Boat Review: Jeanneau 53
This lean, stylish-looking vessel is part of Jeanneau’s new “Yacht” line of larger cruisers and replaces the 54DS, which sold over 400 copies worldwide. Like the DS model, this new 53 features a blister-type coachroof, but with a much lower, sleeker profile. With its large rig, easily driven hull and spacious interior, it should appeal to many cruising sailors.
The hull is solid handlaid fiberglass set in polyester resin with an isophthalic gelcoat finish. A glass structural grid is glued and laminated in place, with aluminum subflooring in the area of the saloon. The injection-molded deck is cored with discontinuous balsa panels. The ballast keel is cast iron encapsulated in epoxy.
The cockpit is huge, with a spacious social area forward and a well-designed working area aft split between twin helm stations. The cockpit coamings are quite low, so the seating offers little back support, but otherwise the space feels both grand and comfortable.
Working lines coming off the spars, including the mainsheet, are led to the coachroof, which seems very far from the wheels, and a well-designed line locker set into the cockpit sole helps keep the spaghetti sorted. The companionway hatch also slides conveniently into the sole and can be fixed at intermediate heights for security in strong weather.
During our double-handed test sail, I found the cockpit on the whole very easy to work in, with just one exception. The wide bimini over the mainsheet winch forward made trimming the sail an awful chore. Be sure to specify an overhead window here when ordering canvas.
Up forward I found a smallish anchor well that nonetheless was properly divided to accommodate two separate rodes. On our test boat there was also an enormous dedicated sail locker just abaft the anchor well that could happily swallow huge mounds of gear.
The Jeanneau 53 has an amazingly versatile interior that can be configured four different ways with three to four heads and three to five sleeping compartments. A luxurious master stateroom can be situated forward or aft, or you can order the boat with a set of symmetrical twin double cabins at each end. A small crew cabin right forward in place of a dedicated sail locker can also be specified, as can a small starboard-side passage cabin with two single bunk berths.
Our test boat featured a full-width owner’s stateroom and en suite head aft, with twin double cabins forward separated by a removable centerline bulkhead. To me the aft stateroom seemed a little cramped for a boat this size, with just 2ft 7in vertical clearance over the island double berth and only crouching headroom in the center of the cabin just forward of the berth. Ventilation also seemed wanting, with just four small opening ports.
The galley on our test boat boasted a range hood over the stove, plus a nifty dishwasher tucked right under the sinks. Locker space was limited due to the hood, but I did find some easily accessed storage bins under the cabin sole directly inboard of the galley. In the aft-stateroom layout there is also a bulkhead directly abaft the galley on which some useful shelves could be mounted.
The saloon, which is the same in all the layouts, is light and airy with full-length settees on both sides and a big dinette table with folding leaves to starboard. The settee to port can be quickly converted to split captain’s seats with a small table between them, and the nav station to starboard (not included in the layout with the passage cabin) has a good-sized desk, a dedicated seat, plus room to install ancillary electronics if desired. Behind the nav station on our boat there was also a huge locker with plumbing leads for a washer/drier.
We sailed the 53 in open water off Miami Beach in 10-12 knots of wind. Our boat was equipped with an in-mast furling mainsail with no battens and a 125 percent genoa. Given the less-than-optimal main (in terms of performance) and the lack of proper downwind sails, I was pleasantly surprised by how well we did. We made our best speed to windward, about 6.5 knots, close-hauled at an apparent wind angle of about 40 degrees. Pinching a bit we could maintain 5.4 knots at an angle of 35 degrees. On a broad reach we hit 5.3 knots in spite of the reduced apparent wind.
The 53’s powerful hull shouldered its way easily through the moderate sea we encountered and also handled well in the steep powerboat wakes that occasionally assaulted us. Steering the boat is easy, as it settles quickly into a nice wide groove. During our sail, the helm was smooth and crisp, with excellent feel for the rudder.
Motoring into a mild current we ran flat out at 8.8 knots at 3,400 rpm. At a cruising rpm of 2,200 we made 7.4 knots. Spinning the boat around on its keel, I found it could turn 360 degrees within about 1-1/2 boatlengths. From full speed ahead it stopped dead in its tracks in full reverse in about two boatlengths. Moving in reverse the boat was a joy, easily holding a straight line and turning smoothly and predictably when asked to
This large, comfortable cruiser can be configured just about any way you like and is surprisingly affordable. The discrete modern styling will turn a few heads in harbor, and the long hull will turn miles easily out in open water. The spacious cockpit should work well both under sail and when entertaining.
LOA: 52ft 8in
LWL: 45ft 9in
BEAM: 15ft 7in
FUEL/WATER (GAL): 63/251
ENGINE: 110hp Yanmar
SAIL AREA: 1,420 sq ft
DESIGNER: Philippe Briand Yacht Design