Review: Jeanneau Leader 33

By: Kevin Green, Photography by: Supplied

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  • Trade-A-Boat

Versatility is at the heart of modern sports cruisers. The Jeanneau Leader 33 combines all these ingredients with flare.

 

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Jeanneau Leader 33 Review

Jeanneau have a winning formula with the Leader. The range now comprises the 30, 33, 36, 40 and flagship 46, while the company continue to expand and add new options to the offering. The raison d'etre of these boats is reasonably priced fun on the water, rather than razor sharp looks and fancy flourishes. Nevertheless, they all perform – at least the ones I've tried do.

The Leader 33 is a picture of versatility, offering either outboard or inboard engines, as well as the all important saloon options. You can opt for the Open Top version or the Sport Top with electric sunroof. This competitive sector requires all these features and more. So in this case it helps to have the interior design expertise of the Italian Garroni father and son duo, and prolific American design house Michael Peters penning the hulls.

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I've learnt a lot from the Garroni family as we've met to discuss their creations over the years. "Knowing what the market wants" is a phrase I recall from son Camillo, who cited the Leader range as one of their major successes, boasting over 5,000 sales of the previous iterations.

Both versions feature the Leader range's signature water access and free flowing aft deck to saloon layout. Our review boat, the Sport Top, is especially suited to the climate down under thanks to the extra sun protection. Stepping onto the wide teak swim platform, I see that it's ideal for holding a tender – setting the scene on what is a fairly practical boat. The 'v' word can be used once more to describe the cockpit, where an L-shaped lounge and dinette transform into a giant sun-pad. A fibreglass bimini hangs overhead but sun worshippers can simply click open the roof for those extra rays.

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You can keep your drinks chilled in the wetbar, which is neatly located on the starboard bulkhead and features a worktop for cocktail prep. Plenty of storage space is available below the furniture, including a large transom lazarette that opens seaward – particularly handy for snorkelling gear.

Clears or canvas can be fitted to the GRP bimini to make this a useful all-weather area.Combine this with the bow sun-pads and you have a comfy deck layout for a family or lively group of friends. Everybody can move around the deck safely thanks to sturdy guard rails and there's a deck mounted Lewmar windlass and single roller for anchoring in those secluded coves. Two adequately sized cleats have been placed at the bow, midships and singles aft to make mooring a breeze. 

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The skipper sits on the starboard side at the helm, while the port side is furnished with a double seat that can face fore and aft. The console layout is dominated by a Raymarine Hybrid Touch screen, chunky buttons for essential controls are set nearby and a row of good old fashioned analogue engine dials above. Throttle controls for the twin Volvo 220HP stern drives sit on the right with an optional fine-control joystick nearby, but slightly obscured by the wheel. This option reduces the need for a bow thruster so worth consideration (more on the engines below). The area is nicely finished off with a tall bucket seat and adjustable steering wheel.

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TRANSFORMATIVE CABINS

There's a two cabin layout below deck, complete with compact galley and bathroom. Once again the space has been cleverly utilised, with notable features such a transforming couch in the owner's berth that makes the forepeak area either a lounge/dinette or a spacious bed. There's a sliding door to provide privacy as to this area a berth. Other highlights include plenty of natural light and ventilation thanks to a large opening-skylight, and volume sufficient to allow ample headroom. Cupboards and under-bed storage provide more than enough space for long weekend trips.

Moving aft to the second cabin, which is partially wedged under the saloon sole, the Garronis have somehow managed to include a lounge seat at the end of the two single beds (that can be combined to make a double). Other essentials include two opening hatches and a large cupboard for hanging formal clothes. The two cabins are operated by the dinette, which gives them an exceptional amount of privacy. The area houses there's a compact galley nestling under the portside, fitted-out with twin gas hobs and space for a microwave – to run it and the optional air conditioner you'll need to choose the 3.5KVA generator.

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Other fittings include a deep sink, ice box and front-opening fridge, serviced with adequate worktop space. White lacquered lockers overhead and drawers below the sink ensure enough storage, while underfoot bilge baskets keep wine at a stable temperate. My only real complaint is that the portlight opening was rather small, offering little respite when the cook is gasping for fesh air.

The bathroom is joined to the owner's cabin, which is handy, and is quite spacious save for the tight shower cubicle. Its shower/toilet and vanity area are separated with perspex, with a large opening portlight to provide ventilation and two other windows to avoid claustrophobia. The overall finish is precise and functional, with details such as the precise CNC shaped joinery that assembles without rough edges reflecting the mass production quality control that Jeanneau does so well.

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CONTROLLING STERN DRIVE ENGINES

The hull was originally built for stern drives, giving the the choice of two power options in either petrol Mercruisers or diesel Volvos. However, the 2019 Jeanneau 33 can have twin Yamaha 250 HP outboards, echoing the industry trend towards this type of propulsion. Outboards have become popular for reasons including the freeing up inboard space, better power-to-weight ratios, and the ease of access to maintain or upgrade. Fuel efficiency is another selling point, as is the ability to lift the drive clear of the water that makes them ideal for beaching.

Our review boat came with two Volvo D3 220HPs. Volvo's twin sterndrive installations have been fitted with the popular joystick docking control since 2010, and are a good option for easy handling. On stern drives this allows both engine legs to move independently of one another and even tilt as dictated by the black box – each has a hydraulic drive with throttle box that's part of the joystick system. Similar to Volvo's IPS system that's been around since 2005, the joystick has two power modes (1,750rpm and 2,150rpm) and the manoeuvrability of the system negates the need for a bow thruster. I've used it on other powerboats and its use of twisting (to turn) and moving in the direction you wish to travel is intuitive and feels natural. It works by turning one stern drive to port with forward thrust and turning the other to starboard with reverse thrust, allowing the joystick system to push the hull sideways to starboard, or vice-versa. The power varies on how far the joystick is pushed. There's also inbuilt redundancy, as both engines run on their own electronics with separate hydraulics as well.

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Engine access on the Leader 33 is facilitated by an electric mechanism that lifts the transom bench/floor. This revealed that the Volvo 220HPs are compact enough to leave working space around them. Oil and water strainers are up high within easy access, while bilge trays catch any wayward liquids. Opting for outboard engines would leave this space free, leaving plenty of room for the 3 KVA generator and air conditioning unit. The hull layup on the Leader is fairly traditional, hand laid sandwich fibreglass/balsa core, which was well finished and faired.

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THE FRENCH RIVIERA

The smooth waters of the Mediterranean are powerboat heaven. With facilities every few miles, the French coast is particularly suitable for modest range boats like this Leader 33. However, this is also an incredibly busy coast, as I found when accelerating clear of Cannes port. Snug behind the high windscreen with sunroof open, the ride felt good as we sped towards the nearby islands. We hit a comfortable cruising speed of about 19 knots with the diesels burning 45 litres – that could easily get us to Saint Tropez and back.

The Leader 33 just about broke the 30 knot barrier, displaying true sports cruiser prowess and good straight line speed. The steering had enough feel to make for interesting handling but the sharp turning and grip of the hull felt predictable; in fact much better than some Volvo Pod drive boats I'd tested. All credit goes to the Michael Peters-designed hull with its classic raked lines and full bow which cut through the chop with enough buoyancy to avoid slamming.

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From the console seat I had a fairly clear view, apart from the analogue dials that were obscured by the sun. The opening windows on each side are another plus, as they provide cross ventilation and allow the skipper to talk to the crew. Sound proofing was sufficient to allow us to chat at a regular volume, however fitting outboards would significantly increase the decibels. Returning to the busy port and tight marina berth proved drama-free thanks to the joystick that finely controlled the final approach – a relaxed conclusion to a day on a competent sports cruiser.

Sea Trials

Light wind, four people.

Rpm Speed (kts) Feul Burn (lt/hr) Range (nm)
1000 5.1 2.9 914
1500 6.7 7.9 441
2000 8.2 17 250
2500 11.7 33 184
3000 19 45 219
3500 26 63 214
3900 30 93 167

This story was originally published in issue #509 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest boat news, reviews and travel inspiration.

 


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