If you’ve followed French boatbuilder Jeanneau, you may have noticed a naming scheme that serves to differentiate the company’s three lines of sailing models. In addition to the Sun Odyssey and Sun fast offerings, Jeanneau has launched the luxurious Jeanneau Yachts models from 51 to 64 feet. The company’s latest introduction is also the entry level in this class, a 51-footer, which was inspired by the previous 54 but has been significantly improved with some smart ideas. In the new design, the deck and interior have been changed to redefine how a production boat can be experienced both under sail and at anchor. We shot this short video at the Miami International Boat Show, to give you a quick look inside and out.
Designed by naval architect Philippe Briand, with an interior by designer Andrew Winch, the Jeanneau Yachts 51 was optimised for ample deck space, appealing styling, a versatile interior and enough equipment, tankage and systems to create a platform with long-term self-sufficiency. Deck and interior spaces were carefully studied and better proportioned, while fine finish materials were incorporated to enhance the cruising experience and luxurious lifestyle.
With a classic (hoist) mainsail and a 110 per cent overlapping genoa, 1,278 square feet of canvas are supported by a 72-foot deck-stepped Z-Spar mast with double spreaders. For easier short-handed cruising, an in-mast furling main and a self-tacking blade jib on a Facnor furler provide 1,010 square feet of sail area. The optional Code 0 will add another 1,076 square feet. Balancing this out, there is a choice of two keels with 7’5” (standard) or 5’8” (shoal) draft. The deeper appendage will keep this powerful hull upright in gustier conditions but if your cruising grounds include skinny water, the shoal draft will be a more practical choice.
The most notable characteristic of the Jeanneau 51 under sail is her balance. In 17 knots of breeze at 40 degrees apparent wind angle, our test boat blazed along at 8.1 knots with only light fingertip control on the helm. She basically sailed herself and pointed impressively high. As we eased off and the wind dropped to 11 knots, the Technique Voile sails drew us along at 7.6 knots on a beam reach.
Under power, the new Jeanneau is just as lively. We motored on the flat water of Biscayne Bay at 8.3 knots at 2600 rpm. The standard power choice is an 80 HP Yanmar with a Saildrive transmission. However, you can upgrade to 110 HP and a straight shaft. The latter may be worth the premium if you plan to motor to weather often because despite her fine entry, the J51 hull becomes wide and flat aft and may pound a bit in head seas.
There are so many practical as well as flashy new features on the ample deck of the 51, it’s hard to know where to start. The swim platform catches the eye immediately. The transom lowers but not in a way that you may have seen before. In fact, this system is so different that Jeanneau calls it “the terrace” and it’s not an ordinary drop down swim step. The aft end opens electrically and unfolds to reveal a step down between the twin backstays as well as genset access below the cockpit sole. It’s ingenious. To either side are telescoping dinghy davits that hide when not in use. They are perfectly functional but when retracted, they create a clean and uncluttered look that will not add to the hull length in a slip.
Along either side on the cockpit are fold-up helm seats, a popular feature that was brought over from the Jeanneau 54. You can stand to drive with nothing in your way aft except for the safety of the pushpit, or you can sit behind the twin wheels or slightly outboard on the side decks for good sight lines forward to the headsail.
The consoles that hold the twin wheels are substantial and provide plenty of space to mount two compasses and electronics including the Raymarine ES series Hybridtouch nine-inch MFDs. These sturdy binnacle structures also provide handholds when moving forward in the multi-zone cockpit. Two things that are especially noteworthy from the driver’s perspective is the easy reach forward to the primary winches on the cockpit coaming and the engine throttle placement at the starboard wheel. The controls are high up on the console and if you’ve ever had to bend over to shift as you come into a slip, you know how hard it is to keep your eyes on the bow.
The cockpit table is massive and has an optional integrated refrigerator. With the leaves up and open, six can gather for an al fresco dinner. It’s an impressive piece of furniture but the real focus in the cockpit is the two big lounges on either side of the companionway. Whether you call them chaise lounges, nooks or sunbeds, these will be the seats that everyone will fight over. In inclement weather, they benefit from being tucked up under the dodger and on a bouncy ride, these padded beds with armrests and cup holders will be the place to snug in and give yourself a break. Because these two seats abut the companionway, two Harken halyard and reefing winches (along with arrays of rope clutches) were placed on the cockpit coaming aft and away from the tranquil spaces. This creates natural divisions in the cockpit for working and relaxing.
All lines are led aft in channels so there’s very little deck clutter. The hatches are flush, the jib tracks are on the cabin-trunk for good sheeting angles, and the shrouds are far outboard so there’s nothing to impede a speedy transit from the cockpit to the bow.
The forward deck is wide and flush with the cabin house angling gently up from the double sunpad. Twin bow rollers were added for serious cruisers wanting multiple anchor options and a sprit for a Code 0 protrudes out of the port side bow. The 1500 watt vertical windlass is offset slightly to port, leaving an opening anchor locker to starboard and plenty of room to move about whether catching a mooring or setting the hook.
The lifelines are low for a yacht with offshore aspirations and the side gates are narrow so it will be difficult to load provisions. That said, it’s likely that most of the loading will be done via the swim platform and there are stainless-steel handholds on the cabin-top to maneuver safely when heeling.
Various layouts are available with most of the differences clustered in the aft end of the hull. Interior versions include three cabins/three heads, two cabins/three heads plus a crew cabin that has shared stowage space, and two cabins/two heads plus a utility room and workshop. This third option is the most interesting in that it has additional choices. Instead of the third head, you gain a utility room that can be used to add a washer/dryer, a freezer, a pantry or just as additional stowage space. The aft cabin becomes a shared stowage and workshop area. Cruising owner-operators with occasional guests will love this version.
The rest of the layout is static. The master stateroom is forward with a queen sized island berth and drawers below. A U-shaped settee to port and a straight bench to starboard make up the saloon, where light is abundant due to four large overhead hatches. A forward facing nav desk will be welcomed by anyone looking for a dedicated space for ship’s business and oenophiles will enjoy the wine locker tucked under the cabin sole at the companionway. Two heads have a shower stall while the third and optional one is the day head.
Our test boat was finished in light oak Alpi wood. Another color option is called fine teak. Headroom is seven feet so tall sailors will be happy and everyone else will appreciate the open feeling below. Stitched leather accents, vessel sinks, integrated fiddles, solid wood door and cabinet trim, and well-placed lighting add a luxurious ambience that is to be expected in Jeanneau’s “Yachts” line.
Distance cruisers will want to outfit the boat for long-term self-sufficiency with a bevy of optional equipment including electric winches, a genest, air conditioning, a bowsprit, composite wheels and cockpit canvas. Even fuel tankage can be increased form 63 to 127 gallons for longer passages. That's a lot of equipment, luxury and versatility to enjoy in a stepped- up cruiser that can go just about anywhere.
Other Choices: Cruising sailors will also want to see the Beneteau Sense 51. The Grand Soleil 50 is another interesting option.
For more information, visit Jeanneau.
See Jeanneau Yachts 51 listings.