The comfort, performance and versatility of the Leader 36 are ably demonstrated in the pursuit of inquisitive sharks.
Critically-acclaimed TV show Fish of the Day, fronted by affable presenter Clarke Gayford, plays on Choice TV. What most Kiwis probably don’t realise is that the show also screens in 36 countries around Asia and the Pacific, making it one of New Zealand’s more successful television exports.
The brainchild of Gayford and wildlife television producer Mike Bhana, the show is about to start filming its second season. Fish of the Day travels to interesting fishing destinations in New Zealand and the Pacific and this year, wherever in the world they are filming, the crew will use vessels by giant French boatbuilder Jeanneau.
It is this association with Jeanneau and its New Zealand agent, Orakei Marine, that took us to Tairua to review the Leader 36. We joined Clarke, Mike, Orakei Marine’s Jason Snashall and marine biologist Megan Myers aboard the new boat for a day of filming sharks.
To meet Fish of the Day’s filming schedule Orakei Marine imported this boat at short notice. Jason says he opted to take a cancelled order straight from the factory rather than place an order to his own specification and wait for delivery. Consequently, this vessel is very well appointed, with a long list of options most New Zealand buyers probably wouldn’t tick.
These options include air-conditioning, factory Raymarine electronics and the 6kVA generator. All up, says Jason, there’s $160,000 worth of options on this vessel, but he can deliver a base model for less than $500,000, which is good value for a twin-engined 36-footer.
Although Fish of the Day is ostensibly about fishing, it’s really about lifestyle, which is where the Leader 36 fits in. As landed, the boat doesn’t make many concessions to sport fishing, and certainly not to catching and satellite-tagging large sharks as part of a post-graduate study project for Auckland University.
But, says Mike, who skippers the vessel as well as filming the proceedings with Clarke for another Wild TV project, the Leader 36 is proving a comfortable and surprisingly practical vessel for the task.
Orakei Marine usually customises the boats it imports, fitting electronics, covers, rod holders, rocket launchers, swim platform staples, bait stations and cages, live wells and anything else a customer might require for Kiwi-style boating. But as a stock boat this vessel has only a stainless steel staple fitted to the swim platform and a set of non-factory cockpit covers from Total Trim in Auckland. When it finds new owners, they can specify anything else they might like.
On a warm summer’s day in Tairua Marina the first order of business was to take down and stow the cockpit covers. This version of Leader 36 is an open-backed hardtop design with a huge electrically-operated sliding roof panel that we immediately opened to the sky. Ventilation is excellent, so the air-conditioning on such an open bridge deck seems somewhat redundant, but I guess it could be used with the cockpit covers closed.
The boat’s layout is optimised for on-water relaxation and fun. In true European style, the Leader 36 is well-endowed with sun-bathing stations, from the huge sun lounger on the foredeck, complete with adjustable backrests, to a variety of lounging options on the bridge deck.
These include a clever double-width transom lounger with reversible backrest and a full-length handrail aft. The rail is great to hold onto when negotiating the vessel’s wide swim platform, but
also serves as a footrest when the lounger backrest is positioned to face aft. With the backrest reversed, part of the lounger addresses the deck’s folding table, along with the L-shaped settee on the port side.
There’s another lounger opposite the helm station on which you can either lie full-length or semi-recline facing aft, depending on how it’s configured. Lounging zones are well served by drink holders.
Opposite the table is an outside galley with a moulded sink, an under-bench fridge and a general storage locker. Boats for the European market usually come with an electric cooktop, but this
boat will probably be fitted with a gas burner.
The Leader 36 is logically divided into three levels: there’s the extra-wide teak-soled swim platform at water level, the teak main/bridge deck, which is outdoors-oriented and also houses the helm station, and the below decks area containing the main galley, bathroom and sleeping areas.
An acrylic cavity door slides across to provide privacy and security for the area below decks. The galley is on the port side, with a sink, two-burner gas hob, under-bench fridge and overhead and cabinet storage for stores, condiments, plates, cutlery and glassware.
To starboard the bright, stylish bathroom has a small vanity, an electric toilet and a shower. A moulded shower seat folds down over the toilet. Like the galley, the bathroom is compact but well designed, with a surprising amount of storage.
The same observation can be made about the forward cabin. In day-boating mode it’s an open-plan space encompassing the double-berth in the bows, the galley and a saloon table with
wrap-around seating; at night, a sliding partition gives the forward berth privacy.
The second cabin, which extends under the bridge deck sole, is a generous size. The berths can be configured as two singles or a double; a bench seat against the port side could
easily sleep a child. Other sleeping options include the saloon, where in-fill cushions convert the saloon table and surrounding seats into another double berth, and the bridge deck where a combination of in-fill squabs and the bridge deck table create another large sleeping area.
Stylistically, inside and out, the Leader 36 is a very European boat. The decor is bright and modern and rather stylish in a French designer kind of way, but it’s practical and easy-care too. Jeanneau has lots of experience designing practical boat interiors and has utilised every cubic centimetre of the Leader 36’s generous volume.
The exterior styling is sportsboat-cruiser. It looks smart and the ergonomics are good: it’s easy to get to the foredeck, whether for a spot of sun-worshipping or to check the anchor, and access to the swim platform is excellent. A folding ladder on the starboard corner of the platform aids exiting the water.
The ground tackle is an option Orakei Marine often sources locally for its customers, but this boat came from the factory with a Quick capstan operated from the helm, 40 metres of chain and 80 metres of rode. The anchor is a Jeanneau design best suited to anchoring over sand, but it works well, says Jason, so they’ve left it in place for now.
This Leader 36 is powered by a pair of Volvo Penta D4 260hp diesels with duo-prop sterndrives. The vessel can also be optioned with 300hp engines.
Interestingly for a sterndrive vessel, it has joystick control, which I experienced for the first time on this boat. It works very well, almost as well as Volvo Penta IPS, allowing precise low-speed control in any direction and even moving the boat sideways. There’s a bit of clunking from the sterndrives as they answer helm inputs from the joystick, but nothing too alarming. The system works so well, there is no need for the optional bow thruster.
The engines are located under the floor aft. The deck and the transom module, including the rear lounger, pivot backwards to access the engine room. Raising and lowering the hatch is done electrically, so it’s effortless, and once fully open, access to the engines and associated machinery is excellent.
Hot water is provided by the engines, supplemented by an electric hot water cylinder. This vessel is equipped with an inverter as well as a generator and there’s an automatic Fire Buoy fire system in the machinery space. The fuel tanks are forward of the engines; the genset has its own soundproofed compartment accessed through a hatch in the deck sole.
Performance from the twin Volvos is good. The Leader 36 is fun to drive, feeling quite sporty thanks to its responsive handling and snappy acceleration. It took me a short while to come to grips with the sterndrive’s steering response and I tended to over-steer at first. It turns out less is more. For our run to the Aldermen Islands we used the autopilot, cruising along in calm seas at 2,600rpm, making around 20 knots.
Around 20-22 knots is comfortable and economical cruising. Total fuel consumption at 22 knots is 72 litres an hour and maximum speed with these engines is 32 knots, based on Jeanneau’s published figures.
According to Mike, who’s had the boat out in a variety of conditions, the Leader is comfortable even in 20 knots of breeze. The helm seat is supportive and there’s good vision all around, thanks to the open
hardtop. Sliding side windows are another useful feature.
Mike also likes how easy it is to move between the platform, where most of the filming and shark tagging takes place, and the bridge deck where Megan works at the table on her laptop.
Below decks most of the forward cabin is used to store filming and research equipment. When the crew is working the aft lounger and decks are covered with towels to protect them. The deck of the Leader 36 a great place to enjoy the sun and the sea in comfort, but with its white upholstery and classy looking teak, it’s not the ideal place to wrangle large sharks. The towels and covers are a sensible precaution.
We didn’t pull any sharks aboard, but we did attract a couple of fine specimens to the boat. The first was a good-sized mako of well over 100kg that turned up in the berley trail before Mike had the
underwater camera ready. It was very bold at first, but soon became cagey and disappeared after a few minutes.
The second mako was more co-operative. Much smaller at perhaps 40kg, it wasn’t the least bit camera shy, providing the film team with some useful footage.
Mike, Clarke and Megan will continue to film and tag sharks for a short while longer before filming begins on Fish of the Day and the Leader 36 goes fishing for different species. Where possible Jeanneaus will be used for all the filming work.