A sport coupe with a stylish and con­tem­po­rary de­sign and an ex­cel­lent ride.

Boating - - NEWS - —Chris Caswell

MMy de­fault at­ti­tude for many im­ported yachts, es­pe­cially ones that have proved pop­u­lar across the pond, is with mea­sured cyn­i­cism. Do they re­ally un­der­stand North Amer­i­can boaters? In the case of the Jeanneau Leader 9.0, it was sim­ply an arched eye­brow, like the ones per­fected by French-bistro wait­ers.

But the Leader 9.0 strikes all the right chords. It’s per­fect for fun, for sun, for week­end­ing, or for just hang­ing out on the water. There might not be as much cul­ture gap as I’d thought, or per­haps this Jeanneau just has the right stuff. As the Cap Ca­ma­rat 9.0WA in Europe, it’s proved very pop­u­lar — for good rea­sons.

The start­ing point is a 16-de­gree dead­rise hull de­signed by Michael Peters, which quickly un­der­lined his skills with off­shore boats dur­ing our runs in a lumpy Gulf Stream. The deck lay­out, based on the Leader 8.5, is a walka­round with cruiser ac­com­mo­da­tions and tons of seat­ing space in the cock­pit, plus sprawl­ing space on sun pads for­ward.

But, you might ask, how do they get cruiser ameni­ties in a cabin lim­ited both by length and walka­round decks? Well, I didn’t say “in” the cabin, and the gal­ley is a con­sole op­po­site the helm, hold­ing a sink with fold­ing faucet and a sin­gle-burner stove, plus stowage. A stain­less-steel Isotherm fridge is tucked un­der the helm con­sole, and it’s prob­a­bly worth sup­ple­ment­ing with an ice chest if you’re plan­ning a long weekend be­cause the fridge would be chal­lenged by a cou­ple of six-packs.

The Leader 9.0 is out­board-pow­ered, which re­sults in a large and quite us­able cock­pit, abet­ted by the dis­cov­ery by this huge

From the lock­ing tran­som gate to the high coam­ings around the cock­pit to the many hand­holds, this boat is clearly made for fam­i­lies with kids.

French builder of jump seats. There is a very nice teak (no var­nish­ing!) high-low ta­ble fac­ing a wide set­tee with a high back­rest aft, and then a jump seat flops down to star­board to make an L shape. To seat ev­ery­one, an­other jump seat pulls down from the helm con­sole, mak­ing a full U-shaped dinette.

The skip­per and a com­pan­ion get very nice seats with neck rests and flip-up bol­sters for ei­ther stand­ing or sit­ting a bit higher. There’s a well-placed molded footrest, and the dash it­self is sim­plic­ity, with rows of lighted and la­beled rocker switches and a panel for 12-inch Garmin or Raytheon mon­i­tors. Our test boat was equipped with Lenco trim tabs and a Quik bow thruster. We par­tic­u­larly liked the padded “eye­brow” over the in­stru­ments to elim­i­nate glare or re­flec­tions, and the stain­less-steel-topped wind­shield does a good job of lift­ing the breeze over­head. To keep the crew from par­boil­ing in the sun, our test boat also had a fiber­glass hard­top with a slid­ing moon­roof over the helm, all mounted on sturdy pow­der-coated legs.

Power for the Leader 9.0 is a pair of Yamaha four-strokes, and our boat had twin 250 hp V-6 4.2 liters for a top speed of 50.1 mph. You can also opt for twin 225s or a sin­gle 350, al­though I’d bet many deal­ers are go­ing to out­fit these with twin 200s for econ­omy with­out much speed loss.

The cabin, with­out a gal­ley, has a sur­pris­ing amount of space for sleep­ing and tin­kling. Look­ing for­ward, a pair of curved set­tees sur­round an­other teak din­ing ta­ble, which can drop down with filler cush­ions to form a V-berth prob­a­bly best suited for the kid­dos.

But aft, tucked away un­der the cock­pit (not claus­tro­pho­bic in the least) is a large dou­ble berth more than 6 feet in length and with stowage bins. Big win­dows make this sur­pris­ingly airy, al­though a pri­vacy cur­tain might be a nice ad­di­tion.

The head com­part­ment is an­other sur­prise for a 30-footer, with a Eurostyled ves­sel sink and stylish faucet on a van­ity, plus a shower stall. The elec­tric head shares the shower, but it has a drop­down lid to cover it and, if you’re like me, you don’t like “wet show­ers” that soak the en­tire head. To this end, Jeanneau has pro­vided a full slid­ing Lucite door to make this a “real” shower stall so you don’t splash ev­ery­where.

For­ward, there’s a big sun pad, and our test boat had deck ex­ten­sions out­side the two out­boards, adding to the board­ing/ swim­ming area and a good op­tion.

Un­der­way, the Leader 9.0 was im­pres­sive. It felt solid and re­mained dry in spite of some left­over seas in the Gulf Stream. The Michael Peters’ hull threw the spray wide while track­ing nicely in ran­dom con­di­tions into, across and down seas. This boat is fun to throw around, and there’s a sturdy ski pole aft, so you can tow ev­ery­thing from skiers to wake­board­ers.

If you’re shop­ping around, take a look at the Well­craft 290 Coastal, with twin 300s and an in­side gal­ley but no cock­pit dinette or for­ward sun pad (about $194,000).

We were im­pressed by the Jeanneau Leader 9.0. It de­liv­ered on its prom­ise of be­ing per­fect for fam­ily fun, is solidly built, and has a nice ar­ray of stan­dard ameni­ties.

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