All too often, sail trials end up taking place in minimal wind. But that certainly wasn’t the case with the new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 439. Two days after the 2012 Annapolis Sailboat Show, a cold front brought with it overcast skies and gusts of 20 knots and more out of the northeast—which was just fine with the 439.
The Sun Odyssey 439’s hull is solid, hand-laid fiberglass, while the deck incorporates a balsa core and is fabricated using Jeanneau’s proprietary Prisma injection-molding process. This technique allows Jeanneau to closely monitor the amount of resin going into the fabrication, which results in an excellent strength-to-weight ratio.
A fiberglass grid set into the lower part of the hull helps accommodate rig and keel loads under sail, and supports cabinetry, the cabin sole and other belowdecks structures. The single rudder is fabricated with a composite stock, and 1x19 stainless steel shrouds and a manually adjustable split backstay support the double-spreader deck-stepped mast. Chainplates are inboard, alongside the low cabintrunk, leaving the side decks clear.
Twin anchor rollers extend forward of the stem, almost like a mini-bowsprit, to keep the hook from dinging your gelcoat when weighing anchor. It’s still pretty tight up there, though, and I suspect you’ll have to be careful when leaving an anchorage. Still, the combination of a nearly plumb bow, truncated stern, low cabintrunk and chines aft make for one fast, sexy-looking hull.
The SO 439’s German mainsheet system leads back to winches and clutches at each of the two helm stations. The same winches also serve the jibsheets, and therefore it is impossible to trim the main and jib simultaneously from one side. Someone needs to go to the lee side when bearing away, even if the boat is on its ear. Because the winches and clutches are so far aft, it is also necessary to position yourself aft of the wheels to tend them efficiently, which can be a problem if the person driving wants to changes wheels, say, midway through a gybe. Neither of these issues is necessarily a deal breaker, but they may conflict with some sailing styles.
The primaries on our test boat were Harken Rewind Radial electrics, which both trim and ease a line under load at the push of a button, making sail trim nearly effortless. There is also a nifty little covered line bin just outboard of each wheel. The cockpit is wide and comfortable, with a clear passageway leading aft between the two helm stations to a drop-down swim platform and boarding ladder.
Moving forward, the molded-in antiskid on our test boat was more than adequate, and the very convincing faux-wood toerail created a welcome sense of security whenever the boat leaned into the gusts. The genoa tracks and fairleads for the headsail sheets are set in recessed grooves on the cabintop where they won’t get underfoot—another nice touch.
Jeanneau’s computer-aided design and parts fabrication process provides an excellent finish quality with satisfyingly close-fitting joinery. If Euro-modern isn’t your style, then this isn’t the boat for you. But if you like the look of the SO 439 from the dock or on deck, then you should like the living arrangements just fine.
The layout is fairly conventional, with either a single stateroom or twin double cabins aft and either a large owner’s stateroom with a work desk/vanity table or a smaller V-berth and two offset single berths in the bow. The saloon is spacious and comfortable, with a table and wraparound settee to starboard. In a clever bit of design, the table folds up and drops down flush with the settee to form a double berth.
I really liked the L-shaped galley to starboard of the companionway. The “L” is oriented so that it is easy to pass drinks and goodies either to the dining area forward or up the companionway—an important consideration when living afloat. It is also close enough to the companionway to give you something to brace yourself against when cooking in rough weather.
The Sun Odyssey 439 is quite simply a joy to sail: both steady and nimble, depending on your needs. Our test boat suffered from a malady common to many boat-show specimens—a hastily stepped rig very much in need of tuning—but the combination of the boat’s hull form, rig and rudder still worked admirably. Midway through our sail, the winds built to about 23 knots and the boat began to feel overpowered (due in large part to the aforementioned lack of tuning). But rolling up a little jib and main quickly put an end to that problem.
When we encountered a short, stiff chop, the Sun Odyssey 439 sliced through it nicely, parting the waves as opposed to pounding over them. We threw in a few short tacks and the boat came through the wind effortlessly. It was the same bearing away onto a broad reach back toward Annapolis.
In addition to being a great day for a sail, it was a great day for putting the boat’s auxiliary through its paces. The SO 439 did everything it was supposed to, even when I deliberately put it broadside to the wind, and backing up and throwing in figure eights both in forward and reverse at will. Jeanneau’s proprietary 360 Docking—in which a single joystick coordinates a pivoting saildrive leg aft and lateral thruster forward—is an option. But if you know how to handle a boat, it’s not really necessary.
The latest iteration of the Sun Odyssey program is predicated on an approach that emphasizes speed, accommodations and a sailor-friendly rig and deck layout. All three elements are very much in evidence aboard the Sun Odyssey 439.
HEADROOM 6ft 5in
BERTHS 6ft 8in x 4ft 8in (fwd); 6ft 7in x 4ft 11in (aft)
LOA 43ft 9in // LWL 39ft 4in // BEAM 13ft 10in
DRAFT 7ft 2in (std); 5ft 2in (shoal)
BALLAST 6,285lb (std); 6,945lb (shoal)
SAIL AREA 917ft2 (100% FT)
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (GAL) 53/87/21
ENGINE 54hp Yanmar
ELECTRICAL 220AH (house); 110AH (engine)
DESIGNER Philippe Briand
BUILDER Jeanneau, Les Herbiers, France
U.S. DISTRIBUTORJeanneau America, 410-280-9400
PRICE $295,000 (sailaway)
Photos courtesy of Jenneau Yachts