Print

Distinctive Styling – Sparkling Performance

First impressions are important – and at first glance the new Jeanneau NC 11 cruiser is impressive and distinctive. Its styling, including a raked railing and house and an attractive two-tone taupe-and-white hull, says “European” and “performance,” maybe even “serious,” as in “This is a serious boat.”

“NC” means New Concept and it’s completely appropriate. Properly called a sedan, the NC 11 is closer to a performance sports sedan. It was judged European Powerboat of the Year in 2011.

Kevin Pritchard and Mike Claxton of Fraser Yacht Sales, the west coast Jeanneau dealer, recently hosted Canadian Yachting West editor Duart Snow and me for a test of the NC 11. It was a calm day in English Bay, with four adults and a half-load of fuel aboard – almost perfect conditions to demonstrate this new model.

The NC 11 model designation refers to its length in metres, this being a European-designed and manufactured boat. Call it a 35-footer for comparison’s sake. Its European heritage stands out clearly in a variety of styling cues, along with a number of practical design innovations.

First, the power sunroof. It’s as easy to use as one on a luxury auto and creates a huge opening the width of the house and almost three feet deep. The cabin’s all-glass aft doorway, closer to a full bulkhead, telescopes down to a slim 20 inches wide and can be stored at either side of the boat. This extends the cabin’s living space outside onto the large aft deck. Together, the sunroof and open house maximize open-air cruising in fine weather.

The house is actually asymmetrical on the hull, leaving a narrow but easily walkable side deck to starboard and a wider deck to port. The salon is dominated by a settee with two-person sofa seats fore and aft, and upholstered stools that make the dining area almost U-shaped. The settee is sofa height, nicely lower than dinette height. The full settee will convert to a double berth for occasional guests.

The aft settee backrest swings forward, effectively turning the settee around 180 degrees to face the aft deck. Then, the bench seat at the transom moves straight back about 15 inches, opening up the aft deck even more. Not quite enough room for a dance band, but entertaining 8 to 10 is easy.

The forward part of the cabin settee also does double duty. The front section pivots up and forward to make an ideal forward-facing seat for two passengers (or three children) in line with the portside helm. We were told that youngsters love standing on that forward seat so they can get their heads up through the sunroof and into the breeze!

The helm is straightforward with a split dash and engine instruments situated above the main console, where there is enough space to mount a full multi-function navigation system. The selection of navigation instrumentation is left to the buyer but Raymarine is most commonly installed in Europe. Garmin or Furuno would fit easily as well.

The helm incorporates another nice design feature. The comfortable and well-positioned seat has a front cushion that swings out of the way on hinges to allow complete access to the door to the portside deck. This makes docking easier and facilitates single-handling.

Standard propulsion is twin Volvo D3 200 diesel engines – new-generation direct-injection, common-rail diesels that deliver improved performance with less smoke and higher efficiency. They are matched to counter-rotating props and their performance under way is outstanding. At low speed, a standard joystick – the Volvo Joystick Docking System – gives the ultimate in direct boat-handling control. A bow thruster is unnecessary.

At idle throttle, a push of a control button locks the wheel amidships, cants the stern drives in toward each other and transfers full control to the joystick. The joystick takes some of the stress out of close-quarters maneuvering by varying engine speed and drive direction. Our demo boat was rafted into a narrow space on the docks at Granville Island, but skipper Claxton eased us out with confidence, only inches away other boats’ transom corners and anchor rollers. It’s finger-tip easy to “walk” the boat sideways or spin it in its own length.

The Volvo engines are mounted all the way aft, reducing noise in the cabin. My sound meter barely registered 85 dB at idle and only marginally higher readings of 89 dB at full throttle. Normal conversation was easy under way. Below the aft deck and immediately adjacent to the engine compartment is a huge storage area, which also provides access to components such as fuel filters and batteries.

The NC 11’s performance emphasizes the “sports” element of the sports sedan comparison. The twin Volvos got the hull up on plane in less than a minute, and it took only a small adjustment to trim tabs to settle into a comfortable cruise. A moderate throttle setting of 3,500 RPM yielded a cruise speed of 25 knots with a fuel burn of 56 litres per hour. Maximum speed is closer to 30 knots at wide-open throttle of about 4,000 RPM, but fuel burn climbs to about 80 litres per hour at that rate. On plane, fuel consumption is close to linear; the fuel tanks hold 700 litres.

Handling was positive with a direct and accurate answer to helm inputs. Most impressive was an avoidance maneuver, which simulated dodging an obstacle such as a semi-submerged log. I sprang this command on Claxton with no warning and he cut the throttle and turned sharply. We came to a near-dead stop almost instantly. Glass-calm waters precluded a test of rough-water handling, but the hull handled repeated figure-eight turns over our own wash with ease.

Despite this nimble performance, the accommodations are generous for a 35-foot boat. The upholstered settee surrounds a table that can fold out to become a dinette as well. The galley extends the length of the salon’s port side, with an under-counter refrigerator of 42 litres, a stainless steel sink, a two-burner stove and a full oven; the latter appliance is propane-fuelled. A hinged top hides the galley fixtures and creates a spacious counter when closed.

The NC 11 has two staterooms. The master is forward, with an island queen berth, a hanging locker to starboard, and drawer storage under the berth. The guest stateroom is aft and to starboard. It also contains a queen berth, but can be configured with twins. There is not a lot of extra room in this space, but enough to make this a two-couple boat on occasion.

The single head to port contains an electric toilet, sink and full shower. My six-foot height fit without stooping. Fresh water capacity is a generous 250 litres. A fresh water outlet with a short hose is plumbed into the portside swim grid for water-sports enthusiasts.

At $349,000 base price, duty all in, the Jeanneau NC 11 fits nicely into an affordable “sweet spot” among mid-sized powerboats. For a cruising couple with occasional guests, this sports sedan offers generous living spaces, intelligent features and sparkling performance in a stylish 35-foot package.

By Robert Buller

To see if this boat is available, go to www.boatcan.com to check listings!