Sunshine isn’t what most people sail to Scotland for, but Theo Stocker finds that this Sun Odysssey is surprisingly well suited to West Coast cruising
Just how well would a high-volume cruiser designed predominantly for warmer waters handle the tough conditions often found off Scotland?
It was the question I pondered as I drove north to Loch Craignish.
Mottled mountainsides shape-shifted under scudding cloud shadows and arms of water snaked inland among scattered islands across the waters where Blue Damsel, a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45DS (deck saloon), was waiting on the pontoon.
Performance of the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45DS
We headed Blue Damsel around the rocky outcrop that shelters the marina, and out into the head of Loch Craignish, where a keen 14-16 knots met her head on.
Under power, her 54hp Yanmar saildrive pushed her along at 6 knots at 2,000rpm, or 7.5 knots flat out.
With one reef in the main and a roll in the genoa, Blue Damsel put her shoulder to gunmetal grey water.
On the wind, Blue Damsel was quick to answer the helm as gusts barrelled over the hills.
With 15-20° of heel, she was very well mannered.
Beyond that there was some weather helm and, pushed hard in the stronger gusts, she had a slight tendency to round up to the wind.
Off the wind, she sat up and accelerated, feeling well under control.
We soon had two reefs in the powerful main. As another squall came through, Boyd assured me, ‘If you don’t like the weather here, just wait 20 minutes and it’ll be fine.’
It wasn’t long before we were in calmer, sunnier conditions.
As we sailed out past George Orwell’s hideaway at Barnhill on Jura and into the Sound of Jura, Boyd told me about his yacht.
‘She’s a good stable boat and she has a long waterline.
I’m glad I went for the performance rig and deep keel, rather than the shallow draught version,’ he said.
Design & construction
Drawn by Philippe Briand, the Sun Odyssey 45DS aims to offer good stability, comfort at sea, easy handling and ample living space, so she has a lot to live up to.
Unloaded, she is a light-displacement boat at under ten tonnes, but she is designed with enough stowage for another four tonnes of cruising gear.
Her voluminous hull is solid glassfibre laminate, with a liner to spread the forces of keel and rig.
She is fitted with a 9/10 fractional Z-Spars rig with two sets of swept-back spreaders and a hydraulically adjustable split backstay.
A powerful fully-battened mainsail and large overlapping genoa give her plenty of drive and options for adjustment. Single-line slab reefs are led back to the cockpit.
A high boom and the mainsheet forward of the companionway keeps the cockpit clear, but does mean that a couple of mast steps are needed to get hold of the head of the sail and to zip up the mainsail cover.
Deck layout on the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45DS
From the pontoon, the height of Blue Damsel’s topsides is noticeable.
On board, there’s a feeling is of being up on top of the water, thanks to a wide, open cockpit.
The helm position at both wheels is well laid out, with the engine throttle at the port wheel, and instruments – Autohelm, VHF radio command mic and pod-mounted Raymarine E120 chartplotter – all nicely to hand.
The Harken genoa winches are also within easy reach but the mainsheet is led to the coachroof.
Sitting outboard to steer is comfortable with clear visibility forwards and a curved footwell provides good bracing when standing.
There are plenty of grab handles around the wheels, table and companionway for moving around, and the table provides necessary bracing for crew when heeled.
One of the two winches on the coachroof is electric for hoisting the mainsail.
With all lines led aft, there was a lot of rope lying on deck.
Rope bags would have helped, though the 41DS and 44DS have rope bins in the cockpit sole.
Wide side decks allow an easy passage forward, although there is a narrow ledge outside the cockpit coaming to look out for.
Shrouds terminate just outboard of the coachroof, leaving plenty of space to step round them.
The low-proﬁ le coachroof creates a large working area on the foredeck and the deep anchor locker contains an electric windlass.
Moulded GRP decks give good grip and a teak toerail keeps feet securely on deck.
The steps down to the wide bathing platform contain the liferaft and cockpit storage is ample, with shallow cockpit lockers under the benches and plenty of space beneath the helm seats and cockpit coamings aft.
Living aboard the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45DS
Below decks, large windows and a pale wood finish give a bright, spacious feeling.
Hull ports offer views outside when sitting at the saloon table.
The joinery was still in good condition after several years of use.
Nice details include recessed grabrails running the length of the saloon in the deckhead and just below the windows, so there is always a handhold at any angle of heel, and a locker dubbed ‘the juke box’ by Boyd, just forward of the chart table, which opens to reveal a mirror-lined cabinet of glasses and a good selection of bottles – a dangerous proposition one might argue, in a remote anchorage.
Two rather cave-like aft cabins are helped by an extra dose of daylight from hatches that open into the cockpit.
The forward heads provides an en suite for the owners’ cabin with a closed-off shower compartment.
The other heads, aft of the chart table, has two doors for access from the saloon or the port aft cabin.
The forward-facing chart table has a comfortable seat, but lacks bracing or straps for navigating on port tack.
Admittedly, with a chartplotter on deck, this is of less importance, but traditionalists will find the contoured surface around the table limits space for paper charts.
I would also prefer the chartplotter ahead of me, rather than having to twist to the side.
The L-shaped galley offers good space for preparing meals, with two cool-lockers, one of which could be opened from the front and top.
The other is used as a freezer. The cook can prepare meals without being in anyone’s way and the companionway steps provide bracing for cooking under way.
Work surface space is increased with infills over the double sink.
Curved companionway steps lift on gas struts for engine access, and batteries are stowed in the aft cabins.
All seacocks are tucked away but have individual access hatches, and the electric switch panel is hinged for easy access.
Thanks to Mark Cameron at Ardfern Yacht Centre for the photo-shoot boat.
Our verdict on the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45DS
What’s she like to sail?
The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 45DS had options for shallow draught or a deeper, high-performance setup.
We tested the performance option, so she had plenty of power over a long waterline, giving her a good turn of speed.
In light conditions and off the wind she handles like a much smaller boat than she is.
She is a high-volume cruiser with ample space to live aboard, but this entails some sacrifice in her handling of stronger wind.
Weight has been kept down to keep her light and responsive and her good form stability compensates for this, but with a ballast displacement ratio of just under 30 per cent, she can be tender once a blow gets up.
This isn’t a problem as long as you reef early and sail her reasonably flat.
The newer 44DS has been stiffened up by a seven per cent increase in her ballast: displacement ratio.
There is acres of space on deck, so she is great boat for warmer climates, or for shorter cruises with friends and family.
The sails and helm are easily handled, so she won’t scare less-experienced crew, but with the ability to cover plenty of miles she should keep keen sailors happy.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
She isn’t a true deck saloon as the saloon table is slightly too low to give its occupants a 360° view.
Not that this is matters as there is ample light and the views from the hull ports make the saloon a genuinely pleasant place to while away an evening at anchor.
Her space on deck and numerous opening hatches would make her a comfortable choice in the Mediterranean, but two Webasto heaters on the test boat would be enough to keep her cabins toasty warm even in a Scottish winter.
The 45DS was available in two and three cabin versions. In the two-cabin boat, a full-width owners’ cabin aft creates a palatial hideaway, but also limits the accommodation to four berths.
We tested the three-cabin version where the owners’ cabin is forward.
It’s pleasant and private with adequate space.
The saloon table had two folding leaves, with shallow grooves in place of real fiddles and there’s certainly space for at least six round the table.
There’s plenty of stowage in the cabins, saloon, and even under the sole in the bilge.
On a rainy day there would be enough space to relax without being on top of each other.
Would she suit you and your crew?
The Sun Odyssey 45DS is a competent, well-rounded and homely boat that is more than capable of cruising UK waters, the Mediterranean or further aﬁ eld to the trade winds.
Some might find her cockpit exposed and her handling too tender in a real blow, preferring to opt for something with more protection and better at plugging away to windward.
She is a large boat, with high topsides, so getting to the pontoon during berthing manoeuvres could be tricky if flexibility or speed is an issue.
She is very well thought out and set up, though, so a couple can easily handle her.
Second-hand, she offers a lot of boat for the money. If you sail to relax during weekends and holidays and get a good few miles in, rather than testing your endurance in a hooley, then this boat could be just the one for you.
First published in the Summer 2015 issue of YM.