Annapolis is a great place for a boat show. I mean the town is uber historic, and charming, and quaint…but…after many, many years as a boat tester and judge for both SAIL and Cruising World magazines, I can also attest to the fact that post-boat show boat tests in October often lack one of the most important ingredients one needs to conduct a proper boat test—WIND.
However…this was one of those special years where the wind blew in the high teens to lower twenties—perfect for my test of the new Jeanneau 349.
Let’s go sailing!
You can learn a lot about how a boat performs in light wind, but nothing can tell you more about a boat than test sailing in the 20-knot breeze we had out on the Chesapeake last month. And after effortlessly tucking in the first reef, myself and Paul Fenn from Jeanneau (whom you see comfortably tucked in behind one of the dual helms in the wide and easy-to-access cockpit, above) enjoyed a smile-inducing test sail that delivered just the right combination of speed, stability, and comfort that had me saying to myself, “This is pretty darn good for a 34-footer.”
The excellent performance we experienced can be attributed to many things including the hard chine aft, highly efficient underwater profile, and even proper sail trim. But what I really appreciated about the 349 was the absolute lack of weather helm in spite of the fact that we sailed some pretty tight angles upwind—in well over 25 knots of apparent wind.
And that’s what you get when you have dual rudders. Sure there may be a tad more wetted surface on a dual rudder boat, but that’s a small price to pay for the utterly superior control (and peace of mind) that’s possible once you heel over and the leeward rudder is situated for maximum control.
The dual helms are set up perfectly for both sailing and comfort. Visibility is excellent from each helm seat. Both the double-ended main and jib sheets can easily be controlled single handed, and the teak foot wedges (pictured on the sole above) provide the ideal brace points for upwind work. Meanwhile, the lack of backstay and easily retractable swim platform make it super easy to enter the boat through the stern while at the dock or on the hook.
See what I mean. That’s a sweet swim platform, on a wide-open transom, with a nice recessed swim ladder, that can easily be pulled up to secure the cockpit on offshore passages when you’d feel a bit exposed with a wide-open transom.
The short bow sprit was another feature I liked on the 349. We unfortunately left the Code 0 on the dock for our test sail, but it’d have been easy to set on this sprit. Clever bow roller set up also shows this boat is a true “performance cruiser.”
Bigger than you think
I love this shot because it really gives you an idea of how open and airy the accommodations plan is. It’s got two long seats. High seat backs. A big table. A good-sized nav station. And tons of light made possible by copious hull ports and opening deck hatches. This shot also shows how simply making the doorway into the forward cabin a bit wider can change the whole feeling of the accommodations plan. There’s a lot there for a 34-footer, no?
The galley is great too. It has a two-burner stove, modern fixtures, and more than enough stowage and counter space to keep a cruising crew fed and happy.
This shows how big the forward cabin is. Sure it’s “all bunk” up there, but it also has a large hanging locker, great reading lights, and a large opening hatch for excellent ventilation.
This is alotta boat for the money. It’s stylish, and sexy, and sporty while also being stable, and safe and secure—not such an easy feat. And call me crazy, but I’m guessing the judges who vote on Cruising World’s Boats of the Year, and SAIL’s Best Boats might just agree this year too.
And what’d I say about Annapolis being cool and quaint? Check out this riggers van I came across after we tied the 349 up for the night in the marina directly across from Ego Alley. Don’t really know what to say except…chapeau!
By Bill Springer from Swizzle Sport Media