If you sail in tidal harbours or shallow waters, your choice of midsize new production yachts is more limited than you may realize. While most manufacturers offer a shallow draught version of their fixed keels by adding more weight to the bulb to compensate for the reduction in the righting moment, this is not a compromise all sailors are willing to make. Jeanneau, on the other hand, has long offered a lift keel on its smaller models, yet by doing so at this size, in particular, has established a clever niche.
The Vendée yard certainly didn’t follow the status quo when it developed its eighth-generation Sun Odyssey line three years ago and this model adds to a string of innovations for this latest range. First came the groundbreaking bow and hull shape, together with the walkaround deck design on the SO440 and SO490.
Now comes this lift keel option, which is technically a hinging ballasted keel. It is a similar concept to that employed by Pogo for its performance yachts, yet Jeanneau is the only large-scale cruising yacht manufacturer to offer such a system.
Consider the fact that the standard draught of an SO410 is a conservative 2.25m and the shoal keel version just 1.6m deep. Alternatively, this lift keel version reaches down to 2.97m/9ft 8in, which is the draught of a Class 40 race boat and a substantial difference in potential pointing ability. Then, at the push of a button at the helm, this swings up to reduce it to just 1.37m/4ft 5in.
This €20,000 option is therefore a prospective gamechanger for those wanting to sail efficiently to windward. For example, the owner of the test boat, which is the first lift keel version of this model in the UK, wants to sail regularly from Falmouth to the Isles of Scilly with his large family. So he wants to cut passage times when sailing against the prevailing westerlies yet be able to tuck into the coves on arrival.
We had a brief opportunity to sail his new boat with agents Atlantic Yachts in Plymouth before it was handed over the following day.
The SO440 and SO490 were the forerunners for this modern trend in hull shapes and first impressions of the SO410 are of another contemporary, powerful, aggressive-looking design. This Marc Lombard interpretation continues and refines that full bow, chined, and chamfered look – elements that help give maximum internal volume yet keep the wetted surface narrow. The forefoot and first 0.5m below the dreadnought bow is also noticeably dry.
A bow thruster is an option most owners reportedly take and while that sounds like overkill for this length of the boat, I can understand why. The light, voluminous bow gets taken by the wind easily when under motor, which makes manoeuvring tricky, particularly in reverse.
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