Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409
The award-winning Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409 is the latest cruiser out of the block from the French builder designed for some performance with friends and family
There’s a minor design revolution going on. Naval architects who seemed satisfied with the gradual evolution of the average white boat have made significant changes to hull shape, deck layout and styling. Hard chines, drop-down transoms, innovative interiors and improved sail handling systems are among the features that are popping up on everything from sporty racers to sedate cruisers. These features all appear on the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409, and maybe that’s why it won the award for 2010/11 European Yacht of the Year in the family cruiser category. The 409 is one of a range of new models, with a 509 expected soon.
There’s plenty of evidence of the thought that went into creating the 409. The hard chine gives speed and stability as well as improved tracking ability. It also creates extra volume in the aft cabins. The keel is pushed well forward and balanced by a wide, powerful rudder. There are nice touches on deck with the cockpit engine panel angled to make it easier to read and a sprayhood with a useful handhold. Dedicated liferaft stowage by the transom is another feature that doesn’t turn heads at boat shows but is both sensible and seamanlike.
There are curved hatches, uncluttered decks and the interior features some entirely novel ideas.
A twin wheel arrangement makes a lot of sense for a family cruiser, especially one with a drop-down transom. The helm can sit behind the wheel or on a coaming seat that doubles as a locker to tidy away the sheets. The Harken 46 winches are in easy reach of the helm but therefore awkward for the crew. However, the double-ended German mainsheet system means the mainsail be trimmed from whichever side is not be occupied by the helmsman. The table is a good combination of steel, wood and GRP, with excellent grabrails and useful stowage. There is further stowage in two cockpit lockers, though you’ll have to sacrifice a cabin below if you want to carry a lot of serious cruising kit.
The transom lowers to create a bathing platform and there is a shallow lip that will allow crew to climb up from a dinghy when the ‘drawbridge’ is up. Going forward there is a huge sprayhood with a window to allow the halyard hoister to look aloft. The side decks are remarkably clear, with the genoa track set forward of the shrouds on top of the coachroof. All lines run under neatly concealed panels – a superyacht touch that is nicely executed on the 409. The teak grabrails are hard to grip securely.
The coachroof drops sharply away with the flush curved hatch, giving a modern feel. The genoa furling line runs across the centre of the foredeck, spoiling the clean lines found elsewhere, and also requiring people to watch their step when on the foredeck. There are two solid bow rollers, a very deep anchor locker and substantial cleats.
The Sparcraft mast has twin swept back spreaders on a fractional rig. There should be plenty of power if teamed up with a large sail plan – the designers were certainly after a lively boat. The narrow sheeting angle of the jib will limit options downwind and a cruising chute may be required. The German mainsheet system has many advantages, but being led to the helm will not suit fully crewed boats.
There are plenty of options for the sail plan, with a standard or in-mast furling main and 105 percent overlapping jib. The performance sail plan has a fully-battened main and 140 percent jib, with additional genoa car tracks on the side deck. There is also an option for a self-tacking jib. A lazy bag for the main comes as standard.
The weather gods had served up the sun but neglected to include much wind, so there was no chance of testing the grip and tracking ability of the 409’s chine. With the 105-percent jib unfurled she got going in less than five knots of apparent wind and pointed at around 35 degrees. She tacked easily, though the wheel, connected to the twin, powerful rudders, felt heavy in the light airs; the dealer says subsequent adjustments have remedied this. This is no cruiser-racer, but she could be expected to provide a fair turn of speed in the right conditions.
With 6.2 knots of breeze on the beam we made 3.2 knots over ground, with a little help from the tide. It took a while to get used to the winch positions by the helm and owners will have to find their own system of jamming and un-jamming main and genoa sheet, and deciding what winch does what and when. There’s so much friction in the many blocks of the mainsheet system that it’s almost impossible to sheet in by hand.
The 409 kept slipping along, even when the apparent wind virtually vanished as we bore off onto a run. There wasn’t enough puff to gullwing and it would have been good to have a cruising chute or Code Zero – an increasingly popular option, especially for those who opt for the 105 percent or self tacking jib. The position of the jib track so far forward and well inboard, which did nothing for the sheeting angle off the wind. The twin wheels and double-ended mainsheet worked well when sailing two-handed.
There’s a 40-horsepower Yanmar Saildrive to provide plenty of grunt and engine access is good with the companionway rising on gas struts, though you’ll have to kneel to get under there.
It is the odd-looking saloon table that grabs your attention as you step below. A fixed central cabinet houses a drinks cabinet, supports the table and also contains a clever pulley system. The table will most often be kept folded in half to create a useful space that two or three could eat at. Flip the top over and you have a full size table with the central area surrounded by a shallow fiddle. Fold it back, pull a couple of strings in the cabinet and the table lowers horizontally to create a double berth. Other clever features include lockers with invisible catches, plentiful LED lighting (including at floor level) and a nicely boxed-in mast compression tube.
The chart table is forward facing but also doubles as an occasional table – meaning no fiddles to stop charts and pencils sliding off. The table is covered with a good quality faux-leather, including a curved recess for the usual clutter. It’s not a space for a serious navigator and there’s a severe lack of stowage. But some sailors will be accept these shortcomings if it makes the saloon a more flexible space.
The considerable beam of the 409 allows for a large galley with plenty of worksurface – especially with the sink covers on. There is plenty of stowage, including in dedicated areas in the bilge. Ventilation is good.
There’s a choice of a small ensuite heads or a proper desk/dressing table with a chair. The test boat had the extra heads but there was still plenty of room. There is lots of light thanks to ports in the hull and a curved hatch. The shelves that run along the sides are almost unique in having deep enough sides to be practical at sea. There’s even a little bedside table area on each side. Stowage is plentiful with lots of hanging space.
Owners can pick between two identical cabins, or a single larger one to starboard with a larger heads and deeper cockpit locker to port. There’s plenty of light here too, with the main hull port extending aft in addition to a hatch into the cockpit, plus a curved port and hatch in the cockpit. There’s a shelf and hanging locker but no stowage beneath the berths. The main heads are well designed for the space available with a separate shower area behind a folding Perspex door.
Overall, the 409 looks like the real deal, as far as mid-size family cruisers go. Beyond her clean lines there are a host of features, both on deck and below, that will make her safe and enjoyable to sail. The innovations around the cockpit and the saloon are particularly commendable. Our test sail showed that she’s neither tortoise nor hare, but her award as Yacht of the Year was earned after being exposed to a wide range of conditions.
In Hong Kong: www.chinapacificmarine.com
In Singapore: www.premiumnautical.com
In Thailand: www.leemarine.com
Technical Specifications – Jeanneau 409
Draught (shoal) 1.55m
Draught (deep) 2.1m
Ballast (deep) 2,260kg
Ballast (shoal) 2,470kg
Engine 3JH5CE 40hp Yanmar saildrive
Total standard sail area - 78.9 m²
Designer Briand Yacht Design