The first time I saw the new Jeanneau 49i, I couldn’t help but admire its handsome color. The Kingston Gray hull was an eye-catcher, especially in the bright spring sunshine, and it helped the boat to stand out from the pack of white sailboats tied up for the Strictly Sail Pacific show at Jack London Square, in Oakland, California. That, of course, was the idea. The 49i had just landed in American waters, and the builder was counting on a rakish paint job to help ensure that the new arrival would make a memorable splash.
I paced the dock alongside of the 49i, my steps taking me from its sugar-scoop stern, with teak-trimmed steps to the cockpit, to the twin bow rollers mounted on its nearly plumb bow. I took in the low, sleek-looking white cabin top, the easy-to-navigate side decks, and the two leather-covered wheels and concluded that the 49i had the looks and feel of a big boat. Big enough to entertain a crowd around the optional teak drop-leaf table in the cockpit. Roomy enough below to accommodate family and friends in the comfort of three or four cabins. And with its fine entry, ample freeboard, solid shoulders, and beam carried aft, hefty enough to tame the infamous wind and chop awaiting us on San Francisco Bay.
Fitted out with Jeanneau’s performance package, which includes a 7-foot-9-inch cast-iron keel and a mast that’s a couple of feet taller than that found on a standard Sun Odyssey 49i, the boat begged to be taken for a romp as soon as the show broke up. Alas, that sailing date would have to wait, though, because a rigging glitch kept this particular 49i dockside while things got sorted out.
Instead, I got my first sail on the new 49i (the “i” refers to the injection-molded deck) last summer during a visit to Bayfield, Wisconsin, and Superior Charters, which is the Jeanneau dealer for that neck of the woods. The company had just taken delivery of a new boat for its charter fleet, and though the boat was booked up solid, I managed to borrow it for a couple of hours one morning and go for a ride. This 49i was dressed in standard white gelcoat and came with a 5-foot-7-inch shoal-draft keel. (The boat normally comes with a 7-foot-1-inch keel.) Using the optional bow thruster, we had no problem leaving the dock and the confines of the marina. Under power in light chop on Lake Superior, we cruised right along at 7.7 knots with the 75-horsepower Yanmar turning at 2,500 rpm; the readout on the GPS jumped to 9 knots when we ran wide open at 3,300 rpm. With the breeze coming on, we rolled the main out of the Sparcraft mast, pulled out the 140-percent genoa set on a Facnor furler, and sheeted in to see what the boat could do when closehauled. In about 10 knots of wind, we saw speeds in the mid 6-knot range, and when we cracked off onto a reach, we added another knot.
At the leeward wheel, it was easy to find a comfortable spot to sit, and the view of the telltales on the jib was excellent. As the breeze built into the low teens, the boat stood up well, and the knotmeter inched its way into the high 7s. I found the steering to be a bit stiff, probably due to the drag of the two wheels. On the other hand, once it was on course with the sails properly trimmed, the boat tracked along quite well on its own.
All sail-control lines on the Sun Odyssey 49i lead aft from the mast to rope clutches and winches on the cabin top. It’s inconvenient that the main sheet was led there as well because that meant I had to leave the wheel to make adjustments. However, access to the primary winches, which are slightly recessed into the deck and located just ahead of the wheels, is good.
Below, the saloon is well lit and airy, thanks to six opening hatches and long side windows on the cabin house. The 49i I visited in Oakland was a three-cabin model, with a large owner’s stateroom forward, which includes separate head and shower enclosures, and twin aft double cabins with a shared head. The boat I sailed in Bayfield had a four-cabin/four-head layout (with a removable panel to convert the forward space into one large cabin). The extra cabin would probably be beneficial in a boat bound for charter or for a family with many children, but I’d go for the version with the owner’s cabin forward if I were making the payments.
In the saloon, the design combines a wine locker and the nav station to starboard, so there’s lots of working space for laying out charts-or hors d’oeuvres. An in-line galley with double sinks, a fridge, and a freezer is to port. A centerline bench does double-duty as a brace for the cook and seating for the U-shaped dinette to starboard.
On deck, upper shrouds are led to chainplates on the hull while the lowers are taken to a fitting next to the cabin house, creating an easy path for sailors moving fore and aft. The forward-sloping coachroof is also easy to navigate, with good nonskid in all areas, including the rounded corners of the house. Just aft of the anchor locker, designer Philippe Briand and the Jeanneau design team included a deep sail locker that I found somewhat baffling, since all sails are furled. The locker’s deep enough to need a ladder, so fenders and lines stored there would be hard to retrieve, but with some owner creativity, shelves could be installed.
All in all, the new Sun Odyssey 49i is a well-laid-out boat with enough volume and comfort to allow an owner to entertain in port while offering all the performance you need under sail to leave a cruising couple or family with smiles on their faces at the end of a journey or an afternoon on the water.
Mark Pillsbury is CW’s senior editor.
LOA 49′ 5″ (15.06 m.)
LWL 42′ 7″ (12.98 m.)
Beam 14′ 9″ (4.50 m.)
Draft (standard) 7′ 1″ (2.16 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 994 sq. ft. (92.3 sq. m.)
Ballast 8,269 lb. (3,751 kg.)
Displacement 27,783 lb. (12,602 kg.)
Water 162 gal. (613 l.)
Fuel 63 gal. (238 l.)
Mast Height 64′ 0″ (19.51 m.)
Engine 75-hp. Yanmar
Designer Philip Briand