SUNSAIL 384 VS JEANNEAU SUN ODYSSEY 409

By: PATRICK ‘TENPIN’ BOLLEN

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Are two hulls better than one? PATRICK ‘TENPIN’ BOLLEN hits the Whitsundays to find out aboard Sunsail’s Leopard cat and Jeanneau keelboat.

SUNSAIL 384 VS JEANNEAU SUN ODYSSEY 409
MONO V MULTI

Departing Sydney in mid-September, I had wonderful visions of clear, bright and warm tropical spring days gliding pleasantly across gentle, turquoise waters of the glorious Whitsundays. This fantasy was washed from my thoughts as we flew over Byron Bay en route to Hamilton Island via Brisbane. Heavy grey clouds blanketed the east coast all the way to Cairns.

Arriving at Hamilton Island 90 minutes later things were not much better as we made our way to the marina courtesy of Sunsail and a very charming guest relations manager, Nuria.

Loading our gear aboard the smart Sunsail 384, a Robertson and Caine-built Leopard 38 catamaran designed by Morelli & Melvin for the Sunsail fleet, I was immediately impressed by the use of space aboard the Sunsail Leopard that features four generous, bright, airy and very comfortable cabins, and a large main saloon incorporating a functional galley and navigation station.

Interestingly, whereas the majority of Sunsail's fleet have traditionally been monohulls the catamaran has become so popular with charterers that today almost half of the fleet at Hamilton Island is now multihull.

 

UP ANCHOR AND UNDERWAY
The following morning after a delicious breakfast and a catch-up with friends, we motored out into the passage and set full sail for Airlie Beach about 17 nautical miles to the west on the mainland. We were off. The breeze was a steady 25kts and under full main and headsail - and still in driving rain - we made excellent time reaching speeds to 9.5kts.

It handled the choppy seas with ease and with all sheets leading to two well positioned winches at the helm, sailing the 384 was a dream.

 

PROUD MARY ANN
After a quick stop for provisions near Abel Point Marina we continued on to one of my favourite spots in the entire Whitsundays, Woodwark Bay, 6nm north around Grimstone Point on the mainland.

What a stunning anchorage. Protected from the south, east and west we were in company of just two other boats. I love this place because it is so isolated.

The 384 rode quietly on the pick as night fell and over a very chilled beer we all agreed that this catamaran was a beauty.

 

EVEN PLANE
Good for a family, four mates or four couples, the Sunsail 384 is a wonderful way to go cruising. Ultimately, the beauty of a catamaran is that she is a solid, stable and level platform. Girls just love the multihull experience because the boat almost always sits flat. If you like to go cruising minus the drama then a catamaran is the best way to sail. Everything about this boat speaks of comfort and ease.

The next morning we took our time. Breakfast first, a chill down in the refreshing, cooling waters of Woodwark Bay before raising the pick and setting sail for Butterfly Bay on the northern extremities of Hook Island.

The wind was still blowing, gusting to 25kts when we entered the Passage. With a full main and jib we reached across a choppy sea at speeds to 11kts. It was an exhilarating passage but by the time we had made Hayman Island, the northern most island of the 74 in the Whitsunday group, the breeze had dropped to a moderate 12kts so we motorsailed the last couple of miles to Butterfly Bay, picking up a mooring on the western shore just metres off the fringing coral.

Chris and Peter headed off to do some snorkelling while I reached for a cold Crownie. The refrigeration is run via an inverter system and not off the motor which for years has been the standard practise. The eutectic operation is still a very effective system but the times they are a changing.

 

REEF RECCE
The next day we got serious about the snorkelling. Once kitted up we slipped into the crystal-like waters to view the most gobsmacking coral we'd all seen in many years.

Whitsunday coral is some of the best on the planet. We even saw a magnificent giant clam that must have been at least 50 years-old surrounded by several other colourful species including staghorn, brain and tabulate. Every dive or snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef is an enchanting show - a captivating underwater spectacle.

Back onboard the Sunsail 384, we set a course to Cid Harbour for the night, securing a prime anchorage close to Sawmill Beach. Peter prepared the evening nosh on the barbecue which is well located and at an ergonomic height on a liferail over the starboard aft hull. The steaks and snags were accompanied by a top green salad and as some cracker reds breathed, we sat down to spectacular meal accompanied by much laughter and nonsense.

MONO HIT
Monday morning and we motored back to the Sunsail base at Hamilton Island, changing over to a spanking new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409. The 409 won the 2011 European Yacht of the Year and Sunsail took delivery of a total of 190 new 409s for its global operation.

"The catamaran certainly provides a relaxed cruising experience that is hard to rival while the mono is more of a sailors boat which responds nicely to correct trimming"

Peter, Chris and I have many combined years' experience sailing monohulls in Australia and around the world, so I guess you might say we could be biased in our assessment of what works best - a mono or a multi.

I love sailing the monohull and while the dynamics are pretty much the same, we all enjoy the close hauled experience. So with sails set we put this beautiful new yacht to a test.

 

CHINING IN
At 41 feet, I was impressed by her lines though at first look I was a little miffed by the hard chine in her topsides aft. Though, in time this did grow on me.

So, what is the benefit of the chine?

According to designer Phillipe Briand the benefits are threefold. Firstly, it adds space below, secondly, the chine improves stability and finally it improves the hull ability to sail a true course when sailing to weather.

The first thing you notice when stepping aboard the new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 409 is the spacious cockpit forward of a dual steering wheel system.

This works well for sailing operations particularly in a competitive situation, and when the racing is over this big cockpit is terrific for socialising, be it sitting around with the crew enjoying a celebratory beer or two or gathered around the cockpit table enjoying a sumptuous meal under the stars.

The primary winches are well placed, in easy reach and control of the helm, and with jammers well located it ensures safe, controllable and comfortable sailing particularly for the shorthanded sailor.

As we tacked south against a heavy ebbing tide the 409 performed well but it wasn't until we cracked sheets and eased away for a reach over to Long Island Sound that we really got to enjoy this yacht's agility through the water.

A beautifully balanced boat she sailed well, reaching along at a steady and relaxing 4kts in the soft southerly. A lovely manageable yacht, she'd be a very spritely and fun boat in a good breeze.

 

AGREEABLE ABODE
Below deck, the 409 is splendid. The main saloon is big and bright and the furnishings are impressive. Cream covered cushioning throughout highlight the generous use of teak veneers that give the interior a modern but classic feel without being stuffy. The 409 is well ventilated, too.

The galley is good and functional, as well, but compared to the multihull is a little tight. However, be assured this is a true sailing yacht.

The three double cabins, one double vee-berth and two aft doubles are fantastic and cosy, however, storage is a bit of a bother. Nevertheless, these cabins are all extremely comfortable.

Powered by a very smooth and efficient 40hp Yanmar diesel the Sun Odyssey 409 is a responsive boat and easy to manoeuvre under engine.

The next day we motorsailed to Hill Inlet through Hook Passage anchoring in 4m at the head of the powder white sand inlet on Whitehaven Beach.

The boat secure and the pick firmly planted in the sand, we jumped in the tender and motored across the bar for the long haul along this impressive tidal waterway fringed by white sand hills, mangroves and alive with graceful stingrays gliding gently in this sleepy, pale blue aqua space. What better place could there be to say our goodbyes to the Whitsundays with reality only a day away.

THE VERDICT
On the plane, we pondered the week that was and the pros and cons of Multi verses Mono.

I enjoy both, but whichever you choose I'm sure it will be right for you. The catamaran certainly provides a relaxed cruising experience that is hard to rival while the mono is more of a sailors boat which responds nicely to correct trimming. They are both fabulous boats and each offer a wonderful cruising experience. Mono or Multi, you will have fun cruising the beautiful Whitsundays or Tahiti or New Caledonia, but wherever you choose the Sunsail experience is a worldwide experience.

 

PROS AND CONS

MONOS

WE LIKE
Pure sailing experience
Idea for three to four people (max 6)
Intimacy
Ease of handling

NOT SO MUCH
Storage
Towing the tender
Unidirectional LED bunk lights
Draft

 

MULTIHULLS

WE LIKE
Overall Size
Number of passengers. Ideal for four to six (max 8)
Draft
Space and storage
Two big social hubs
Main saloon and aft deck under bimini
Privacy

NOT SO MUCH
Needs good breeze to sail

 

(Quick Specs)
SUNSAIL 384 / LEOPARD 38
Material: Fibreglass
Type: Catamaran
Length overall: 11.43m
Waterline length: 11m
Beam: 6.14m
Draft: 1.05m
Fuel: 350lt
Water: 838lt
Engine: 2 x 30hp Yanmar diesel
Sail area: 92m² (total)

(Quick Specs)
JEANNEAU SUN ODYSSEY 409
Material: Fibreglass
Type: Keelboat
Length overall: 12.34m
Hull length: 11.98m
Beam: 4m
Draft: 1.55m (standard)
Fuel: 200lt
Water: 530lt
Engine: 40hp Yanmar diesel
Sail area: 78.9m² (total)

From Trade-a-Boat Issue 423, Feb 2012.

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