The Boat of the Year judges do not award a Most Innovative prize every year. It takes something particularly inventive and original that catches their collective eye. For 2018, there was such a boat, which is why they pinned the title on the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440, a pioneering, groundbreaking design.
“This boat impressed me both at the dock and under way,” said Tim Murphy. “When a high-production boatbuilder brings a new model to market, and because we’re considering this boat for an innovation award, we should ask two questions: Which features are innovative in the context of previous Jeanneaus, and which features are innovative in the entire market where this boat competes?
“Compared to previous Jeanneaus,” Murphy continued, “the 440 introduces the innovation of separating the mast compression post from the cabin’s main bulkhead, which is moved forward in this boat, trading more interior volume in the main saloon for less volume in the master cabin forward. That’s a major change from previous Jeanneaus in this size range, and provides for a much more spacious main saloon, but this change alone wouldn’t merit a BOTY award for Most Innovative.” Murphy noted the portable 12-volt Isotherm cooler and portable grill as interesting features, but also not enough to warrant special recognition.
“What sets the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 440 apart in the market is all in the aft quarters: innovative side decks and outstanding ergonomics at the helm, together with winged transformable coamings that convert to sun beds,” he said. “From forward of the mast, the side decks are kept clear, first with lower shrouds set inboard and upper shrouds outboard for easy passage. Most innovative in this market, the side decks slope downward as you move aft. To give an idea of the slope, forward of the cockpit, the lifelines are 24 inches high, typical of this class. But as you move aft, the lifelines and then the pushpit are 38 inches high. This makes for an eminently secure transition from the cockpit to the side decks — one of the most vulnerable places on any boat in terms of safety under way. On the 440, that transition feels uncommonly secure, not just compared to boats in this class but compared to the entire fleet.
“The helm seats are comfortable,” he added. “The rig’s split backstays terminate slightly inboard on the transom; instead of conflicting with comfortable seating at the helm, they provide a secure, comfortable handhold. Most importantly of all, the engine controls, gauges, and chart plotter are all laid out for exemplary visibility. The large-face engine tachometer was arguably the most visible in the fleet, and the navigation screens were set outboard from the helm so that you didn’t have to reach through the wheel’s spokes to engage them and you didn’t have to contort your body to see them. Also, the 440’s designers gave priority to foot traffic through the cockpit from the swim step to the companionway by making the cockpit asymmetrical. Flow-through on this boat on deck truly is exemplary.”
Bill Bolin also chimed in: “We did test several models that push the steering stations aft and outboard to snuggle the helmsman into the stern railings, but no one executed it as well as Jeanneau did with the 440. Eliminating stepping over the coamings to go forward by making the aft side decks on the same level as the cockpit sole also made for wonderful security sitting or standing at a wheel. Combined with the lower shrouds moved inboard and the asymmetrical cockpit layout, the boat was among the easiest monohulls to get around on deck. The flip-down coamings were also superbly executed, converting the cockpit from an offshore haven to an anchorage sun deck in just a couple of quick moves, with no redundant cushion issues.”
This article will appear in the January 2018 issue of Cruising World Magazine.