Outstanding sailing performance, exceptional interior layout and superb build quality are just a few of the features that helped the Sun Odyssey 37 earn Boat Of the Year and Top 10 awards in 2000.
There's a lot of boat for the buck in this newest French cruiser
The new Sun Odyssey 37 by Jeanneau just may be the best buy at this year's round of boat shows. Designed by Jacque Fauroux, the 37 debuted in July 1999 and replaced the popular Sun Odyssey 36.2.
If you needed proof that the merger of Jeanneau and Beneteau is working, look no further than this handsome sloop. Built in France to Jeanneau's time-honed construction standards, the 37 Sun Odyssey is a performance-oriented cruiser with spacious accommodations. And it has one feature that is especially appealing: a sail-away price that few builders can match. Even if the companies were completely independent operations, Jeanneau and Beneteau would still be the two largest sailboat manufacturers in the world today.
It wasn't always like that. While Beneteau's humble beginnings have been well-documented, Jeanneau's founding 44 years ago in Les Herbiers, France, was equally modest. Jeanneau originally built small runabouts, but by the early '70s it had begun building production sailboats.
Like many builders of the period, Jeanneau was swallowed up by the long reach of Bangor Punta, the American conglomerate, which at one time was the largest sailboat builder in the world. Eventually, however, Bangor Punta soured on the boat business and Jeanneau was sold to Chetellier Industries. Although Jeanneau's product line maintained a high level of quality throughout the ownership shuffles, the company was foundering in a tough market before Beneteau stepped in and rescued its former chief competitor in 1995. It is nice to report that today the Jeanneau sailboat division is alive and well, building boats from 17 to 52 feet.
I recently test sailed the Sun Odyssey 37 on a clear, light-wind day on Chesapeake Bay. At first glance, the profile view of the 37 looks a lot like other modern production boats-minimal overhangs and a reverse transom, a generous beam carried well aft, a flat sheerline and a racy sloping cabintrunk. As you climb aboard, however, you quickly notice many fine details.
Designer Fauroux is especially proud of the "smooth-roof" design, with recessed portlights and clean aft leads for all sail controls. Jeanneau has always done some of the best fiberglass work in the industry, and the blend of compound curves and straight lines makes a beautiful transition from the drawing board to tools and finally to the seagoing deck.
Below the water, the Sun Odyssey features a shallow forefoot and overall flat sections. There isn't much of a bilge, and the 37 will want to be sailed on its lines. It will be fast on most points of sail, but may pound a bit upwind in a chop. Two keel configurations are offered. The standard deep-fin keel is epoxy-coated iron, with a draft of 6 feet, 4 inches. The shoal model has a draft of 4 feet, 9 inches and carries about 10 percent more ballast for a 33-percent balance-to-displacement ratio.
The shoal-draft model is more popular in North America, where many of our best cruising grounds include thin-water sailing. The balanced rudder is fiberglass, and the stock is solid stainless steel. There are two self-aligning rudder bearings. The hull of the Sun Odyssey 37 is solid fiberglass and laid-up by hand, with Kevlar for added strength and resistance in high-load areas.
Full-length longitudinal stringers stiffen the hull. I am often surprised more builders don't use full-length stringers: They are clearly more effective than partial stringers, although they are more time consuming to build around.
The hull is supported athwartships by a grid system of floors. The deck is balsa-cored, and the mast is deck-stepped. The cockpit of the Sun Odyssey 37 is typically huge, well-thought-out and quite comfortable. However, a short helmsperson needs to stand to see around the husky, functional pedestal, which seems more like the console in an open fishing boat than something you'd find on a sailboat. In its favor, it includes a convenient location for mounting instruments and a fiberglass fold-out table. The aft coaming is flattened, providing an ideal position for steering.
The cockpit seats and sole are covered with teak, which not only looks nice but also provides secure footing. The seat backs are angled for good lumbar support, and there are two large lockers, with dedicated storage for the life raft to starboard. There is even an adequate bridgedeck, which is a welcome feature on new boats.
Access to the transom step is through a removable helmsman's seat. A fold-down ladder and hot-and-cold freshwater shower are standard.
As a delivery skipper, I appreciate the differences in nonskid surfaces. Overall, molded nonskids are rarely as effective as painted or externally applied surfaces, except in the case of Jeanneau. Its intricate molded nonskid pattern is superb.
The sail-away package is quite complete, so there are few options available. Interestingly, one of the options is the choice of teak side decks, which look nice but add a level of maintenance most of us can do without. The Sun Odyssey 37 has an aluminum toerail without any attachment points for securing blocks or lines. There is also a midship fairlead for springlines, but no cleat. Two more of the stout Goit mooring cleats that are used on the bow and stern would be perfect.
Overall the deck hardware is top-quality, with a mixture of Goit and Harken, including Harken sheet winches. The stainless steel stemhead fitting with its double anchor rollers is a useful feature on a boat of any size. A manual windlass is standard, and there is a large deck-opening anchor and chain locker. The bow pulpit has a teak platform, and the stanchions supporting the double lifelines appear to be well-supported. The deck-stepped mast features double swept-back spreaders. The uppers and lowers are led to single-pod chainplates, and there is also an inner forestay.
The 80-percent battened mainsail has a midboom sheeting arrangement, with a traveler on the deckhouse forward of the companionway hatch. A lazy-bag sail cover is standard, and a ProFurl furling system controls the 130-percent genoa, although I'd like to see load-bearing adjustable genoa track cars as well. As noted earlier, all sail controls, including the slab-reefing lines, are led aft through a series of turning blocks and jammers to the cockpit. There is a single self-tailing winch on each side of the companionway.
Stepping below you are immediately struck by the high level of finish. The Sun Odyssey may be priced like a typical production boat, but it is finished like a yacht. From the oversized teak fiddles in the galley to teak veneered bulkheads and teak cabin sole, the cabin gives an aura of warmth. Well-placed overhead hatches and opening portlights, however, will provide plenty of ventilation, keeping that warm feeling strictly a visual sensation.
The interior arrangement for both versions is logically the same, the only difference being in the choice of one or two aft cabins. A V-berth is forward, with a hanging locker to starboard and storage locker with a counter top to port. Lateral shelving lining the V-berth adds additional storage. The bladder water tank is located under this bunk. The saloon includes a V-shaped settee straddling a teak table with comfortable seating for five or six, although it's a tight squeeze past the compression post.
The port-side settee converts into a single berth and, with the addition of a lee cloth, makes the best sea berth aboard. There is a lot of storage in lockers above and behind the settees and in bins below.