Jeanneau Sunfast 3200

By: Alan Whiting, Photography by: Ellen Dewar


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Jeanneau is famous for its comfortable cruising yachts, but its Sunfast breed has many dedicated followers in racing circles, too. Alan Whiting takes the tiller of the new 3200, a popular short-handed ocean racer that’s slippery and seakindly.

Jeanneau Sunfast 3200
Jeanneau Sunfast 3200
  • Ease of shorthanded sailing
  • Great performance
  • Roomy cockpit
  • Large aft cabins and spacious saloon

The 3200 features a fine entry and wedge-like shape culminating in a broad stern (with twin rudders). The vacuum-bagged construction embraces a foam-cored deck and balsa-cored hull. The main bulkhead and the watertight for’ard bulkhead are both composite moulded.

The spars are aluminium, in the interests of cost control, and the mast is keel-stepped on top of a stainless steel reinforcing frame to which the keel bolts. The iron-lead keel is L-shaped and tips the scales at 1300kg, for a ballast-to-displacement ratio of 38%.

The rig is 19/20ths — not quite masthead — with wide, swept-back twin spreaders, upper and lower diagonals, and a tackle-adjustable backstay. A stubby, triangulated bowsprit is standard.

Our test boat was fitted with asymmetric spinnaker gear, but the sprit can just as easily mount a furler for a Code Zero or gennaker, in conjunction with a conventional kite and pole.

The vang consists of conventional tackle for tensioning, but is backed up with a curved boom support made from two lengths of composite tubing, clamped together. This ‘crutch’ supports the boom, but is designed to be flexible enough to kick up should the boom drag in the water when the boat is pressed hard.

Twin tillers

The huge cockpit would do justice to a 45-footer, but has some design quirks that reflect the boat’s vocation as a shorthanded racer or cruiser. The two tillers are different for a start, but it’s just a visual thing.

The port and starboard helming positions have comfortable seating outboard and the aft-set sheet winches are also within easy reach of the helmsman. This layout means the boat is easily sailed one-handed when cruising. When racing, the crew can rail-sit while the skipper steers and adjusts trim.

There’s a large, lidded bin between the tillers for housing a liferaft. The bin’s stern end is open, so water can’t collect in it. The companionway entrance is raised, creating an inbuilt storm board.

A large deck hatch provides light and ventilation in the saloon and a second bow hatch opens above a sail bin for’ard of the head/shower and just aft of the collision bulkhead.

Franco-minimalism

The layout below decks is French-minimalist, but quite comfortable for racing or cruising crews. The chart area has a moulded plastic seat that offers good support and the galley is shaped for the cook’s stability at sea. Both these flat areas and the dinette table have simulated carbon-fibre surfaces and tall fiddles that double as hand-holds.

Six can sit comfortably in the saloon, but the table is tiny and needs to be supplemented with drop sides. The settees double as berths and there’s ample netted storage space behind the back cushions.

For’ard of the saloon is the head/shower recess, behind a lightweight, vestigial sliding door. The head opens onto a huge sail storage area.

The two cabins are set aft and come with double bunks and lined interiors. Instead of wooden doors are zip-open fabric panels, much like tent doorways, and the ‘wardrobes’ in the cabins are also made from zippered fabric.

In the interests of light weight the saloon roof is unlined, with projecting fasteners and a slightly rough, coated surface. It won’t worry full-on racers, but it’s a blast from the yacht-building past for cruising types and the houseproud.

On the water

The twin-tiller cockpit looked strange as I took control at the starboard steering station, where the engine speed and direction lever is located.

Under power, the Jeanneau motored happily at five-plus knots and easily managed six knots, albeit with some prop pulsing against the hull from the close-fitted saildrive. The tiller action was light, without any torque steering.

The mainsail went up easily, thanks to powerful halyard winches and a two-line lift, via a block on the headboard. The headsail was also simple to hoist, being rigged with piston hanks, rather than the more common forestay foil.

The boat bore away on a broad reach and, once we were in the main channel, the heady was dropped and the asymmetric spinnaker went up.

Gybing a tiller yacht is normally straightforward, but the twin-tiller arrangement needed some technique modifications. The mainsheet layout points to the easiest method for crossing the boat to the new windward tiller, because there’s a person-sized vee-shaped space between the mainsheet falls.

The sheet runs forward from the aft traveller up to blocks on the boom and down to the mainsheet blocks and cleats, leaving room for the helmsman to duck under the boom, slip between the mainsheet falls and slide into position beside the windward tiller. The movement is made easier by the docile rudders that hold station through the tack, until the helmsman’s hand resumes its control.

As I found out later in our test sail, when on the wind, the sheet moves farther inboard — particularly if the traveller is hauled up to windward — so the boat can be steered comfortably from the windward or the leeward tiller.

When crossing the boat, the helmsman needs to tread on the lid of the central storage bin and this flexed noticeably under my 85kg weight. I understand future 3200s will have the lid strengthened.

The asymmetric kite tacks to a triangulated mini-sprit that doesn’t provide much space between the forestay and the kite luff. That made gybing the kite with the sheet inside the kite a tad tricky. The cure is gybing it outside and the Jeanneau boys are intending to fit a short-sheet catcher to the sprit.

The Jeanneau 3200 is designed for shorthanded sailing, so the mainsheet, traveller and backstay controls are oriented to the helm positions. However, a mainsheet hand can work the coarse-tune sheet from forward of the helm, because this sheet feeds through a swivelling cam cleat.

The fine-tune runs through fixed cleats, but they are duplicated on both sides of the sheeting pedestal. The backstay adjustment lines are also duplicated for the helmsman to use on either tack. The traveller locks in place, so it doesn’t need to be set before tacking to stop it rushing to the end of the track. The helmsman can reset the traveller after a tack, without having to grope all the way down to leeward.

Balanced Helm

The helm feel is one of the best I’ve experienced. It was light enough to operate with two-finger pressure in wind strength up to 16kts and any loading indicated incorrect sail trim or boat direction. I was surprised at the lightness of the tillers’ actions, because they’re relatively short, in the interests of easy crew mobility around them.

The Jeanneau pointed high when on the wind — around 30 to 32 degrees? — yet still managed respectable upwind speed of six-plus knots in 13kts of breeze, which is close to the designer’s prediction. The outboard steering stations gave the helmsman excellent view of the headsail tell-tails and more sight of the chord than is possible with narrower-beam boats.

The Jeanneau 3200’s broad stern implies stability and that’s how it was. Even when deliberately over-sheeted the 32-footer was stiff and reacted favourably to crew weight on the rail. The toerail design is very clever, with a raised section inboard, to act as a shoe-stopper and a comfortable, flat section on the gunwale that will please rail-sitters. The cockpit floor has raised, prism-shaped moulded footrests for the crew and the helmsman, allowing slip-free hiking.

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Specifications

LOA 10.10m
LWL 8.55m
Bream 3.48m
Draught 1.9m
Weight 3400kg
Ballast 1300kg
Engine 15hp Yanmar
Mainsail 33.5m²
Headsail 28.5m²
Spinnaker 83m²
Aysmmetric 86m²

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