Jeanneau has squeezed plenty of innovation into the Sun Odyssey 380. Theo Stocker goes sailing to see if it adds up to a serious cruising boat
Age comes to us all, and with it a certain softening of our midships. After almost 40 years of the Sun Odyssey line, you could be forgiven for thinking Jeanneau’s cruising boats are looking rather tubbier than they did in their younger days. Certainly, the usual dressing tricks have been used to disguise their growing beam – topside chines below the gunwales, bold hull stripes, and a rakish inverse bow all work their magic.
Far from trying to hide their boats’ newfound width, however, Jeanneau is proud of the amount of beam they’ve managed to squeeze into the new Sun Odyssey 380, just as they have with her larger sisters, the 410, 440 and 490, all from the pen of the late Marc Lombard.
You would also be wrong to suggest that the Sun Odyssey 380 is just trying to squeeze in more volume for accommodation (though it certainly does) at the expense of sailing, and this is where the black magic invoked by naval architects comes into its own.
A wide boat doesn’t need as much weight in the keel to keep it mast-upwards and boats have been getting broader for years. A few problems arise with this, however. The wider the stern: the more the rudder lifts out when heeled, hence the move to twin rudders; the more asymmetric the waterline becomes when heeled, the more the bow sinks and unbalances the boat; the more wetted surface area and drag you have, the slower in light airs.
Lombard has taken inspiration from Jeanneau’s Sun Fast race boats, in turn inspired by the scow bows of the racing world, to lift the bow out of the water and make it much fuller, carrying beam further forward thus creating more form stability and a more symmetrical waterline when heeled.
Wetted surface area in light airs is reduced with a chunky hull chine and a concave in the stern to lift the quarter out of the water. The question is whether this still feels like a crisp, weatherly and seaworthy boat to sail.
I headed down to Sea Ventures at the top of the Hamble River to find out, and was pleased to find that we not only had sunshine, but a solid 15-knot southwesterly breeze, which should be enough to kick up a bit of chop and find any rough edges in the boat’s handling.
We set off just before low water, so with a draught of 2m, we were going to have to keep a sharp eye on the depth. A shoal draught keel of 1.56m is an option, as is a lift keel that is said to increase performance, thanks to a whopping 2.7m draught when down, reducing to a rather tamer 1.32m when up, on which the Sun Odyssey 380 can take the ground with the aid of beaching legs.
We settled into our first beat as I settled down behind the wheel. To Jeanneau’s credit, the helm is responsive and precise with just enough feedback. My only gripe was that the heavy steel wheels made steering a little laggy, while the composite wheels offered in the Performance pack would be a big improvement. If you do tick that option, you’ll also get an extra 6m2 of sail area from the square-top main, thanks to the boat’s lack of backstay and a flat-deck headsail furler, plus Dyneema running rigging.
In the Voyager fit-out of our test Sun Odyssey 380, however, cruisers will appreciate the hefty stainless dinghy davits, 80W solar panel on the coachroof, seawater foot pump in the galley, a good, high sprayhood complete with LED lighting strip (though the deck plug for power was rather cumbersome), and importantly, a removable inner forestay for working jib or storm sails.
To my mind, this all makes the boat a much more serious cruising boat – one which acknowledges the realities of the cruising life and the possibility of having to tackle stronger winds.
Shoulder to the breeze
On the wind in a moderate breeze, I was impressed by how the Sun Odyssey 380 sailed. We were pointing at about 32-350 to the apparent wind and tacking through 75-800 on the compass. The boat’s instruments were showing 7.2-7.3 knots of boat speed on the wind; while that was pleasing, it exceeded the usually optimistic polars by some margin, not counting that this boat was also dragging a three-bladed fixed prop along with it.
Over the ground, we were nudging 5.5 knots with half a knot of tide against us, and at 35-400 to the true wind, the polars suggest 6.5-6.9 knots would be on the money. In reality, we were likely around the 6.0-6.5 mark. Stick on some slightly better sails and a folding prop and I don’t think it would take much effort to be sitting at 6.7 knots at 370 to the true wind.
Interestingly, the lift keel and performance sails should get you the same speed and an extra 50 of pointing upwind, or an extra quarter of a knot on the same heading.
While the Sun Odyssey 380 doesn’t have a mainsheet traveller, and the mainsheet attaches about halfway forward along the boom, the mainsheet bridle maintains a good degree of lateral sheeting angle so that you can get the boom close to the centre-line, with leech tension controlled by the kicker, though the latter could do with a smidgen more purchase.
I was also impressed with how the Sun Odyssey 380 handled the small but sharp chop we experienced on the day, sufficient to throw a bit of spray to leeward, while the boat remained (almost) completely free of slamming, thanks to a well-rounded forefoot devoid of flatspots.
No-step deck access
At the helm, as with many boats these days, the wheels are aft, right outboard on the quarters, which wouldn’t be the most sheltered in bad weather, but affords a good clear view forward, with wooden foot chocks giving enough security for standing, and at the right height to see to windward even when standing at the leeward wheel.
A triangle helm seat tucked into the quarter was also comfortable for sitting facing either inboard or forward, where sidedeck seats normally mean you have to twist to face forwards, thanks to the walkthrough access to the sidedeck. This is a unique feature for the Sun Odyssey range, and one of which they are rightly proud – saving creaking knees is a theme we’ll come back to on this boat.
The cockpit sole ramps up gradually to the side deck inside deep bulwarks, making access to the sidedeck feel both easy and extremely secure – the guardrails atop the bulwarks are well above waist height at the stern. I was also surprised to find that they had remarkably little impact on the space available below as they occupy the space aft and outboard of the aft berths, which is normally pretty inaccessible and neglected.
The walkthroughs also mean you have standing access to the primary winches, to which the main and genoa sheets are led aft. For anyone who doesn’t like kneeling to grind sails in, this is a big plus.
Our test Sun Odyssey 380 had optional powered winches to both of these, making singlehanded tacking simple. The location of the winch buttons on the helm pedestal, however, put them out of easy reach of the crew. As all the instruments, chartplotter and other controls are also on the pedestals, this does make it harder for crew to get involved if they did want to.
The cockpit as a whole has been improved over previous generations of Sun Odyssey, thanks to deeper and more comfortable coamings, a table with good bracing and stowage, and a large sprayhood with integral cockpit lighting. Rope bags weren’t yet fitted, but would be a useful addition. A cockpit tent can be zipped onto the sprayhood, enclosing the cockpit, while usefully leaving the sidedeck walkthroughs clear for easy access on deck.
Stowage is very good on the Sun Odyssey 380, at least on the two-cabin version, where the sole-depth draining locker under the port seats is supplemented by a hull-depth locker to starboard.
Jeanneau has fitted a floor and outboard shelving to this, and given access through the starboard aft shower compartment, calling it a ‘workshop’. That might be generous, but it’s certainly a very useful space with a vast amount of useful stowage that will be welcomed by cruising sailors.
Two lazarettes aft offer access to the liferaft on starboard (with top and aft access when the bathing platform is down). The port locker contains a gas locker large enough for a 4.5kg bottle though sadly no spare, and access to diesel heating, steering quadrants and autopilot, though I’d be reluctant to cram kit in amongst these systems.
The anchor locker is also a decent size with a reasonable chain drop, thanks to the additional space created by the forward double berth being aligned to the hull-side on starboard. The chain exits via a guide below deck and through the bow roller in the integral bowsprit, a standard feature capable of setting Code Zeros inboard and gennakers at the outboard end.
Under engine, the Yanmar 40hp gave plenty of power, thanks in part due to a shaft driven fixed three-bladed prop. At 2,000rpm we were doing 6 knots, up to 6.6 at 2,300rpm and 7.2 at 2,500rpm. The raised forefoot helped the boat respond quickly to the helm, turning in her own length at 3.5 knots.
Prop kick pushed us to port in astern, and you’ll need a couple of knots of boat speed to overcome this. Given there’s no prop wash over the twin rudders, marina handling could get spicy at times without the optional Sleipner tunnel bowthruster, which restores steerage at slow speeds when going astern.
Sun Odyssey 380 down below
Now, back to those knees. With the mainsheet bridle allowing a long sliding hatch , the companionway’s gentle incline takes you down with just three steps. This is starting to sound like an advert for a care home, but it all helps make life aboard easier…
Jeanneau has worked hard to create a saloon that feels brighter, more spacious and with cleaner lines, but it’s not done so at the expense of a sensible seagoing layout. The L-shaped galley to port allows for bracing against the companionway steps, and includes decent amounts of stowage outboard and below the sink, and a cavernous top-opening fridge, though it did lack drawer space other than one small cutlery drawer below the sink.
I’d have liked a splashback behind the double sink too, but the work surface fiddle is large enough to offer a solid hand-hold when the boat is heeled, with another handle on the heads bulkhead.
In this two-cabin version, the heads and shower are separate, meaning that there is a huge shower compartment, complete with hanging rail as well as a large wet locker outboard, and access to the workshop. The heads, conveniently at the foot of the companionway is a decent size with the toilet orientated fore and aft. All eminently practical. It’s a shame the corner of the heads bulkhead panels are just butted together, rather than edged with a solid wood corner piece, leaving the veneers vulnerable.
Facing aft towards the heads is a good-sized chart table, with the seat on the aft end of the 180cm starboard berth. Access to the switch panel wiring is top notch and neatly finished. The chart table is topped with tan leather, and little touches like the Jeanneau clock and barometer are nice. I was disappointed that the baffles inside the chart table precluded the stowage of paper leisure charts, but left inaccessible void space that would have allowed for this – it seems an odd oversight to me.
Forward of all of this, the saloon is extremely comfortable, with C-shaped seating to port, including a lift-up panel to turn this into either a decent single berth or a narrow double (204cm x 80cm). The folding table sits on the centreline, but an opening panel in the side of the base ensures access to keel bolts, bilge sump and pump.
I particularly liked the ‘chaise longue’ detail on the starboard berth – an armrest projects aft from the forward bulkhead, so that you can wedge yourself in securely when heeled, with views out of the hull window, up to the helm, and of the instruments at the chart table – an off-watch skipper would be very comfortable here with good views of what’s going on. There’s also plenty of stowage under and behind all of the seats, though no overhead lockers or shelves.
Into the forward cabin, forward of the mast compression post (lacking it’s leather cover on the test boat), a one-and-a-half double door can be kept open for a sense of space if it’s just a couple aboard, or used as a normal single door.
This boat didn’t have the optional ensuite heads to port, though the deck moulding reveals where this would be. You’d sacrifice a fair bit of space and stowage if you did opt for it, though there’s still a hanging locker to starboard.
Forward of this, the 135cm x 200cm berth is rectangular rather than the usual triangle, thanks to being offset to starboard – the layout worked surprisingly well, and the large hull windows make it pleasant to be in. Below the bunk is a 330L water tank. 130L of diesel is aft of the port double berth, which has good standing room and a vast 200cm x 180cm double berth, two opening hatches and plenty of locker, hanging and shelf space.
Enjoyed reading this?
A subscription to Yachting Monthly magazine costs around 40% less than the cover price.
Print and digital editions are available through Magazines Direct – where you can also find the latest deals.
YM is packed with information to help you get the most from your time on the water.
- Take your seamanship to the next level with tips, advice and skills from our experts
- Impartial in-depth reviews of the latest yachts and equipment
- Cruising guides to help you reach those dream destinations
The 38ft production cruiser market is a competitive one, and you’ll be spoilt for choice if this is what you’re after - the Beneteau 38.1, Bavaria C38, Dufour 37, Hanse 388… It’s no surprise therefore that Jeanneau has worked hard to carve out some unique selling points. Clearly, ease of access is the major one on the Sun Odyssey range, with step-free walkthroughs onto the sidedeck, with which I was genuinely impressed – I wasn’t sure how well they’d work on a boat of this size, but needn’t have worried, and nor did they steal noticeable amounts of space from the accommodation, to which access is also made gentler by reducing the companionway steps. A few tiny upgrades, like composite wheels, and maybe an extra instrument repeater or two (all on the options list) would round off this boat's edges. It would be nice to see a tiny bit more solid wood below too, on the corners of high-wear areas such as the galley and heads. Other than that, the finish is hard to fault for a production boat.