The 380 is one of the latest offerings in Jeanneau’s updated Sun Odyssey range. Peter Poland puts the boat through its paces
Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 380: “excellent all-round sailing performance”
Anyone wandering through Mayflower Park and staring at serried ranks of Jeanneau yachts at the Southampton Boat Show cannot fail to be impressed.
Much the same can be said of Jeanneau’s many ranges of motorboats that now fill sections of the marina.
The sheer size and number of exhibits show that this now world-famous name means business – big business.
Both Jeanneau and Beneteau have pushed ahead with extensive new model programmes.
Yet although Jeanneau has only been part of the Beneteau group since late 1995, it started life in a very different way.
Building the Jeanneau brand
Back in the mid-1950s, Henry Jeanneau was keen on fast motorboats.
He entered France’s top race: the Six Heures De Paris. High-speed skimming dishes propelled by powerful outboard motors careered around a short course looping under three bridges on the Seine. Mayhem reigned for six hours.
The boat that completed the most laps won. It was like a demented, shortened waterborne Le Mans.
Henry’s many racing successes led to a demand for his speedboats, so he and Michel Rabier formed a new company.
Between 1957 and 1961 they built around 400 examples of these beautiful wooden boats.
Then in 1964, Jeanneau hoisted sail on the van de Stadt-designed GRP Alizé and Storm day cruisers, followed by the top-selling Harlé-designed Sangria 25.
Over 2,000 of this hugely popular yacht were built and the Jeanneau name became well established.
Jeanneau’s rapid growth and financial health attracted the attention of various American companies and Henry and his wife Nelly eventually sold Jeanneau to Bangor Punta in 1969.
Henry remained a consultant for two years to ensure that his manager Michel Richard enjoyed a trouble-free transition period.
All went well until Bangor Punta was bought by Lear Siegler; which was in turn targeted a few years later by a private equity takeover in 1987.
Overseas companies could not be part of the transaction so Michel Richard organised a scheme whereby 51% of Jeanneau shares became owned by the firm’s employees under a French government-backed scheme.
The only way is up
The late 80s to 1990 were boom times for Jeanneau with the all-new Leader powerboat range and 30 new sailboat designs – including the first of many Lagoon catamarans.
Then challenging economic conditions led to a collapse in the market and banks demanded new capital investment – which was impossible with 51% of shares belonging to Jeanneau employees.
So in 1991 control passed to a new Luxembourg holding company.
A consortium of bank creditors later applied pressure in November 1995 then up stepped Beneteau with a last-minute offer.
Since then the enlarged Groupe Beneteau – now including Jeanneau – has not looked back.
The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 380 (SO380) is one of the latest offerings in the updated Sun Odyssey range, and has been in production for less than two years.
Asked about his SO380 design, Marc Lombard said: “Hull, appendages, sail plans, design and ergonomics, layouts, weight estimates… everything has been designed, down to the smallest details, to make her the best sailboat in her size category…”
So I was keen to sail the all-new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 380.
I arrived at Sea Ventures at Swanwick, where I was told their latest SO380 was hull No 48, clearly an indication that Marc Lombard, interior designers Piaton Bercault and Jeanneau got the details right.
A SO349 – smaller sister of the SO380, and designed by Lombard in 2014 – was also in the dealer’s yard.
Amazingly, it was hull No 876. Lombard has had many winners since he designed the SO35 in 2003 and has since drawn 14 of the recent Sun Odyssey successes.
Space and security
Stepping aboard the SO380 via the optional fold-down swim platform, the first impression was one of space.
The cockpit is big and yet feels very secure. Substantial grab handles on the top of both steering wheel pedestals fall readily to hand, as do the long handles on top of the optional folding cockpit table with wooden leaves.
The ‘walk-around’ side decks that slope down to the rear of the cockpit sole – allowing easy access up to the foredeck and back for younger and older crew members alike – are also excellent and popular new features.
They also remove the need to exit the cockpit by clambering up over the coamings, which can be a precarious route in heavy weather.
At the aft end of the cockpit, the lifeline and pushpit are at around waist height, giving exceptional security.
There are guardrail gates on both sides and deep moulded toe rails reduce the risk of slipping off the deck in heavy weather.
These new ‘walk-around’ side decks first appeared on the larger Lombard-designed SO410 and Briand-designed SO440 (European Yacht of the Year 2018 in the family cruiser category) and SO490.
A brace of rope clutches on each coaming leads the main and jib sheets directly to a winch on each side of the cockpit.
This means the helm can control the set of the sails and tack while still steering the yacht.
Tacking involves letting off the jib sheet clutch then moving across to the other wheel to sheet in the headsail on the new tack.
The push-button electric option makes this very simple.
The engine and optional bow-thruster controls are beside the starboard wheel pedestal. The main and jib halyards, genoa furler line, reef lines and vang control line are all situated to port aft on the coachroof leading to a Harken self-tailing winch (electric option) via rope clutches.
Optional spinnaker and Code 0 controls are led to a second optional winch to starboard.
For finer setting of the double-ended ‘German’ mainsheet system, this is attached to a bridle forward of the main hatch.
These genoa sheets are led through friction rings on either side of the mast and the rings are controlled by inhaul and outhaul lines led aft on the coachroof.
This means you can position the clew very precisely and fine-tune the sail shape.
Both these sheeting systems are simple to use.
The test SO380 had a 110% genoa on a headsail furler.
A track for a self-tacking jib and in-mast mainsail furling are available as options.
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There’s also a choice of rigs, both with Seldén spars, twin swept-back spreaders and a Seldén rod-kicker.
The Performance Pack square top mainsail adds useful area and the 110% genoa both come in DCX Grey.
A Downwind Pack (spinnaker hardware and controls) can also boost boat speed.
The test boat had a standard mainsail (stowed in a boom pouch) and standard 110% genoa, combining to give excellent all-round sailing performance.
The boom itself is easier to reach than on most yachts of the 380’s size.
Both rigs come without backstays and have swept back double spreaders with lower shrouds.
I found bypassing the lowers when walking to the bow simple, having worked out the easiest route.
And swept spreaders can make dead-running tricky; but deep gybing downwind can get fast yachts like the 380 from A to B quicker anyway.
But it’s a useful piece of kit because the twin rudders do not get any prop wash.
The bow thruster was worth having for reversing back into the yacht’s berth on our return.
When we got out onto Southampton Water the instruments showed a windspeed of 15 knots.
Once the mainsail was hoisted and the 110% genoa fully unfurled, the SO380 took off. With the wind at 110° apparent, we occasionally hit 9 knots.
The twin rudders, set quite far apart, gave a delightfully precise and light feel. There was no hint of the boat wanting to luff up.
The hull’s full-length hard chine, broad waterline beam when heeled and inverted stem all contributed to the SO380’s directional stability and apparent reluctance to heel beyond around 15° during our test sail.
This was the first Lombard design I’d steered and I found its combination of sailing speed and ease of handling a pleasure.
The deck-level quarter seats also made comfortable perches for the helm.
The test boat was not carrying a spinnaker so we couldn’t add this to the fun. Doubtless, it would have given us extra knots.
This meant we made little use of the elegant multipurpose bowsprit option that has tack fittings for the roller genoa, Code 0 light weather genoa and asymmetric spinnaker.
It also has a chain roller and neat stowage for the anchor.
Sailing hard on the wind was much the same story.
The SO380 never felt uncomfortable or overpowered, despite carrying full sail in a brisk breeze.
At around 30° apparent, the boat achieved up to 8 knots in a gusty 15-knot wind.
We were sailing the deep draught version with a bulbed keel (draught is 2m/6ft 6in) that has a displacement/length ratio of 156.44, ballast ratio of 29.05 and sail area/displacement ratio of 17.86.
A shoal draught bulbed keel (drawing 1.56 m/5ft 1in) and hydraulic swing keel (drawing 1.29m-2.7m/4ft 2in-8ft 8in) are also available as options.
On the return trip to the mouth of the river, the 40hp 3JH40 Yanmar engine pushed the yacht along at around 5.5 knots at 1,500rpm, 7.5 knots at 2,000rpm and a spritely 8.8 knots at 2,500rpm according to the instruments.
An ideal cruising speed is probably 8 knots at around 2,300rpm.
A fixed three-bladed propeller is driven by a conventional shaft but I would be tempted by the optional three-blade folding propeller.
The SO380 already performs so well that it deserves to enjoy the extra speed under sail that a folding prop would add.
The SO380’s interior accommodation also has many new features and is spacious and comfortable.
The standard finish is in teak with grey cedar as an option.
The boat has four layout options: three-cabin/two heads, three-cabin/one head, two-cabin/two heads, and a two-cabin/one head.
The extra head in the forecabin can be replaced by a hanging wardrobe in the two- and three-cabin options.
I contacted one SO380 owner who said he’d chosen the two-cabin version with the one head (just aft of the chart table) because this came with separate head and shower compartments.
He and his wife found this so much better than an ‘all in one’ compartment.
The shower compartment also gives access to a large stowage area which was also accessible from the cockpit.
The rectangular forecabin double berth (2m x 1.35m/6.5ft x 4.4ft) that runs along the starboard hull side is also more comfortable than the conventional V-berth found on most 37-footers.
The single double berth aft is also much wider than those in the two quarter-cabin option.
While on the berth front, the U-shaped settee to port in the saloon also has an option to convert into a double berth.
The settee to starboard makes a snug 1.8m/5.9ft berth for one person at sea.
There is also ample stowage under the bunks, on/under the outboard shelves and a huge stowage drawer under the aft end of the port settee.
Unlike many modern 37ft cruisers, the SO380 has an aft facing chart table with instrument and switch panels on the outboard side.
The chef has a large L-shaped galley to port. The two-burner cooker on the test boat came with an oven and grill (Premiere Trim option) and just ahead of it a large 160lt refrigerator has enough capacity to cater for several people over many days.
An opening port above the cooker ensures smells and steam will not linger.
The twin sinks also had an optional foot pump for sea or freshwater that emerged from a separate swivelling tap.
Wooden fiddles around the sinks and worktop areas are nicely made.
Extra stowage lurks under the sinks (including a waste bin and cutlery tray), under the cooker and beneath the deck.
Another unusual plus point of the SO380 lies beneath its dark oak floor panels.
Many larger modern production charter yachts I’ve sailed have floor panels that are firmly screwed down.
If you need to check the bilge or anything lurking inside it, this poses a problem. The only solution is a screwdriver.
Several of the SO380’s floor panels, however, are different.
They have simple catches that enable you to lift the panels out and check what’s going on beneath them.
Under one such lifting panel, I came across a rack for bottles of wine. It was empty… but what a nice idea.
The SO380’s balsa cored deck is injection moulded so there are smoothly finished top and bottom surfaces when it is released from the mould.
The hull moulding is hand-laminated solid fibreglass and an integrated engine liner reduces noise and vibration.
A watertight bulkhead is aft of the anchor locker.
I’ll leave the last words to a couple who have recently replaced their Jeanneau lifting keel 33i with a new SO380.
I contacted them via Malcolm Perrins who administers the informative and helpful owners’ group (jeanneau-owners.com).
Mike Davies said: “We opted for a lift keel on our SO380. We know that with the keel up it’s effectively a shoal draught yacht at 1.3m/4ft 3in which has benefits in shallow harbours and anchorages.
“With the keel down at 2.7m/8ft 10in she has very good stability and will point at 35° apparent with no difficulty, achieving 7 knots in a moderate breeze… In a recent trip from Roscoff to Brest in gusts of 29 knots, she handled very well.”
I asked if there was anything they would change on their SO380.
They replied: “We have only had the boat for a couple of months. We have not found anything that we would change yet!”
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