Dodging threatening rain squalls in the westernSolentduring November might not sound too appealing, but provided the ideal conditions to experience how the new Sun Odyssey 379 performed in real life conditions, well away from the bright lights of a boat show.
Considerable effort has been made by Jeanneau to make the latest Sun Odyssey range easy to handle without compromising
performance. Their knowledge and attention to detail was really apparent with the clever and stylish cockpit ergonomics and how the
sail handling controls are fully optimised for short-handed or even single handed sailing. Significantly our trial boat had just been sold
to a couple who are leaving the dark side of power-boating and wanted a sailboat that would perform well but remain easy to handle.
I am sure that they will not be disappointed.
Visually she initially looks very similar to the new Briand designed SO409 and SO439, but this smaller Sun Odyssey has been drawn
by Marc Lombard who has crafted a very versatile hull form available in three guises. In addition to the standard deep keel and rudder
configuration there is a shallow 1.5m draft variant sporting twin rudders plus an exciting lift keel version that will open up estuary
exploration and safe beaching. Perfect for aBrittanycruise.
Sail options for the SO379 include; tracked self-tacking jib , code zero headsail, asymmetric or traditional spinnakers. The performance
package does not increase either the sail area or mast height but provides a range of upgraded sailcloth options and hi-tech standing
and running rigging materials.
The saildrive equipped 29hp Yanmar comfortably pushed the boat out of theLymingtonRiverwith no fuss, excess noise or vibration.
Very light but precise steering allied to the excellent visibility from either of the twin wheels also gave a great first impression.
Jeanneau have clearly been able to design a steering system that has minimised the inherent friction of the additional cable length and
turning blocks required for the dual helm layout.
The south-westerly breeze did not drop below 15 knots with regular gusts to around 20 knots, but protection from theIsle of Wightallowed
theWestern Solentto remain relatively smooth. The classic main was soon released from the stack-pack and easily hoisted and the
133% genoa unfurled, allowing the engine to be shut down (with the now standard Yanmar keyless switches)
The trial boat was the standard 1.95m draft, single rudder version and despite dragging the standard fixed three blade propeller ,
she was soon charging forward on a close fetch towards theYarmouthshore with the speedo (confirmed by the plotter GPS) regularly
showing more that 7 knots. The multifunction Simrad IS20 instruments providing the helmsman with a clear display of key information,
but I would have liked to have seen wind displays at both helm positions.
The double ended “German” style mainsheet arrangement, lead through Spinlock XTS clutches, to both primary Harken 40.2 winches
allows the helm to remain in full control of both the mainsheet and the genoa sheets at all times. As shown in the video below tacking the boat
singlehanded is simplicity itself, and despite the gusty conditions the SO379 tracked faultlessly, pointing up tightly and with only minimal
rudder and no tendency to round-up.Lombardseems to have made some real improvements in hull form, possibly helped by the hard chine’s
on the quarters, and I was left with the strong impression that this boat will comfortably carry full sail much longer than either of her SO36i
and SO39i predecessors.
Backstay tension is also easily varied by means of a smart adjuster on the starboard side which tensions the ultra long back stay that turns
through a block at the masthead – leaving the stern clear of rigging wires.
Off the wind the 379 continued to impress and although time and conditions prevented hoisting an asymmetric, the boat looks like she will be
no exception to the renowned downwind performance of otherLombarddesigns, but personally changing that fixed blade to a feathering or
folding prop would be an early priority.
Both the cockpit and deck layout works really well even when well heeled, with effective non-slip and a good array of handholds. Despite
clutching a video camera (…so only one eye and one hand for the ship….) I could move around with ease and safety as we put the boat
through numerous tacks and turns.
I expect that many owners will opt for a Simrad NSS8 plotter to be fitted into the smart rotatable ScanStrut pod located on the aft end of
the central cockpit table. The helm can then not only control all the sails but avoids the need to make periodic journeys to the below decks
chart-table. A real boon whether sailing single handed or if the cockpit is full of relaxing guests…
Despite the gusty side wind and a last torrential downpour docking the boat back to her Lymington Haven berth stern first was not difficult
and although a bow-thruster might be a desirable extra, it would by no means be an essential must have.
In conclusion the new Sun Odyssey 379 makes a further progressive step for Jeanneau and the availably of different keel options is likely to
see her becoming a firm favourite for not only experienced sailors, but those taking up sailing for the first time or indeed converting from the
power boat sector.
Jeanneau Owners Network is grateful to Tim Harley of Sea Ventures for his time and making the boat available for the review.
Jeanneau Owners Network