When it comes to production boatbuilding, no one on the current manufacturing tableau does it any better than the French builder Jeanneau, and the proof of that statement is very much in evidence with the Sun Odyssey 36i. The "i" stands for injection molding, the process-in which resin is injected under pressure through closed molds-that the company employs for the 36i's balsa-cored decks as well as for other components. It makes for lighter, stronger structures and cleaner, more environmentally friendly factories. The hull itself is hand-laid fiberglass utilizing two layers of vinylester resin, to which an internal fiberglass grid-Jeanneau calls this its "3rd Generation Hull Structure"-is glued and laminated for strength and rigidity.
All this would be rendered moot if the design itself didn't meet a certain level of performance and aesthetics, but French naval architect Marc Lombard, who made his name with sleek and powerful offshore raceboats, conceived the 36i, and he's delivered a boat that looks smart and modern and sails very well. In profile, the boat is clearly a member of the extended Sun Odyssey family: With its fractional rig, gentle sheer, and low-slung coach roof, it's a classic example of a contemporary performance cruiser.
Our 36i was rigged with a traditional mainsail (a furling main is an option), and in the fresh conditions we tucked the first reef in and unfurled about three-quarters of the slightly overlapping jib. Upwind, the boat trucked along without bother, and once we cracked off, it really kicked up its heels. Unfortunately, our GPS had fizzled out, so we were incapable of recording boat speeds, but our overall impression was that Lombard has produced a top performer. The most impressive part of the trial was the bite on the rudder. We never once came close to spinning out, which isn't always the case when high-volume hulls are coupled with high-aspect blade rudders.
Being finicky, there were a couple of things with which we found fault. First, the diameter of the 36i's standard wheel seemed too small. Whether one steered from either the windward or leeward side, grasping the helm called for a long, unnatural reach, making it impossible to get locked in and comfortable. By all means, go for the optional larger wheel. Second, the Jeanneau is another boat with the mainsheet led to a coach-roof winch, which again means that the helmsman alone can't dump the main in a gust and must rely on another crewmember, who in turn is obliged to remain on station near the companionway during windy outings. The problem here isn't limited to this particular Jeanneau; we're talking about an industry-wide epidemic. And while we understand the desire to keep cockpits uncluttered, particularly at anchor, there has to be a better solution.
Down below, the 36i is very nicely appointed. There are two sleeping cabins, one forward and one aft, with generous double bunks. The central saloon is a bit unusual in that the wraparound settee and table are to starboard, the single settee to port (both would make excellent sea berths). Jeanneau has incorporated a rather ingenious feature into the port-settee arrangement: a movable navigation table that slides forward and over the settee when needed and aft and out of the way when not. The L-shaped galley is at the foot of the companionway, to starboard, and the head and shower stall just opposite, to port. In keeping with the boat's overall appeal, both are nicely executed.
See a photo gallery of the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 36i here.
Herb McCormick is a Cruising World editor at large.
Jeanneau SO 36i
LOA 35' 11'' (10.94 m.)
LWL 32' 3'' (9.84 m.)
Beam 11' 9'' (3.59 m.)
Draft (shoal) 4' 10'' (1.47 m.)*
Draft (deep/standard) 6' 11'' (2.10 m.)**/6' 4'' (1.94 m.)
Sail area (100%) 686 sq. ft. (63.7 sq. m)
Displacement (deep) 12,566 lb. (5,700 kg.)
Water 94 gal. (355 l.)
Fuel 34 gal. (130 l.)
Engine 29-hp. Yanmar diesel
Designer Marc Lombard
Base Price (sailaway) $160,000
Phone (410) 280-9400