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First date with the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 490

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-WorldCruising.com 31 Jan 21:30 UTC
Integrated prodder to not only carry the anchor roller, but also the tack for the code zero atop the bob stay, and then even further for'ard, there's the pad eye for the Ace - Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 490 © John Curnow

Clearly, I have had a thing for the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 490 ever since I first saw her. That was the 2018 Sydney International Boat Show, and she was there with her multi award-winning sister, the Sun Odyssey 440, which is also a tremendous vessel. Yet there is something about the 490’s particular lines from Philippe Briand that captivates, inspires, and instils confidence, desire, and passion, all the while hinting at her performance credentials.

There ensued some flirtations in editorials on this site, as I looked to establish what she has, and how she intended to go about things. We subsequently even had a speed date, in the form of a five-minute video, which you can also see below.

All of which means now is the time to talk about what happened, once we had the opportunity to go out on a real date, as it were. Not even the impending dark clouds, squally bullets, and beginning of precipitation could dampen the spirits. So instead of just talking about it, we slipped her off her mooring, and took off.

You know, Jeanneau’s Sun Odysseys are very much the quiet achievers. Steadily and steadfastly they go about making a real sales impact, as they retain their #1 status inside the mighty Groupe Beneteau. Yet the latest designs for Sun Odyssey 490, 440, and the even newer 410 are anything but quiet, even standing still!

Our test vessel was the standard rig version, which offers 110.4m2 of upwind sail area; a 120% furling genoa (53.60m2), and both it and the main (56.61m2) are horizontally cut Polyester. You can opt for an adjustable backstay, as well. There is also an in-mast furler available, with the consequential reduction in sail area (45.22m2). The optional self-tacking jib is 37.82m2 in area.

Now with the Performance version, you get 121.5m2 of working sail area, off the 1.6m longer (total of 19.61m now), and anodised stick. You also get a fully battened main, tri-radial cut in Mylar and taffeta of 62.7m2, and the heady (now 58.82m2) also uses the same pattern and materials. There is a hydraulic, textile, adjustable backstay, Dyform standing rigging, Dyneema low-stretch halyards, and sheets, for both the main and genoa, with Harken adjustable lead cars that you operate from control lines in the he cockpit. Other go-faster bits include composite wheels.

Selecting the downwind package for the asymmetric spinnaker (your sailmaker will have the final say, but assume 150-170m2 for the A2), or Code Zero (95.58m2 std rig and 102.3 on the big rig) means you get Spinlock clutches for the running rigging, two halyards, just the one sheet, but a Dyneema tack line and then blocks on the mast and quarters. There is also an additional Harken winch on the cabin top, and crucially, a hawk atop the rig.

Universally, the Sun Odyssey 490 utilises a cathedral rig with 22.7degree swept back twin spreaders. The benefits of this are less windage and weight aloft, whilst retaining strength. By moving the D1s inboard, you not only get a clear deck to walk through, you also allow for a greater overlap with the heady, and a tighter sheeting angle for better pointing.

Overall, there is more than a sense of Open 60 afforded by the low gooseneck, and upward rake of the boom. There’s a plum bow for maximum LWL. OK that’s pretty de rigueur these days, but the chine that runs her whole length, and the chamfer atop the gunwale, along with the slab sides, well it all ends up emphatically screaming, IMOCA. These are all very good things to have when you’re French.

The pretty taper to the sheer line, and very unimposing coachouse roof don’t necessarily indicate what is to come as you approach her from behind, and step aboard via the remote control swim platform. Twin wheels and rudders below them give an impression as to her beam, but the ability to move through her aft sections freely is almost enough for you to not take in the simple, short-handed style control lines that are nearly all fed aft so neatly to the helmer, and stored in cleverly disguised rope bags.

Only a few remain on the cabin top, and these also have the benefit of allowing you to change the running rigging slightly for round the cans racing, and create extra room for your crew to work.

So you take the helm, and then you really get to see the innovative ramps that complete the total walk around deck, which in conjunction with the inboard mounted D1s means your safety at sea whilst moving about is greatly enhanced. In the speed date video you will get to see exactly what I mean.

In an effort reduce all the usual clutter, there is a German mainsheet system, and whilst many things may, on paper anyway, appear to be very racy, they are all tried and tested, often under shorthanded conditions in horrific weather. This in turn makes the sailing simpler, more enjoyable, and safer, too.

Watching her take off after tacks, which again you can see in the video, you do think that she must be light, for we are looking at the standard rig. You’d be right, too, as she is something like a full metric tonne slimmer on the scales (11,290kg) than her nearest competitors. Less mass = less horsepower required to move her, so the standard rig is not struggling, as it does with many a craft. The 2.24m standard draft means she is plenty stiff, too. There is no performance bulb keel, just a shoal draft option.

Being lighter has not been afforded to the detriment of her strength, either. Rather, she is inherently stronger than many due to being resin infused, a process that allows for the correct amount of epoxy to placed into every section, and without any air pockets, each and every time they produce a hull. A lighter and stronger form is thus created.

Jeanneau also pioneered the use of injection moulding for many components like hatches, and cabin tops, and still make the largest forms under this sort of process, anywhere in the production boatbuilding business. That’s just plain clever, and again, lightness and strength are the big winners.

Both the Ace and the zero are mounted off the sturdy bowsprit. It integrates all the functions, including anchor roller, which is mounted near dead centre, along the with the tack for zero immediately atop the bobstay, as well as the one for the Ace at the tip. For passage work I think you would certainly want one, if not both of the big sails, as she screams express cruiser, and how much fun would that be. The performance version will be just as much of hoot, but yes, you will work a bit harder, and be going for the first slab as soon as 15+ is on offer. It will be a personal choice, but if there is enough gusto left in you, then it will probably be a no-brainer.

Once all the fun has gone, and it is time to motor into harbour, there is a 57hp Yanmar sail drive as standard, with an optional 80hp version on offer including dock assist with retractable bow and stern thrusters. One thing I did notice on the options list that could be very handy is the three-bladed folding screw, so if you like that extra bit of bite, then that is one tick worth placing in the box.

Innovation continues with this craft courtesy of the cockpit coamings that fold out to become huge sunbeds. I can see this being a winner in the Med, but don’t expect any really to be ordered for Southern Hemisphere customers. Still, it is a great idea, and adds even more amenity to the primary entertainment zone. Nice.

Below, our vessel had the three-cabin/two-head layout, which most private vessels will no doubt opt for. The galley is for’ard on this craft, ahead of the nav desk, which can be specced as a twin cabin to take her out to five in total, if that’s where you’re going. There is a also a four with four, and a two with two, with the huge area once occupied out aft and to port now becoming one massive, twin entry lazarette in that particular configuration.

Light, modern timber finishes set off the open space, and all the ports afford wonderful visibility and airflow. There is discreet, indirect LED lighting, and I really like seeing the D1s, and the tops of the chainpaltes, as it firmly establishes exactly where you are. There are Corian tops in the L-galley with two sinks, and cleverly thought out storage spaces, like the under deck wine locker.

However, I reckon the star below is the incorporation of the mast space into the dressing locker and wet room on the starboard side of the Owner’s Stateroom. It means it is not intruding into the main saloon, and by having the head to port, it offers a real sense of space and grandeur to the primary accommodation, and that is really cool.

Only a few brands are innovating and delivering new styled craft that can offer wide-open spaces with genuine performance cruiser potential. In this regard, the current Sun Odyssey range pretty much belts it out of the park. The Sun Odyssey will satisfy every sailor from ardent old salt, to those mastering the craft. She has so much amenity above and below deck, in the very much-required modern apartment style of living, that it is hard to fault. Yes it most certainly was a great first date.

Perhaps all of this is why I was left pondering the question, where to next? Island hopping, trans-Pacific voyaging, slipping into a stern to berth at St Tropez, or gliding into dinner at Cleopatra’s Bath in Hamam Bay all pop into mind. Ahhh. The choices. The choices….

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