Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 Deck Saloon

By: Patrick Bollen, Photography by: Patrick Bollen & Jeanneau

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Patrick ‘tenpin' Bollen went to France to test Jeanneau's latest Sun Odyssey 44 Deck Saloon, a magnificent yacht underway for socialising on deck and living down below

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 Deck Saloon
C'est magnifique!

Since 1957, when Henri Jeanneau built his first boat, the design and production team at the eponymous French yard have prided themselves on delivering superb sailing vessels. While many will contest there is no such thing - as every owner is likely to never be totally satisfied, be it sail or powerboat - the latest offering from Jeanneau makes a pretty good fist of a sailboat, delivering just about everything from performance to comfort and ease of handling.

Late last year, I flew to Les Sables d'Olonne on the west coast of France, about 50nm north of La Rochelle, to take a look at the brand-new Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 Deck Saloon. Les Sables (meaning The Sands) is the homeport and start/finish point of the world famous Vendée Globe single-handed and unassisted round-the-world yacht race, founded in 1989 by Phillipe Jeantot, which takes place every four years.

Linked to the sea since 1472, by the 17th century, Les Sables was the largest cod fishing port in France. On August 27, 1944, the occupying German army destroyed the port and mined the harbour. Today, Les Sables is a thriving holiday destination, with beautiful beaches and a protected marina facility, offering a safe harbour and services for local boaters and visiting yachties from all over the world. It is also the port from which Jeanneau launches and tests its new production models.

First sighting

Arriving at the marina with my host, Paul Blanc, Jeanneau director of sales Asia Pacific, I was introduced to Eric Stromberg, the design and operations manager for builder's yacht division. Stromberg took time out from his busy schedule, organising a day on the water in the notorious Bay of Biscay, so I could experience this new 44-footer. In the afternoon, we motored past the breakwall at Les Sables and the sea couldn't have been better.

Back in October, I saw two of Jeanneau's latest models on Sydney's Pittwater that belonged to members of the Royal Motor Yacht Club at Newport, and was impressed with the eye-catching appeal of these new-generation yachts.

Stem to stern

From bow to transom, the new Sun Odyssey is a pretty hull and, being a voluminous boat, her sheer beauty is a pleasure to behold. It is such a pretty yacht that, on first appearance, you feel you must investigate it further; if it looks this good on the outside, then the inside must be something again.

The 44 DS's lines are clean and she looks fast, even sitting at her mooring. The highly-respected French yacht designer Phillipe Briand has enjoyed a distinguished association with Jeanneau for many years, and his design has produced a yacht that not only looks good but handles and performs effortlessly.

Briand was born into a yacht racing family. Inspired by his Olympian father, he designed his first sailboat at age 16. During the 80s, as a skilled and talented helmsman, Briand won several World Championships, including the Half Ton and One Ton Cups. With this experience under his belt, he brought his ocean-racing savoir-faire to the design table, from which Jeanneau has benefited enormously.

Meanwhile, the deck and interior layouts on the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 DS are Franck Darnet and Flahault designs. "My life has always been about design and the sea," says Darnet. So with that in mind, he has endeavoured to achieve a bright and spacious main saloon, emphasising a wide and open visual space.

Below deck Having been on the water for almost 40 years, I must admit I thought I was about to witness pretty much more of the same, with just a tweak here and there. However, when I went below I was surprised by the volume and sense of space on the 44 DS.

The first thing that grabs you is just how open and bright everything is. The gently sloping cabin top features two enormous side windows as well as two overhead hatches-cum-skylights abaft the mast, affording persons below generous views of the ocean and loads of natural light. Maximum use has been made of the space from cabin sole to deck head and the bulkheads fore and aft. A choice of varnished timbers is available, too, from taupe to teak finishes.

The main saloon is akin to a large living room, incorporating a white leather chaise lounge opposite a U-shaped lounge around an electrically-powered revolving dining table, which folds into a coffee setting and also lowers to make a double berth. Adjacent, the chaise is a functional and unobtrusive navigation station, housing all the state-of-the-art instrumentation by Simrad. On the starboard side, aft of the dining area, is a fully functional galley with top-loading refrigeration, twin stainless steel sinks, four-burner gas stove and oven and heaps of storage.

Back window The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 DS offers several below-deck layouts. The boat tested was a four-person version, offering a monster full-beam aft cabin with king size bed. It is bright, spacious and airy, with several hatches and ports that offer good vision outside.

The pièce de résistance is the window behind the bedhead that offers views through the stepped transom bulkhead, astern to the sea - pure magic. Imagine waking up to a lapping-water view each morning. The forward cabin is luxurious, too, offering a huge double bunk with excellent light, much storage and good ventilation.

Darnet deck The deck on the 44 DS is big and again the work of Darnet. That certainly is the impression you get when you step into the spacious and comfortable cockpit, featuring a large centre table with storage. Looking forward from the dual steering stations, everything is well laid out - the primary winches located just forward of the helm for ease of control.

The jammers are also nicely positioned so the helmsman can easily operate sheets and halyards without leaving the wheel. Sheets rope back to the cockpit, with storage in seat lockers in the port and starboard coamings. The overall view of the deck from the cockpit is clear and open offering good vision both under sail and motoring. This allows the helmsman to be comfortable, able and in control when executing singlehanded sailing, racing or just cruising.

How does she sail?

A good question. Once we cleared the breakwall, head to breeze, we easily hoisted the main before easing away to unfurl the headsail. Trimmed for speed and close hauled, we set a course for the Caribbean in a steady 20-knot northwesterly on a lazy one-metre sea. Only one problem: we hadn't provisioned for a 3500nm passage across the Atlantic and we certainly didn't have enough beer. Oh well, the thought was there.

Back to the test. The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 44 DS performed well. On the breeze, the boat is soft in the sea, forthright and comfortable, letting down easy over the swells. It is just a dream to control, and letting go of the helm, the yacht was extremely well balanced. The 44 DS responds to the helm immediately and is good through the tack - with good teamwork, it was quick to get back to speed once through the tack.

The main and headsail respond well on trim and, once set up, the boat maintained good speed and momentum. Getting off the boat and into the dinghy to take some photographs of the boatbuilder's new pride and joy, I was, after sailing this lovely yacht again, impressed by the way it moves through the water.

The Sun Odyssey 44 DS looks at home on the sea and, as I said before, is an eye-catching craft. Pity I had to fly home as I was tempted to relieve the factory of one their new babies and set sail for St Thomas. Then I remembered it was winter in Europe and summer in the southern hemisphere.

Motoring back to Les Sables along the breakwall, I could hardly hear the 54hp Yanmar. The engine compartment is simple, tidy and well laid-out. Any diligent owner would be happy to keep this important area clean at all costs. You know what they say: look after your boat and it will look after you. After bidding farewell to Blanc, who had to fly to Hong Kong the next day, Stromberg and I headed to one of the quaint bars along the waterfront for a couple of cold beers to talk some more about the Jeanneau brand and the boat we'd just sailed. Stromberg is from Annapolis, Maryland, US. He spent most of his young life sailing and racing on Chesapeake Bay.

During our conversation, we - as seems to be the case so often in the yachting world - discovered many friends in common. It's a small world after all. He is passionate about his job and even more so about the Jeanneau product and brand: "We are a committed team. It is a wonderful company to work for and we all work hard together to deliver a magnificent sailing yacht that customers the world over enjoy so much. And we have a terrific backup and service operation through an extensive worldwide agency operation," he says.

For more information contact Orakei Yacht Sales, visit

We like Huge, comfortable, well laid-out cockpit Stepped transom Big, bright, open saloon Responsiveness under sail Quiet motor

We don't like Omnidirectional LED reading lights over the bunks Steering binnacles' grab rails are too low - there is a chance crew or guests may grab the wheel by accident moving about the cockpit


Material GRP Type Keelboat Length overall 13.34m Waterline length 12.99m Beam 4.24m Draft 2.2m (standard keel) Weight 9750kg (dry w/ deep-draft keel) Cabins 2/3 People (night) 4/6 + 2 Fuel tank 200L Water 330L Holding tank 80L Engine make/model Yanmar 4JH5-CE Type Diesel sail drive Rated hp 54 Sail area 77.6m² (standard)

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