getting into snug, tidal anchorages is an important aspect of the cruising lifestyle.
All-in-all, the 36i is a neat package at a price that will positively encourage people to get on the water and have some fun, which, afterall, is what life is all about.
Price (sailaway standard boat – commissioned & antifouled): $236,525
Price (review boat): $256,000
Overall length 10,94 m
Hull length 10,69 m
Waterline length 9,84 m
Beam 3,59 m
Displacement light load with deep draft keel 5700 kg
Standard draft cast-iron fin keel with elongated bulb and exterior epoxy barrier coat 1,94 m
Standard keel weight 1571 kg
Shoal draft cast-iron fin keel with elongated bulb and exterior epoxy barrier coat 1,47 m –
Shoal keel weight 1808 kg –
Performance keel draft cast-iron fin keel with elongated bulb and exterior epoxy barrier coat, profiled leading and trailing edges – 2,10 m
Performance keel weight – 1546 kg
Mainsail area: 30.7m squared
Genoa (130%) area: 33m squared
CE category A8/B10/C12 A8/B10/C12
Water capacity 2 rotomolded tanks located under forward and aft berths with separate deck fills 355 L
Fuel rotomolded tank located under aft berth with deck fill 130 L
Holding tank rotomolded tank located in head compartment with valve for overboard discharge via gravity and deck fitting for pump out 50 L
Fridge compartment with vertical access 180 L