The latest Jeanneau 51 has taken a lot of the ideas used in the big sister 54 and utilised them into the shorter version.
Indeed, as I walked down the marina arm at Middle Harbour Yacht Club, I saw the yacht Beyond Cool at the end with a big ‘60’ stuck on its prow. This is to signify the 60 years Jeanneau has been building boats, but it was hard to get the impression out of my head that this was not a 60 foot yacht. This impression is reinforced by the interior as well.
Just like the Jeanneau 54, this new model was designed by naval architect Philippe Briand and designer Andrew Winch. The 51 is the smallest in the Yacht range from Jeanneau. The concept is to present ‘couple’s’ yachts: luxurious, speedy but easily sailed by just two people. Using super-yacht designer Winch to bring that luxury feel to the interior is a masterstroke.
The fact Jeanneau have managed to do this on a production yacht built to a price is genius.
Both Mark and Carol Ann, the owners of Beyond Cool, are quite the finicky yacht buyers. They have both done plenty of sailing, both racing and cruising; so, to impress them, a yacht they would buy needed to tick a lot of boxes.
One of Mark’s important criteria was a large cockpit. He likes to sleep overnight under the stars so the cockpit must be long. This also fits in with Carol Ann’s desire to use the cockpit for large party entertaining.
The wide cockpit features multiple zones: the cockpit is clear of winches, includes dedicated space for lounging and entertaining and is comfortable and inviting.
Each activity has been carefully considered and facilitated with distinct living areas.
On paper the Jeanneau 51 appears to have a deep canoe body draft, complete with a stubby keel bottomed out with a large L bulb. This keel is deeper than the bigger Jeanneau 54, but the displacement and ballast is a tad lighter.
This lightness also allows the designers to keep the rig shorter with a smaller sail area on its deck-stepped, 9/10ths rig, compared to a competitor I reviewed a while back, the Bavaria Cruiser 51. Other interesting comparisons with the competitor shows the Jeanneau larger in waterline length, beam and draft. Leading me to consider that this is a hull that utilises hull volume for stability and speed.
Plotting the numbers on the graph to show sail area to volume against displacement to length, it places the Jeanneau 51 smack dab in the middle of the racer/cruiser category with a good hull shape that should get up and go while providing a maximum amount of comfort. How comfortably this lightish, large hull would handle a long rolling swell would be of interest.
Certainly, taking it out for a spin there was no sign of being tossed by the long swells rolling in through Sydney Heads. Nor was there any sign of ‘hull slap’ with the nicely rounded aft sections that Briand prefers.
It may well be this combination of hull weight and volume that makes the 51 quite delightful to sail, reminiscent of Jeanneau’s smaller 349. The twin wheels with the single rudder is direct and light; at 3000 kilograms lighter than the 54, yet only one a third of a meter shorter on waterline, it can make a big difference to performance.
She was lively in the light breezes, picking up speed quickly without that feel of digging a hole in the water. With its owners choosing the racier Technique Voile sails this 51 will get to a destination fast. The standard sail plan involves a mainsail with in-mast furling coupled with a 110 per cent overlapping genoa. It is easy to opt for the standard main and a self-tacking jib. It is also easy to include the fittings for a cutter rig.
The owner couple opted for the larger Volvo 58 kilowatt (110 horsepower) engine. Heading out we cruised at 2400 revolutions per minute with a smooth 7.4 knots. Cranked up to maximum of 3200rpm we reached 8.6, all with negligible engine noise in the cabin.
The hull is a hand-laid construction, while the cored deck is a two-part vinyl-ester injection molding that allows it to be made without requiring a second lay-up to provide the smooth interior finish; thus reducing product use, waste and weight. The large ring frames and structural membrane is extensive with pairs of keel bolts located alongside. The deep ring frames also ensure a nice deep wide bilge for good storage and access.
While the on-deck and down below design borrows from the big sister, the side view of the hull in the water is once-again, reminiscent of the smaller, highly successful, Jeanneau 349. The high-sided stem sweeps aft, angling down sweetly to a lower height stern; meeting a slight chine curving up from amidships. With four hull windows to break the eye, this yacht does not sit so dominantly in the water as others of this size. Yet, once onboard, it looks larger than it is.