Boats

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409

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Jeanneau’s Sun Odyssey 409 replaces the very successful Sun Odyssey 39i in the French builder’s fleet of performance cruising boats. With its angular styling and solid performance, the 409 won accolades as the 2011 European Yacht of the Year in the Family Cruisers category. So far sales are strong, and it looks like the 409 will maintain Jeanneau’s prominent position in this critical size range.


Construction

The hull is solid fiberglass, laid by hand, finished with a protective barrier coat and ISO gelcoat, and stiffened with a fiberglass inner grid. The deck is injection molded with discontinuous balsa coring. The keel is cast iron. Finish quality is above average for a mass-production cruising boat.

On Deck

Unfortunately, with only one pair of winches to manage both sets of sheets, it is not possible to control the main and jib from the same helm station without constantly loading and unloading lines from the one winch available. This, of course, negates much of the proffered convenience of a Rewind winch. It also requires that the main be clutched off when tacking or gybing, which is less than optimal, particularly when gybing. In practice, when sailing singlehanded it is easiest to switch on the autopilot and shuttle between the two helm stations tending the main and jib sheets on separate winches.

In other respects, the cockpit works well. It is quite large, as the transom has a fold-down swim platform instead of a full-size scoop. A large solid cockpit table provides a strong brace point amidships, and the bench seats have high, comfortable seat backs. The two shallow cockpit lockers are also easily accessible. The deck forward, meanwhile, is clean and uncluttered, with all working lines routed through conduits underneath.

The 409 features a double-ended German mainsheet system, with both sides of the sheet led all the way aft to the twin wheels. Our test boat was also fitted with Harken’s new electric Rewind winches, which allow you to both trim and ease a line without touching it. With the jibsheets also led aft to the helm positions, it’s possible for the helmsperson to control both the main and jib without leaving the wheels.

Accommodations

Three different interior layouts are available, two of which feature three staterooms. Our test boat had the two-stateroom layout, which so far has proved most popular. In this configuration you enjoy a very large master stateroom forward with a wide V-berth and an ensuite office desk. The other stateroom is aft to starboard, with one large head aft to port. Accessible through the head there is a large dedicated storage/systems space where an optional generator can be installed.

The galley in all three layouts is aft to starboard, near the companionway. It features a large top-loading Frigo reefer with a very efficient three-stage compressor. The interior of the reefer box is well organized and easy to access. The galley has more than adequate storage space, but there is no dedicated counter space immediately adjacent to the stove.

The dominant feature in the saloon is the fold-over dinette table to starboard, which works exceedingly well. Mounted on a fixed central pedestal, it can be quickly lowered to convert the wrap-around settee into a double berth.

The Sun Odyssey 409 promises to continue the success enjoyed by its predecessor by providing cruising families with a comfortable, versatile platform that looks sharp and sails well. The several sail-plan options, the different interior layouts, and two keel options make it possible to fine-tune the boat to your individual needs.

Under Sail

I took hull #4, the first 409 to appear in North America, on its very first test sail immediately after the 2010 Annapolis show before the rig had been properly tuned. In moderate to strong winds on Chesapeake Bay, I found the helm was overly sensitive to mainsail trim, so arranged to sail the same boat again in Miami this past February.

The boat I sailed (with a 5-foot shoal keel) carried a conventional slab-reef mainsail with a 108 percent jib sheeted to short tracks mounted on the forward end of the coachroof. A full-size 140 percent genoa that sheets to full tracks on the side decks aft of the shrouds can also be ordered, as can a self-tacking 90 percent jib that sheets to a lateral track forward of the mast.

In light to moderate conditions on Biscayne Bay (8 to 10 knots of wind, slowly building to 12) with the rig properly tweaked, the boat tracked well and I found the helm to be nicely balanced and forgiving. In lighter winds that morning we occasionally topped 5 knots sailing close-hauled, and I was able to leave the wheel unattended for long periods without the boat falling off. In somewhat stronger wind later on, we easily topped 6 knots on a close reach, and the helm stayed balanced, with no tendency to round up when the wheel was released.

In significantly stronger wind (15 knots, gusting to 20) during my earlier sail, I found the boat was reassuringly stiff, thanks in part to the hard chine in the topsides running aft from amidships.

Under Power

By modern standards the 409 may seem underpowered, but I found that its 40hp diesel engine pushed the hull along at a good clip. Powering down Biscayne Bay into a moderate breeze in flat water we made 6.7 knots turning 2,000 rpm; flat out at 3,200 rpm we made 8.5 knots.

The engine space is quite large, with room to accommodate the hybrid systems and rotating sail drives that Jeanneau hopes to install in this same hull in the future. Access, from three different sides, is very good.

Conclusion

The Sun Odyssey 409 promises to continue the success enjoyed by its predecessor by providing cruising families with a comfortable, versatile platform that looks sharp and sails well. The several sail-plan options, the different interior layouts, and two keel options make it possible to fine-tune the boat to your individual needs.

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