- Wonderful cockpit
- Yanmar controls
- Smart interior
- Davit system
- Electric boarding platform
- Sailing performance
- Steady, sure-footed tracking
- Fast passages possible
- Plenty of rig options
- Immaculate presentation
- Handy extra utility room
I don’t want to stand accused of having a fickle heart, but I have fallen for the younger, smaller sister of my previous love.
A year ago I reviewed Jeanneau’s new 54 – a stately performance cruiser – and was sufficiently impressed to propose that she was perhaps the French manufacturer’s best model yet. With this year’s brand new 51, I now find myself having to move the dear old 54 to one side. We can still be friends.
The shift in allegiance may seem a little surprising given that the 51 is effectively a slightly scaled-down version of the 54 with many of the identical features. Same sleek lines, clean presentation, spacious cockpit, elegant interior and, like the 54, super-quick and supremely easy to sail.
And while there are a few new, different features, when it comes to matters of the heart it’s all about the level of comfort, trust and understanding. The 51 puts you at ease very quickly – probably because she’s a little smaller and less intimidating for a short-handed crew.
In an age where smarter design and easier sail controls see more couples happily embracing larger, more sophisticated cruisers, the shorter rig, smaller sails and lighter displacement (by around three tonnes) make the 51 even easier to control than her bigger sister.
The 51’s genesis began back in 2010 when Jeanneau introduced its flagship 64, the first in a new breed of luxury performance cruisers. Penned by in-house designer Phillipe Briand, the concept proved an instant hit and she was quickly followed by the 58, the 54 and now – the 51.
All have racked up impressive sales figures. The 51 – which replaces the successful Sun Odyssey 50DS – debuted at last year’s Cannes Boat Show. Production began earlier this year and, so far, the factory’s secured 60 orders.
This 51 is named La Bonne Maison – The Good Home – a play on the surname of her owners, Aucklanders Mike and Amanda Good. They are experienced sailors and have owned a string of vessels – including three
Jeanneaus. Space, quality of finish, styling, ease of handling and performance were items that resonated with their purchase criteria.
Like her bigger sisters, the 51’s available in multiple versions. The Goods have opted for the conventional three-cabin-two-bathroom layout – one that lends itself to comfortable cruising with two other couples.
It comprises a master cabin in the forepeak – with a spacious en suite – and two quarter berths aft. Both of these have spacious double beds, though the port cabin is quite a bit roomier and is equipped with handy bedside lockers – more a suite than a cabin – and it adjoins the port bathroom the two cabins share.
Just forward of the starboard cabin is what Jeanneau calls a ‘utility room’ – and it’s a large, multi-purpose facility. Some owners elect to have a third bathroom installed. More pragmatically-minded sailors leave it as a workshop space for tools/spares or stowage for general boat paraphernalia, maybe a laundry with washing/drier machine – perhaps even to be used as a dry locker for guests unable to make it back to their own boats after dinner.
Irrespective of the version selected, they’re all immaculately presented – chic, clean design with roomy, comfortable spaces that flow easily into one another – all courtesy of superyacht interior design supremo Andrew Winch. Again, multiple décor options are available.
La Bonne Maison blends light oak joinery with dark oak floors, grey upholstery and white ceilings. Traditionalists would probably favour the
heavier teak joinery/floors, but for me the light oak accentuates the glorious natural light pouring into the vessel from the myriad hatches/windows/ skylights. There is an easy ‘lightness of being’ down
below – it won’t be easy to sulk in a corner and feel sorry for yourself.
A well-equipped galley nestles to starboard, just aft of the large saloon. Owners who tackle ocean passages in the 51 will enjoy its U-shape
configuration – this offers a handy bum-rest – and better stability – on either tack.
The galley comes with a three-burner cooker, a large front-loading fridge and drawer freezer/ice-maker. The cooker’s fitted with a neat, flip-up ‘splash-back’ panel to protect the boat from the excesses of a Sunday breakfast fry-up. When the cooker’s not in use, the panel extends the galley’s bench area considerably.
Delivering the canapés to the guests in the saloon is a short step. It’s a splendidly accommodating saloon, with a long settee down the port side (useful night berth), and a large table set within the U-shaped couches. Plenty of elbow room for six to eight guests – and it all takes place under subtle LED lighting.
For chill-out evenings when you’re happy to leave your mind operating at 10 percent, push a button to raise the flat-screen TV from its recess behind the port settee. The pop-corn’s only an arm-stretch away – but don’t forget to clean the spatter from the splash-back panel!
Sophisticate or slob, the 51 will cater to your whims – she’s a serene, non-judgemental lady. But for me her standout features are on deck.
Introduced last year with the 54, one of Jeanneau’s most celebrated (and patented) pieces of engineering is the ‘terrace’ boarding platform – a remarkable structure that sees the transom unfold at the touch of a button and transform into an elegant staircase leading down to the
waiting tender. I’m happy to say it’s been incorporated into the 51 as well.
But it’s more than just a terrace. The area is easily large enough to serve as a platform for sultry sunbathers, and the telescopic ladder guarantees easy access to and from the water. Better still, the upper platform contains a large hatch, and under it is a massive locker for – well, anything really – including the lounger cushions tailored to the platform.
My favourite bits of engineering on the 51 though – and I concede this may be a ‘guy thing’ – are the built-in davits for the inflatable tender. Like the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t boarding platform, the davits are recessed into the hull, either side of the platform.
Discreet and superbly engineered, they pull up and out from their recesses, and are equipped with a ‘knuckle’ that sees them pivot aft. Deployed for passage-making, they disappear and are unobtrusive when the tender’s in the water. A far more elegant solution than unsightly,
permanently-mounted davits. Very cool.
The 51’s sail controls are designed around the same, roomy cockpit that so impressed me on the 54. It’s a swept-back area – slightly wider aft than for’ard – and this shape is particularly suited to the twin carbon helms. Positioned well outboard, they leave a generous walkway from cockpit to boarding platform.
Smart design also extends to the cockpit table. It’s equipped with built-in bottle/drinks holders and a fridge, as well as a fold-out leaf either side, and I’ll wager its lengthy settees will host many raucous anchorage parties.
Under the aft end of the table is a locker – dedicated for a life-raft. It’s a clever piece of design – the life-raft remains protected and out of the way, but is instantly available and easy to launch when needed.
But my favourite piece of cockpit design are the two ‘lounge-lizard’ nooks at the for’ard end of each settee. As cosy nests fitted with arm rests (with built-in drinks holders) these possies will be hotly-contested among the guests. Nestled under the dodger, they afford complete comfort and protection from the elements. You may have to establish a
roster for the guests.
As with other components of the boat, owners have numerous options for rig, sails, reefing systems, keel and engine.
This one is fitted with an in-mast furling system and a self-tacking blade jib. Together they distil upwind sailing to simple, finger-flick tacks. A larger main, fully-battened with slab reefing, will deliver better upwind performance, but the in-mast system is excellent for short-handed cruising.
A bigger jib, too, is optional, and its sheets will instead be threaded through cars mounted on tracks located well inboard to optimise sheeting angles.
Two L-shaped keels are on offer – the 2.28m standard model or the heavier, 1.73m shallow-draught alternative. Ours carried the former. A deep spade rudder provides plenty of bite. Where the standard 51 is fitted with an 80hp Yanmar and sail-drive, the Goods have selected the upgrade – a 110hp Yanmar with shaft-drive.
I like the Yanmar’s controls – mounted on the starboard helm – near the bowthruster switch. The controls are right there – no backbreaking contortions required for reaching down to a throttle/gear lever mounted at floor level. Standing upright is more comfortable – and safer – for easing the 51 into her berth.
Sail controls are well thought-out. The 51’s cockpit sports four Harken winches – two primaries within easy reach of the helmsman, and two secondaries mounted further forward on the coaming. The port secondary is an electric rewind model, designed to eliminate the risk of
cardiac arrest during jib furls or halyard/boom vang tweaks. With the German mainsheet system, trimming the main from either helm is easy.
Accentuating the yacht’s sleek lines and presentation, sheets and lines are hidden discreetly within the coachroof structure. And I particularly like the lockers (on gas struts) built into the coaming – they swallow the sheet tails and help keep that wonderful cockpit wonderful.
A fresh (20-25 knot) westerly provided the test-bed for the 51’s maiden sail, and she relished the conditions. Our Raymarine GPS ticked off a consistent 10-10.5 knots on a close reach, and topped out at 11.2 knots. Together the plumb bow and hull chines eke out maximum waterline length from the hull, and if the Goods ever take her bluewater cruising,
200-mile-a-day runs should be commonplace.
On a maiden sail I expected a bit of weather helm – but found none. Very solid and steady, sure-footed tracking. The bimini has ideally-positioned clears for watching the mast-top Windex and sails, but if your neck tires of glancing upwards, the beautifully-clear Raymarine MFDs on the helms relay precise wind data.
This is a fun boat to sail – friendly and accommodating and perfect for fast cruising, but she’s also a fun, elegant boat for entertaining. She’s already been nominated for European Yacht of the Year 2017. I can’t say I’m surprised.
Just don’t tell her larger sister.