By: KEVIN SMITH, Photography by: KEVIN SMITH

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The Jeanneau Cap Camarat 8.5CC is a centre console that melds fishing, family and luxury boating in the one escape package. Kevin Smith is smitten and predicts a big future for the competitively priced and good-looking boat on Australian waters

The Jeanneau Cap Camarat 8.5CC. Try not to rubberneck if you're lucky enough to see one fly past.

If there is going to be an imported boat range that will turn heads in Australia, and one in turn become a very common sight on our waters, it's definitely the latest Cap Camarat line-up from Jeanneau.

One of the newest models showcased in Australia is the Cap Camarat 8.5m Centre Console. It spun my head around on the first glance. It's an impressive, sexy, beautiful design, but what also blew me away was just how a standard centre console could be transformed from a dedicated fishing boat into something more like a luxury runabout.

When it comes to luxury centre consoles this boat puts the W in wow, especially so if your relying on a lady's final blessing. It not only looks super flashy but has all the necessary creature comforts to suit mom and the family alike. Oh, and don't worry dad, it will also delight your serious fisho mates as an offshore machine, whether it be for chasing pelagics or the lurkers of the deep.

Now, before getting into the bling I would like to point out where these craft originate from, and that is from the Jeanneau factory in Les Herbiers, France. While this boatbuilder is a common name and brand among the sailing fraternity in Australia, it is not so among powerboaters. To give you an idea, in the last 30 years these guys have sold in excess of 20,000 powerboats. That equates to around 667 boats per year, or 55 boats per month. To be able to manufacture that kind of volume a company has to be an extremely proficient and well established production plant.

In the forthcoming year there is apparently 16 or so new models being added to the range, with a select few likely to appear in Australia, so I'll reiterate my prediction of us seeing more of this brand out on local waters. So, it seems quite clear that not only can the French cook and play rugby (they nearly took the Kiwis to the cleaners in the last Rugby World Cup - yet again), they can manufacture boats. 

As previously mentioned the 8.5m Cap Camarat is one hell of a head spinner and automatically comes across as a very sophisticated and stylish boat, especially for a centre console.

Due to its sheer size there is plenty on offer when it comes to the layout of this boat, and rather than listing each and every item in the general specs list, I'd rather highlight the main standout features that magically drew me in.

As you board the 8.5CC the sheer beauty of the interior design captivates with teak decking, quality mouldings, beautifully polished stainless steel, and colour coded trims that are all aesthetically pleasing.

The stern is setup as a comfortable seating area as well as the main fishing platform. When it comes to reclining there is a three-quarter rear lounger and something that really appealed to me, flush-mounted seating built into the cockpit sides. These simply pull out and basically triple the amount of seating in the cockpit. This becomes a great area for entertainment, the helm seat tilting forward and revealing the seat base as an entertainment module, servicing the cockpit with an inbuilt fridge below and above, and a plumbed sink/prep-area with provisions for a small cooker. For the ladies, I can visualise the champagne and smoked salmon here and for the blokes, a spot to fillet a good-sized tuna.

Now all that might sound a bit girly but when the seating is stowed away you regain all the extra space needed for fishing days, plus padded coamings to lean against courtesy of the seats' backrests. Also for the serious fisherman are a number of rodholders in the transom, moulded storage space in the port cockpit side with recessed rod racks on the starboard side, and more than enough deck hatches for gear and large fish, as well as other storage spaces for tackle and the like. If it was going to serve primarily as a fishing vessel then it would just be a matter of customising to suit.

Now when it comes to centre consoles this boat has one of the most interesting designs that I have ever come across.

Firstly, it's colossal in size and has a massive windscreen that does a good job of protecting the seating area consisting of a triple bench seat lean post. Secondly, the dash angle is good, with ample space to flush-mount large electronics and gauges, and thirdly, the main highlight for me being the drop-down section into the cabin.

Due to the big dimensions of this boat and high deckline Jeanneau has managed to create the two-berth cabin, with toilet and sink, quite comfortably. It's spacious for a centre console and adequate enough for an overnighter, and just perfect for the family to take shelter in on rough days - especially the kids.

Moving forward the Cap Camarat 8.5CC features a typical bowrider design, with wraparound three-way seating up front and a settee up against the console. As the main social area for the good-weather days there is a drop-in table and a few drinkholders next to the seats. To finish off is a tapered bowrail and electric anchor winch.

Overall the layout might look pretty simple but far from it, there are more to these centre consoles than what you find on standard ones. I just love the fact that everything is so neat and precise, with beautiful quality finishes. And there's always more to the general layout on boats of this calibre, like the full rear bimini, extra stainless steel bollards, grabrails and more. But the few main features that I have gone into more detail on are by far the ones that stood out and appealed to me most.

To add to the already impressive layout characteristics of the 8.5CC is good performance. For a change, we had 25-knot winds and a 2m swell prevailing for the test. If that's not going to give you a good idea on handling and output then I don't know what will, as you generally get battered on any centre console in these conditions. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised with the ride on this machine.

As tested the Cap Camarat's gumption was a 300hp Suzuki four-stroke outboard and the max rating for a single installation is 350hp, or 225hp each for twin setups. The big Suzuki is a nice match and did the job with ease, when it came to powering out of the hole in tight turns and at speed.

As previously mentioned the conditions were not great and
once offshore I took it like a man and smashed my way directly into the southeasterly wind and swell. Like any boat you
haven't driven before it takes a bit of time to get the feel for it, and once I had it riding at a comfortable speed to suit the conditions I have to admit I was a little disappointed - it felt like I was travelling at a standard trailerboat's 15- to 18-knot cruise speed in the rough seas. Well, that was shortlived because after turning on the GPS I found we were doing a constant 27 to 32kts, without being battered around - and that's motoring considering the conditions.

Changing the heading to side on and running with the following sea, the speed could then be increased, all the while the boat maintaining a comfortable, dry and very stable ride indeed. One thing that was interesting was the 8.5CC had no trim-tabs, which is probably due to it having such good stability. Regardless, if it were mine I would fit some just to be able to manipulate the ride to suit the sea state. I am one of those believers that any monohull can benefit from trim-tabs.

Now although it's a big boat, it is actually really easy to drive thanks to the electronically assisted control and hydraulic steering. It rides well, handles nicely in the rough and is very responsive on the water - so-much-so that you think you are driving a smaller craft. If I had the choice, and the finances, I would definitely opt for a twin-motor setup, particularly for long-range hauls offshore, which the Cap Camarat can easily handle. Not only will it give you better power, but also that extra peace of mind when it comes to safety.

With an overall length of 8.37m and serious beam of 2.98m, the Jeanneau Cap Camarat is not going to be something that you see being towed around on the roads too often, but rather moored in a marina or against a property pontoon. Besides being pleasing to the eye, the 8.5CC shines in all areas and is a classic family, entertaining and fishing boat that everybody can enjoy on the water.

In conclusion a decision on whether you pick the Cap Camarat will hinge on price point and value for money. Well, I've seen a few other similar imports in Australia that come in at a far higher price than the $149,500 price tag on this one. Considering the versatility on this boat, classic finishes, lines, and good all-round ergonomics it's definitely not overpriced.

Specifications: JEANNEAU CAP CAMARAT 8.5CC


Sunbrella bimini with stainless steel frame, marine toilet with holding tank, two berths, sink in cabin, sink in cockpit, cockpit fridge, teak cockpit sole, and 300hp Suzuki four-stroke


TYPE: Planing monohull
LENGTH: 8.37m (overall); 7.95m (hull)
BEAM: 2.98m
DRAFT: 0.62m
WEIGHT: Approx 2400kg (sans engine)

FUEL: 400lt
WATER: 95lt

MAKE/MODEL: Suzuki 300DF
TYPE: Four-stroke petrol V6 outboard
REC. MAX HP: 350 (single); 225
(twin engines) 

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From Trade-a-Boat Issue 430, Aug-Sept 2012. Photos: Kevin Smith.

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