New Boats

More out-of-the box think­ing from a ma­jor builder

SAIL - - Contents - By Zuzana Proc­hazka

Re­views of the Outremer 45, the Jean­neau Sun Odyssey 490 and the RS Zest

True in­no­va­tion in mono­hull sailboat de­sign can be a bit elu­sive these days. That’s not to say that there are no more new ideas, but it does seem that many new tweaks and in­tro­duc­tions are a bit in­cre­men­tal: let’s say evo­lu­tion­ary rather than rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Just when it seems that we’ve seen it all, though, some­thing comes along that breaks with con­ven­tional think­ing and pushes old habits into new di­rec­tions. A clear ex­am­ple of this kind of think­ing is the new Jean­neau Sun Odyssey 490.


As was the case with the SO 490’s lit­tle sis­ter, the Jean­neau Sun Odyssey 440, which won a SAIL mag­a­zine Best Boats award this past year in the mono­hull cruis­ing cat­e­gory, de­signer Philippe Briand started with a blank sheet of pa­per when it came time to draw the boat. At the same time, though, the Jean­neau Sun Odyssey 490 still also very much car­ries on the com­pany’s tra­di­tion of re­li­able, rock-solid con­struc­tion.

Top­side, for ex­am­ple, the hull con­sists of an in­fused sand­wich with a balsa core and a pro­tec­tive bar­rier coat to stave off blis­ter­ing. The deck is also in­jec­tion molded us­ing Jean­neau’s pro­pri­etary “Prisma” process, and like the hull in­cludes a balsa core to pro­duce an ex­cep­tion­ally light struc­ture while main­tain­ing the nec­es­sary strength.

The dou­ble-spreader alu­minum mast is held aloft with stain­less steel 1 x 19 wire rig­ging and a dou­ble back­stay. In-mast furl­ing is avail­able as an op­tion, and Harken tracks and winches are used through­out. Twin rud­ders en­sure a firm grip on the wa­ter, even in rougher con­di­tions: a fea­ture that is in many ways a pre­req­ui­site for any mod­ern cruiser that wants to call it­self a true sailer, given to­day’s beamy de­signs. Good on Jean­neau for mak­ing the ex­tra ef­fort in this im­por­tant area.


On deck, the afore­men­tioned in­no­va­tions are es­pe­cially no­tice­able in the cock­pit, which dif­fers from any­thing on the mar­ket in sev­eral ways. First, the side decks slope down to­ward the twin helms with no break or bar­rier at all. You can ac­tu­ally walk from the tran­som, around the port wheel, all the way to the bow and then aft back to the star­board wheel with­out ever once hav­ing to step over a coam­ing or seat cush­ion. This con­fig­u­ra­tion means you can also sit out­board and drive while fac­ing for­ward. No more cran­ing around to watch the sails ahead while your torso faces in­board, which on pro­longed out­ings can be real pain in the neck—lit­er­ally. This is huge, as the in­dus­try con­tin­ues to seek ways to keep ev­ery­one in the sport longer, in­clud­ing those with aging joints.

How­ever, Briand didn’t just leave it there, as all the dead space that usu­ally com­prises the coam­ing is now also put to use in the form of set­tee back­rests that lift up and out to form a pair of sun pads. Not only that, but with a filler cush­ion the star­board pad reaches all the way to the drop-leaf ta­ble (now off­set to pro­vide a clear path be­tween the com­pan­ion­way and the tran­som) so that with both back­rests down, the en­tire cock­pit be­comes a huge lounge that will be the envy of the an­chor­age.

As a corol­lary, to ac­com­mo­date these con­vert­ible coam­ings, the Harken pri­mary winches have been moved in­board onto pedestals just ahead

of the twin wheels, with the head­sail and the main­sail sheets led there via a set of clutches. In ad­di­tion to mov­ing the winch weight in­board, this means the crew can now grind fac­ing for­ward and watch­ing the tell­tales rather than fac­ing aft as on other models.

For­ward, the rig has been changed up with the lower D1 and cap shrouds ter­mi­nat­ing at sep­a­rate chain­plates—one to the hull, the other out­side the coachroof—creat­ing an open, un­ob­structed way for­ward on the wide side decks. A Code 0 at­taches to a point on the newly de­signed com­pos­ite sprit that not only elon­gates the boat’s pro­file, but moves the an­chor for­ward of the plumb bow to min­i­mize the in­evitable stem dings that can re­sult as it swings clear of the wa­ter. A per­for­mance pack­age is avail­able with tri- ra­dial My­lar sails, a tra­di­tional hoist main and an ad­justable high-mo­du­lus back­stay.


The Jean­neau 490 comes in three con­fig­u­ra­tions with two to five cab­ins and two or three heads. The sa­loon, gal­ley and nav desk re­main the same through­out, and only the state­rooms change. In the stan­dard owner’s lay­out, the mas­ter is for­ward with an is­land berth, a head to port and a sep­a­rate shower stall amid­ships. Two cab­ins can also be shoe­horned in here for char­ter pur­poses.

The for­ward-fac­ing nav desk to port is large and close to the com­pan­ion­way for good com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the cock­pit. It’s also a part of a small dinette with an­other bench seat be­tween the desk and the gal­ley. This will be a nice place to rest dur­ing the off watch or for a cou­ple to have a quick break­fast while dis­cussing the day’s itin­er­ary.

Most of the stowage op­tions (and there are many) have been moved in­board to keep the weight closer to the cen­ter­line. A small is­land by the gal­ley pro­vides bot­tle and pro­vi­sion stowage, and you can also brace against it on a port tack while work­ing at the stove un­der­way.

The light be­low is ex­cep­tional, with hull and deck ports sup­ple­mented by mul­ti­ple hatches, in­clud­ing one di­rectly above the three-burner Eno stove—a nice touch.

UN­DER SAIL We had a great test day, with 16-18 knots blow­ing over the flat wa­ters of Mi­ami’s Bis­cayne Bay. This boat likes to sail on the wind and sheeted in flat where it points up to 35 de­grees. As the breeze backed off to 15 knots, our boat­speed set­tled in at 8.1 knots at 60 de­grees with our in-mast furl­ing main fully de­ployed. Foot brac­ing was quite good, although I’d like to see the fixed wooden brace on the cock­pit sole re­placed with a re­tractable one so it’s not a trip­ping haz­ard when not in use. Tack­ing was easy, and the boat re­sponded quickly. With the Code 0 rolled out, we zipped along at 9.1 knots with just a fin­ger on the helm—fac­ing for­ward, no neck cran­ing nec­es­sary.

Ev­ery­thing at the helm in­te­grates nicely. The twin back­stays are high and out of the way, so even tall driv­ers won’t be hit in the back of the head, and the sheet bags, though small, seem to con­tain the spaghetti fairly well.

UN­DER POWER On the flat wa­ter of the bay, the up­graded Yan­mar 80 (a 57hp engine comes stan­dard) de­liv­ered 9.1 knots at 3,100 rpm. Jean­neau has kept the choice of en­gines un­der 100hp to be able to of­fer its 360-De­gree Joy­stick Dock­ing as an op­tion. It’s hardly needed, though, es­pe­cially with the op­tional re­tractable thruster that makes dock­ing a breeze.


The Jean­neau Sun Odyssey line now has nine models from 32-52ft. The new 440 and 490 (more re­cently joined by the 410) are the first to show­case the walk-around cock­pit, and if it finds a mar­ket, chances are it will pro­lif­er­ate through­out the range. For now it’s ex­actly this kind of out-of-the-cock­pit think­ing that will not only help at­tract new peo­ple to the sport but keep folks sail­ing longer: a great in­no­va­tion in sail­ing if ever there was one. s

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