I tend to look ask?ance at boats like the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44DS, under the assumption that dramatic styling and scads of space belowdecks leave little room in the design brief for performance. In the case of the 4DS, though, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Like the other boats in the Jeanneau stable, the 44DS comes from the company’s large and very efficient plant in Les Herbiers, France. The basic canoe body, which was drawn by Philippe Briand, is the same as that of the Sun Odyssey 439, and is also solid, hand-laid fiberglass with a protective barrier coat to prevent blisters.
The deck—a product of Franck Darnet’s drawing board—is fabricated using Jeanneau’s proprietary Prisma injection-molding process. The result is a structure with a smooth, clean interior finish, which precludes the need for liners to be aesthetically pleasing. Injection molding also allows manufacturers to control the amount of resin used, which yields an excellent strength-to-weight ratio—a particular concern when trying to keep the center of gravity low in a deck-saloon design, like this one.
A fiberglass grid beneath the cabin sole provides the hull strength necessary to accommodate rig and keel loads. The fiberglass rudder is mounted on a composite stock. The deck-stepped aluminum mast includes twin spreaders and is supported by conventional 1x19 stainless steel shrouds. A split, manually adjustable backstay facilitates access to a pair of cutout transom steps aft.
Chainplates are just outboard of the cabintrunk, intruding about a third of the way into the side decks. However, there is still plenty of room to get around them outboard, so barely notice them going forward. One of the nice things about a boat this size is that you can create plenty of saloon space while still having good healthy side decks topsides.
Much as I admired the DS44 from the dock, I was even more impressed when I stepped aboard. The dramatic gray arch that defines the deck saloon may be what grabs your attention at first, but it’s the details that are the most impressive thing about this boat.
The cockpit, for example, just “works,” with plenty of space well-proportioned space for lounging on the hook or wedging yourself in while on night watch; a substantial bridgedeck to keep green water from getting below; twin helm stations with excellent visibility forward; and an easy-to-negotiate transition between it and the side decks so that the first step forward doesn’t require a perilous leap of faith.
Other nice touches include line lockers outboard the two helm stations to keep the spaghetti from getting under foot and a dedicated slot in the bridgedeck for storing the washboards when not in use.
The German mainsheet and headsail furling line and sheets are all led directly to the helm station, where they are controlled with clutches and a pair of winches immediately forward of the wheel. This setup can a bit awkward for trimming, tacking or gyding both sails simultaneously since requires the trimmer to get back behind one of the wheels to do so without craning around to see the sails. But it’s fine for cruising or taking out friends who have not interest in touching a line out daysailing.
Belowdecks, the situation is much the same: as dramatic as the overall concept, it’s the details that really set this boat apart. The first thing that struck me was the uncharacteristically dark walnut veneer, which highlights the super-modern Euro feel of the boat and looks very good, indeed. Jeanneau could afford to go with a slightly dark finish because the deck saloon ports, overhead hatches and hull windows absolutely flood the saloon with ambient light. Apparently, there was some debate within the company whether to take a chance on such a dark finish, but it was definitely worth the risk.
The nav station uses the portside settee for a seat and is not only refreshingly spacious by modern standards, but can be equipped with an optional fridge underneath. The well-appointed L-shaped galley includes a nifty fold-out section that doesn’t just cover the sink but turns into truly strudy, usable counter space. The dinging table can be converted to a smaller cocktail table when not eating a full meal or lowered to create and expansive double berth in conjection with the settee.
Our test boat can equipped with staterooms fore and aft, each with its own galley and head. I believe the aft stateroom is technically the “owners” stateroom, but it doesn’t really matter. Both are fantastic, with spacious, comfortable double berths.
The aft stateroom includes a nifty port through the transom, in addition to the pair of hull ports. The foreward stateroom boasts a desk and vanity, so make that one yours if you fancy letter writing underway. There’s the option of a pair of offset single berths forward as well.
Again, I didn’t expect much from this boat, but the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44DS is living proof that looks and good performance don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The day of our test sail was gray and blustery, gusting to 20 knots out of the northeast, and the 44DS couldn’t have been happier.
Unrolling the main and jib just off the Jeanneau office in Eastport, Maryland, the boat quickly accelerated to 7 knots and more on a close reach. Equally important, it quickly locked into a groove, slicing through the chop cleanly in a way that required almost no effort at the helm.
Steering was light and responsive, and the boat dug in cleanly whenever the pressure built. The DS44 is a beamy boat, and weather helm will be a problem if the boat becomes overpowered, but rolling in a little headsail was all it took to settle things down again whenever the pressure built.
The boat tacked cleanly through the chop and tracked equally well whenever we bore off onto a broad reach. Again, steering was light and responsive. Looking over the footage Charlie Doane shot of me for our on-line video review, I couldn’t help noticing how much time I spent at the helm chatting away, barely paying attention to what I was doing—a testament to how well the boat sails, as well as an indictment of my work habits, I’m afraid!
Not surprisingly, the 44DS did just fine under power, throwing in figure eights both in forward and reverse in the wind and light chop just outside the marina. Although Jeanneau’s proprietary 360 Docking system—in which a single joystick coordinates a pivoting propeller aft and lateral thruster forward—is an option, but the boat did just fine, docking even in the extremely tight marina alongside the Jeanneau office in Eastport in gusting conditions.
Don’t let this boat’s dramatic styling and sumptuous accommodations fool you: it’s a great sailer as well, as opposed to just a floating condo for entertaining at the dock.
HEADROOM 6ft 6in
BERTHS 6ft 11in x 5ft 7in 2ft 7in (fwd); 6ft 6in x 6ft 3in (aft)
LOA 43ft 9in
LWL 39ft 4in
BEAM 13ft 10in
DRAFT 7ft 2in (standard); 5ft 2in (shoal)
BALLAST 6,285lb (standard); 6,945lb (shoal)
SAIL AREA 895ft2 (100% foretriangle)
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (GAL) 53/87/21
ENGINE Yanmar 54hp
ELECTRICAL 220AH (house); 110AH (engine)
DESIGNERS Philippe Briand/Franck Darnet
BUILDER Jeanneau, Les Herbiers, France
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR Jeanneau America, 410-280-9400. jeanneau.com
PRICE $310,000 (sailaway)