Boat Review October 1, 2003 Issue

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 32

The Sun Odyssey 32 and Sun Fast 32i are two versions of the same boat, designed by Philippe Briand. The attractive combination may well capture a good share of the market in this size slot.

Following its founding in 1956 by Henri Jeanneau, and subsequent sale and resales, Chantiers Jeanneau SA became, in 1995, a member of the Beneteau family of power and sailboat builders. Forty-plus years after its start, the company has produced 60,000 boats, and currently launches 4,000 boats annually, of which 1,200 to 1,500 are sailboats. The US market accounts for 100 to 125 sailboats. All are built in France, and range in size from 17 to 54 feet.

Skeptics assumed that the absorption of the smaller company would result in the loss of its identity, but results are the opposite. Beneteau and Jeanneau share the same top management, but marketing and dealer networks are separate operations.Paul Fenn, president of Jeanneau America, and Wayne Burdick, president of Beneteau USA, are friendly rivals who enjoy a spirited competition in the sales arena, competing for both buyers and dealers.

Jeanneau benefited significantly in two areas following the merger. Its position as a purchaser of raw materials was significantly enhanced, and it gained better access to new technology than it would have had it remained on its own. A primary example is the parent company's response to France's institution of regulations requiring the elimination of styrene vapor emissions by 2008. With the cash available to invest in new technology, the company is now using more environmentally friendly machinery and techniques.

The Sun Odyssey 32 has a tiller as standard gear, and big, uncluttered cockpit. She sailed well in our test, but we'd like to try her racier sister, the Sun Fast 32i.
The deck of the Sun Odyssey 32, for example, is constructed with a closed-mold, resin-infusion method that meets the new standard. In the process, glass fiber is placed between steel male and female tooling, the molds are sealed, and resin is pumped into the laminate. So, in addition to controlling vapor, more precise glass-to-resin ratios are achieved, as are smoother surfaces. Though still in the developmental stages, the concept is similar to SCRIMP and vacuum-bagging techniques that are becoming more commonplace among high-end production manufacturers. The issue raises questions about the future of small manufacturers required to adapt in a regulatory environment.


Both companies also enjoy what Jeanneau describes as a "sympathetic government eager to protect domestic industries," an attitude that has, perhaps, contributed to the conglomerate's ability to enjoy substantial market share at home and abroad.

Sun Odyssey models are known primarily as cruising boats with full interiors and a turn of speed; the Jeanneau Sun Fast line lives on the performance-oriented side of the design arena, but offers identical creature comforts.

That Jeanneau simultaneously introduced the Sun Odyssey 32 and Sun Fast 32i is unusual, but provides potential buyers with an opportunity to compare two boats with identical hulls and decks that have significantly different sailplans and displacement. That's a far cry from awaiting the introduction of a performance version of a new model during the decision making process.

Veteran designer Philippe Briand is credited with the lines of the 32-footer, which combines good looks and large interior volume with sprightly performance.

In profile, she carries the combination of nearly plumb bow and reverse-transom that has characterized modern performance cruising sloops since Bruce Farr began the trend in the 1980s. However, compared to early French models, the intersection of her low, forward-sloping cabintop and the deck, coupled with triangle-shaped portlights, presents a sleek appearance. Her sheer line is nearly flat.

Despite having a large inventory of halyards and sail controls, her deck layout is clean. A wide beam carries aft to a wide transom, defined by a swim platform and two seats that break up what otherwise would be a broad slab. Like so many other designers these days, Briand tries here to maximize interior volume, cockpit space, and transom access without wrecking the looks of the boat. He succeeds better than most. Of course, you have to enjoy the plumb-stem, wide-transom look to begin with, and to do that you have to appreciate form following function.

Steering and Deck Layout
Our first pleasant surprise upon stepping aboard the test boat was that a major manufacturer is producing a 32-foot cruising boat with tiller steering. Always at issue is whether a tiller requires more strength to manage than a wheel, and there's no question that in many cases it does. It is observed, for example, in the venerable Skene's Elements of Yacht Design, that in order to steer a boat with the same amount of force needed to turn a 28" pedestal wheel, you would need a tiller 12'9" long.

Of course, tillers far shorter than that do work, and on boats much bigger than 32 feet. Much depends on how the rudder is balanced, how the boat is balanced, and where the center of effort is in the sailplan. When all is in harmony, a tiller is responsive to the touch, rarely heavy to handle, and obviously simple, with no extra moving parts to break. While it can make some maneuvers tricky for a full cockpit crew under sail, it allows easy movement forward and aft, and can generally be lifted completely out of the way when the boat is at rest, opening the cockpit entirely.

Assuming that the boat can be steered easily enough with a tiller, the biggest trade-off is the loss of the pedestal, which today is home to so many instruments and controls, tables, and drink holders, that the Keene brothers at Edson must be getting hard-pressed to find room for more.

Both models of the 32-footer are equipped with Sparcraft masts, though the SO is deck-stepped, the SF keel- stepped. The SO is fitted with stainless steel wire rigging and one set of swept spreaders; the SF with rod rigging and double spreaders. Shrouds on the SF are farther inboard, to create closer sheeting angles.

The sail inventory on the SO is factory- supplied Technique Voile sails constructed of Bainbridge's HSX hybrid Dacron. Jeanneau says the fabric is lighter than conventional Dacron, so produces less weight aloft, and is more tightly knit and durable. The sails also have a softer hand. The mainsail carries 80% battens that are easy to trim while producing excellent shape. Boats are equipped with a split backstay, but the owner of our test boat added a block and tackle arrangement that improves and simplifies tuning.

Jeanneau has equipped the boat with its version of a mainsail stacking system, a "lazy bag sailcover with lazy jacks." In operation, the main is easily doused between lines and stacked inside a zippered sailcover attached to the boom. To our eye, the bag looks a bit flappy when the sail is up. The Doyle StackPack would be a neater alternative. Forward, the headstay is equipped with a 135% genoa and Profurl furler.

A significant difference exists between the gear and arrangement of mainsail controls on the two models. The SO mainsheet is led from the middle of the boom to blocks located port and starboard on the coachroof forward of a spray dodger that houses instruments and provides a surface for the addition of a canvas dodger. Though the arrangement is easily manageable and keeps clutter out of the cockpit, it compromises the ability to tweak the mainsail.

The SF is equipped with more efficient end-boom sheeting, and a mainsail traveler in the cockpit at the helmsman's fingertips. The price is paid in some clutter and the loss of cockpit space. The SF also is equipped with a solid vang.

Our test boat was equipped with Harken 16 self -tailing winches on the cabintop. These are single-speed winches, but we'd go for the optional two-speed winches, and a second winch to port. The standard arrangement leads mainsheet, outhaul, and jib halyard to a Spinlock XAS sheetstopper to starboard. A separate stopper handles the furler line. To port, a triple rope clutch controls two reef lines and the main halyard. Spinnaker gear adds the need for at least one additional double stopper.

Cockpit seats are generous, measuring nearly 7' long and and 15"wide, with 12" backrests, and so provide support and length to fully recline. The footwell allows plenty of room for crew to stretch their legs.

The length of the cockpit on the centerline from the tiller to the companionway is 73". A nice touch is that the helm seat drops out of the way to the cockpit sole, allowing swimmers and passengers easy access through the stern. Cockpit stowage is in a 38" long, 20" deep locker with a false floor that provides room for stores and an inflatable dinghy. Space below the seat to port is occupied by a stateroom.


Decks are 14" wide, and handrails span recesses on the cabintop, providing a full grip without interfering with her low profile. Tracks for headsail leads on the SO are near the base of the cabin, but there's an absence of track for outboard sheeting of headsails or spinnakers. However, eyes welded into the base of the stern pulpit provide places to secure turning blocks when flying a drifter or spinnaker.

The space at the bow is large enough for crew work, but too short for sunbathing. The anchor locker is a sealed compartment designed to store an anchor, chain, and rope secured to a Lofrans electric winch that is standard gear.

Spaces in the saloon are fairly conventional. Notable characteristics are a minimum headroom of 6'1" throughout, a minimal nav station, and the extensive use of teak and teak veneers, including battens on a white headliner running the length of the 9'6" long, 6'9" wide cabin. The headliner is secured by screws, and can be removed to reach deck hardware.

Add several portlights and hatches, including two in the hull at eye level when seated, and she has a feeling of spaciousness.

The port settee measures 5'7", and will seat 3-4 adults at the table, positioned on the centerline. Elevate a table leaf, and four passengers to starboard also have a dining surface. The wine is close at hand in a compartment recessed in the center of the table. Storage is below and outboard of the settees, and on shelves running the length of the hull.

The navigator faces aft at a chart table measuring 28" x 20" with a 4" deep storage area. A fuse panel is outboard, and fixed with screws rather than a piano hinge. Space for instruments is at a premium on a small bulkhead, though adequate for small GPS and VHF units. Outside, instruments will need to be mounted on the aft end of the house, and be large and well-lit enough to see from the tiller. Here's where instrument fanciers may begin to miss that Edson pedestal.

The chef will operate in a smallish, C-shaped space that has all of the tools of the trade: two burner stove-oven, single stainless steel sink, dry locker outboard, and refrigerator aft. The working surface is 31" wide, so elbow room is adequate, and storage is in several cabinets and drawers.

A bi-fold door encloses the forward cabin, which has adequate space for dressing and 6'2" of headroom. The berth measures 6'1" on the centerline, but comes to a sharp V at the foot. Storage is in a hanging locker, on shelves, and below the berth in a space shared with a water tank.

The aft cabin is an almost-queen-sized, almost-square area, that allows bunkmates to sleep athwartships more comfortably than fore and aft. The space is ventilated by a port in the cockpit, but could do with a second that would allow the aftmost passenger more ventilation.

A large storage cabinet outboard shares space with a stainless steel holding tank aft of the head, above the waterline to allow for a gravity drain. The steel tank should be less odorous than PVC.

On balance, the area belowdecks provides space to lounge, is well organized, functional, and well appointed. Finishes on fiberglass surfaces and wood joinery are quite good. Cabins will accommodate four crew comfortably, and light and ventilation are adequate.

Jeanneau continues to build solid fiberglass hulls in the traditional manner with production workers hand- laying fiberglass and distributing resin with rollers. After NPG gelcoat is sprayed on the mold, layers of woven roving are laminated with vinylester resin, which is gradually becoming the industry standard. However, polyester resins are employed in the layup of the final layers of mat and roving. The use of chopped strand mat is disdained.

The companyuses a grid system constructed of laminated plywood bonded to the hull and glassed with biaxial or unidirectional cloth, after which stringers are bonded to the hull sides. It continues the use of plywood in the stringers rather than lighter products.

All of the furniture bases for cabinetry are molded in a single pan that is bonded to the hull with epoxy. Cutouts in the pan accommodate underwater transducers and seacocks, and those areas are easily accessible for maintenance. Similarly, wires are run through heavy hoses to reduce chafe and ease modifications and maintenance.

Economies of scale are reflected in the methods employed in the construction of cabinetry. In previous years, Jeanneau's joinery was considered to be slightly above average; more recently, computer-controlled woodcutting equipment is producing cuts that are within thousandths of an inch of specifications, and the final product evidences the changes. Varnishes are applied mechanically.

Both boats are constructed to meet varying European CE standards, depending upon crew size.

With assistance from Dan Krier of Marine Sevicecenter of Seattle, and a willing client of his , we tested the SO on a balmy morning on Puget Sound. The wind built to 13 knots during our test sail (before fading away later) and she performed well with the full main and 135% genoa. In 5 knots of breeze she sailed close-hauled at 3.5 to 4.5 knots; when winds piped up to 10-13 knots speed ranged from 5 to 6.3 knots. The semi-balanced rudder and tiller produced slight weather helm at the upper range, just about right, and the boat responded quickly to every move of the tiller. At 15° of heel she settled into a comfortable groove, close to the wind, and tacked within 90°.

With sheets eased and sailing on a broad reach in 9-10 knots of wind, speed held steady in the 6-knot range. We think she'll add a couple of knots of boatspeed under a cruising or conventional spinnaker.


She tracked well and felt buoyant in the near-flat conditions. We'd want to sail her in heavier chop to better evaluate her motion if we planned on sailing offshore or in high-wind areas like San Francisco. And we'd sure like to compare the performance of the SO32 and her almost-twin sister.

Under power, her standard 18-hp Yanmar pushed her quietly at 6 knots in the calm water (a Yanmar 3GM 27 would be a wiser option in some areas), and her 4'11" fin keel produced good tracking and maneuverability in a tight marina.

Here's how she stacks up to two similar-sized, contemporary production boats, the Catalina 320 and J/32.

The Catalina 320, designed primarily as a couples boat, or for a family with young children, measures 34'3" overall, including the bow pulpit, and 32'6" on deck, with a 28' waterline. Her beam is 11'9", and draft with fin keel 6'3". According to Catalina, her approximate weight is 11,300 lbs., including 4,000 pounds of ballast. Total sail area is 521 square feet, assuming a 100% foretriangle. Her SA/D is 16.5, on the high end of the low-power scale. The current price is approximately $91,000, FOB the factory.

The J/32, the most recently introduced J/Boat not equipped with a sprit, measures 32'5" on deck, has a 29' waterline, and 11' beam. She draws 6', displaces 10,000 lbs., and carries 3,850 lbs. in her keel. Her SA/D is 18 (100% foretriangle), in the middle of the moderate scale. When introduced in 1997, the base boat retailed for $109,000. Base price today is $157,000.

The SO32 measures 31'5" at the stem, but her LWL is 27'11", within inches of the 310, but a foot shorter than the J-Boat. She's the narrowest of the three, has a standard draft of 4'11", and displacement of 10,009 lbs. She carries 3,020 lbs. in her keel.

The Sun Fast 32i has the same hull and deck as her sister. Her displacement is 9,237 lbs., the keel is 6'5" deep, with 2,491 lbs. of ballast, so she's significantly lighter, with most of the weight removed from the keel. Normally, this would make her more tender, but the added keel depth puts weight and leverage lower, and so compensation is made at the cost of added draft.

The interior layout and tankage are identical. A high-aspect mainsail is 11" shorter on the foot, but the sailplan is balanced by a larger headsail. Her mainsail carries 275 square feet, her genoa 307 square feet, and a spinnaker 721 square feet.

Most recent pricing for the SO32 is $90,575; the SF32i list price is $95,575, FOB East Coast. Options with the SO32 include a mainsail furler ($1,620), and cockpit table on steering wheel pedestal ($700). Additional standard gear on the SF32i includes spinnaker halyard, foreguy and topping lift, spinnaker gear and barber hauler, tweaker system on the mainsail, and rigid boom vang. Sails are not included in her base price. An owner can expect to spend $4,337 for factory sails, or more for a performance inventory.

Jeanneau struggled for quite a while to create a presence in the US, a task made difficult by ownership changes in the '90s. Today, Jeanneau joins its sister company as a real competitor in the US market. With the Sun Odyssey 32 and Sun Fast 32i , the company has introduced boats that will appeal to a broad spectrum of sailors at prices designed to compete with major American production builders.

The boat is well designed, constructed, outfitted, and sails well. We'd like to know how she goes in stiff breezes and bumpy water.

Contact - Jeanneau America, 410/280-9400,

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

New to Practical Sailor?
Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In