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The beauty of sportscruisers like Jeanneau’s NC9 is versatility — you can take the family away overnight, tow some water toys and yet have enough of a hull for that offshore fishing trip, reports KEVIN GREEN

Jeanneau NC9

French builder Jeanneau has created an extensive power range over the years, including centre consoles, sportsfishers, higher-end cruisers and more recently, the New Concept (NC) range. A relatively new concept for Jeanneau, the NC range is less than two years-old but has already been successful, with the 35-foot NC11 voted European Yacht of the Year 2011.

The launch of the 30-foot NC9 sportscruiser at Cannes this year caused quite a stir among visiting boating journalists because the general consensus was this boat epitomised the modern utility cruiser. The key word is versatility - ranging from the adjustable stern deck space, adjustable seating in the saloon and generally maximising space throughout; including a guest cabin, while the centre wheelhouse allows all-round, low-level decking, a good offshore safety feature.

Definitely not flashy with only a single diesel, so less oomph than her twin-screw big sister, but the NC9 is produced in enough numbers to give fantastic economies of scale. These traits, plus our strong Aussie dollar, allow Sydney distributor Matthew Willett to sell the NC9 for only $289,000.

"Our first buyer was looking for a 30ft enclosed powerboat and didn't want to worry about canvas and other weather protection," explained Willet. "They are coming out of a trailerboat so we think that is the market for the NC9, either entry level or trailerboat upgrade for people looking to overnight and cruise a bit more."

Boarding the NC9 is easy thanks to the low-slung transom, with doors either side of the moveable stern locker that can slide out onto the teak swimplatform or move in to enlarge the swimming area.

A stern anchor is another useful feature - for holding off on a beach and bow on in the marina - which is neatly recessed into the hull and its Quick remote control hidden in a locker. Alongside are shorepower inlets and water, all conveniently placed and protected from the elements.

The stern deck has plenty of space for a table to slot under the optional extendable canvas awning (another essential for Oz), which slides out from the hard part of the flybridge and is fixed by alloy poles in the topsides. 

Opening the triple sliding glass door reveals a light-filled interior, thanks to enormous windows all around.  Demonstrating versatility again, these doors can be adjusted in three ways: allowing access from the portside galley only, the starboardside dinette or centralising them for dual access. Combine these features with the high ceiling and vertical sides, creates a very pleasant saloon, though with all those acres of glass the optional air-conditioner might be a worthwhile buy for summertime.

The dinette comfortably seats four on its cream leather seats, which flip two ways so the skipper can be joined on the bridge by two others, while the rear seat also flips to create a social area on the stern deck. Showing yet more good design the table slides down to create a double berth, ideal for the littlies I'd say to view the flatscreen television that's fixed to the portside galley work surface.

A two-burner, gimballed Eno stove-oven with stainless splashback is neatly hidden under a lid, alongside a stainless steel sink. Chilled food is stored in the front-opening 80lt fridge and several cupboards including a cutlery drawer offer adequate storage. Yet further locker space hides below the floor, where plastic drawers can hold small gear and there's plenty space for eight lifejackets to comply with its CE-B8 rating.

An elevated, high-backed chair gives a comfy seat at the port helm station and the base flips up for standing. Usefully, the wheelhouse door slides back to reveal an ideally placed midships cleat; good for shorthanded mooring.

Looking at the helm console, the skipper is clearly informed with easily-read analogue gauges for Volts, fuel, RPM, while the Lenco trim tab controls are to hand as well, in front of the electronic throttle. Navigation equipment is Raymarine with ST70 autopilot and a large C90 multifunction plotter that also shows imagery from the radar, located on a strut to the rear of the wheelhouse roof. A Max Power thruster joystick completes the functional console, sensibly placed near the door so the skipper can operate it from the sidedeck.

The NC9 can sleep four adults plus kids in the saloon, with the forepeak devoted to the owner's suite and double guest cabin portside - which is pretty good for a 30-footer.

The owner's suite has plenty of headroom, giving it an airy feel, while the practicalities are well taken care of with cupboards and a wardrobe. Cleverly, the island bed is extendable with an infill cushion stored below increasing its length by about a foot.

The bathroom is spacious, again with ample headroom and floor space. The area is moulded to prevent bacteria and the electric head is optional, with manual standard. Ventilation is via a small, opening portlight above the shallow sink, the showerhead nestling in the corner.

Across the small corridor space the guest cabin looks like a bit of an afterthought, with a low ceiling receding to about two-foot at the back, but the double berth is adequate and there's standing space by the door. The NC9 is about two-foot narrower than the NC11 so space has to go from somewhere. The area is rather spartan, lacking any shelf space, but a small wardrobe will take an overnight change of clothing and those large portlight windows cheers up this otherwise gloomy berth.

Fixtures and fittings throughout are good, though some older buyers may complain that the overall feel is rather manufactured, CNC precision machining replacing that old nautical lustre. Personally, function tends to win over style for me, but you can be the judge when you see one at the Sydney Boat Show.

Elsewhere onboard the NC9 are plenty of other functional designs, including bulwarks and deep sidedecks surrounding the wheelhouse with chest-high handrails for going forward. At the bow, it's definitely party time thanks to a large sunpad dominating the spacious area and this is enhanced by the extended wooden pulpit with a useful ladder - handy for quick boarding as well. The practicalities are also well taken care for relaxing at anchor thanks to a good-sized Lewmar V2/V3 vertical windlass with deep chain well.

The hard-chined, solid GRP hull has a powerful vee, with tunnel thruster sufficiently deep to grip the water, while the topsides flair out enough to maintain dry decks in most conditions. The tall topsides are punctuated by elongated windows enhancing the aesthetics of what could be construed as a rather chunky looking boat. The build generally felt good on a well-faired inside hull, not revealing any raw GRP matting or many protruding bolt ends.

Looking at the business end of this boat, there are two power options with 300hp or the standard 260hp Volvo Penta D4. Some traditionalists may baulk at the idea of only a single engine, as boats this size often have twin screws. But the utility concept of this model dictates that an economical four-cylinder diesel does the job.

The sterndrive Volvo Penta D4-260 is easily accessed by lifting the large, stern cockpit hatch, revealing a fairly spacious engineroom with standing space either side. Service points including water and diesel filters are at hand, while the batteries sit either side of engine but wisely just above bilge level. Tankage is sensibly positioned; the 300lt fuel tank and the 160lt water tank both sit low and centralised.

Casting off from the Cannes dock went without a hitch as a few nudges on the Max Power thruster negated the need for a crewman for'ard, while the sterndrive spun the hull round quickly once clear of the berth. The NC9 idled quietly along sheltered waters inside the ancient stone pier, dodged past the lighthouse at the entrance before I pointed it towards the open sea.

The mild spring sunshine persuaded me to open the electric roof before I accelerated, watching the revs rise on the analogue dials. A light breeze meant flat, calm seas so seeking some bumps I threw the NC9 into a serious of figure-eight turns, rotating the light helm easily as we banked into tighter and tighter angles, which eventually caused the hull to dig in and slightly slow.

Hitting our wake at a cruising speed of 20kts brought little complaint from the boat, with no sound of loose fittings or doors banging open, the flared topsides keeping the decks largely dry. The only niggle was limited visibility forward. My 180cm frame meant my eyes were staring at the top bulkhead of the wheelhouse when standing; however sitting was fine and my frame was supported well on the comfy leather-clad chair with flip-up front for standing at the helm. Cab sound levels were fine, allowing us to talk freely with the rear sliding doors open (my sound meter showed 89dB by the way).

In terms of performance the numbers weren't startling, and not a surprise given we had six beefy blokes aboard. The 260hp Volvo Penta took its time (56 seconds) accelerating us to a top speed of 24.5kts with 3400revs showing and fuel burning at 51lt/h. At this speed our trim showed nine degrees, but a few clicks on the Lenco tabs levelled the NC9 nicely. Fuel consumption dropped dramatically at the boat's cruising speed (20.7kts) to a reasonable 40lt/h, giving nearly an eight-hour cruising range on the standard fuel tank.

Overall, the NC9 proves that 'affordable sportscruising' is not a contradiction in terms, thanks to the no fuss, no frills approach that Jeanneau has successfully launched with this range.



Antifouling, commissioning, bowthruster, electric winch, teak cockpit, electric toilet and entertainment system

<B>$249,000</B> w/ single 260hp Volvo Penta diesel sterndrive

TYPE: Hard-chined vee monohull
BEAM: 3.15m
DRAFT: 0.91m
WEIGHT: 4830kg

FUEL: 300lt
WATER: 160lt
MAKE/MODEL: Volvo Penta D4 (300hp optional)
TYPE: Four-cylinder turbo-diesel
WEIGHT: 656kg
PROPS: Sterndrive with duoprops

Matthew Willett Marine,
d'Albora Marinas, The Spit,
Mosman, NSW, 2088
Phone: (02) 9930 000; Matthew Willett on 0488 821 112
Fax: (02) 9930 0011

From Trade-a-Boat Issue 428, June-July 2012. Photos by Kevin Green.

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