Because we have a Beneteau on the brokerage market, I decided to do my due diligence and see what the local competition is like. In general, clients looking at a Beneteau are a different audience who are more price conscious and less focused on sailing around the world. The audience is more interested in enjoying the Bahamas than rounding Cape Horn. Hence, the whole market of comparable yachts is different. In a very narrow view, this market includes Beneteau, Jeanneau, Catalina, Bavaria, and Hunter. Serious sea wolfs call these plastic bimbo boats because of their reputation for lower quality construction, but I think they miss the point. I will deal with the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 39i in this review. Jeanneaus are similar to Beneteaus and even part of the Beneteau Group sharing technology and parts.
Henri Jeanneau founded the company in 1957 in Les Herbiers, France. Mr. Jeanneau’s passion was for powerboats, but by 1964, they were also producing sailboats. Their first success was the Sangria in 1970 of which they went on to produce 2,700 hulls. Jeanneau sailboats became known for their performance and stylish looking sloped cabintrunks, predatory portholes, and sexy sheerlines. In 1976, Jeanneau entered Melody in a single hand race across the Atlantic beginning their facination with ocean racing. In 1982, a Jeanneau Sun Shine, “Coup de Soleil,” won its class in the RORC. The same year, the company created a special research division called Jeanneau Advanced Technologies that the company is very proud of. By the 1990’s, Jeanneau was into racing catamarans. Jeanneau continues their dedication to performance with the Sun Odyssey 39i which comes in a performance version with a taller rig and deeper keel. Most recently, Jeanneau has been into deck saloons, and there is a similar 39 DS model. The main factory is the same one in Les Herbiers, France and has grown to be one of the largest factories in the world. In addition, the company has factories in Poland and Cholet, France.
Mark Lombard is the designer of the 39i and 39 DS. The 39i like all Jeanneaus have that French, sloping cabintrunk with sharp predatory portholes. Like the hard chine, the French love this sexy cabintrunk style. The bow has a slight overhand, more than you see on recent Beneteaus. The sheer is pretty straight but rises on about a 10 degree angle from horizontal. This extra freeboard forward makes a yacht a bit dryer than when the sheer is parallel. There are two portholes on each side in the topsides for light below. Aftmost is a sugar scoop stern with two nice steps for access. Lightly stained teak decorated the toe rail, handrails, cockpit lining, and swim steps on the one I previewed.
Looking at the line drawings, her underbody is typical of the modern ideas. She has a deep forefoot and hard knuckle forward. The keel is a deep fin of around 7′ 3″ on the performance version, a moderate fin of 6′ 6″, or a shoal bulb keel of 4′ 11″ according to manufacturer specifications which is more likely 5′ 6″ with a full cruising load. The rudder is a semi elliptical spade. From the plan view, you can see she the wide beam ratio of 3.07 is carried fully aft. This type of wide beam carried fully aft design allows the designer to increase interior accommodations. The sailplan shows a fractional rig with swept spreaders. The chainplates are mounted outboard which means the genoa sheets inside the shrouds which could be annoying downwind.
Construction and What To Look For
Jeanneau is built with similar techniques and parts to Beneteau. Some examples is the internal grid liner and Lewmar and Harken deck hardware. The main factory in Les Herbiers, France builds the 39i and is a modern and sprawling alter to the sailing gods. The hull of the 39i is solid glass while for the deck Jeanneau uses vacuum bagged, balsa core construction. The hull-deck joint is very interesting on the 39i. It is of the usual flange style, but they leave a two to three inch rounded edge outboard of the teak toerail and stanchions. This rounded edge is kind of nice as an extra albeit slippery foothold. The keel is of course cast iron which is simply less costly than lead though worse for performance and maintenance. The main differences are the performance versus classic versions and the two cabin versus three cabin layouts. The performance versions have taller rigs and choose between a moderate draft of 6’6″ or deep draft of 7’3″. The two cabin versions have only a starboard side cabin aft. Portside is a lazarette and an enlarged head with a stall shower. The two cabin is more owner oriented. The three cabin layout has matching berths aft port and starboard and lacks the extra storage space.
The deck is a tough, molded non skid that gives excellent traction. Forwardmost an interesting setup. The bow pulpit railing is slanting outward while at the bow is a teak “nose” which functions as a step. You can easily mount the bow and precariously stand in front of the roller furling unit. The bow chock includes an anchor roller starboard side along with a removable bowsprit that mounts to the port opening on the chock. Instead of a dual roller, the port roller is a mounting plane for the bowsprit. This bowsprit provides a way to attach a chute for downwind while keeping weather helm under control. On the foredeck is a hatch to the chainlocker and a typically well thought out molded inset for the windlass. Along the deck the sloping cabin trunk has two Lewmar hatches for ventilation but no dorades. The genoa tracks are along the side decks. While the shrouds mount outboard, lowers goes through the edge of the cabin trunk. All the lines run to the cockpit, and the halyards are all internal inside the Selden anodized aluminum mast. The one I previewed had a nice in-mast furling unit with a manual backup sheeting which also routing into the cockpit.
The cockpit is a little smaller than the Beneteau 43, I have been thinking of as the competition. The extra four feet is distributed here for longer seating on the Beneteau. Despite this more scrunched layout, the cockpit of the 39i is perfect ergonomically and superbly open with her twin helms. The teak lining gives her a touch of class that is missing on barren bimbo boats. The corners, which are the key feature of a cockpit, are rounded and spaced well. There are Gebo portholes for light to down below under the seating. Port and starboard are cockpit lockers which provide welcomed storage space. On the two cabin version the port lazarette provides incredible storage. Even for offshore, the companionway sill is a notably secure two feet high. The winches were two-speed Harkens of a worthwhile size and position appropriately.
Down Below and Underway
As noted before, there are two possible layouts. The two cabin version which I prefer has most notably a separate stall shower in the head. As well, the port cabin is removed in favor of a lazarette. The three cabin version has matching berths port and starboard aft along with the forward stateroom. The rest of the layout is unchanged. I previewed one which had a nice white faux leather upholstery, teak and holly sole, and a composite wood interior which provides a warm atmosphere. The compression post for the deck stepped mast is just behind the forward bulkhead. The saloon features a dinette arrangement starboard opposite of a straight settee. I am 6′ tall and did not have headroom issues. Adjacent to the companionway is a nav station port and the L-shaped galley opposite. The galley is superior to other orientation I have seen which push it into the saloon. The counter tops are a speckled, light Formica.
Engine and Underway
Access to the engine is excellent from the companionway. The 40 HP standard Yanmars are the epitome of modern reliability. At least in the three cabin layout, there are access panels from both aft cabins for side access. The side access is not as nice as on most the Beneteau which have larger openings. The performance will depend on your draft choice of the shoal bulb, moderate fin, or deep fin as well as the taller rig on the performance versions. Notably, the outboard chainplates restrict the genoa leaving higher clew, non-overlapping headsails standard. The jury seems to be still out on the affects of the beamy sterns. The lines and specifications suggest a stiff, fantastic light wind sailor.
Jeanneau is one of the less seriously offshore manufacturers who focus on a more fun loving audience. The 39i would be an nice choice with slightly higher quality equipment and construction that you see on many Beneteaus, Catalinas, and definitely Bavarias. Prices range from $175,000 to $220,000. Make an offer on one you like for $150,000 and see where it goes.