Sometimes a boat comes along that does so many things well, and is such a downright joy to sail and maneuver, that its excellence simply cannot be denied. In 2019, one such yacht — a blend of innovation, intelligence and execution — rose to the top over a slew of worthy competitors. In a year when production boats ruled the roost, the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 490 — designed, conceived and built in France — took on and surpassed all the others, and in doing so, has been named 2019’s Import Boat of the Year.
That the 490 took the overall prize without winning an individual category is noteworthy. But the Philippe Briand design sealed its trip to the winner’s circle in a devastating display of sailing prowess during Chesapeake Bay sea trials conducted in a stiff northerly gusting well over 20 knots. The yacht was comfortable, easily handled and hauled the mail. The judging panel agreed unanimously that it was a championship performance.
“They’ve done so many really nice things,” said Tim Murphy. “It’s easy to move around the split backstays. Going forward, it’s the same with the inboard shrouds. And in those very gusty conditions, those twin rudders really worked. The boat answered its twin helms throughout the test sail. It was a real treat to sail.
“This series of Jeanneaus marks their eighth generation of boats,” he continued. “The’ve built 18,000 boats by now, so this is a big company that’s put a lot of boats out there. They’re very aware of their market and their competition. And I really think they know what their potential owners are looking for in a yacht.”
“The deck access forward from the cockpit to the coachroof is one of the most revolutionary things I’ve seen on new sailboats,” said Ed Sherman. “The cockpit is spacious and uncrowded. At the helm, it’s one of the few boats where you can see the engine instrumentation. The company representatives made a big deal during our dockside inspections about how quiet the interior is underway. My decibel tests confirmed that. It wasn’t BS. Motoring along, at slow rpm we recorded 66 decibels and a speed of 5.6 knots. At fast rpm we made 8 knots, which is perfectly adequate, and only recorded 69 decibels. I loved it.”
“On some boats during powering tests, I throw the helm over and they’re immediately unstable,” said Alvah Simon.
“Not the 490. This thing was a sled, it just turned right on a track, with authority. And once we’d raised the sails, just look how it stood up to its canvas. The ergonomics in the cockpit, including the winches, were nothing short of perfect. And I’ve always been skeptical about the chines on modern boats, but not anymore. They had the courage to take the chine the full length of the waterline where it actually creates more stability and even lateral resistance. Once you heel to 10 degrees, it digs in and stays there. I think that’s what explains the stability. I’m not sure it would be as effective when scaled down to models with shorter waterlines, but with 49 feet they have the space to make these ideas work. This thing is truly a player. I think they’ve got a winner here.”
Indeed they do, Alvah. Indeed they do.
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