The latest fashion trend in the marine industry is the hard chine. Although touted as ultra-modern, this idea is not new at all, but rather an old one revived. Traditionally, hard chines were found on steel and plywood vessels because those materials, unlike fiberglass, are difficult to shape into compound curves. But it has been inadvertently discovered that hard chines possess additional advantages. The angular shape of the chines running the length of the hull acts as longitudinal stiffeners. The flat under-surface of the chine enhances form stability and the sharpness of the chine’s submerged edge increases the lateral resistance of the hull. Perhaps of more importance to the modern, volume-driven designer is that the chine adds a few inches to the interior right where it’s most needed, at berth level aft.
I must confess that I’ve owned two hard chine boats and have never found them to be as aesthetically displeasing as many. In fact, I find the signature look of the new Jeanneau 379 quite attractive. But aesthetics aside, designer Marc Lombard has created a performance cruiser that’s impressive on many levels.
The moment I stepped onboard, I sensed that this was a boat designed by a real sailor for real sailors. First, Lombard addresses several safety issues. For example, I found numerous pad-eyes strategically placed to hook safety tethers onto, as well as jackline hardware already installed. The non-skid is aggressive, the pushpit, pulpit, and stanchions are robust. There are numerous handholds in the cockpit and leading well forward. The dodger is small and very strong. The shrouds and tracks are installed well inboard, leaving the flow forward unobstructed. The numerous lines running aft to the cockpit are covered with a sea-hood, leaving the decks clean and clear of obstructions.
A designated life raft well, with stout fasteners already in place, makes the deployment of a raft viable in the roughest of weather. The hatch board is indestructible and when not in use stows nicely in its own shelf.
There is unobstructed access to the sheeting functions from either of the twin helms. I cannot overstate how important this is to the safe conduct of any sailing vessel.
The twin helms create redundancy in the steering system. Next, they give the helmsperson a clear view of the sails on either tack, and they can choose which side to steer from in close-quarter docking. From the clever drop-down transom moving forward, the flow thought the cockpit is unobstructed. A large cockpit table doubles as the navigation console visible to both helms.
The cockpit has enormous stowage lockers, but I would like to see the holes housing the drop-down transom lines fitted with better gaskets and/or the lockers made self-draining.
The flush foredeck has substantial twin rollers, a recessed windlass, and a large rode locker.
I applaud Marc Lombard for his deceptively simple yet sophisticated deck layout. But layout alone does not make a performance cruiser. Speed and stability enter the equation, and the 379 delivers both in spades.
It’s offered in a deep-draft version, a shoal wing keel, and a shoal swing keel with twin rudders. A shoal draft version of any hull typically looses eight to 10 percent of its windward performance. But through complex computer design, the swing keel 379 has been tank tested to give up only three percent of peak performance, a meager price to pay for the versatility of three-foot seven-inch draft.
This is the version we tested out on the Chesapeake, and I was an immediate convert to the twin rudder concept. First, as with the twin helms, a certain redundancy is built in. Then, even on a heavy heel the lee rudder remains vertical, and therefore maintains its lateral resistance and positive steering grip.
The sail plan is generous with 754 square feet of main and a 132-percent headsail. With a 35-percent ballast ration and a deep CG, the 379 stands up well to its canvas.
While perhaps not absolutely as convenient as in-mast furling, the lazy jack/stack-pack system allows the mainsail to carry substantial roach and full battens. Without question this amps up the sailing performance, for in a breeze of only 10 to 12 knots, we held a solid 7.5 knots hard on the wind. I found the boat to be well balanced, pleasantly responsive, easy to tack, and it tracked like a train.
The motoring was equally impressive. The Yanmar 29-horsepower diesel pushed the boat with power to spare. The boat turned in nearly its own length and backed with precision. The Lewmar helms and engine controls are as smooth as silk.
The interior might be described as Nordic modern with a blend of light woods mixed with white vinyl panels. While hitting an impressive price point, the fit and finish does not feel cheap or chintzy. To the contrary, the overall feeling is one of a bright and comfortable living space.
I find the two-cabin/single head option to be the most efficient use of space on a 37 footer. This offers sufficient berths with privacy and a spacious main saloon, while still incorporating a cavernous stowage space behind the head/shower compartment.
The L-shaped galley to starboard includes double SS sinks, ample counter space, a twin burner stainless-steel stove/oven, utilitarian stowage lockers, a large pullout garbage bin, and very clever soft-return hardware on the drawers.
The main saloon has a large drop-leaf table set to starboard, and a single settee to port with a navigation station at its aft end.
While wanting to appear hard hitting and discerning, I am hard pressed to find any criticisms of this boat. It’s the rare boat I test that I would personally want to own and operate. But for me the 379 hits its marks perfectly regarding safety, size, style, speed, accommodation and equipment. Add to that Jeanneau’s commendable 2-year “bumper to bumper” warranty and a five-year osmosis guarantee and you have a hard-chined, hard-driving, hard bargain to beat.
The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey is a Cruising World 2012 Boat of the Year winner.