Is this the ideal entry-level small family cruiser? Chris Beeson thinks the Sun Odyssey 349 is very, very close
What’s she like to sail?
Our test sail for Jeanneau’s new Sun Odyssey 349 took place in pretty punchy conditions, gusty with up to 30 knots over the deck upwind. Despite the fact that we had taken in both of the main’s two reefs we were still overpowered but, with the main feathered off and the jib’s leech open, she bounded upwind with great enthusiasm. She would lean on her chines in a gust and just accelerate. Tremendous fun. It’s the control from the twin rudders that make the difference, making it seem like the wind is a couple of forces lower.
According to the stats, she’s similar in performance and speed potential to the Dehler 34, also quite sporty, so there’s no reason to think that she won’t go well in lighter conditions too, sailing the angles with a furling cruising chute set off the bowsprit.
Helm positions enable the skipper to take her through tacks and gybes without disturbing the crew, key for family cruising. Under sail, she’s point-and-shoot easy to helm and behaves impeccably well. Under motor with twin rudders, she is probably less so but I didn’t notice any problems berthing stern-to in these conditions.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
With big hullports, white hull cladding and double forecabin doors, the saloon is bright and airy, and the positive sheerline creates much more than just the illusion of space. With any family cruiser, the critical spaces are the saloon, galley, heads and cockpit – that’s where most time is spent – and the 349 gets those areas absolutely spot on. The cabins suffer in the compromise but they’re more than adequate for sleeping and dressing. The berths are a decent size, particularly in the aft cabin. Ventilation is good and stowage adequate for a week away.
The galley has a single rather than a double sink. The second sink will be missed I’d say, but there’s no doubting the benefit of a bit more surface to work on. Stowage is pretty good, with bottle lockers in the table and in the galley bulkhead, and the LED strip under the lockers above the stove gets the light in just the right place. The heads is excellent. Designers of smaller production boats are responding to the fact that families don’t want dank, cramped heads where only a contortionist can shower, and this is a prime example.
Would she suit you and your crew?
The big, bright saloon and heads, the safe forward cockpit and the walk-through bathing platform will appeal to young families looking to get afloat and have fun. The simplicity of the deck layout means you don’t need to be a terrifically able sailor to get her going or, if you are a decent sailor, you don’t need to spend ages setting her up to get some very respectable numbers so you can still join in with family fun.
In place of jib cars, she has flying eye jib sheet leads, which are interesting, and mainsheet tension stops them clattering on deck. They seem a decent solution except for the fact that leech control is compromised when the jib is reefed. It’s unlikely whether that would bother potential buyers as they will plan to avoid conditions that involve reefing the jib. Nor would they miss the lack of feel at the wheels, perhaps the sole drawback of twin rudders. Close quarters manoeuvring might take a little getting used to but again, unless conditions are friendly, she’s not likely to be venturing out.
All in all, the 349 is a gleaming little family cruiser, eager and able to please. Demand a test sail.