The JEAN­NEAU 51 was de­signed to fit the needs of cou­ples who are ready to spend some se­ri­ous time out on the wa­ter.

Cruising World - - Boats & Gear - BY MARK PILLS­BURY

As with other mem­bers of the Groupe Beneteau fam­ily, Jean­neau be­came one of the largest builders of pro­duc­tion sail­boats in the world by de­sign­ing fine-sail­ing boats that ap­peal to a wide au­di­ence of sailors. At the top end of its Sun Odyssey line, the 519, for in­stance, can be ordered with three to five cab­ins, two to four heads, mul­ti­ple styles of woods and fab­rics, and even an in-line or aft gal­ley, all of which fit within the same hull and deck. De­pend­ing on the lay­out be­low, the boat ap­peals to fam­i­lies, groups of friends, rac­ers, cruisers and those look­ing for a wa­ter­front home, or it can even go into busi­ness as a char­ter boat.

But the French builder took a dif­fer­ent tack with its re­cently launched Jean­neau 51, a boat of about the same size, and the new­est and small­est boat in the com­pany’s Yachts range, which in­cludes si­b­lings up to 64 feet. By de­sign, the 51 isn’t for ev­ery­one. First and fore­most, it’s a cou­ples boat,

Let There Be Light

Dou­ble-open­ing hatches over the is­land queen berth pro­vide lots of fresh air. In ad­di­tion to nat­u­ral light that pours in through ports in the hull, read­ing lights at the head of the bed and re­cessed lights in the ceil­ing keep things bright be­low at night. in­tended for own­ers who are ready to spend con­sid­er­able time aboard, both at an­chor and un­der sail, of­ten alone, though with guests join­ing them from time to time.

In prac­tice, that trans­lates into a boat that can be eas­ily sailed by a short­handed crew, with mul­ti­ple sail-plan op­tions, up­scale ac­com­mo­da­tions be­low for a cou­ple of cou­ples, and loads of stor­age space for gear, grub and toys.

Jean­neau in­tro­duced the boat to North Amer­ica last win­ter at a splen­did beach party in down­town Mi­ami dur­ing the In­ter­na­tional Boat Show. The 51 sat an­chored just off­shore, lit­er­ally in the spot­light. She looked el­e­gant — and just a bit sporty — with a plumb bow, grace­fully arch­ing cabin top, dark-tinted ports and hard chines. In other words, the 51 fit the Yachts range to a T.

All Jean­neau Yachts have been de­signed by Philippe Briand, with in­te­ri­ors by An­drew Winch, and they share el­e­ments such as the “ter­race,” where the aft deck be­tween the twin wheels lifts and folds down with the swim plat­form to create a wa­ter­side space, com­plete with cush­ions, for loung­ing by the swim lad­der.

Be­cause so much time is spent in the cock­pit, a lot of at­ten­tion was paid to its lay­out. For­ward of the twin wheels, there’s a sub­stan­tial cock­pit ta­ble, the aft end of which con­tains a locker for a life raft. It has teak drop leaves on ei­ther side, and there’s a well at its for­ward end for ei­ther stor­age or a cock­pit fridge.

Winches usu­ally found on the cabin top for hal­yards and reef lines have been moved to ei­ther coam­ing. That’s al­lowed the de­sign­ers to put cush­ioned lounges to ei­ther side of the com­pan­ion­way. With the dodger down, they make swell sun­bathing spots; with it up, they’re pro­tected from wind and spray, and would be a fine place to re­lax while on watch or to keep the skip­per com­pany.

One more word about the cock­pit be­fore we move be­low: The dou­ble-ended main­sheet and jib sheets are led un­der the deck on ei­ther side to stop­pers and a winch just for­ward of each wheel. This setup keeps the clut­ter of lines from in­vad­ing those re­lax­ing, and puts them right at the helms­man’s fin­ger­tips, where they be­long.

Be­low, the stan­dard boat, which is what I saw and sailed in Mi­ami, has the own­ers cabin for­ward. A pair of over­head open­ing hatches let the air pour in, while ports in the hull let light do the same. This cabin is large enough to want to spend time in. Night­stands and benches flank a queen-size berth, with two large draw­ers be­neath for stor­age. There’s more room to stash things in lock­ers that run fore and aft over­head along the cabin sides, plus a large hang­ing locker to port as you en­ter from the sa­loon. The cabin door is off­set to port, which makes room for a large head and sep­a­rate shower com­part­ment to star­board.

The com­pany calls the guest ac­com­mo­da­tions aft a VIP cabin. It’s to port of the com­pan­ion­way and has a square queen-size berth that ex­tends to the boat’s cen­ter­line. There is im­pres­sive head­room over the berth for a boat this size, and the cabin of­fers plenty of stor­age space, should the visit be a long one.

There is an op­tion for a smaller, third cabin to star­board, but in the stan­dard lay­out, this space is a large work­shop/stor­age area that can also be ac­cessed from the cock­pit. This could also be fit­ted out with a sin­gle bunk for a cap­tain. Just for­ward is a util­ity room, where ad­di­tional refrigeration or a washer/dryer can be lo­cated, or it could be fit­ted out as a day head.

I found the sa­loon, with its four open­ing over­head hatches, port lights in the hull and cabin win­dows, to be a lovely place to hang out, both at the dock and un­der­way. To port, there’s a full-size, front-fac­ing nav sta­tion at the foot of the com­pan­ion­way and a com­fort­able couch for­ward. Op­po­site, the U-shaped din­ing ta­ble is in­tended to seat six (as is the cock­pit ta­ble). The gal­ley, with loads of counter space, draw­ers and cup­boards, is just aft, and has the cook­ing and refrigeration equip­ment you’d need for liv­ing aboard.

The boat I sailed had the stan­dard in-mast furling main and 110 per­cent genoa, stored on a Fac­nor furler. There is a fit­ting on the dou­ble an­chor roller for down­wind sails, and an op­tional track is avail­able by the mast for a self-tend­ing jib, as well as a pro­vi­sion for adding a re­mov­able in­ner forestay, if one’s de­sired. This gives an owner many sail choices, de­pend­ing on con­di­tions.

The 51’s hull is hand-laid solid glass; the deck is resin­in­fused with a balsa core; high-den­sity ply­wood is used where hard­ware is mounted. Keels are cast iron and avail­able in deep (7-foot-5-inch) and shal­low (5-foot-8-inch) con­fig­u­ra­tions.

Our test boat had the op­tional 110-horse­power Yan­mar en­gine with shaft drive. With the throt­tle down (3,200 rpm), we had plenty of power and cruised at bet­ter than 8 knots in a light chop; the boat comes stan­dard with an 80-horse­power Yan­mar and saildrive.

But re­ally, the boat was meant to sail. In 10 to 12 knots, with the sails sheeted tight, the 51 heeled onto its chines and scooted along at 7 knots. Off the wind, the speedo dropped maybe a half a knot, hint­ing that a code zero on a flex­i­ble furler would be a sen­si­ble in­vest­ment.

As is of­ten the case with a range of boats that vary in size by just a few feet each, it’s tempt­ing to pick a fa­vorite. I’ve sailed on both the 58 and the 54, and if I were putting my own money down (in this case around $525,000 for a well-equipped model; the base boat’s $405,000), it would be on the 51. To my eye, all the pieces fit as they should. Be­low, it feels roomy; at the helm, man­age­able; and un­der sail, well, it was one sweet ride.

Jean­neau re­flects its sail­ing roots with a full-size nav sta­tion (right). Ports in the hull give seated crew a view of the world out­side.

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