I had a feeling that the Marc Lombard-designed Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 379 would be fun to sail even before I took one out for a test drive in 20-25 knots of breeze. I’d sailed the first of the similarly re-designed Sun Odysseys—the 409—the previous year, and I expected the folks at Jeanneau would have little trouble serving up more of the same performance and comfort in a slightly smaller 37ft package. Nothing I experienced on the 409, however, could have prepared me for the sheer joy of sailing the 379 in a good stiff wind—an experience made all the more remarkable by the fact that the model we tested carried a shoal-draft keel drawing a mere 4ft 11in.
The Sun Odyssey 379’s hull is built of solid handlaid fiberglass strengthened with a fiberglass grid. ISO gelcoat and an additional barrier coat are included to combat osmotic blistering. The deck is cored with balsa and is injection-molded using Jeannueau’s Prisma Process to create a structure that is stiff and light with a smooth finish.
On Deck I liked the wide cockpit, comfortable seats and the large retractable swim platform. When open, the swim platform significantly increases the cockpit space and makes it super-easy to board the boat from the stern. When closed, it also provides a wonderful sense of security in the cockpit. There’s a clever purchase system hidden under the port helm seat that makes it easy to raise or lower the platform.
There are nice big lockers under the cockpit and helm seats to swallow up fenders, dock lines and other gear, while the chartplotter can be easily viewed from either of the twin helm stations. I also appreciated the double bow roller, windlass and deep anchor locker forward.
What really distinguishes the SO 379, though, is the way the boat’s hull chines, hull ports, narrow tinted coachroof windows, wide stern, plumb bow and even the maintenance-free synthetic teak toerail (that I honestly thought was real) all work in harmony to produce a uniquely modern and attractive boat.
The boat’s clean lines are also evident in its accommodation plan. The saloon features a large settee, a good-sized head and an L-shaped galley at the foot of the companionway. Light-colored varnished woodwork and a white headliner lend a warm, open feeling to the space, while a single opening hatch and two small opening ports provide ventilation.
The long, straight settee seats make functional sea berths, and the aft-facing chart table is big enough to handle a chart book. Well-placed handholds in the headliner and along the coachroof provide good security when you need to move around while underway. The galley has plenty of counter space and copious stowage, while the single head has all the essentials, including a separate shower stall.
Although it was easy to forget we were on a 37-footer in the spacious saloon, it was more apparent in the sleeping cabins. The forward cabin, for example, has a V-berth and limited standing room, which is typical on most sub-40-footers, although it is still a perfectly comfortable cabin for two. There’s also good lighting, plenty of stowage and decent ventilation thanks to an opening hatch. The guest cabins aft have larger rectangular berths, but more limited ventilation.
How is the joyful sailing experience I described earlier possible on a shoal-draft boat in over 20 knots of breeze? Simple—twin rudders. Even after reefing the main and taking up a couple of turns on the headsail, the boat heeled pretty dramatically in the puffs. But the helm was always light and refreshingly balanced as we accelerated to over 7 knots, thanks to the fact the leeward rudder was always properly submerged to provide positive control. I suspect the boat’s hard chine aft, which adds form stability and aids in tracking, also played a role, especially in some of the bigger puffs. I expect the optional 6ft 4in deep keel and single-rudder configuration produces slightly better tacking angles and will also be quicker in light air, due to its lower wetted surface area, but I’m sold on the twin-rudder version.
Visibility was excellent from the dual helm stations, and the cockpit table provided excellent brace points for the crew. Molded-in foot cleats behind each wheel provide excellent footing for the helmsman, even at steep heel angles.
Singlehanders and Wednesday-night racers will like the German mainsheet system, which makes it easy to trim the main from either side of the cockpit. The jibsheets are also led back through clutches to winches adjacent the helm stations. As with all boats on which the mainsheet and jibsheets share winches, tacking and gybing can require some planning. Shifting sheets on the winches when we needed to do a controlled gybe in the 20-knot breeze was doable, but it would have been easier if the mainsheet had been routed to a separate cabintop winch.
We had so much fun sailing, I almost forgot to record the engine data. I can report, however, that the standard 29hp Yanmar performed well. We were able to get up to 6.5 knots powering into the stiff breeze at full throttle (3,500 rpm) and hit about 5.5 knots at 2,700 rpm. Engine noise was obviously noticeable in the saloon, but not absurdly so. As you'd expect, it was a bit tricky backing into a slip in a stiff crosswind, but otherwise the boat behaved well in close quarters.
Plenty of boats call themselves good-looking and rewarding to sail. Many boats are also designed to be comfortable at sea and in port. But after testing the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 379 in a healthy sailing breeze, I can honestly say it comes closer to achieving these goals than most. It was a blast to sail. It was easy to sail. It was comfortable to sail, and its accommodations are both spacious and stylish.
HEADROOM 6ft 1in
BERTHS 5ft 9in x 6ft 7in (fwd); 6ft 7in x 6ft 1in (aft)
LOA 37ft 2in // LWL 34ft 1in
BEAM 12ft 4in // DRAFT 6ft 4in (std); 4ft 11in (shoal); 3ft 7in/7ft 4in (swing keel)
SAIL AREA 624ft2
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (Gal) 34/53/19
ENGINE 29 HP Yanmar with saildrive
DESIGNER Marc Lombard/Jeanneau Design
BUILDER Jeannueau, Les Herbiers, France
U.S. DISTRIBUTORJeanneau America, 410-280-9400
PRICE $181,075 base
Photos courtesy of Jenneau Yachts