Video: How we Test Boats
Executive Editor Charles J. Doane steps aboard the new Sun Odyssey 509 from Jeanneau to give you a first look at the company's newest flagship. Along the way, he also shows exactly how SAIL tests new sailboats.
Review: Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 509
This is the new flagship in Jeanneau’s well-respected line of Sun Odyssey cruisers and is a good six feet longer than the next biggest boat in the builder’s current SO lineup. As such, it should appeal to sailors who are loyal to the Jeanneau brand and like to sail with large parties. Those new to Jeanneau should also give it a close look, as it combines a very comfortable interior with a versatile and appealing sailplan.
The hull is solid hand-laid fiberglass finished with ISO gelcoat on the topsides and a blister-resistant barrier coat below the waterline. An interior counter-molded grid is glued and laminated to the hull to provide reinforcement; there are special cutouts in the grid to ensure access to the hull in high-load areas. The cored deck is injection-molded to reduce weight and increase stiffness. The twin-spreader rig features an aluminum mast with discontinuous wire rigging. The ballast is cast iron.
The deck layout features a super-sized cockpit with a large fixed drop-leaf table, twin helm stations and a motorized fold-down transom. In spite of there being two cabins underneath the cockpit, there is plenty of room for two large storage lockers under the bench seats. The coamings behind these seats, however, are bit too low to provide solid back support for seated crew. The helm stations have well-positioned foot cleats and very comfortable side seats, but no comfortable seating directly behind the wheels. Also, the one-piece backstay cuts right between the two stations, and you need to take care to duck around it when shifting from one wheel to the other.
As on other recent Sun Odysseys, the 509 features a double-ended German mainsheet led to primary winches that are very easy to reach from the wheel. There are no secondary winches, however, and no room to install any, so the jibsheets and mainsheet have to share the one winch on either side of the boat. All lines coming off the mast, meanwhile, are led to a pair of coachroof winches either side of the companionway.
Up forward there is both a large sail locker and a large anchor well. The sail locker lacks shelving for storing smaller items you want to grab quickly, but this would be easy to retrofit. The anchor roller is set outboard of the bow and has a welded tack attachment for flying asymmetric spinnakers and large free-furling reaching sails.
The interior feature I liked best on our test boat was the large, well-thought-out galley situated aft to starboard. The sinks are planted close to the centerline, right where they belong, and there is scads of stowage, with nine different compartments within easy reach of the cook. Best of all, there’s a so-called “tea galley” just forward of the sinks with a dedicated front-opening drinks fridge and a large cutlery drawer oriented toward the saloon’s dinette table.
Directly opposite the tea galley there is a large, comfortable nav station. The desk is big enough to lay out a full-size chart, with a shallow drawer underneath, and a very deep top-loading storage locker set off to the side. There’s also a clever space for storing magazines or equipment manuals below the desk to one side.
Our boat had three staterooms, one large master suite with a head and separate shower forward, plus two large aft cabins with full-size double berths sharing one head between them. The three alternative layouts feature in-line saloon galleys to starboard and four- or five-cabin layouts with two to four heads.
As with the other new Sun Odyssey boats, the 509 has a very versatile sailplan. You can order the boat with a big genoa sheeted to proper side-deck tracks, or with a small overlapping jib sheeted to short tracks farther forward, or with a purely self-tacking jib sheeted to an athwartships track set forward of the mast. Or you can order the boat with all of these sails and hardware and keep all options open.
Our boat had the so-called “standard plan," with a small overlapping jib and an optional in-mast furling mainsail. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you personally how well the boat performed, as we had exactly zero wind during our test sail on Miami’s Biscayne Bay.
I can, however, refer to the designer’s predicted performance polars. According to these, the boat I was on, sailing in 14 knots of true wind, should make 7 knots of speed at a 40 degree apparent wind angle, and somewhere between 7 to 8 knots at angles of 60, 90 and 140 degrees. Having sailed aboard other Sun Odyssey models within the past year, I would expect these predictions are roughly accurate.
Like other new boats from Jeanneau, the 509 can be ordered with 360 Docking, which is Jeanneau’s variant of Beneteau’s innovative Dock & Go system, which ties a bow thruster and a rotating saildrive leg to a single joystick control. Our boat carried the standard fixed saildrive leg driven by a 75hp Yanmar engine.
We did well under power, making 7.2 knots over the ground at a very moderate cruising rpm of 2,000 while stemming a mild contrary tidal current. At maximum revs of 3,400rpm, our speed was 9.1 knots. Stopping the boat took a bit more time than usual, as it was necessary to pause and wait for the folding prop to reorient itself. Turning hard at speed, however, the boat easily spun out a 360 within in its own length. Backing down, the helm was steady and predictable.
Any cruising sailor looking for a large mass-production boat that can carry lots of guests or family should give this boat a close look. Depending on the layout you choose, the 509 can sleep as many as 10 people without sticking anyone out in the saloon. I found the boat’s styling quite attractive, and its versatile rig should make it possible for experienced sailors to enjoy handling the boat in a wide range of conditions.
HEADROOM 6ft 6in
BERTHS 6ft 9in x 5ft (aft); 6ft 8in x 5ft 4in (fwd)
LOA 50ft 5in // LWL 45ft 8in
BEAM 15ft 4in
DRAFT 7ft 5in (deep); 5ft 8in (shoal)
DISPLACEMENT 30,644lb (deep keel)
SAIL AREA 1,120ft2 (100% FT)
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (GAL) 63/163/52
ENGINE 75hp Yanmar diesel (saildrive) (360 Docking optional)
ELECTRICAL 4 x 110AH (house); 1 x 110AH (engine)
DESIGNER Phillipe Briand/Jeanneau Design
BUILDER Jeanneau, Les Herbiers, France
U.S. AGENT Jeanneau America, 410-280-9400
PRICE $357,000 base
Photos courtesy of Jenneau Yachts