The Jeanneau Sun 2500 is an easy-to-handle pocket cruiser is both fun and practical, as David Harding discovered on spending four days aboard
Size is often an overrated feature in a boat. Bigger can be better in some instances but, to my mind, the old adage that the fun derived from a boat is in inverse proportion to its size still holds true in most instances and it’s certainly true of the Jeanneau Sun 2500.
It’s particularly true if you want to do things for which you don’t actually need a bigger boat. A little-quoted truism is that you should buy (or, perhaps, beg, borrow or charter according to your circumstances) the smallest boat that will do the job.
Last summer, for example, a friend and I set aside a few days to go sailing in the West Country. It was a rare opportunity to go afloat other than for work or racing. Since there were just two of us and we weren’t going very far for very long – principally exploring rivers, creeks and estuaries – the Jeanneau Sun 2500 that was available from Mylor Boat Hire seemed eminently suitable. Cost apart, we really didn’t want anything bigger.
I had already met the Jeanneau Sun 2500, having tested it back in the early 2000s as a new boat. That had been two decades earlier and, like most boat tests, it involved just a few hours on board. We had had a good sail in plenty of breeze, so I knew that it sailed – in a breeze. I had my doubts about how it might go in less wind, and these were confirmed by reports that reached me over the following years.
Nonetheless, the layout and the lifting keel both seemed ideal for what we wanted on this occasion. It would be a rare opportunity of a different sort, too: to see if my observations based on brief acquaintance with a boat fresh from the factory were consistent with those after living aboard for several days.
On a day-long test you can only form judgements based on what you experience. At the same time you have to imagine how the boat might behave in different conditions and, of course, what it would be like to do things that you have no time to do during a day’s test with a shiny new boat.
Jeanneau Sun 2500: Sporty and simple
Jeanneau conceived the Jeanneau Sun 2500 as a coastal cruiser that offered what people typically wanted in a boat of this size. It was intended for day-sailing and weekending; for short hops rather than venturing offshore or living aboard for more than a few days.
To that end, Jeanneau and the designer, Olivier Petit, gave her a big cockpit because that’s where people are likely to spend most of their time. They also gave her a separate heads aft, because that’s what people tend to want, and an inboard engine for push-button simplicity (although a transom-mounted outboard was an option).
The other feature of note was the lifting keel – a glassfibre centreplate retracting into a cast iron ballast stub. This arrangement kept the plate light for easy lifting, minimised intrusion inside the boat, gave a minimum draught of just 2ft 3in (0.69m) and allowed her to dry out unaided with the support of the twin rudders.
Sporty looks were part of the package. The near-vertical stem, fine entry, broad stern, large cockpit and twin rudders hinted firmly of the Mini Transat designs of the day. This was no Mini Transat boat, but image counts for a lot.
In this case I knew there was more to the Jeanneau Sun 2500 than just image. The question now was how she would compare with the way I remembered her.
One thing you never do on a day-long boat test is to load everything aboard that two people need for living and for eating well for four days. In our case, that was a lot of kit. If you’re happy to live on ready-meals or out of packets (and, if you’re a photographer, to leave your long lenses at home), you could save a lot of space.
We took an extra camping hob to supplement the single-burner spirit stove in the galley, because one-pot wonders wouldn’t do it for us either. And we took a cool-box with extra ice packs for the fresh food, because the Jeanneau’s fridge is pretty small. Besides, although the boat had shore-power, we had no intention of spending our time either in marinas or motoring enough to compensate for the battery-drain.
Stowing the kit
We all know that the number of berths on a boat bears no relation to the number of people who can spend any time aboard unless they’re hardy minimalists. The Jeanneau nominally has four berths, but the double berth in the broad stern, abaft the engine case and open to the galley, instantly became the dumping ground for our kit. On a boat of this size for a few days, you’re going to be living out of bags, boxes and crates.
The bow is altogether a more inviting place to sleep. It’s easier to get in and out and you have much more light, headroom and ventilation. In night-time mode the sleeping zone can be the entire space forward of the galley to port and chart table to starboard – all of 8ft 9in (2.67m) long and 7ft 2in (2.18m) wide at its aft end if you use the table as an infill. The width leaves plenty of space either side for stashing things that you want close at hand. In addition, fiddled shelving runs along the hullsides above the berth all the way to the bow.
Sign of the times
All you have to be mindful of is the compression post, but there’s still plenty of length forward of it and, in practice, it rarely gets in the way. The post doubles as a conduit for the centreplate’s lifting line, which you can reach by removing an inspection hatch in the small moulding projecting above the cabin sole that provides a base for the post.
By day you can convert the sleeping zone into seating, lifting up the table on a leg that, together with the table, can also be used in the cockpit.
It’s a sign of the times that the turn-of-the-century Jeanneau Sun 2500 has a chart table, whereas boats 10ft longer often don’t have one these days. It’s nowhere near big enough for spreading out a chart but, for our few days in mercifully fine weather, folded Imray charts in the cockpit were fine. It was still good to have somewhere to keep them close at hand, and all the nav kit could be stowed beneath the chart table’s lid when we wanted it out of the way.
To reach the fridge you hinge up the whole chart table. It doesn’t open very far, so you mostly have to rummage rather than seeing what’s inside. The curvature of the hull makes it rather narrow at the bottom too. You can’t have everything on a moderately sporty 25-footer.
Abaft the chart table is a pretty roomy heads compartment, with wet-hanging space and access to the seacocks via an aperture in the bulkhead separating the heads from the cavernous and extremely useful cockpit locker.
An interior moulding forms the basis of the accommodation, supplemented by a modest amount of mahogany trim. It’s simple, yet generally pleasing and far less basic than on the small number of new boats of broadly similar nature in this size range.
Article continues below…
Extra photographs from Yachting Monthly’s test of the Etap 28
Graham Reed takes Dick Durham on an inland sea cruise from ancient Wareham through Poole Harbour
While we’re poking around down below, let’s not forget the galley. We used it a lot. With its single-burner hob, sink with foot-pump for fresh water, opening port in the coachroof, small work surface and modest amount of open-fronted stowage, it was adequate – just, together with our camping hob that we used in the cockpit.
To be fair, we were cooking meals that you might not expect to be cooked on a boat like this. My co-pilot would have liked more stowage, and commented that the curved bottom of the hull, combined with the frames underfoot and the limited headroom, didn’t make things that comfortable in the galley. That’s the nature of the beast – or the boat in this case. It all worked, and I proffered a few gentle reminders that we were aboard a reasonably slim-hulled 25-footer that looked nice and actually sailed.
When working in the galley, you can lean back against the engine box and use its top as additional work space (having warned anyone still in the cockpit). Access to the engine is as good as it gets. Hinge the moulded engine box forward and you can reach pretty well all the way round the single-cylinder Yanmar IGM.
Driving a two-bladed folding prop, it will push the boat along at around 5 knots in flat water or 3 to 3.5 knots in a 20-knot headwind and small chop. You have to think a little way ahead when manoeuvring, because it’s not instant power, and allow for the absence of prop-wash because of the twin rudders. As a means of auxiliary power on a boat like this, it’s a neat and well-thought-out solution.
Under way, of course, you hope to be sailing most of the time. Thankfully the Sun 2500 is very much a sailor’s boat, with some compromises to make sure she ‘doesn’t frighten Granny’, as the late David Thomas would have said.
In a breeze, as I already knew, we found that the Jeanneau Sun 2500 goes well. With new sails on the test nearly 20 years ago, we had clocked around 4.5 knots upwind in 13-14 knots of apparent breeze, picking up to over 5 knots when the anemometer recorded 20 knots-plus. This time, as it had then, the boat remained well balanced and the twin rudders ensured plenty of grip. We only spun out if we deliberately put the leeward rail well under. Friction in the steering had led to a slightly muted feel on the new boat – common with twin rudders – but the system was well bedded in this time and the feel more responsive.
The boat doesn’t seem to mind being sailed upwind at 20-25° of heel, the helm remaining almost neutral and the speed not suffering. This time, however, we had sails that were rather more than bedded in.
Jeanneau Sun 2500 verdict
The Jeanneau Sun 2500 is not a tweaky boat. There’s no traveller and the sail controls are basic, so we re-rove a few lines and made some improvisations to help. Again, that’s in the nature of the design, as is the relatively small rig. Combined with the not insubstantial wetted area, it means she’s no flyer in light airs.
Despite this I like the Sun 2500 a lot. She’s respectably quick in any breeze, nicely responsive and simplicity itself to handle. Nothing you need to pull is heavy and it can mostly be done with one hand.
In the bow she has one of the largest double berths you will find on anything under 40ft. Nearly all the boats we’ve looked at that are slightly longer than the Jeanneau spoil the interior – in our view – by cramming in a saloon between a quarter-berth or barely habitable aft cabin and a forecabin with a much smaller berth.
As for the question of how my thoughts from 20 years ago compare with today’s, it’s pleasing that, on the whole, they correspond. It’s nice to have had the opportunity to get to know this thoroughly agreeable little boat rather better. If you want a flush bottom or to fly in a zephyr, look elsewhere.
Otherwise there’s a lot to like. We liked the boat, and the surroundings and the helpful chaps in Mylor, and that’s why we have booked again for this summer. If we encounter a week of rain and gales, it will be interesting to see how our thoughts about the boat compare with those from last year.
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