It's not often a mainstream builder will step out of its comfort zone, but Jeanneau's new Sun Odyssey 440 is like no other boat they've launched, as Graham Snook discovers
See Yachting Monthly January 2018 for the full test
There wasn’t a great deal of wind for our test, only 6-12 knots of true wind. At the lighter end, she was making respectable progress between 4-5 knots, but as the breeze increased she became much more involving on the helm.
When that difference in wind speed happened quickly she too was swift to respond, remembering, of course, she had empty tanks and no gear. This boat had the shoal draft keel (1.6m), which might have affected her pointing ability by a few degrees, even so, she was most comfortable close hauled at around 34° off the apparent wind, and was tacking through 96°.
As the day progressed, so did the breeze, but only up to 12 knots, not enough to really test her, but enough for her to show she was comfortable and easily sailed. Under power, she cruised at 5.3 knots at 2,000 rpm, the three-bladed propeller providing plenty of grip.
While manoeuvring, there’s no thrust over the twin rudders so she’s wholly reliant on prop walk and water passing over the rudders to steer her in tight spaces – unless one opts for the retractable bow thruster.
At the helm
The twin 82cm diameter wheels feel quite high, I found them a comfy height to use while standing, and there are plenty of options for sitting around the wheel. There’s an excellent handrail that removes the temptation to grab the wheel to steady yourself.
With the aft quarter walkway, it’s possible to sit fully outboard, face forward and helm comfortably. It does feel a little exposed with nothing in front of you but in the right weather, it would be wonderful.
Only when I pointed her bows squarely into the 2-3ft wash of a passing motorboat did we get any water on board, and then it was minimal and went to leeward and drained out of the cockpit drain.
Around the back of the seat, there’s no rail or coaming to stop pocket contents falling overboard, and there’s also a large gap between the fold-down transom and the aft end of the cockpit. The helm was quite heavy, but the steering was smooth and the yacht responsive: with the optional carbon wheel she might have felt a little lighter on the wheel.
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The test verdict
With this boat, Jeanneau has introduced a new style and new features that may have redefined what we’ll expect from cruising yachts in years to come. Why should we leap over coamings, wedge ourselves into an odd shaped berths or scale the mast to reach the head of the stack pack? We don’t. Jeanneau aimed to make sailing more comfortable, and it has succeeded. She’s comfortable and easy to sail – in fact, she sails well.
My three main criticisms are the chart table hinges which are so wrong – but could be replaced with a piano hinge; the lack of hand holds on top of the coachroof by the companionway, heads and around the chart table – these could be added by an owner, and finally the location of the primary winches – opting for electric primary winches would solve this and make sailing her less of a back ache.
She has three layouts available, only one has reduced berth shapes and sizes to those normally found on yachts – the two double forward cabin layout. All the other layouts have large rectangular berths giving the 440 a feeling of space not normally found on yachts this size.
On deck, she’s got plenty of storage for sails and cruising clobber and moving around deck is a doddle. She could be easily handled by a couple, or with family and friends. Down below, she’s light, spacious and well laid out. Who could want more from this style of boat?
Would she suit you and your crew?
If you enjoy coastal cruising and a few longer passages thrown in, there are many features on the 440 that you won’t find on other yachts in her class: the full-length volume giving chine, fold down coamings, central galley, the rectangular berth and the innovative walkway from the helm to the deck.
Even without these features the 440 still has a lot to offer.
It’s a nice feeling to be able to walk up the deck when you need to go forward. It also feels surprisingly natural and comfortable to be outboard, face forward and helm while looking where you’re going. It’s not until one tries something different that it reminds us of the compromises we all make by going sailing. Should we have to make them? Jeanneau thinks not.
Facts and Figures:
Price as tested £301,856
LOA 13.39m (43ft 11in)
Hull Length 12.64m (41ft 5in)
LWL 12.00m (39ft 4in)
Beam 4.29m (14ft)
Draught 1.6m (5ft 2in) (Shoal version)
Displacement 8,561kg (18,874 lb)
Ballast 2,670kg (5,886 lb)
Ballast ratio 31.2%
Displacement / Length 137.8
Sail area 90.30m2 (972sq ft)
SA/D ratio 22
Diesel 200 litres (44 gal)
Water 330 litres (73 gal)
RCD category A
Designer Philippe Briand/Piaton Bonet Yacht design
Builder Jeanneau Yachts
UK Agent Sea Ventures
Tel 01489 565444